Those newfangled succession plans shouldn't be just for coaches
Updated: January 23, 2008, 8:15 PM ETBy Pat Forde | ESPN.com
Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming for this announcement. I've decided it's time to reveal my succession plan here at ESPN.com:
Some of these agreements have worked out splendidly. Tony Bennett has dramatically improved the product at Washington State, and Keno Davis has done the same in a breakthrough season at Drake. But the open-ended succession scenarios are probably worth about as much as the paper used for the press releases. They might last as long as a ninth-grader's oral commitment. Coaches already walk out on contracts and commitments all the time; what makes you think this will be any different? For instance: Fisher came to Florida State last year for a handsome sum. On Dec. 7, the school announced that Fisher was its choice to succeed Bowden at a later date. About two weeks later, Fisher listened to West Virginia's overture about becoming the next head coach of the Mountaineers. He decided to stay in Tallahassee, but the succession agreement hardly deterred him from looking at another job almost immediately. (One other thing about Fisher: He has a great rep in coaching circles, which helped earn him superstar coordinator pay at FSU. But in his first season the Seminoles deteriorated from 45th nationally in scoring offense and 70th in total offense under the excoriated Jeff Bowden to 90th in scoring offense and 80th in total offense under the sainted Fisher. Hm.) Kentucky could be facing a similar situation with other schools making runs at Phillips. Brooks' oft-stated goal in Lexington is to become the longest-tenured head coach of the Wildcats. That would be 10 years on the job, and Brooks is halfway there. If Kentucky's offense keeps lighting up scoreboards the way it has the past two years under Phillips' command, do you really think he's going to sit around until 2013 waiting for a job? My suspicion is that Kentucky and FSU were trying to pre-empt other job offers, while assuaging recruits at the same time. Most of these collegiate succession arrangements are used to convey continuity on the recruiting front -- so commit now, kid, and quit worrying about who your coach will be. There probably are or have been other succession arrangements that went unannounced. Nobody was shocked when Bill Guthridge took over for Dean Smith at North Carolina, for example. But as Michigan football is likely to find out with Rich Rodriguez, breaking out of a familial mold can eventually serve a stale program well. Change is often good. Job searches that expand beyond the usual suspects with ties to a school or a beloved coach can be beneficial. (See: Rick Pitino at Kentucky, Pete Carroll at USC, Urban Meyer at Florida, and so forth.) But quite frankly, that kind of thinking is for other suckers. Here at ESPN.com, I'm riding the succession wave. My 12-year-old kid is taking over this space -- just as soon as he learns how to type faster than 18 words a minute. Pat Forde is a national columnist for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
Kirby Lee/WireImage.comWashington State's Tony Bennett is one successor who has been as good as promised.