I’ve been away for a bit but something recently caught my eye and, as I sometimes do, I developed an opinion that I want to share.
In an interview that ESPN’s Josh Moyer recently conducted with 2014 RB Robert Martin, Josh asked the Harrisburg standout to name one reason that might deter him from committing to the Nittany Lions in the future.
“…one thing that could keep me away is maybe next year if they’re talking about Bill O’Brien maybe leaving for the NFL again. I mean, I’d be like a little nervous. What if I’d go to that school and he would be leaving to coach NFL ball?”
Nittany Nation was frozen in fear recently as speculation swirled about head football coach, Bill O’Brien. From various sources, The Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles were both interested in O’Brien and it was mutual enough that he was in touch with at least one of them. In the end, O’Brien was persuaded to return to Penn State and Happy Valley was happy again.
Current recruits spoke out, following their future coach’s re-commitment. Most claimed to have never been afraid of his departure. All American offensive guard Brendan Mahon said he “wasn’t surprised” that O’Brien was staying. Star quarterback Christian Hackenberg called his future coach “a man of his word”, claiming that he had told the recruits in December that he would be staying at Penn State.
Regardless of the results, the seed has been planted. In a world where coaches will use any advantage imaginable to get a leg-up in recruiting battles, there is a grain of doubt about Bill O’Brien’s future. Sure he decided to stay this year but what about next year? Recruits like Martin will be asked that from opposing coaches in the near future. Should Robert Martin and others be worried?
To be blunt, no.
Not because there’s no chance that Bill O’Brien will leave. He very well may end up in the NFL sooner rather than later. The reason that recruits shouldn’t worry about O’Brien not remaining at Penn State is because any coach they choose has about a 50/50 chance of remaining at their respective school for the player’s four or five year collegiate career.
During Joe Paterno’s career, there was a running joke about how many coaches had been fired during his career. Year after year, coaches would tell recruits that Paterno would be gone long before they graduated, then Joe would out-last those same coaches. While the names and faces have changed, the principals have not. College coaches don’t stay at their jobs very long. Five years ago, Pete Carroll was at USC and Lane Kiffin was with the Raiders before taking over at Tennessee. Urban Meyer was at Florida, still a few years from replacing Jim Tressel, who was at Ohio State. Brian Kelly was winning at Cincinnati, waiting for Charlie Weis to be fired from Notre Dame. Syracuse and Pitt have changed coaches a combined five times in the last four years. Rutgers, Miami, UCLA, Florida State, Virginia, Maryland and Auburn have all changed coaches in that time. Arkansas and Temple have done it twice. Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin and maybe Indiana (who pays enough attention?) joined Penn State and Ohio State as Big Ten teams who have changed coaches in the last few years. Chip Kelly, anyone?
The one controlled component in all of those scenarios? Each coach sat in the the living room of dozens of recruits, pitching their school and program as though they would be there to see those recruits graduate. While high school players selecting a school and gaining a lifelong mentor in their new head coach is a great story, college football has fallen victim to big business. It’s a win or get out business and winning too much often results in an exit, as well. Truth is, players being recruited right now will be lucky to play for just one head coach in their collegiate careers.
When coaches tell future recruits that O’Brien may not be at Penn State for the next four years, recruits should shrug it off. Not because O’Brien is likely to remain in Happy Valley, but because the coach speaking probably won’t be at his job in four years, either.