I’ve often discussed the virtual free agency that exists in collegiate coaching, where coaches are often allowed to leave for greener pastures without regard for their existing contracts. There is great risk, however, in jumping to a high-profile job. Rising coaching stars must carefully weigh the allure of new opportunities against the risks, as they can quickly lose their shine with a few losing seasons.
Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com has written an interesting piece on Kevin Sumlin, the former University of Houston football coach who recently agreed to be come head coach at Texas A&M University. Although the jump from Conference USA (soon to be the Big East) to the SEC appears to be a great opportunity, Maisel takes a hard look at what Sumlin is leaving, and the stability of the program that Sumlin is joining.
In a quote prior to accepting the Texas A&M position, Sumlin appeared to grasp the risk in taking a “tough job”:
Sumlin, in discussing his future earlier this season, said, “Tough jobs with high expectations are rough on coaches. Tough jobs with not-high expectations, those are different. But guys never leave [those jobs]. And like Coach [Steve] Spurrier says,” — Sumlin raised his voice an octave to get Spurrier’s raspy tenor — “‘The really good jobs, they don’t give those away. Guys like me just try to hang on to them until they get rid of us. You think I’m gon’ quit? They’ll have to run me out of here.'”
Time will tell whether Sumlin made the right decision. But coaches considering a jump should read Maisel’s article and objectively consider the factors that contributed to their success, and whether those factors are present at the next opportunity.