That magical buzzword “alignment” pops up in college sports more and more these days.
Just a few weeks ago, Miami president Julio Frenk busted out the jargon to basically say he’d have more involvement with the football program “by facilitating seamless alignment between the Board of Trustees, my entire administration, and the athletics department.” It’s ipsum lorem business-speak-meets-the-increasing-corporatization-of-college-sports, but it can matter when you are hiring a football coach for millions of dollars. Miami doesn’t currently have a vacancy but, a few hours north in Gainesville, Florida has a situation that needs to be explained in detail from an alignment perspective.
During a press conference following Dan Mullen’s dismissal Sunday morning, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin made it clear who was in charge of the search (while also carefully stopping short when asked whether he was consulting a search firm).
“One thing that doesn’t get talked a lot about, we have incredible alignment among our university hierarchy, from the Board of Trustees to [president Kent Fuchs], myself, the University Athletic Association Board, Gator Boosters Board,” Stricklin said. “You guys probably see things from other schools where trustees are trying to get involved in the decision-making process and who’s really calling the shots. That doesn’t happen here at the University of Florida.
“I describe our Board, our administration on campus, they’re not like defensive linemen. If the AD is the quarterback trying to make decisions, they’re not defensive linemen trying to get at me trying to force me to make a certain decision. They’re like offensive linemen trying to protect me and give me a clean pocket.”
Well, that’s one way to approach things if you are trying to create a juxtaposition between your job and the minds of prospective candidates.
That distinction might be key for reasons we’ve written about before. Let’s use Louisiana’s Billy Napier as an example. Napier has been connected to multiple SEC vacancies over the past few years and is in the mix at Florida, as well. But last winter, when he was in the running for Auburn’s open coaching role, the Tigers’ dysfunction quickly turned him off. It was clear Auburn was not “aligned” after a booster coup was scuttled by a social media campaign, which then led to AD Allen Greene and president Jay Gogue leaning on a search firm to hire Brian Harsin out of left field.
Florida’s alignment is a factor all candidates must vet for themselves. Stricklin is still feeling some heat due to the recent women’s basketball scandal, while Fuchs is in even hotter water due to a wide-ranging scandal involving the initial barring of multiple professors from testifying in a voting rights lawsuit. It will be up to the prospective coaching candidates to decide for themselves just how aligned UF really is now and how much it will continue to be in the future.
With Florida tasked to hire its fourth coach within a decade, some connected to the program do not appreciate the instability, particularly when two of the three coaches from 1990-2010 were wildly successful and turned the program from SEC punch line to premier national power.
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Penn State: You can take James Franklin off your hot lists for the time being, although probably not until 2031, thanks to his recent extension with a $7.5 million base salary. The buyout terms are the biggest financial factor for potential future employers. Here is how his buyout breaks down if he leaves the Nittany Lions:
- $12 million through April 2022
- $6 million through Dec. 31, 2024
- $2 million through Dec. 31, 2025
- $2 million through Dec. 31, 2026
- $1 million from there
It buys Penn State about two years of security masquerading as a 10-year extension, but it is a win-win, in that Penn State gets to say he’s locked up until 2031. Franklin has plenty of wiggle room should he wish to leave for a different spot or renegotiate his terms in the future. We’ll be doing this dance again soon enough.
New Mexico State: Coach Doug Martin is not expected to be renewed when the Aggies’ season ends, a source tells Sports Illustrated. TCU interim head coach Jerry Kill is a top candidate to replace Martin, per multiple sources. One source likened his interim stint as an audition for a different job. He might just have landed that leading role.
TCU: Barring an upset, sources indicate Sonny Dykes will be TCU’s next coach after the regular season is over, confirming multiple reports. The move would eschew the offer on his desk to stay with the Ponies to go to the other side of the DFW Metroplex.
SMU: Speaking of SMU, multiple sources say Miami offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee is a prime target should Dykes leave for TCU. Former Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente is also in the mix, per a source.
Washington: Chris Petersen’s thumb is on the scale during this coaching search, per sources, and that could be part of what links Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin to Seattle’s opening. AL.com reports that Harsin is not "seriously in the mix," but don't be surprised if more Petersen-connected coaches pop up as candidates, such as Cal's Justin Wilcox.
Washington State: The Cougars have been quiet during the “silly season” as interim coach Jake Dickert steers them through the second half of their schedule. An Apple Cup win Friday would put together an interesting case for a coach who has held a team above water while dealing with plenty of distractions.
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