The questions in the mailbag suggest there are a lot of folks out there thinking about championships. That’s only right. It’s March. Everyone is undefeated. Everyone’s defensive coordinator is running an attacking scheme that makes it easier for the pass rushers to pin their ears back. Everyone’s strength coach is running the most demanding off-season program in the history of the planet. Everyone’s offensive coordinator has modified the scheme to help the quarterback think less and react more quickly. Only one team will hoist a trophy in January, but for now, it’s OK to dream.
Here are the questions addressed in the videos:
• Can Mark Dantonio sustain Michigan State’s recent success?
• What, if anything, will come of the NCAA being forced to release documents from its investigation into the Reggie Bush affair at USC?
Read on for more questions and answers…
From @nate_boulder: Given a Phil Knight and a Nick Saban, could ANY Power Five team win a championship?
This is a great question. If the money and tradition and recruiting base are already in place—as they were at Alabama in January 2007 and Ohio State in November 2011—then you’d probably need to only add the Saban or Urban Meyer before enjoying your pending championship. If you want to do it at Wake Forest, you’re going to have to start by using that sugar daddy’s money to build state-of-the-art facilities. Then your super-coach will need to build the talent base so that your athletes are the same kind of athletes you’ll see in the College Football Playoff. Even if you give Saban a blank check to hire an NFL-style personnel department and all the analysts he wants, he still could take more than five recruiting classes.
Even then, there is no guarantee of a title. To illustrate that point, let’s examine Knight’s alma mater. Oregon vaulted itself into perennial contention thanks to Chip Kelly’s genius and Knight’s money, but that result did not happen overnight. Knight became Oregon’s Uncle Phil only after a 1995 meeting with then-athletic director Bill Moos. More than 14 years elapsed between that meeting and the Ducks’ next Pac-10 title. The obvious reason Oregon jumped from nice Pac-10 program to the top of the rankings was Kelly, who was hired as offensive coordinator in 2007 and then promoted to head coach in ‘09. The combo of a moneybags alum and elite head coach definitely made Oregon a contender, but the Ducks haven’t won a national championship in the period Knight has made more of his donations. They have played for the title twice, but they still haven’t won it.
If Oregon hasn’t been able to turn the power donor/super-coach combo into a national title yet, it’s tough to guarantee that Iowa State or Rutgers or Wake Forest could because those programs would have farther to climb than Oregon did.
From @Mike_Cohen: Are leadership consultants the new fad in college football? Do you think any of Ohio State’s success can be attributed to theirs?
I wouldn’t call it a fad because I haven’t seen dozens of programs running out and hiring consultants, but I do know Urban Meyer is thrilled with the work Tim and Brian Kight of Focus3 have done with the Buckeyes. The Kights (Tim is Brian’s father) became involved with Ohio State’s program after Meyer met Tim at a party and was fascinated by his description of his job. While the Kights have worked with Ohio State’s players and coaches, the most important aspects of the partnership are probably the distilling of Meyer’s motivational techniques into digestible, repeatable chunks and the codifying of expectations for Meyer’s assistants. Suddenly, a head coach who did not previously handle staff change well became much more comfortable trusting his new hires because he knew they knew what he wanted them teaching their players.
Other coaches also use consultants to help establish culture in the program. Boston College coach Steve Addazio, a former Meyer assistant, uses the Kights. Saban and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher use Trevor Moawad to improve their players’ mental conditioning.
The smartest coaches are the ones willing to admit what they don’t know. Meyer, Saban and Fisher all are willing to do that. The consultants help fill the gaps.
From @TheAnalyst32: Over/Under three years that Mark Helfrich holds his job at Oregon?
I had to put these two questions together because they are examples of out-of-control expectations. No, Charlie Strong is not going to be on the hot seat if the Longhorns fail to win 11 games in his second season. And I’ll take the over on Helfrich. I would have taken the over had Jason written 10 years instead of three.
Strong had a lot of rehab work to do at Texas. The program needed overhauling. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson knows that, and he isn’t going to overreact if the Longhorns don’t win the Big 12 title in Year Two for Strong.
As for Helfrich, he just played for the national title. And don’t give me the he-won-with-Kelly’s-players argument. Remember who found Marcus Mariota for Oregon? That’s right. Mark Helfrich.
I usually laugh when Saban launches into his “instant coffee society” speech, which he does in interview sessions at least twice a year. But he’s not wrong. In an era where we might soon be able to order a product from a website and then have a drone drop it at our house the same day, we just aren’t conditioned to give anyone time to produce the desired result.
From @warddavide: You are named host of a late night talk show. Who are your first three college football guests and what do you ask them?
Does this mean I’m getting The Daily Show? Because that’s the only job open, and it would mean I didn’t waste my money on all those résumés I sent to Comedy Central headquarters. Excellent. I’ll start buying new suits now.
As for the guests, here’s the list.
1. Art Briles: I would ask him to define “One True Champion” and then put up a tote board graphic to calculate exactly how much Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will have fined Briles by the time he's finished answering.
2. Ed Orgeron: I would ask him to sing Hold That Tiger while driving a Hummer.
3. Dr. Ruth Westheimer: Some people are just talk show gold. I’m sure she would happily answer the sexiest college football questions.