Greg Hansen: UA football needs CEO, return of fun

2011-10-14T00:01:00Z Greg Hansen: UA football needs CEO, return of funGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 14, 2011 12:01 am  • 

The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible in the UA's Search For Mr. Wonderful:

• Sometime in the next few years, a BCS-level director of athletics with 21st century business and marketing instincts will change the way college football coaches are hired. Inevitably, someone will hire a CEO of football rather than a guy diagramming plays.

Is Greg Byrne willing to take the risks inherent in being that man? Is he the pioneer who would hire Tedy Bruschi as Arizona's football coach?

Except for a coaching background, Bruschi has off-the-charts scores in every conceivable variable of college football: He is a critical thinker, he is a dynamic speaker, he was a Super Bowl champion and an All-American, he overflows with charisma, and he is the most sainted Wildcat ever to put on a pair of cleats.

Can you imagine Bruschi in a role as a recruiting closer?

If you think this is a crazy concept, consider Joe Paterno at Penn State. He essentially stopped being a football coach five or 10 years ago. He is a legend, period. Bruschi would be required to hire a capable staff of nine assistant coaches, be skillful at organization and planning, and coach his coaches. And it's not like he wouldn't hold his own, or more, in game-planning and sideline instruction.

If Josh Pastner can successfully coach in college basketball, Bruschi should be able to duplicate that in football.

Pastner is basically Bruschi minus athletic success. Pastner was a recruiter with fabulous people skills. He has surrounded himself with star players, Damon Stoudamire and Luke Walton, not traditional assistant coaches. Pastner is a revolutionary.

This isn't 1965 or 1985 anymore. But it will take a bold AD to change the way the game is coached.

• Byrne should hire Mike Bellotti. Not as a football coach, but as a consultant. The heavy labor required to re-brand Arizona's football program isn't for a recycled, 60-year-old TV analyst. (The UA already tried that with John Mackovic.)

My first call would've been to Bellotti, who is an old chum from Byrne's Oregon Ducks days. Here's what I would've asked: How in the name of Knute Rockne did you find Chip Kelly at New Hampshire and have the intuition/guts to make him your offensive coordinator/successor at Oregon?

Can you help me find the next Chip Kelly?

Bellotti was coming off a 36-15 four-year stretch at Oregon, comfortable in his own skin and with his reputation as a big-game coach established. Yet he went cross-country to hire the obscure Kelly. Isn't that type of aggressiveness why the Ducks have been so good?

When Mike Stoops hired offensive coordinators in 2007 and 2010, he selected men (Sonny Dykes, Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell) who had never called a play in a college football game.

• Byrne fired Stoops for two reasons beyond a 1-10 skid: One, he sensed that the players and those within the program were smothering. Nobody was having fun. Two, there would be no resistance from the community. The community wasn't having fun, either.

He was correct on both items.

For whatever reason, Stoops wasn't able to relax and enjoy the life of a man pulling down $1.2million annually with a Lincoln, a Cadillac and a Mercedes in the driveway of his Foothills home. This is a man who owned two houses and two condos in Tucson. How much better can life be when you're 49 and holding down one of the top 30 or 40 coaching jobs in college football? You can golf in the spring, sit by the beach in San Diego in the summer, never worry about finances.

Yet he always seemed so uptight. The pressure inside the program was overwhelming, and it came from the top.

I always thought Stoops erred by not tapping into the resource of having Larry Smith living a few miles from campus. Before the ex-UA, USC and Missouri coach died in 2009, he told me that Stoops had never sat down to ask him about the variables that come with coaching in Tucson.

As you walked into Smith's McKale Center office from 1980 to 1986, the first thing you noticed was a sign with four goals for UA football. They were, in order:

1. Have Fun.

2. Earn your degree.

3. Win the Rose bowl.

4. Beat the Sun Devils.

Smith never changed the order of those goals in his seven years at Arizona. He meant it when he said football should be fun.

He would have defensive coordinator Moe Ankney hold a let's-have-some-fun drill in which the entire team would gather around a tackling dummy. Ankney would place a football on top of the dummy. One man would get a running start, block the dummy, and another, a step behind, would try to catch the football before it hit the ground.

The players would wait all week for the drill. It was a wild scene. Finally, Smith's whistle would blow, practice would end and everybody left work with a smile on his face. In the Stoops compound, it was always labor.

In 1985, after Arizona stunned ASU, knocking it from the Rose Bowl on a late field goal, Smith brought Max Zendejas into his office while meeting with local reporters. Smith popped the cork from a bottle of champagne, poured a glass for all, and toasted the happy occasion. He couldn't keep from crying.

Arizona was in its Pac-10 infancy during the Smith years, going through three years of an inherited NCAA probation (no bowls, no TV), yet his teams didn't take a step back. He marked most of those landmark victories with tearful speeches that made the community feel part of something special.

It would be nice if Byrne can hire a coach who knows that shedding a tear doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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