Handicapping Tenure Length: New MWC Coaches
By Joe Jenkins
Fact: Nobody gets into coaching college football for the job security.
The allure of big revenues means athletic departments rarely allow coaches to fully implement their system before issuing pink slips if they don’t like the results.
For every story like Frank Beamer, who’s been with Virginia Tech since 1987, there’s three or four stories that are closer to Turner Gill at Kansas. Gill left The University at Buffalo in 2009 only to get canned by the Jayhawks just two seasons later.
The average tenure of an FBS coach in 2010 was 3.9 seasons, with the median being only two, according to Sports Illustrated. Keep in mind, in 2010, Joe Paterno was helping to skew that average a little with his 44 years at Penn State.
Part of the problem is that, more often than not, a head coach gets fired because a team is just plain lousy.
This is where the three new kids on the Mountain West block are a bit of an anomaly. None of them are taking over slumping programs.
Even still, numbers don’t lie. There's a decent chance that by the time we get to watch the first-ever college football semifinal game at the end of next season, one of these three coaches could be packing up his office.
Lets take a look at each coach and see if he should buy a home and put down roots or just get an apartment and fill it with Rent-a-Center furniture.
Brian Polian, Nevada
Polian probably will spend most of his first season having to tell folks that he comes from that Polian football family (Former NFL executive Bill Polian is his dad).
Polian’s good name won’t help him clear all of the hurdles in front of him, however. He’s replacing Chris Ault, who by any measure is a coaching legend in college football. The old guard will meet any drastic changes with some resistance. Think Rich Rodriguez during his time at Michigan.
The Wolf Pack’s schedule in Polian’s first year won’t do him any favors. Road games against UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State, Boise State and Fresno State could put Nevada’s streak of eight straight bowl games in serious jeopardy. That’s no way to replace a Hall of Famer.
Polian does come from football royalty and has a great quarterback in Cody Fajardo. He should compile enough wins to keep the heat off his back for a year. That being said, he should hang onto the rental for the time being. Two straight sub-par years and people will be calling for his head.
Ron Caragher, San Jose State
Caragher isn’t replacing a Hall of Fame legend like Polian is, but he knows what trying to fill the shoes of a big name feels like. He had to replace Jim Harbaugh at his previous stop at the University of San Diego.
This time around, Caragher merely is replacing Mike MacIntyre, who accepted the head coaching job at Colorado after leading the Spartans to their best season to date.
The Spartans have the potential to be a very good team again in 2013, provided they adapt to the new systems Caragher is putting into place. On offense, quarterback David Fales will go from a pistol-based system to one that will have him operating under center. The defensive unit will also have to adapt from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base alignment.
Even with the changes, SJSU is too talented not to have an above-average season. Given the Spartans' inability to sustain success year over year, another solid season should keep Caragher at the helm long enough to justify a permanent residence.
Matt Wells, Utah State
Wells probably already owns property in Logan, Utah, because he didn’t have to move anywhere for his new job. He just got promoted from his position as offensive coordinator after Gary Andersen left to take over at Wisconsin.
Since Wells isn’t reinventing the wheel on either side of the ball, continuity is his ally. It doesn’t hurt that Chuckie Keeton, the quarterback that helped the Aggies secure the WAC championship in 2012, returns.
Wells also is a USU alum that has been on the coaching staff since 2011. The Aggies' program has picked up steam during the last few years. If Wells can steer the ship away from the rocks, his next move might be to a bigger program.