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Willie Taggart left behind a lesson, one that Pac-12 schools have been taught before … time and time again … but don’t often seem to grasp.
Hire a successful football or men’s basketball coach whose roots are elsewhere, and get ready to repeat the process again a few years later.
When they come from other quadrants of the country, they rarely stay.
Next season, the Ducks will have their fourth head coach in seven years:
2012: Chip Kelly2013-16: Mark Helfrich2017: Willie Taggart2018: TBD
If they pursue a hot coach with roots in the east, south or midwest, they should be prepared to lose him sooner than later. (Along with the recruits that coach brings from distant shores.)
That doesn’t mean you necessarily pass on Coach X from Ohio or Florida or Texas, but you have to be prepared for the consequences.
Which leaves us … where?
Athletic director Rob Mullens has been preparing his short list for weeks, knowing full well that Taggart, who’s from Bradenton, Fla., was likely to leave, first for Florida, then for Florida State.
But roots are just part of Mullens’ calculation. He also must decide:
* Should he promote from within or hire from the outside?
* Should he hire someone with head coaching experience, or is a proven coordinator suitable?
* Does the head coach need to have a background in offense, or could he come from the defensive side?
The answers depend, to an extent, on who’s available.
All things being equal, the Ducks should hire an offensive coach, partly because they are known for dynamic offense and it plays to their cutting-edge identity, but partly because recruiting quarterbacks is so, so, SO important.
More clear even than the background is the experience level: They must hire someone who has been a head coach.
The conference is too difficult, with too many proven HCs, to risk the immediate future on a coordinator.
Let’s address a handful of names that may or may not be on Mullens’ list:
(Memphis’ Mike Norvell just announced he has signed an extension, so we’ll leave him off.)
Iowa State’s Matt Campbell: No ties to the west coast and a giant buyout, but the Ducks have options for raising the cash and the dude can coach. Holy %#@& can he coach.
Oregon co-OC Mario Cristobal: Former head coach at Florida International, and had two winning seasons in six years there. (Tough job.) Spent four seasons working for the master in Tuscaloosa and has been well received during his year as the co-offensive coordinator in Eugene. But Cristobal, ahem, is from Florida.
Boise State’s Bryan Harsin: The lure of the Blue Turf is strong. His record looks good. He was interviewed by Oregon a year ago. Seems obvious. Too obvious?
Oregon DC Jim Leavitt: Well regarded defensive coordinator, one of the best in the business, in fact. And he was a successful head coach at South Florida. Had some off-the-field issues there that the Ducks would have to be comfortable with.
Texas A&M’s (ex) Kevin Sumlin: Huge name with major recruiting appeal. That he was let go by the Aggies should not dissuade Oregon. Is he ready to jump back in? Would the Ducks be willing to pay his asking price (not can they; would they)? If Mullens wants a head coach with the brand name to compete with Petersen and Shaw and Kelly, then Sumlin should be on the short list.
Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford: Turned in the best coaching coach in the western third of the country, a former Oregon assistant with all kinds of recruiting ties to the Northwest and Southern California. Knows quarterbacks. Key issue: Could the Ducks be sure he’d stick it out for more than four or five years?
Cal’s Justin Wilcox: The work he did this season in Berkeley was phenomenal, and he’s a Duck. Would he bolt Cal after one year? Would the Ducks want a defensive coach with only one year of HC experience? I’ve got Wilcox pegged as the coach who replaces the coach who replaces Taggart.
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