STILLWATER — Bill Young has already passed some important advice on to his defensive graduate assistants at Oklahoma State.
“They need to get in the other room if they ever want to be a head football coach,” Young tells those coaching hopefuls.
“The other room” is, of course, where the offensive coaches meet. And while Young assures that message is delivered in a semi-joking fashion, the results of recent coaching carousels seriously support Young's claim.
With the shopping season — shopping for head coaches, that is — now underway, there's arguably no better time to be an offensive assistant coach or coordinator, with high-powered attacks producing points, energizing fan bases and creating attractive candidates for head coaching gigs.
And the state of Oklahoma has become a popular spot to find one of those offensive minds looking to take the jump.
Since 1999, Oklahoma has had five offensive coordinators — Kevin Wilson, Kevin Sumlin, Chuck Long, Mark Mangino and Mike Leach — hired as head coaches. At OSU, former offensive coordinators Dana Holgorsen, Larry Fedora and Mike Gundy himself are now head coaches at BCS schools.
And this offseason, current Cowboy offensive coordinator Todd Monken is sure to be a hot candidate after directing an OSU offense that has remained one of the nation's best, despite losing Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the NFL Draft, needing three starting quarterbacks and a barrage of injuries on that side of the ball.
The motto that defense wins championships is still largely true in college football, as evidenced by the heavy-hitting SEC's six consecutive BCS national titles. But programs making a coaching change aren't often trying to win a championship, at least immediately. They're trying to create a buzz among fans, boosters and recruits, sell tickets and elevate the program from poor or mediocre to good, then maybe great.
That helps explain why 20 of 28 Football Bowl Subdivision hires, including 10 of 14 at BCS schools, following the 2011 season were coaches with an offensive background.
“(Defense) doesn't generate as much interest to where guys get fired up,” Gundy said. “Somebody's got to pay the bills. They want guys who are going to be flashy.”
Added Mangino: “I'll be honest with you: The powers that be of college football are probably enjoying these high-scoring games, because the fans absolutely love them. The fans think it's the greatest thing in the world.”
Not to mention, with more and more teams running the spread offense — and more and more points being scored — it's sometimes difficult for a defensive coordinator to look good.
Exhibit A? Former Cowboy assistant Joe DeForest, who left Stillwater last offseason to become the defensive coordinator at West Virginia in hopes it would help him someday become a head coach. But the Mountaineers have struggled mightily while facing the explosive offenses of the Big 12, ranking 117th out of 120 teams in the nation in both total defense (487.36 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (40.64 points allowed per game).
Before leaving OSU, Monken had an interesting proposition for DeForest. Again, half joking, half serious.
“You know Kevin Sumlin? I'd try to go to (Texas) A&M as a running backs coach,” Monken told DeForest. “Learn the offense and get on offense if you want to be a head coach.”
When this season's job openings are filled in the coming months, the trend of hiring offensive coaches is likely to continue.
And based on recent history and current success, it might be wise for those programs seeking a new head coach to start in this state, with the staffs that orchestrated a 51-48 offensive masterpiece in Bedlam less than a week ago.
“It's an offensive guy's game,” Monken said. “You don't want to be a defensive guy right now.”
Where Big 12 assistants have landed as head coaches, assistants
Coach, School, Position/year, New Job
Dana Holgorsen, OSU, OC 2010, West Virginia OC
Kevin Wilson, OU, OC 2010, Indiana head coach
Larry Fedora, OSU, OC 2007, Southern Miss head coach
Kevin Sumlin, OU, COC 2007, Houston head coach
Chuck Long, OU, OC 2005, San Diego State head coach
Mike Gundy, OSU, OC 2004, Oklahoma State head coach
Mark Mangino, OU, OC 2001, Kansas head coach
Mike Leach, OU, OC 1999, Texas Tech head coach