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JENKINS: Things to avoid when hiring a football coach

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

While other guys were giving thanks last week -- giving thanks that they're not Tiger Woods, I mean -- I was thinking about more important things, like college football.

Specifically, I was pondering the coaching carousel that is already beginning to turn and will continue spinning well into January. And it occurred to me that I actually have some advice to offer those schools that are either searching for a new coach or should be.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert. I'm not even a college football coach, must less a sportswriter or ESPN analyst. (Have you ever noticed that the root word of "analyst" is "anal"?) Just think of these as common-sense observations from a casual fan.

My first piece of advice for any school looking to hire a coach is to stay away from guys whose first names end in vowel sounds. Please, enough with the Bubbas. No more Charlies, Bobbys, Jimmys or Tommys. These days, such names hardly seem to befit the CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation, which is exactly what a major college football program is.

I mean, does anybody besides a few deluded fans really think Dabo Swinney is going to be successful long-term at Clemson? Or that Jimbo Fisher (Jimbo? Really?) is the answer at Florida State?

Next, I would advise schools to steer clear of really big guys. I know we're all anticipating the arrival of the original Big Guy in a few weeks, but let's be honest -- he's much better suited to a sleigh than a college football sideline.

We all know how Charlie Weis, who looks a little like Chris Farley and John Belushi standing side by side, worked out at Notre Dame. Phil Fulmer, the original Great Pumpkin, had some success at my alma mater but couldn't sustain it into the 21st century. And medical students at the University of Kansas are already starting to study Mark Mangino, even though technically he's still alive.

Today's most successful college coaches are fit and trim enough to be GQ cover models, if only Dockers and Nike coaches' shirts were actually fashionable.

Colleges must also choose their ex-NFL coaches very carefully. The best ones worked in college before going to the pros and then failed spectacularly in the National Football League. (Can you say "Nick Saban"?)

Finally, athletic directors should always be on the lookout for guys who run quirky offensive systems that all the experts say can't possibly work in the pros. Because that's a sure sign they will work. Conference titles, coach-of-the-year awards, and national championships can't be far behind.

If you doubt the wisdom of these pointers, consider the grief some schools could have saved themselves if they'd just followed my advice years ago. I mean, who'd want to be Notre Dame's athletic director right now?

I think I'd rather be Tiger Woods.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.