I’ve read the names and heard the talk as names like Kevin Sumlin, Skip Holtz, Butch Jones and Al Golden have hit the message boards and many stories in the search for a new head coach at the University of Cincinnati.
And while I understand you take a look at several candidates I also feel at this time things have changed in where UC Athletic Director Mike Thomas should look for his next head coach.
Mr. Thomas, the choice is an easy one and he’s just one floor below your office. That coach is Jeff Quinn.
While three years ago the need was there to go outside the program and hire a coach to build the program to another level, the program has now reached a level never before seen and could be destroyed if the wrong hire is made.
The proof is already out there as program like Louisville, Boise State, and Utah have seen the good and bad in making a change when the program has reached new heights.
Longtime rival Louisville is the best example of how far a program can fall if the wrong hire is made.
In 2006 the Cardinals were the talk of college football as head coach Bobby Petrino guided them to a 12-1 record and Orange Bowl victory. Petrino was the hot coach in college football with the NFL calling him to Atlanta as Cardinal fans felt comfortable the program was on solid ground and a new hot coach could continue the programs rise in college football.
While Petrino failed in the NFL and came back to college football at Arkansas, the replacement hired at Louisville has taken the Cardinals to the bottom of the Big East.
Steve Kragthorpe was the hot coach of Tulsa when he got the call to take over the Louisville program. Many felt Kragthorpe could keep things going but where soon to learn the Cardinals program would be taking major steps backwards.
In three seasons the Cardinals have gone from Big East Champions to a below .500 program with no bowl games and a fan base upset about the lack of putting a winning product on the field. Since 2006 Louisville has posted an overall mark of 15-21 and just hired longtime assistant coach Charley Strong instead of the hot coach to take over and rebuild the program back to its winning ways.
Does Jeff Quinn stack up to Charlie Strong? Yes, both coaches were finalist for the Frank Broyles top assistant coach in college football this past season.
While Louisville has seen the bad side of a bad hire you can look at two programs to see that keeping a longtime assistant coach can do for a program at the top of its game.
Boise State is proof that a longtime assistant coach can go from behind the shadows of a head coach and become a solid head man in his own rights.
Chris Peterson spent the 2001-2005 seasons at Boise State as the offensive coordinator for Dan Hawkins. While Hawkins went off to Colorado as one of the countries hot coaches, his assistant coach Chris Peterson took a team with talent and a system in place and led them to a BCS bowl berth the programs first.
At the time many didn’t feel Peterson was the right guy for the job but tailback Ian Johnson said this about the transition in a story by Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman.
“We trusted him and knew he was going to take care of us. We knew he was a great person. He was going to recruit people just like himself. We waited for him to get everybody here and he got in the perfect people.”
Since taking over the Broncos program they’ve posted an overall record of 48-4 with two BCS games including this years Fiesta Bowl.
Much like Jeff Quinn was this year Chris Petersen was a Frank Broyles award finalist as the top assistant coach of the year.
What would have happened if Boise State would have gone outside of the program? Would it have the same success we’ve witnessed or would the program had taken a step back under a new coach much like Louisville had done.
Another program that has seen continued success since a top head coach left the program is Utah. Much like Brian Kelly is the hot coach going to the big program this season, Utah once had a coach by the name of Urban Meyer.
Meyer, who is now the Bearcats next opponent, left Utah for Florida leaving what many felt was a major gap.
In 2004 Utah under Meyer posted a record of 12-0 including a victory in the schools first BCS bowl game (Fiesta Bowl). Meyer along with star quarterback Alex Smith would leave the program as Smith was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and Meyer to the Gators. Many thought the Utes would struggle to stay on top of the college football world.
But to much surprise Utah has continued to thrive with Kyle Whittingham at the helm.
In five seasons since Meyer left the Utes have posted a record of 46-17 with five bowl game appearances. Not a bad job for a long time assistant coach.
While Jeff Quinn may not be the hot name in current head coaches, he does bring a lot of good things to the table.
Quinn is more than just a guy in the shadows of Brian Kelly. He’s played a key role in Kelly’s overall success for 20 seasons and if not hired as the Bearcats head coach is sure to join Kelly at Notre Dame to continue this successful run.
While Brian Kelly is given much praise and deservingly so for the success his teams have enjoyed over the years one thing remained consistent and that is Jeff Quinn.
I’ve had the chance to see the Bearcats football program up close since Jeff Quinn came with Brian Kelly. I’ve watched as Coach Quinn has put together offensive game plans and packages that Bearcat fans will now always remember for their success in this perfect season.
Along with keeping Quinn the chance to keep coaches like Tim Hinton and Kerry Coombs are vital to keeping what is the best overall recruiting class in Bearcats history together and continue the same offensive game plan that has seen the Bearcats program taken to new heights.