2011 was somewhat better. West Virginia hired Dana Holgorsen, Stanford hired David Shaw and Florida hired Will Muschamp. Assistants all.
So it does happen. In fact, some schools make a practice of it.
Our two schools, for example. OSU and OU rank 1-3 among major-conference schools in hiring assistants for head-coach openings since World War II.
OSU has hired just one head coach, Floyd Gass of Austin College in 1969, when the school just across the Red River was in the NAIA. Times were simpler then.
OU has hired just two head coaches, and one of those is iffy. Jim Tatum had been head coach at North Carolina in 1942, then went into the service and coached wartime football with Iowa Pre-Flight, under the legendary Don Faurot. The other head coach hired by the Sooners was Howard Schnellenberger, in 1995.
Tatum and the Colonel lasted one season each. Not quite the Sooner legacies of Bud Wilkinson, Chuck Fairbanks, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops, all of which made their head-coaching debuts with OU.
Gass coached the Cowboys just three years, going 13-18-1. Every OSU coach thereafter, the likes of Jim Stanley and Jimmy Johnson and Pat Jones and Les Miles and Mike Gundy, had increasing success. Again, assistants all before getting the chance in Stillwater.
One way is not necessarily better than other. Among the schools that rarely have hired an assistant are Alabama, Texas and Ohio State. Among the schools that routinely have given novices a chance are Georgia, Nebraska and Florida State.
But the OU/OSU way seems more fulfilling. A sign that success is not so coach-centric. A belief in yourself as a program. That your decision-makers know what they want and can trust their instincts and their judgment. And the assurance that the unknown is not to be feared, and deals don't have to be made with the devil.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.