In many respects, the 2021 season resulted in a college football coaching carousel that was unlike any before, with 29 FBS head coaching jobs changing hands, including Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma for USC, Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for LSU and Mario Cristobal leaving Oregon for Miami.
Few know the machinations of the carousel better than coaching agents. What do they really think about the 2021-22 coaching cycle? The Athletic asked five agents for their thoughts on the hirings, firings, long-term contracts and more, granting anonymity so they could speak candidly.
What’s your biggest takeaway from this coaching carousel?
Agent 5: Coaches got paid. That was the biggest thing I got from the cycle. To see Mel Tucker do what he did. James Franklin. The amount of money in the total guaranteed contracts that were given out this year — Lincoln Riley, obviously, Brian Kelly — that’s something that we really haven’t seen in one cycle, happening for that many coaches.
Agent 3: We are now seeing Power 5 institutions in the SEC — and other places that are well-financed — asserting themselves and moving toward basically running a professionalized model when it comes to football programs. Like, “We’re willing to spend more than what other schools will ever be able to because we know what the future looks like in college athletics.”
We saw that with Brian Kelly. We saw that with Lincoln Riley. We saw that with Mario Cristobal and Miami.
These schools are able to spend $10 million on a coach, while most NFL coaches are not making anywhere near that money. And they’re putting themselves in that position to have to spend that type of money, knowing full well that in a couple of years, that entire model might flip and you might have to have a revenue share with your student-athletes. You obviously either have to be completely crazy to do it or at the other end of the spectrum fully understanding of, hey, this is going to be a professionalized business in a couple of years and $10 million to have the right coach is a good market rate to lock in right now. Because who knows what things are going to look like in a couple of years?
Agent 4: A lot of these times, the jobs are predetermined. These searches are kind of a farce. There are many times the gears are put in motion months before the coach gets fired. There’s a little bit of ethics that need to be brought back into the fold. Somebody’s got a job and they’re working — give them some respect and try to empower them. That bothers me somewhat.
That’s not necessarily new, but it was very evident in some of these cases last offseason. It’s not every case. But there’s a guy they want and they put on a charade of a search and bring people to interview, bring in a minority interview, but they have no intention of hiring those people.