There’s an interesting piece over on AL.com today about the Crimson Tide Foundation purchasing Nick Saban’s 8,759 square foot house from him for $3.1 million shortly after Alabama beat Notre Dame for the national championship in January 2013. It’s probably not a coincidence that happened around the same time Saban was rumored to be speaking with Texas about its head coaching position.
Saban is currently banking $6.9 million annually under a new contract he signed earlier this year with Alabama that attempts to keep him as head coach through at least 2022, and now he has a house he can live in for the rest of his life rent free.
He’s worth every penny – and I say that as a Florida grad.
A fascinating new study has come out of University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport about the number of women who coach women’s sports.
In 1972, when Title IX was enacted, 90 percent of head coaches for women’s sports were women. Today that number is just 39.6 percent, down from 40.2 percent last year. The likely reason? Coaching gigs for women’s sports have become more lucrative and thus more attractive to male coaches.
The report went further and looked at what happens when there’s a coaching vacancy. A female is only hired to fill a vacancy 25.8 percent of the time. Meanwhile, a male takes a position vacated by a female 22.7 percent of the time, and 51.5 percent of the time a male head coach is replacing a former male head coach.
Some sports were found to be more likely to have female head coaches than others. Field hockey (100%), lacrosse (92.6%) and golf (78.8%), along with emerging sports synchronized swimming (100%) and equestrian (75%), were most often led be female coaches. However, there are five NCAA sports played by women with zero female head coaches: water polo, bowling, skiing, sailing and squash. Other low numbers were found in cross country (16.7%), ice hockey (12.5%), swimming (12.1%), track and field (7.8%) and diving (7.3%).
Cincinnati (80%) was the only school in the study (which comprised ACC, Big XII, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC for the 2012-2013 school year) who had over 70% female head coaches for its women’s sports. Eight schools came in at 55% or over: Texas (63.6%), Miami (60%), Penn State (60%), UCLA (57.1%), Washington State (55.6%), Florida State (55%), Illinois (55%) and LSU (55%).
The worst percentages, at 24% or under, were Alabama (23.1%), Vanderbilt (22.2%), Virginia Tech (20%), Syracuse (18.2%), West Virginia (18.2%), Arkansas (16.7%), Kentucky (16.7%), NC State (16.7%) and Oklahoma State (12.5%).
I spoke with a few athletic directors I know and asked if there are more men applying for these positions than women, because I thought perhaps that was the issue. However, the three I asked all thought the applications come in fairly 50/50.
If you’re interested in more results, there’s a great infographic here.
As a female who has played sports since I was 4-years-old, I have conflicted feelings about this study. On the one hand, I’m worried that talented women aren’t being considered for these positions. I can remember playing and coaching high school softball and being frustrated when male coaches who knew nothing about how to pitch fastpitch softball tried to teach young women how to pitch. Very few men have ever pitched fastpitch softball, period. It’s part of the reason I’ve always given time to coaching since I stopped playing fastpitch softball, because I know there aren’t many female pitching coaches out there.
That being said, I had some fabulous male coaches over the years…and some terrible female coaches. Of course, I also experienced the opposite – terrible male coaches and great female coaches. At the end of the day, I believe you should always hire the best person for the job, without regard to their gender or their ethnicity. If a male coach is truly better suited to coach the sport, then he should get the job and vice versa.
That’s the problem with a study like this: it only takes gender into account and not years of experience or accomplishments. So, while interesting and thought-provoking, I don’t think I’m ready to condemn schools who are hiring male head coaches for women’s sports based on this alone.
In addition to paying a reported $200,000 to hire Korn/Ferry International, an executive search firm, to assist with its athletic director search, University of Texas has announced an advisory committee that will assist with the search:
Steve Hicks, vice chair of the Board of Regents, one of the board’s athletics liaisons, and owner and executive chairman of Capstar Partners LLC, a private investment firm.
Robert Stillwell, member of the Board of Regents, one of the board’s athletics liaisons, retired partner at Baker Botts LLP and an original director of Mesa Petroleum Co.
Michael Clement, accounting professor, McCombs School of Business at UT Austin, and faculty representative to the Men’s and Women’s Athletics Councils.
Charles Matthews, former vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil, current president of the Texas Exes.
Robert Rowling, former member of the Board of Regents and owner and chairman of TRT Holdings Inc.
Charles Tate, chairman of Capital Royalty, former member of the executive committee of the university’s Commission of 125.
Pamela Willeford, former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein and former chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Kristi A. Dosh is an attorney and founder of BusinessofCollegeSports.com. Her latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires, is available now. Visit SaturdayMillionaires.com for retailers and a sneak peak at the first chapter! Follow her on Twitter: @SportsBizMiss.
Just how plum is the athletic director job at University of Texas?
Former acting commissioner of the Big 12 Chuck Neinas says, “it’s like going to the University of Heaven.”
Apparently Neinas’ version of heaven is a giant cash box in the sky. Neinas says the most important part of an athletic director’s job revolves around money, which is why the Texas job should attract the nation’s very best.
When I was researching for my book, Saturday Millionaires: How Winning Football Builds Winning Colleges, I spoke to search firms across the country about what makes a good athletic director. The two responses I received most frequently were someone who is a good fund raiser and someone who has the ability to hire the next football coach.
Texas’ next athletic director won’t have to worry about money. Texas annually has the highest revenue in intercollegiate athletics. For fiscal year 2012 (which encompasses the 2011-2012 school year), Texas reported revenue of $163 million on it’s NCAA disclosure, 15 percent higher than the second-highest earning athletic department, Ohio State University. And no, it’s not just the cash from Longhorn Network that sets the Longhorns apart. It’s the fans, and more particularly the donors.
Total revenue from ticket sales and contributions to Longhorn athletics totaled $100.0 million in fiscal year 2012. The average amongst all public FBS programs was just $26 million. For further comparison, the rest of the top five were Texas A&M ($88.4 million), Michigan ($80.9 million), Florida ($69.7 million), and Oklahoma ($68.9 million).
If there’s anywhere money isn’t an issue, it’s Texas.
What remains to be seen is whether the new athletic director will have replacing Mack Brown at the top of his to-do list. Will Brown outlast outgoing athletic director DeLoss Dodds who’s set to step down in late 2014?
After a 1-2 start, including losses to BYU and Ole Miss, the Longhorns have rebounded to 3-2 with a win at home against Kansas State and a win squeaked out in Ames last weekend. This weekend, however, marks perhaps the most important game of the season: the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma has taken the last three games, but Dodds isn’t willing to commit to this year’s matchup being a make-or-break game for Brown.
“It’s an important game. It’s always an important game. … How that impacts the rest of our lives or the rest of the world, I don’t know the answer to that,” Dodds told the Dallas Morning News.
Even if Brown survives Dodds’ remaining tenure, the next athletic director could one day be called upon to replace him (Brown’s current contract runs through 2020). Given the current climate in Austin, expect the athletic director search to focus on someone who has made successful coaching hires elsewhere.
The only question left is who will hire that athletic director. There’s currently a power struggle between Bill Powers, president of University of Texas, and the Board of Regents, several of whom would love to add Powers to the list of folks to be replaced in Austin. For the time being, he’ll conduct the search for a new athletic director, but don’t be surprised if the Board of Regents finds a way into the conversation.
Kristi A. Dosh is an attorney and founder of BusinessofCollegeSports.com. Her latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires, is available now. Visit SaturdayMillionaires.com for retailers and a sneak peak at the first chapter! Follow her on Twitter: @SportsBizMiss.
Craig Bohl, head football coach at North Dakota State University, has proven himself to be a mighty competitor by coaching the Bisons to two consecutive national titles. A coach like this is a dream for both fans and players.
Luckily, Bohl has shown that he remains committed to coaching at NDSU, despite his performance potentially making him a target for other school’s looking to change up their coaching situations. This is exactly why attorneys for the school, along with President Dean Bresciani and AD Gene Taylor, sought to make Bohl’s departure from NDSU rather undesirable.
One of the most salient provisions of Bohl’s 8-year contract extension is one that requires him to pay NDSU $100,000 to coach at a different NCAA institution. If he decides to jump ship from the FCS and go to a bowl-eligible team, he will have to pay even more: upwards of $413,000. Such buyout penalties are supposed to entice Bohl to stay with the team, even though he has previously reiterated his interest to stay at NDSU. It has been noted, however, that these provisions are highly uncommon, as usually the buyout penalty is higher when a coach decides to leave for a team within the same conference, as opposed to a whole different subdivision.
Other contract provisions include:
Yearly salary: $205,503
Annual raise(at least): 5%
Additional earnings: 3% of all home game ticket sales; $60,000/year for media appearances
Bonuses for wins: $2,500 for all Missouri Valley Conference Championship away games; $15,000 for National Championship
One year ban on recruiting potential NDSU recruits to new team if he leaves NDSU
It can be costly these days to hire a coach that will lead a program to great success. It’s unfortunate, however, when it doesn’t play out that way and the head coach is getting kicked out of the door when expectations aren’t met. In these cases schools are forced to buyout the contracts of their former coaches, causing big paydays for said coaches.
An article recently published on ESPN.com by sports business writer and BusinessofCollegeSports.com founder Kristi Dosh shows the financial implications some programs are facing over the next few years.
The biggest is centered around former SEC powerhouse Auburn’s recent firing of coach Gene Chizik, who’s 4 year head coaching tenure included 3 bowl wins, one of those being a national championship, and more recently a dismal 3-9 record in 2012. Chizik received a lump sum of $7.5 million, approximately $2.4 million more than the reported $5.1 million buyout Auburn paid for previous head coach Tommy Tuberville.
Not only does Auburn have to pay the $7.5 million for Chizik’s buyout, but it is also planning to buyout Chizik’s staff for approximately $3 million, pay a $500,000 salary to new coach Gus Malzahn, and pay for the $700,000 buyout to Arkansas State for Malzahn’s departure. The buyout is considered a loan for Malzahn and will be repayed through his contract according to the letter of agreement released by Auburn.
Although the Auburn Tigers have paid the biggest coaching buyout of the year so far, it seems as if another program was financially hit worse by their own buyout. Dosh points out that former Southern Mississippi coach Ellis Johnson is due $2.1 million from his buyout. While that amount doesn’t ring close to that of Gene Chizik’s, it is still considered a high number for a school in a non-automatic-qualifying BCS conference. To put things in perspective, the $2.1 million is equal to over 10% of the schools athletic department revenue generated last year.
The craziness of the coaching carousel doesn’t stop at Auburn and Southern Miss. The former buyouts of coaches from Tennessee, Cal, and Kentucky are well into the millions. In fact, in just the past month the total amount programs have had to place toward buyouts of previous coaches has toppled $31 million collectively.
New Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will be facing an even bigger payday than that of Chizik or any of the previously listed coaches if he is let go during the next 3 years. If so, he is expected to receive $12.8 million from Arkansas in a buyout. One of the biggest payouts in recent years belongs to Charlie Weis, who has received nearly $9 million so far. Although he was let go in 2009, he will continue to receive annual payments well into December 2015 with the amount expected to near $19 million by then.
UPDATE (7/20/12, 10:46 a.m.): The Big Ten has issues the following statement today: “The draft obtained by the Chronicle was an early draft put together by the Big Ten staff in order to surface all of the options available. The option of giving emergency powers to the commissioner to fire personnel is not under consideration by the presidents and chancellors.”
In an article posted by The Chroniclethe issue of giving Big Ten leaders the ability to fire coaches is discussed. This comes at a time when the Big Ten is at odds with what should be the proper punishment of the officials from Penn State. As most of you know, former coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse last month. Now, following findings in the Freeh Report, it has become obvious that at least four top Penn State officials failed to report all that they knew about the child abuse allegations to the proper authorities back in 2002. As a result, the Big Ten is trying to figure out what combination of financial penalties, suspension, or termination of employment, would be suitable for this unprecedented situation.
The new plan would give “James E. Delany, who has overseen the league since 1989, and a powerful committee of conference presidents the ability to penalize individual members of an institution, should their actions significantly harm the league’s reputation” (The Chronicle). Provisions would also be set up to prevent boosters and trustees from pressuring university leaders to act in certain ways, thus empowering presidents and ADs to act with integrity and responsibility. Furthermore, it has been noted that the Big Ten”s 12-member Council of Presidents and Chancellors could potentially suspend, expel, or put a school on probation by a 70% (or eight member) vote.
All in all, the issue of punishing Penn State is tricky. If the school were to be banned from playing, there is no contingency plan in place to replace the lost games for opponents. What do you think will happen? Will the Big Ten approve this new plan? Will Penn State be banned, or is there too much at stake for that to happen? Leave your comments below.
Dr. Michael Lorenzen is the principal owner of Collegiate Athletics Strategy Advising, a firm that provides advisement services to collegiate athletics administrators. He’s also a frequent guest contributor to BusinessofCollegeSports.com.
As we approach the most exciting and intense time of year for collegiate basketball, the amount of attention and financial stakes associated with March Madness should give collegiate athletic administrators an opportunity to reflect on the state of their programs. Universities invest millions of dollars in basketball coaches and the dream of making it into the NCAA Tournament. With 68 spots and 344 schools it seems as if there are many opportunities for schools to participate in the dance.
The financial challenges of maintaining basketball are not quite as frightening as football, given that teams carry a fifth of the players, have fewer coaches, and proportionately smaller scale needs for things like training facilities, equipment and recruiting. Chartering airplanes multiple times per week can get pricey, but basketball doesn’t raise the same kind of red flags for administrators that the overwhelming price tag of big time football does. It also holds out the promise of prominence and profit with Cinderella stories and quick turnarounds that are more difficult to find in football.
Nonetheless, there is real and substantial money involved and the coaching carousel will go into full swing as athletic directors evaluate what’s happening with the one program in their portfolio that has the potential to make money (at least for the 224 schools that don’t have Division I football). As one athletic director recently asked me to start creating a potential candidate pool, I thought it might make sense to take an analytical swing at evaluating what kind of value various coaches bring to their schools.
Part of the genius of “Moneyball” was the application of well-considered statistics to a field of performance in a way that was very different than the norm practiced by insiders in the baseball world. Billy Beane and others found ways to optimize their investment in players by considering tangible, quantifiable contributors to value that were nonetheless not the sorts of things that baseball people consider.
With college coaches, the metrics most people point to are win-loss records, post-season appearances, championship wins, and, to a lesser degree, academic performance. In order to dig a little deeper, I pulled together some easily research-able measures that would indicate objectively the kind of value that coaches contribute. I included number of wins, Sagarin rating, total compensation (including bonus), attendance, and program profitability (total revenues minus total expenses), all using data from the 2011 season. I experimented with different weights and could easily be convinced to adjust them, but for the purposes of this analysis I used the following:
I made an effort to scale each measure up or down to create comparable ranges (e.g. wins are in the 20 range and salaries are in the millions), so wins were multiplied by 10,000 and Sagarin by 3,300. That yielded what I’ll call a “performance value”, which was a number in the millions for most programs.
To evaluate the value that each coach brought, I then applied that performance value number to the compensation number, yielding a “performance value per dollar of compensation”. All of that math ended up yielding numbers that ranged from a high of 4.97 (Jim Boeheim at Syracuse) to a low of .05 (Leonard Hamilton at Florida State) for the 68 teams that were in the 2011 Tournament and have publicly available salary data for their coaches (10 did not).
Granted that a snapshot from a single season is not statistically compelling compared to a trend over several years, but given the short time horizons under which coaches often operate the results still reveal some interesting conclusions.
The first slide, below, looks at some of the iconic coaches in the NCAA–all men who one might predict to deliver outstanding value given their records and salaries.
All had fairly successful seasons from a competitive, profitability, and attendance perspective and their value numbers give an idea of what “good” performance might look like.
Next up we have the top 10 performers, which tells a different story than that of the icons listed above.
The reason that all of these coaches have dramatically higher value ratings than their iconic colleagues is mostly that their salaries are substantially lower (with the exception of Sean Miller at Arizona). They deliver significant value in terms of wins, attendance, and overall profitability of their programs but they take a much smaller piece of the upside for themselves. If I’m an athletic administrator, my interpretation is that they are generating a very good return for my investment in them.
Finally, if I am an administrator at a small school with limited resources, I might look for coaches who are delivering good value in return for compensation that fits within my budgetary parameters. Here is the list of the top 10 value coaches who made less than $250,000 in 2011:
Eddie Biedenbeck had a remarkable year and the administration at UNC-Asheville should be tickled with the overall value that he and his team delivered. There is a nice grouping of coaches ranked #32 to #42, all of whom would cost a school less than $200,000 per year and still have the potential to deliver value. It is worth noting that the scale of that value in terms of gross profits or attendance will not be comparable to what a Duke or Syracuse might seek. However, if you’re representing a school with an overall budget that is a fifth or less of those universities, you might do well to focus on terrific value as a starting place for your coaching search.
With the detailed information on the finances of college sports you receive here at businessofcollegesports.com, it should come as no surprise that BCS football programs are not “fun and games” or “just sports” to administrators and athletic departments. The difference between a winning and a losing football program on a school’s budget is pronounced. Thus, the difference between making the right or wrong coaching hire is as well.
The SEC is one conference, by and large, that has hired the right coaches and those coaches have succeeded. Among 2011 coaching salaries, six SEC coaches rank among the top 11 in the country in compensation (Saban, Miles, Petrino, Richt, Chizik, Muschamp, with Urban Meyer preceding him in high compensation rank). Those coaches have not only led SEC teams to six straight national titles, but those crystal balls, the television contracts, and national reputation of the conference have in turn led to six SEC mens athletic programs with recruiting budgets in excess of one million dollars annually for the 2010-2011 academic years. Success begets success begets even more success.
Yes, one can easily argue the SEC’s unprecedented run of success began with great hires. Hiring the right man is the challenge that faced 13 BCS conference schools this offseason. The coaching climate today is a harsh one. Patience is a word lost in among an administration’s vernacular. The days of the five-year plan are long gone. Turner Gill lost his desk nameplate after just two seasons in Lawrence, Kansas, and 27 out of 120 FBS schools (22.5%) made coaching changes this offseason.
Therefore, it’s only natural I provide you with my hit and miss predictions for each of the 13 BCS schools who have hired a new coach for 2012. A second opinion is provided by friend and fellow sports media colleague, Brent Beaird.
13. Todd Graham – Arizona State
Analysis: Where or where have our principles ventured off to? Used to be that we valued honor and commitment. Yet when a man (term used loosely) like Todd Graham is able to climb the collegiate ranks, one wonders what has happened to “The Golden Rule.” Yes, I’m fully aware that Graham led Rice, a perennial doormat, Rice, to a 7-6 record in 2006. That his 36-17 mark at Tulsa was a marginal uptick over Steve Kragthorpe’s 29-22 in the four years prior there, and finally that his 6-6 standing at Pitt this past season did little to under or overwhelm. Yet I must wonder aloud about the quality of the message we’re sending the very young people that Graham is supposed to be mentoring. What’s being conveyed is that in life, you win at all costs, that you may break protocol if it suits you, that one can show not an ounce of gratitude and/or loyalty yet still find promotion around every corner. Here’s a coach who left Rice only a few days after being rewarded with an extension and a significant raise, who left Pitt after but one season via a text to an assistant coach, who then had to relay the impersonal communication method to the players. I struggle not to stoop to name calling when discussing Graham. I’ve often been told, “You get what you give.” That said, perhaps the nation’s most notorious party school and Todd Graham are a perfect fit. Grade: F Rank: 13/13.
Brent’s Second Opinion: Todd Graham of Arizona State-Graham has a lot of trust to build after leaving two schools in a six-year period after only one year Grade: (D+) Rank: 13/13
12. Bill O’Brien – Penn State University
Analysis: A hearty congratulations is in order to Bill O’Brien, former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, for he has managed to significantly out kick his coverage. To use an all-too common analogy, O’Brien represents the “average joe” who just landed a supermodel. Upon witnessing a couple such as this walk into an establishment, everyone in the place is thinking the same thing - “There goes a guy who owns a plane.” But I’m not here to hate. It could work out for the “We Are Penn State-ers” in Happy Valley. I’m just not sure that it will.Penn State managed to find itself in the tenuous position of a “grass is always greener dumper,” failing to realize what it had until it was gone, then in total desperation, accepting the first smiling face that took a flier. This past season, O’Brien was seen throwing a sideline temper tantrum at “The Franchise,” Tom Brady, one in which Brady took the high road but O’Brien’s reputation never fully recovered from. And while his 14 years as an assistant and an offensive coordinator in the college ranks don’t leave his resume bare, of all offensive coordinators either active or inactive with four plus years of experience dating back to 2001, only three have engineered offenses that averaged fewer than 30 points per game. Grade: D+ Rank: 13/14
Brent’s Second Opinion: Bill O’Brien of Penn State-Don’t forget he had 14 years of experience at Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke. Grade:(C) Rank: 10/13.
11. Tim Beckman – Illinois
Analysis: In the landscape of college football today, seemingly every “have not” football program treks across the desert looking for the next Urban Meyer. And without fail, at introductory press conferences, athletic and PR departments do a yeoman’s job convincing you they’ve found him. For me to offer the full-fledged “Beckman Buy-In,” however, I need a more thorough body of work than what presently appears on Beckman’s resume:
All of three years of head coaching experience at Toledo.
A record of 21-16, leaving before the bowl game in ’11.
Offenses that averaged 33ppg, defenses that gave up 32.
It is the opinion of the author that the MAC and their intra-conference competition provides a level playing field among the 13 member institutions. Therefore, an average coach should win as many as he loses in this league. Beckman’s three-year mark does little to move the proverbial needle, although if one can look past the small sample size, 16-9 in the final two campaigns does offer some hope. Whether Beckman can achieve success in a conference with the history and prestige of the Big 10 is an entirely different and unanswered question. Grade: C Rank: 11/14
Brent’s Second Opinion: Tim Beckman of Illinois-Beckman has valuable coaching experience as the head man at Toledo and from working with Meyer at Bowling Green Grade: (B-) Rank:8/13.
Marc Ryan is a sports talk radio personality in the Florida Panhandle. You can follow him on Twitter: @marcryanonair.
On January 4, 2012, college football fans watched as the West Virginia University Mountaineers scored 70 points–the most points scored by one team in a bowl game–against the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. WVU wide receiver Tavon Austin, who runs the 40-yard-dash in 4.3 seconds, scored four touchdowns using a play that stumped Clemson’s defense.
After the game, a reporter commented to WVU head coach Dana Halgorsen, “The guys are still trying to figure out that one play that was successful for multiple touchdowns. It’s recorded as a pass, but it kind of looks like a volleyball tap-toss. What is that?”
Halgorsen, smiling, responded, “Well, my good friend Bob Stitt at the Colorado School of Mines, gave me that.”
In 2000, Bob Stitt received the head coaching position at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado–a town, which prior to Stitt’s arrival prided itself more upon the beer Coors Brewing Company makes than its college football team. Prior to arriving at Mines, Stitt worked as an offensive coordinator at Austin College in Texas and at the esteemed Harvard University. Before Stitt began his coaching tenure at Mines, the last coach to record more wins than losses during a career was the coaching duo of Elmer Capshaw and Tim Calahan, with a 4-2-1 record which was earned in the 1922-1923 season.
When Stitt arrived at Mines, he was met with a $5,500.00 recruiting budget. “That wasn’t even going to send anyone anywhere. We just had to recruit in the Denver area and foot the bill ourselves,” noted Stitt.
However, in 2004, the face of the Mines football program began to change.
On July 27, 2004, a 6’7″ kicker who was on the honor roll each semester he was at Mines, was driving home to Colorado after completing an internship in California. Scott Hahn was looking forward to starting his senior year and returning to Golden for football camp. The long-legged Hahn was a talented kicker who also showed skill in punting. There were rumblings that his abilities could land him in the NFL. However, with his kind disposition and impressive academic record, there was no question that Hahn would become a successful professional, whether it was in the NFL or elsewhere.
Driving through Utah, Hahn fell asleep behind the wheel of his car. His car ultimately rolled several times. Hahn was taken to a hospital, where he later passed away at the tender age of 21.
On a morning in early August 2004, when in previous years, his teammates would have been busy on the gridiron during two-a-days, Hahn’s teammates were dressed in freshly pressed black suits and sitting in the front pews of a Catholic Church in Hahn’s hometown of Aurora, Colorado.
Stitt eulogized Hahn. He mentioned that the previous season, Hahn came into Stitt’s office and asked to change his number to 12. Hahn could not give a serious reason for why he wanted to change his number, but he knew he wanted to. Stitt granted his request and during his junior season, Hahn played as number 12.
Perhaps it was premonition, or maybe it was just a 20 year-old who on a whim, felt like wearing the number 12. However, one thing is certain: the Mines football team had found its 12th man.
In that moment, the nature and culture of Mines football changed.
In 2004, the Mines football team dedicated its season to its fallen teammate, Scott Hahn. # 12 patches were sown onto the chests of player’s jerseys. Paper reminders were posted in the locker room of what the team was striving to do for Scott: Win every game.
That season, the Mines football team recorded its best record in school history. The team went 12-1, losing a bitter playoff game in Pittsburg, Kansas at a place called “The Jungle.” That season, the team went 8-0 in its conference, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Its quarterback, Chad Friehauf, won the Harlen Hill Award, which is Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
While the premature death of Hahn arguably fueled the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers to win on the football field in 2004, the coaching of the team by Stitt during that season and in subsequent years provided the team with the skills necessary to be competitive.
Perhaps what has made Stitt the most successful football coach in Mines history, is his ability to be an innovative play maker. That innovation is what the world learned about when WVU’s Holgorsen credited him with the play which ultimately led the Mountaineers to score the most points in a bowl game.
In 2003, Mines began running the Fly Sweep play in practice. It is a play intended to get the football into the hands of the wide receiver. The play without any modification is risky, because it involves the quarterback remaining stationary while the receiver runs at full speed. If the receiver doesn’t slow down while making the play, the team runs the risk of fumbling the ball.
That season, Stitt realized that the play was taking too much time to practice for the amount of benefits Mines was receiving from it. As coaches do, Stitt continued to break down the play in his head to determine what he could do to make it successful.
“One day, it just hit me. Why don’t we put it up in the air? It was kind of like a reverse, and a lot of the time, you just put the reverse in the air. If we did that, the kid doesn’t have to slow down and if he drops it, it’s an incomplete pass, because it is a forward pass. Just a simple little change like that made it so effective,” Stitt explained.
Yes, Coach Stitt, a simple little change. A simple little change, that apparently Stitt was the only coach in the country to grasp onto and teach his team.
Using the modified Fly Sweep play in 2004, Mines was able to break the school’s season passing record with 4,766 yards. That year, it also broke the school’s completions record (401) and yards in a season record (6,894). In 2004, the Orediggers scored an impressive 515 points.
What Stitt was able to do with a group of engineers that season was not lost on other coaches.
Then the head coach at Texas Tech, Mike Leach contacted Stitt about trading film, because he wanted to see how the Orediggers were running the ball so well in a passing offense. According to Stitt, Leach was impressed with what he saw. Holgorsen was an assistant coach under Leach, so it is likely then that Holgorsen first was introduced to Stitt’s Fly Sweep play, or what Holgorsen calls, “Quick.”
Later, Holgorsen would become the offensive coordinator at the University of Houston, a program long recognized for scoring many points. With quarterback phenom Case Keenum, Houston has only kept up with its notoriety of scoring many points. Under Holgorsen and today, Houston uses Stitt’s Fly Sweep play. Stitt himself was there when Keenum learned how to properly complete the play.
After meeting Holgorsen two years prior at a One-Back Clinic, Stitt found himself in Houston for a Mines alumni golf tournament fundraiser.
“We played it in the morning. We got done and it was early afternoon, so I went over to the University of Houston to see if they were practicing. I knew that Dana had gotten the job there, and I walked right onto the field. Dana was working with the quarterbacks and he kind of noticed me. He said, “what are you doing here?” and asked if I saw him running the Fly Sweep. I asked him why they weren’t putting it into the air. He said he had forgotten that part of the play,” said Stitt.
Thereafter, Stitt showed Keenum how to run the play. It took Stitt three minutes to instruct the quarterback how to run the play. Since then, Houston has relied heavily on the play to amass points.
Much has changed in Golden, Colorado since Stitt began his tenure as the Orediggers’ head football coach.
Downtown Golden has been completely renovated. Mines has greatly increased its student population. And the football team has seen winning seasons since 2004.
Today, Stitt’s recruiting budget is much larger than the $5,500.00 he was met with in 2000. Stitt estimates the team spendss $30,000.00 to $40,000.00 in recruiting new players. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the method by which Mines recruits–a method unique to the school’s rigorous academic curriculum.
To put into perspective the rigor of Mines’ academic curriculum, in 2006 and 2007, Mines played in a post-season bowl game, the Dixie Rotary Bowl in St. George, Utah. The game fell during finals for Mines students. Given this, after 2007, Stitt told the RMAC commissioner that Mines would never go back to play int eh game.
How many other college coaches in America are telling their commissioners that they can’t go to a bowl game because it interferes with their players’ finals?
That being said, when recruiting, the first thing Stitt looks at is not how fast a kid can run the 40-yard-dash or how much he can bench press.
“We recruit transcripts first. You have to see what kind of classes they’re taking and how they score in math and science. We look at the film later, once we have a pool of kids who could do the engineering curriculum at Mines. Then, we recruit the best of those kids. We’ve been really successful getting engineers who can play football,” said Stitt.
A 51-17 conference record. Four players who have made it to the NFL. An team-average ACT score of 29.
It is safe to say, that Stitt has brought success to Mines football.
And its safe to say, we’ll be seeing his Fly Sweep play when the Orediggers take Brooks Field this fall.
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