Sports as a Reflection of our Culture: Recycling Executives

Enough coaches have proven their inability to coach, but recurrently find themselves with similar jobs after failing to live up to prior expectations. One can assume that it is easier to explain hiring a head coach with years of experience as opposed to a new coach having head coaching experience by analogy.  This begs the question: when are things going to change to allow for those at the top to have to drop down, then meaningfully work their way back up the ladder or pyramid? Please rethink Billy Gillispie being a head coach in the near future, at any level.

Rich Rodriguez can be found as a head football coach after a poor tenure at the University of Michigan, record-wise, riddled with NCAA violations.  Coach Mike Leach is manning the sidelines again, after a hiatus, since being fired for the appalling act of locking a player in a closet. It’s clear that Leech’s new institution values winning, which Mike Leach has done well in his career, over the concern of the players. Mike Leach and Rodriguez are just examples of the questionable decisions athletic departments continue to make in hiring coaches—although the Leach decision is much easier to explain than many others.

Obviously, being hired is a matter of timing and having the right situation. Additionally, the quality of skill, hard work, and character bears a large role; roles that an objective person can assess.  It’s no secret that when these coaches are being recycled through the various leagues (not just NCAA football), that it is a matter of people, places, and things. In other words, having a good network, experience, or having a favorable opinion trumps having a solid record across the board.

What makes a coach the right one? Is there a bottom-line number or collection of factors? There are other variables that determine the perspective of a coach’s ability, but no matter how a coach’s ability is assessed, a coach needs the ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Coaches need to cleverly find ways to make a positive difference in their pupils’ lives. Seeing a guy like Urban Meyer return to coaching a top-program, after abruptly leaving another top-program, marred with arrests of his players, develops an outlook that being good, strongly outweighs other issues.

Essentially, there should be more of an effort to hire the eager, new blood. New blood that is potentially “un-jaded” and youthful enough to believe in being different from those who came before. Even if a newbie fails, owners and athletic departments have shown that granting immunity for inadequacy is not their style. So, what’s the risk? Not hiring new coaches only creates disdain for the profession, by the fans, who watched old coaches fail elsewhere–in or outside the lines.

There is effectiveness in going with the tried and true (or just the already tried) method, but there is also a risk in running into the same problem that led to a coach’s prior demise. There are so many coaches recycling through the coaching circuit, most of whom the general public has never heard of. These coaches should have seen there last days at a certain level until a legitimate showing of advancement occurs. Hiring another’s failed experiment really shows a lack of critical thinking, especially when they didn’t run a clean program prior. In all fairness, athletic departments and team owners have hired a considerable amount of new coaches, lately, requiring old-ones to be relegated to other positions.

A recycling of coaches happens in the non-sports world too, with executive-level people. Except, losing here has a much bigger different effect than L’s in the loss column and bitter fans. There’s no circumventing the system of paying your dues. The problem with that, now, is that young people in all professions will have to work harder for less—and for longer—before a more competitive chance to breakthrough to the top of the ranks can be achieved. Breaking the pattern of paying your dues or time-in-grade will require: savvy, skill, dedication, luck, timing, hard work, and a bunch of friends. Seeing the same old faces in new places is a guarantee, although it should not be.

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