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Having a coach-in-waiting isn't the way to go

by Jenni Carlson Modified: December 16, 2010 at 9:36 am •  Published: December 15, 2010
/articleid/3523996/1/pictures/1299123">Photo - Jimbo Fisher waited his turn before taking over at Florida State. AP photo
Jimbo Fisher waited his turn before taking over at Florida State. AP photo

Then came the fiasco at Florida State.

The Seminoles hired Jimbo Fisher in late 2007 to one day replace the aging Bobby Bowden. It seemed like such a good idea. Other programs were using Bowden's age against Florida State in recruiting. What better way to promise continuity to recruits than by having a plan in place?

Sounds great, right?

Except that well into the second season of the arrangement, Bowden showed no sign of wanting to retire. The man who built Florida State into a powerhouse, the legend who was still winning games wanted to keep coaching.

Florida State had to practically blast him out of the head coach's office with sticks of dynamite.

The whole thing was uncomfortable, unfortunate and unnecessary.

Same goes for what happened at Texas.

Mack Brown was supposedly the one who encouraged the Longhorns to brand Muschamp the head coach in waiting a couple years ago, but the setup apparently didn't work so well. As the losses mounted in Austin this season, the tension spilled over.

Brown blamed everyone but himself after a loss to Iowa State — “You can't trust your team. You can't trust your coaches when they're not getting things ready to go.”

It sure sounded like no one knew who was in charge, not even Brown. Was he supposed to be making the tough decisions and laying down the law? Would anyone pay attention to him if he did?

Are you college Ads and coaches and presidents from our fair state listening?

Texas folks might argue they wouldn't have been able to keep Muschamp these past couple seasons without that designation, that the sought-after defensive coordinator would've gone to Tennessee or some other school to be a head coach.

Hey, what would've been so wrong with that?

Muschamp always said Texas was the best job in the country. If he really believed that, why not let him go to another school, get some head coaching experience, then hire him back when Brown retired?

That's what Oklahoma State should've done with Sean Sutton. The Cowboys wanted him to succeed his father, Eddie, and not go to SMU or some other head coaching job.

Had he gone, there's no reason he couldn't have returned. Probably would've come back a better coach, too.

Again I ask, why would anyone ever hire a head coach in waiting?

Castiglione admits that there are only a very few scenarios where it would have a chance to work. He says it would have to be necessary and well-defined. What's more, managing the consequences both the good and bad, the known and unknown would have to be agreed upon by everyone.

“Otherwise, I don't believe in this hiring strategy,” Castiglione said. “The disadvantages far outweigh the advantages and are too numerous to mention.”

Decision makers, this discussion is really for your benefit. You can avoid the headaches. You can bypass the pitfalls. Hire a head coach only when you need one.

No waiting.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-3314 or at You can also view her personality page at

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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