Are schools skirting coach rules? 

May, 15, 2009
A few people asked about some proposed legislation that might be coming to college football very soon, so I'll lead this week's mailbag with that:

From Dana in Atlanta: I read on your site how the ACC coaches are upset at how some programs are exploiting the NCAA rules to get more coaches. Do you think they're just bitter or is their beef fair?

Feldman: I've spoken to some coaches from the ACC and they are pushing to get the NCAA to examine just who gets to "coach". A coach I spoke to earlier this week really thinks too many programs are taking advantage of NCAA rules by hiring grad assistants through their strength and conditioning programs. This way they not only get around the nine-man assistant limit a head coach gets (in addition to his two on-field GAs), but these strength coach GAs also would be able to oversee offseason work and could provide technical instruction but also report back to the assistants and head coach. In addition, there has been concern over staffs allowing guys with titles like Quality Control, Player Personnel and various interns to work with the team during practice. It's up to the school's compliance programs to try to police that, but from what I've heard that's not happening a lot, and more and more coaches are skirting the rules.

Piggy-backing off that point, there's been some debate about seasoned coaches being hired as on-field GAs. Tennessee did that with former Minnesota offensive coordinator Mitch Browning and Alabama hired former Virginia offensive coordinator Mike Groh as a graduate assistant. And that is within the rules, although I suspect it was an interesting topic for UVA coach Al Groh to listen to. The GA topic has plenty of gray areas. Notre Dame hired former Irish star Bryant Young as a GA this offseason. He's around Mike Groh's age. Then again, Young's been busy with his NFL career and is only now getting started as a coach. USC had a similar situation with Ken Norton Jr. The point: age limits on GAs wouldn't work, although maybe years of coaching experience might.

From Jeff in NYC: Give me a dark horse to tout for 2009?

Feldman: I've already gone on record as saying I think Ole Miss has a good shot at getting to a BCS bowl and an outside shot at playing for the title. Another program I think that could surprise a lot of people is Kansas. I'm a big fan of Todd Reesing. They have a lot of weapons and offensive coordinator Ed Warriner is one of the more underrated coaches in the country. By the way, I've heard that KU running back Jake Sharp has had a fantastic offseason and recently clocked a 4.3 forty-yard dash for the KU coaches. The schedule's not going to be easy, although they don't have to face Oklahoma State this season, but I like them to win the Big 12 North. I don't see them winning the Big 12 overall, but I expect them to be a top-15 caliber team.

From Andre in Oakland, Calif.: I know you've been touting Oregon as a threat to USC in the Pac-10, but how about Cal now that Nate Longshore is gone and it's time for Kevin Riley to lite up the conference!

Feldman: I do like Jahvid Best, but I'm not ready to get on the Cal bandwagon. The Bears lost the heart and soul of the offense in center Alex Mack and they're also going to miss a bunch of productive linebackers. Another big blow was the departure of Jim Michalczik, one of the country's most highly regarded O-line coaches by his rivals. For more on the state of the Bears, check out this Q&A that Jeff Tedford did with the Examiner.

From James in Dallas: You would be smart to be among the first to get on the Charlie Weis bandwagon. I suspect ND will have 10 or 11 wins in each of the next seasons along with one or two BCS bids. The guy is misunderstood. Lost among his accomplishments is that he has proven that ND can be competitive in recruiting with anyone. Prior to his arrival, the thought was ND was headed in the direction of Purdue, Duke, Vanderbilt and Northwestern. ND will start 2009 with an experienced QB and BCS competitive performers at every position, except perhaps defensive line. [Jimmy] Clausen is not athletic, but he may be the most accurate pro-style passer in college football today. I don't know whether you make more money loving or hating Notre Dame as a blogger, but get ready.

Feldman: Hey, I've said I think ND has a realistic shot to win 10 games this season. As you mentioned, they have a ton of experience. They also have an extremely soft schedule. They might be favorites in 11 of their 12 games.

The downside? We heard a lot of this before and the Irish went out and lost to teams you've never think they could lose to. (Syracuse?!?)

From Van in Pahrump, Nev.: For context, I'm a rabid USC fan. I fully agree that Tim Tebow is already an all-time college great, possessing justifiably admired awesome football skills and charismatic leadership abilities. But I really don't get the degree of unmitigated fawning over him that seems to universally anoint him as the "best ever." May I be so bold as to ask what ever happened to Vince Young? You know, that Texas QB who apparently played -- and only modestly at that -- many, many decades ago. I do not think any player in college history ever had an incredible performance like Vince did in the vs. Michigan Rose Bowl -- and THEN came his even better performance against USC! He "willed/led" his team to victory in those two games more definitively and completely than Tebow ever has or will. If we can so readily forget and diminish such true and unquestionable gridiron greatness, just why the heck is our current assessment of Tebow at all credible?

Feldman: To me Vince Young was the greatest clutch college player I've ever covered. If he had come back for his senior season and led UT to the national title, I suspect he would've gone down hands-down as the best ever. Let's see what Tebow does. I think if he can lead UF to another title, he probably gets that recognition. I do like the Young argument because it's not like he was surrounded by all-Americans as much as say Matt Leinart or Ken Dorsey were. UT's backs were Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young. His best receiver was probably his tight end David Thomas. The defense had lot of stars in their secondary, but the offense was really Young and bunch of other guys that national title season.

From Trallen in Denver: I would like to hear an objective analysis of the situation at Tennessee. Eleven players have left: Is that a high number for a new coach or pretty much the norm? There are numerous stories, even beyond the Meyer recruiting story, about Kiffin's questionable remarks & behavior. He is high on the coaches' hot-seat list & low on the smart-hire list even though he has not coached a game. Please provide insight as to the truth of all the comment & rumor.

Feldman: There's almost always a lot of attrition any time a new coach takes over a program. Most coaches see the first semester as a referendum on their program. They get to see who has bought in and who hasn't. They also probably wonder what the previous regime may have seen in some of the players they inherited. Maybe those players were recruited to help the school land a young teammate, but they got stuck with a fourth-teamer and miss on the blue-chipper. Maybe that kid isn't competitive or just doesn't love football. My hunch is that Kiffin told the players who would have a good shot at contributing and who probably would have a better chance to play at a different school. I do think given how the APR system works, new coaches have to be aware of the APR hits they could take down the road if they have a mass exodus. But I don't think 11 is a big number. In fact, I expect a few more to not return to UT in the fall.

I do think Kiffin has made a handful of comments that probably would have been wise to take back. Now it's true that we all likely could say that. It's just that since Kiffin has been so incredibly outspoken, he's brought a spotlight on him and so every little thing he does has become news, which is amazing. It's hard to fill the offseason college football news hole, but he's done it almost single-handedly. I expect a lot more snarky comments to keep coming from all sides in the SEC. And I think league commissioner Mike Slive would be wise to try and lean on his coaches to tone it down. As for the Vols on the field, they need some of their young skill players to contribute right away. My take on Kiffin from having covered him back in his days at USC and having been around him some now in Knoxville is that he's a lot smarter offensive mind than he's been given credit for. He also doesn't care what anyone thinks of him and he's fine with being perceived as brash. But when brash drifts into "reckless" it's not such a good thing. One of the best things I can say about what makes Urban Meyer a successful college head coach is that he's very calculating. That would be a good example for the young Vols coach to follow.

From Doug in Gastonia, N.C.: Actually, a euphonium is an octave above (not below) the tuba. I was a tuba major in college.

Feldman: Thanks. I think I must've gotten confused when Adam Ulatoski tried explaining it to me.

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