Per multiple reports, recently-hired cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator Maurice Linguist is one of two finalists, and the potential leader, for the head coaching job at Buffalo. Linguist was hired by Jim Harbaugh in mid-January, meaning that he may not even reach the four-month mark in Ann Arbor before packing up and taking a different job.
After reading this report, I find myself believing that a couple viewpoints can be true. One, is that this further speaks to a culture problem at Michigan, and two, this is completely normal and a pretty understandable decision for Linguist. There are several layers involved, making it really hard to figure out what the best move really is.
As a cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator, it's not weird at all for Linguist to be entertaining a head coaching position. All assistant coaches are trying to climb the ladder and become a head coach. If he wins the job, he'd be able to run a program exactly how he wants to, hire whoever he wants to coach alongside him and recruit the players that he wants with the final say. Those things are all very appealing to someone who has never been "the guy" before.
From a financial standpoint, it gets a little trickier. Linguist was set to make $680,000 this year at Michigan, while former UB coach Lance Leipold was only making $474,300 last year as the head man of the Bulls. There were incentives sprinkled throughout Leipold's contract, but obviously that's a pretty modest number for a Division I college football head coach. It's safe to assume that Linguist would be taking a pay cut to become the head man at UB if he does get the job. Still, being a head coach is being a head coach.
Would Linguist be willing to take a pay cut if the culture at Michigan was very strong and the team was in a much better position on the field? Only he knows that but it does seem like talented assistants stay on staff much longer and are much happier when the overall situation is a good one. See Brent Venables at Clemson and several assistant coaches at Ohio State just to name a few.
In my opinion there are many pieces of evidence to support the theory that the culture is off at Michigan — the complete overhaul of the coaching staff in Harbaugh's seventh year, the alarming number of transfers, the on-field performances we all saw last year, the changes and moves among the staff in the last few months alone and first-hand reports from those within the program. I'm confident when I say that the culture at Michigan is not a healthy one at the current time. Maybe Linguist recognizes that making the potential pay cut, albeit for a head coaching job, easier to swallow.
If at the end of the day Linguist does get the job, you couldn't be mad at him for wanting to be a head coach. That's an awesome achievement and something just about all coaches aspire to accomplish. At the same time, it would make you wonder several things. Why would he leave a place like Michigan for Buffalo regardless of what it's for? Money talks — why would he take a pay cut even if it is for a head coaching position? Would he have opted to stay at Michigan if the Wolverines were in a position to win the Big Ten and compete for a playoff spot?
Since no decisions have been made, these are all just talking points about a potential situation right now. Linguist hasn't won the job, hasn't left and may not end up taking a pay cut at all. Maybe Buffalo's offer would be for more than $680,000 in order to convince him to leave U-M. Even if Linguist doesn't get the job, some of these points are still worth discussing since he appears to be willing to leave. It seems like a decision could be made rather soon, which will give all of us plenty to talk about for a few days no matter how it plays out.