Sports commentary: The waiting room

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"Head Coach in Waiting"? It doesn't mean a whole lot.

By Mike Forster

  West Virginia hired Dana Holgorsen as its offensive coordinator.

Florida hired Will Muschamp as its new head coach.

Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer appears to be hale and hearty.

What do these three items have in common?

They all have to do with the “Head Coach in Waiting” phenomenon. (From here on, referred to as HCIW).

Holgorsen was hired away from Oklahoma State, where he’d performed brilliantly as its offensive coordinator.

The Mountaineers lured him by dangling the mantle of HCIW.

He’ll take over in 2012 after Bill Stewart steps down.

Here’s the tricky part:  Stewart is being forced out, in essence.

So, Stewart will be working with an offensive coordinator, not of his choosing.

Even if the team were to win a national championship, Stewart is out and Holgorsen is in.

Over in Florida, you have a different situation.

Urban Meyer decided to step down to spend more quality time with his family.  That means he’ll be back.

But, he won’t be back at Florida.  That’s because the Gators lured Muschamp away from Texas.

Muschamp was the HCIW for the Longhorns, supposedly the guy to take over after Mack Brown moseys off into the Texas sunset.

Muschamp’s reign as HCIW for Texas lasted but a year.

Which leads us to Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech.

Beamer is looking good these days.  After a horrendous start, he’s led the Hokies to yet another major bowl (Orange) berth.

He doesn’t seem ready to hit Happy Acres Retirement Community anytime soon.

Meanwhile, he has Bud Foster as his HCIW.

Foster is a proven defensive genius.  Much of the Hokies’ success can clearly be attributed to his intelligence and his leadership.

The Virginia Tech administration knows this.  That’s why they anointed Foster as their HCIW.  (Sorry, folks.  There’s just no catchy acronym here.)

Obviously, Foster isn’t going to jump at the chance to lead some lesser program.

So, schools such as Temple or Vanderbilt shouldn’t waste their energies.

But, what about schools that are on a par with Virginia Tech, in terms of support, tradition and probability of success?

In my opinion, there are a good number of schools that are rough peers of Tech on those three counts.

I think of the likes of Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Maryland and Arkansas.

Each of these is similar to Tech in a lot of ways.  Each would be a very tempting place to coach.

  All of these schools are pretty stable in the head coaching department, except for Maryland.  So, while none of these schools is likely to make an offer to Foster, could you blame one if it did?

Here’s the brilliant part about hiring away another school’s designated head coach.  The athletic director (or whoever is doing the hiring) eliminates professional risk.

That’s because some other athletic director has already gone on record as saying (and paying) that this coach is fully qualified to take over that school’s program.

If only the current guy they had wasn’t still around...

So, in essence, being appointed as an HCIW doesn’t make you less attractive to other schools.  It makes you MORE attractive.

  The fact that another school has plighted its troth to some assistant coach, and done so formally (and publicly), would lead you to think others would back off.

Nah.  That just gets their juices going.

It’s as though these schools hung around outside of churches on Saturday afternoons in June.

As blushing brides departed the churches, marital vows still ringing in their ears, these lotharios would be there with their most seductive advances.

Look.  For the most part, people enter the college coaching profession to move up as far as they can.

That’s the same for many professions.

So, it should come as no surprise that HCIW designees throw off their birthrights to accept positions elsewhere.

We should not hold that against them.

We just need to understand that these designations are non-binding.

My gripe in all of this?

That my alma mater, Minnesota, didn’t pursue Bud Foster.

I think he’d have made a heck of a Golden Gopher.

Who knows?  He might  still make a good looking Terrapin.