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Thom Park Vice President Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Tallahassee, Fla.
ood morning, coaches. I see some empty seats out there. There is nothing worse than an empty seat. Russ Potts who was our Sports Promotions Director at the University of Maryland in the mid-70’s, and subsequently the Athletic Director at SMU used to say, “There is nothing worse than an empty seat. Empty seats don’t buy popcorn, empty seats don’t go home and tell their friends about the great game they saw, empty seats don’t cheer, and empty seats don’t come back.” So thank you all for being here. It is a pleasure to be able to speak to this group. Those of you who are older may remember former President Ronald Reagan’s good friend and Attorney General, Edwin Meese, who said that an expert is someone from more than 50 miles away from home, carrying a brief case, who has no responsibility whatsoever for implementing the advice he gives and shows it on slides and overheads. Today, I am that person. Our topic today is ‘Managing Your Coaching Career’. I like to call this talk, ‘Building Heroes.’ I use that title because I think that is what coaches do is they are in the business of building heroes. What we are going to cover this morning is vocational philosophy, career management and planning, market ing and positioning, resume writing, portfolio building, job interviewing, negotiating, and we may get into coaches contracts and financial planning, if we have time. Our teaching objective today is to give you some tools to advance yourself in coaching, and not only to advance yourself, but sometimes in this business, to simply survive. Survivability is pretty important, as you all know. Some great careers are the residue of a coach who simply survived for a while. Remember, Moses spent 40 years in the desert before his great career fully bloomed. I well remember when Les Steckel, my good friend and a fine fullback for us at Quantico in 1971, who now serves as the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, was with Raymond Berry at the New England Patriots. They played the Chicago Bears under Mike Ditka in the 1985 Super Bowl and of course, Buddy Ryan ran the 46 defense. I think it was 46-10 they were beaten. But subsequently, Les separated from the New England Patriots and he ended up coaching at Brown University under John Rosenberg. Brown was one of my alma maters. Les had some down time in his career and he wanted to go coach a local
high school team or a youth midget team. All his buddies in the NFL said, “Oh, don’t do that, it will ruin your resume. You just coached in the Super Bowl and then you put the Cranston Midgets on there. Don’t do that.” I remembered he and I talked about that. From my perspective, it looks good on a resume, but not everyone sees these things that way. But here is Les who just coached in the Super Bowl again. We will talk about some of these issues. So, this is our task for the next two hours. Let me just tell you what a pleasure it is to address this esteemed body. I have been involved with the game of football since 1958. I played it 11 years, coached it for 15, played in one bowl, and coached in four. My son played 13 years and was an academic All-American quarterback at Villanova. In 1996, Clint finished third behind Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning for that honor. He coached a year at Duke. I’ve been a sports agent, a coaches’ advocate, and I have talked on this topic for 20 years. I have been a member of this Association for 28 years. I am blessed to have seen it all from about every angle. The view where I learned the most about coaches and football, interestingly enough, having been a head recruiter at two universities, and almost winning the national championship at Maryland, was when my own son was being recruited and coached. Then I got to watch it as a parent. I watched my wife as the mother of the quarterback. I could write a book, ‘Sitting Next to the Quarterback’s Mother’. They watch him every play, you know. They observe every nuance of how their child is treated. It is an interesting experience, men. So, I feel that I have a unique perspective there for sure. Like you, I have an abiding love and passion for this game. So I say, congratulations to you on who you are, and what you do. You can see why I say you are in the business of hero building. I think that is what you do. You build heroes. I think coaching is a noble profession. It is a calling like the ministry, or teaching. I think it is very important, and you are very important people, not in an egotistical sense even if there are certainly enough egos in the game, but in the sense that what coaches do is they save lives. If you translate this and distill it down, coaches save lives. Kids who come out of the ghetto and who don’t have a chance, who will end up in prison or dead, football gives them a mechanism from which to elevate themselves. This is
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how football changes their lives. Coaches are really in that kind of business. That’s the downside of it, where kids are lost, and that is the optimal case, where you save them and nobody ever really knows you did it, but that’s what you have the capability of doing. You need to be lauded for that because you get criticized for everything else. That is why I love this game and have so much respect for what you do and who you are. In the recent epic film, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, actor Tom Hanks portrays Army Captain John Miller, sitting on a bridgehead in northern France, a bullet through his breast, his lifeblood bleeding out of him, and he looks up into the eyes of Private Ryan and he says, “Earn this.” That was a poignant scene that stirred America. What is it about such scenes like that which can captivate the hearts of patriotic Americans, particularly people like us? As football coaches, it obviously strikes a cord of admiration for traditional American values. The same values that make up what our culture calls patriotism. You have as coaches the opportunity to teach these sorts of things. I think we need to congratulate ourselves on what this profession does. Because you are teachers, you are leaders, you are role models, you are influencers of the future, you are the shapers of young men, and you are critical to the future of our culture. The sports sociologists would say that you are the high priests of modern western industrial society. If you would go to a sports sociologist convention, you would hear talk like that. You see, they may refer to coaches in reverential terms, and that is who you are. It is easy to forget all this during the day to day hustle and bustle of the competitiveness of football, and some of you may get burned out, fired, or move on. But, you are in the business of building heroes. I learned that by watching my own son. He is a hero. He was an icon at his high school. He is a hero to me. This is what coaches do. Note when Grant Teaff says in the application to join the AFCA, where he chastises a high school coach who came up to him at Baylor and said, “I am just a high school coach.” He said, “Don’t ever say that to me again because you are a coach and you make a difference.” In the Book of James in the new Testament, where James taught as the brother of Jesus, in James 3:1, he says, “Those of you who would be teachers are held to higher account.” Let me say that
again. Those of you who will be teachers are held to a higher account. He (James) coaches to the consummate teachers. You are the best teachers there are in any educational environment. You have the toughest thing to teach and so you are very, very important people. Grantland Rice said, “When the One great scorer comes to write against your name, He cares not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.” So coaches, congratulations, and it is an honor to be here with you. Through the course of these two hours, I am going to give you the opportunity to ask me for several articles that I have written that I think are germane to this profession. I have made a habit in my professional lifetime to be an author on topics for which I have a passion, and football is one. The first one is the AFC reprint where Bill Walsh is on the cover, this is the beginning of the American Football Coach Magazine where I wrote “The Education of our Bosses”. This is a short version of an article I wrote in 1988 when I was trying to do a coaches contract renegotiation at the Division II level. It became very clear to me how it was needed, as the advocate for the coach, and I use the word advocate, not agent, since there is a clear difference. Agency is a legal term and advocate is more of a moral term. I wrote the article on coaches compensation because it became clear to me that the decision-makers at West Chester University, where Danny Hale who has been the Coach of the Year for this organization was Head Coach, as my good friend and client was trying to get his deal done. The AD, Dick Yoder, was our coach, a football legend in Pennsylvania, and he understood football fully, but the college president and his administrative designees did not. I said, “Dick, you know what part of the problem is here that it took 18 months to get it done. Part of the problem here is that they don’t understand football; they do not understand what we are trying to do here and why.” So, I wrote the article to explain it to them. People who have read it tel me it is a great piece to give to your presidents, superintendents, supervisors, athletic directors, the vice president for student affairs and people that just don’t understand what you do. That is what I’m trying to spell out here. The second article that I have is called, ‘Contractual Arrangements and Compensation Packages for Career Football Coaches’. I wrote this one about the same
time. This has to do with the notion of compensation. The point I want to make about that article is don’t ever, ever allow anybody to tell you that coaches make too much money. Coaches are the most underpaid people that I can think of, but I’m sure there others that are more underpaid. The point is that society likes to say that if Steve Spurrier makes $2 million a year and Bobby Bowden on his last deal is at $1.8 million, they are overpaid. I’ve done the studies, I’ve done the research, and I’ve written the articles and I would say this, “If Bobby Bowden was listed in the American Football Coach magazine a few weeks ago, the last copy with Bear Bryant on the cover, as the number 12 coach of the 20th Century, and he might be higher than that in my opinion, but where ever he falls out, lets say the top 10, and he makes a $1.8 million per year, what do you think the top 10 CEOs, lawyers, doctors, engineers, investment bankers, and financial advisors, like myself in the world make? Particularly the top ten of the century? The CEO of Disney has a ten-year deal for $770 million with stock options. As a shareholder, I find that obscene and as a churchman, I hope the guy gives a heck of a lot of money away to charity and to deserving people. But the point is that coaches are grossly underpaid for what they do, even the very best ones who make the most money. The reason they fire the head football coaches in the National Football League is about money. The entire business strategy of creating parity to create revenues is brilliant and is a long and complex topic for another day, but the NFL coach’s careers are in the gun sights of parity. That is because the players are paid so well. If you will look at the indebtedness of the organization through the player contracts, or call this the accounts payable by the organization because of the player contracts in place, you can’t fire them. You can trade them, or negotiate away them away but the monetary obligations far and away exceed anything the coach costs. Granted, you’ve got free agency, but it is much easier to fire the coach. And to the uninformed it seems to be the solution. Fire the coach. So, coaches you do not make near enough money, I don’t care where you work, what level you are at, you are underpaid, period! Don’t let anybody ever try to blow that argument past you because it is a gross mistruth. Every American male is an expert at
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three things: making love, being president and coaching football. We can all tell President Clinton how to do things and my mother, she’s 85, can tell President Nixon, President Ford, President Eisenhower; she can go back to FDR, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge and all that and she will do that when I go to lunch with her on Wednesdays. You are under a microscope and everybody knows how to do your job. Everybody knows how to call the plays. President Nixon called George Allen and called a play in the Super Bowl, you may recall in 1972. So, you are under enormous scrutiny. The point is that with this kind of scrutiny, if you don’t plan your career, plan where you are going and proactively manage it, it is going to end up somewhere a whole lot different than where you think it was going to end up. Being a Christian and having a theological perspective on things, I think if you want to make God laugh, set a five-year plan for yourself. You see that brings a smile to His lips. But nonetheless, we worldly creatures have to do this. That is the story on the money and we need to take control of our careers as best we can. My father was one of the original members of the “right-stuff” crowd. He was jet test pilot in 1948 when they didn’t know if the airplanes were going to come down or the wings were going to fall off, and he taught me some pretty good things in his short life. One of them goes likes this, “There is an ancient Chinese paradigm that says, in your ‘20s in any career you need to risk as much as you can, in your ‘30s you should learn as much as you can, in your ‘40s you should earn as much as you can, in your ‘50s you should lead as much as you can, and in your ‘60s you should put it all together and enjoy life as much as you can.” Abraham Maslow the psychologist would call that self-actualization. He’s not a football coach so he doesn’t know the application here, but you do. Now if twothirds of the college coaches between the ages of 33 and 37 according to an AFCA article around 1973 in our Association’s Proceedings Manual, leave the business, and this is probably more the truth today than it ever was, how in the world in your 40s are you going to earn as much as you can if two-thirds or more of you are gone? The numbers don’t work. What you’ve got to do in terms of proactive career management is get as much as you can while you can because you are underpaid to begin with. There is no question about that. The
other thing that my dad said was this, “In our ‘20s we get our first jobs based on what we will do; the sweat of our brow, the strength of our backs and the sacrifices that we will make.” I can’t help but think of Morgan Hout, who was a GA for us at Maryland for five years while his wife, Brenda, supported him. He became the head football coach at Liberty University under Reverend Jerry Falwell. Guys told him in years three through five to give it up and go get a regular job. He very much wanted to be a head coach and he became one. Coach Hout is the most extreme example of perseverance that I can think of, but that is what you have to do in your 20s in this business and you all know that. In our 30s, we get our next set of jobs based on what we have done and experienced and who and what we know and what we have learned. In our 40s if we are still doing it, we need to earn as much as we can because, as the lawyers that I know tell me, if a trustee is going to steal money from a trust, he is probably going to do it in his‘40s because money always gets short then. You’ve got growing children, college bills, aging parents and life styles that you would like to pursue. That is why you need to do that in your ‘40s or, as one of my professors at Florida State use to say, “after 40, politics is everything.” It is true. The Chinese had this one figured out 4000 years ago. When you get to the higher levels and the bigger jobs, it becomes very political. Who you know and how you conduct yourself matters. A good friend of mine, Terry Murray, is a Major General in the United States Marine Corps. He was nearly my tail back in 1971 and he succeeded me as the offensive coordinator at Quantico in 1972. Terry made two-star general and he was on track to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps until he got sick, but knowing Terry, he will probably succeed anyway. The point is that Terry sat on a search committee for Colonel in the United States Marine Corps where I served for nine years. I think Marine Corps officers are a special breed, but he said there were 665 lieutenant colonels on the list for colonel and the selection committee of brigadier generals picked 45 to promote to colonel. He said the next 100 you couldn’t tell the difference. Flip a coin. You wonder, “I want to get a head job. Is it ever going to happen?” Some lieutenant colonels wonder, am I ever going to be a colonel; it’s peace time, there is no war going on, guys
aren’t getting killed, I can’t get any medals so there’s no fast track, so I have to do it the hard way like you do in coaching which is a linear career. At the apex of the career pyramid, it gets pretty steep. There are three types of careers: linear careers, stairstep careers and spiral careers in vocational counseling. Football coaching is a linear career. You start off like a doctor. He is an intern, then he becomes a resident, then he becomes a physician and he starts a practice and then after 40 years he’s an icon in a small town. That is a linear career in medicine. Coaches have linear careers. You start out as a GA, then as an assistant coach, then a coordinator, and then if you keep progressing, you become a head coach. Then you say I want to get a bigger job. You have to be careful. Remember the Tower of Babel in Genesis. You have to be careful in climbing these ladders. Coach Bowden said it best when he won the National Championship in 1993, and said, “When you get to the top, you realize that there is nothing there.” You have to enjoy what you are doing. What you are doing and why you are doing it has really got to be the essence of it. If you are in the business of building heroes, then where you end up on the pyramid is not as important as what you have done with your life. The point is, when we get into those bigger jobs, like becoming a colonel in the Marine Corps, or like becoming a head football coach in a Division II school, politics becomes very important. As Jack Lengyel, the AD at Navy, told me one time in an ACC AD search in which I was a candidate said, “When you get to the end, be very, very careful.” That’s true, because it becomes so political. In our ‘50s, we get our next set of jobs and hopefully these big jobs in our career based on who we have become and who we are, because at that point competence is a given. Everybody in the ACC knows how to coach. I coached for five years in the ACC and I have watched Florida State now for 20 seasons. I watched them join the ACC, so I have observed this whole thing evolve. In the ACC, everybody can coach; everybody can scheme, motivate, lead, manage and recruit. When we won three straight ACC titles in ‘74, ‘75, and ‘76 at Maryland, people said we had a great staff and we thought we out coached some people. We thought it was a great conference then in the 1970s. Lou Holtz left N.C. State to go to the Jets because he was frustrated and
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because he couldn’t win it all at NC State, he wanted to win the ACC title, he couldn’t beat us and Lou Holtz is a great coach! The point is today, everybody at that level can coach. So, competence is a given when you get up to these higher levels. If you are so fortunate and so blessed as somebody like my friend, Frank Beamer, who almost won the National Championship the other night, then you get to your final pinnacle of a crowning career achievement based on what you stand for. The reason that Grant Teaff says that no coach should ever say, “I’m just a high school football coach”, is because no matter where you are in this business, no matter if you are a 22-year-old first year junior high coach or a 22-year-old graduate assistant starting out, or you are Tubby Raymond, an icon at 70. I saw Tubby down stairs and I asked him if he was going to come to my lecture and he said he might. I said he didn’t need to come hear about careers. I told him, “You don’t need to come, Coach, you are an icon, you have already done it all.” He thought I was going to talk about money and investments, but I’m not. You see at that point where Tubby is, or where every one of us is, no matter where we are, we all need to stand for some great principles upon we will never compromise. We need to teach that to our players. That’s the bottom line. Let me say that again. Every coach should identify certain core values and principles upon which he will never compromise and then he needs to teach those things to the next generation. Every coach can do that. Every coach can be a builder of men. My high school coach at Hershey, Pennsylvania, Sterling Banta from Luzerne told me in 1969 when I was graduating from college, “If you go into coaching for any other reason other than because you care about the players and you want to help kids, you are in it for the wrong reasons.” Pretty good advice coming from an old coal cracker from the anthracite region. These are principles that I think are important. The ancient Greeks tell us from 3,000 years ago to “know thyself.” Coach Claiborne, who I had the good fortune to learn under my first five years at Maryland used to say, “take care of your A’s, get your B’s up to A’s, get your C’s up to B’s and get rid of your D’s and F’s.” Jerry Claiborne was an outstanding student, and coached for Bear Bryant and played for Bear Bryant. What he was saying was, know thyself, and know what you are strong at. As a head football coach, I think
you will be successful when you know who you are and you hire to your weaknesses. As an assistant, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Some of you may remember Coach John Devlin who passed away last year. He was a dear friend of mine. He was Coach Claiborne’s defensive guru for many, many years. He and I used to go inside the Cracker Barrel for dinner in 1973 when they first had them. They had those little triangle puzzles with the nine golf tees in them. The first time we ever sat down on a recruiting trip, he did that thing, one tee left, the first time. I had a degree in psychology so I knew enough to be dangerous, and I said, “Wow, you must have a strong mental skill set in spatial relations.” What that means, if you do, along with a lot of experience and pattern recognition is you can do those kinds of things. He was a great defensive tactician. He was a great half-time adjuster. Coach Devlin, of course, worked for Jerry Claiborne who Bill Walsh once said on national television a few years ago was the finest college defensive coach of the last 50 years. I had a chance to be around people like that. Bobby Ross was on that staff and he hired me later. What I learned that Coach Claiborne was so good at in 1972 I didn’t understand. I was a 26 year old, Randy White was a sophomore DT headed for nine Pro bowls, the Hall of Fame, the Dallas Ring of Fame, co-MVP of the ‘78 Super Bowl, and in my opinion, was the best defensive tackle that has ever played the game. I wrote a book chapter on Randy White to support that claim one time. The point is that his coach, Ron Rice, had a heart attack and died. I thought I was going to get that job. I was going to be the defensive tackle coach for Coach Claiborne and his great nationally ranked defenses. He didn’t give me that job. I was crushed. Frank Beamer and Ralph Friedgen left as fellow GA’s and went to The Citadel with Bobby Ross, Charlie Rizzo, the linebacker coach today at Rice with Ken Hatfield went to The Citadel, and another GA, Brette Hart, went to Villanova with Jim Weaver. I didn’t get anything. I was very frustrated. I figured if that was the way the big-time worked, I would go back to West Chester to coach and start working on my master’s degree. Six months later, I get a phone call from Dick Redding who was Coach Claiborne’s right hand guru, and he asks me if I would like to be the head recruiter at Maryland. I did that for four more years and we almost won the national championship during my fourth
year. Coach Claiborne knew what I was good at. He saw a guy who is good with people, can speak, likes people, a natural salesman, well-organized, good with money, paper, and so forth. I’m not a particularly good tactician in a short period of time. I can’t figure things out in 25 seconds. Over time, if I can study things, I’m okay, but they only give you 25 seconds and I was a rookie. I learned that. If I had ever become a head coach, I would have to have coordinators around me that were obsessed tacticians because I’m a macro guy. I’m a big picture guy. I like to give details away to somebody else. You have to figure out who you are and Coach Claiborne was brilliant at that. He gave me the head recruiter job; he had Coach Devlin running the defense, Terry Strock in the secondary, Jake Hallum with the “O” line, and so forth. That’s what you have to do, as a head coach is to know thyself. What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses and then hire to compliment them. That is what leaders do and this is the nature of the football coaching profession. You all know this because you all live it. It is highly competitive; it’s more competitive than it has ever been. It takes time to advance in grade. It emphasizes traditional values, such as being work intensive, loyal, sacrificial, dedicated, rigorous of discipline, pure of heart, honorable, all of those kinds of things of which we are all well aware. Football is generally conservative. There is no room for radicals. Radicals don’t last long in this business, if they even get into it. We tend to run people out that are too far to the left. It’s a very traditional business. It’s very hierarchical. This means you must pay your dues, spend time in grade, progress linearly, be progressive, as it is exclusive, tightly knit, a closed very tight society. Everybody gossips, everybody talks, everybody knows who is good and who isn’t. Football has a rigid pecking order both intra organizationally, meaning on the staff, and heaven help the wife of the GA that sits in the head coach’s wife’s seat in the wives box; she will learn quickly not to sit there. It is that kind of business intra organizationally and that way across the structure and strata of the game like the Caste system in India only here it is Division I-A, I-AA, II, III, NAIA, the NFL, etc. It is an extremely important profession. I think it is a noble profession. It is a noble calling. It is like the ministry, in my opinion. It is an enormous work culture. I was a United States Marine Corp tank officer in the Vietnam War. That is the only career, and I
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have had six of them, where I have ever seen where you work harder than football coach’s work. When I was a football coach, I like all of you put in the 105-hour game weeks. Football coach’s work just about harder than anybody we can identify. My first year in business, I worked 70 hours a week and thought it was easy, while everyone there was telling me what a hard worker I was. I’m not sure if society really appreciates your work ethic and the reason that I am circulating that list that is going around is if you sign the list I will send you these articles. The one I wrote for your bosses is extremely important, because people just don’t understand. You lead a different kind of life. Other types of coaches like basketball do to. There is no coach like a football coach because you are running a corporate entity. You have a minimum 120-150 person organization with supporting elements and a considerable cash flow. That is a pretty good size business. That is the nature of our culture. In these ways, football is a very old fashioned sort of an activity, but it is changing very quickly. Alvin Toffler, the futurist wrote, ‘Future Shock’in 1973 which was his first book in his trilogy on how society was changing. You can see it changing around us today such as with technology. I talked to Cliff Yoshida, an old friend and former Marine, and I told him that I had computers all around me at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter; they are rolling software out on me and I can’t keep up with it. I have to deal with people, make decisions and understand investments, markets, deals and contracts. I don’t have time to monkey with this computer thing. Somedays I come in and I want to take a bat and knock that thing right off the desk. My assistant comes in and tells me to “calm down, all you have to do is push the ‘on’ button.” Cliff said he deals with the same thing in football. All of us men over 50 have to do that. I think painting this macro picture for you of the context in which you operate is very, very important. If we study the history of sport for 3,000 years and look at the seven trends that define modern sport and which also define football today, going back before the Olympics, 770 B.C., they are secularization, specialization, rationalization, bureaucratization, record keeping, quantification and equality. These are the seven trends in larger western industrialized society that define and delineate modern sport from defined previous historical periods. You say, how is this relevant? It is relevant to
the change that is going on in the game around you today; for example, the trend of specialization. We have nickel defenses, dime defenses, special teams, game niche specialties; we have head linesmen, referees, back judges, ECO’s, and head coach’s escorts. You see how everything is becoming more and more specialized. We have computer coaches, video coaches, and assistant video coaches, guys that understand only this and that kind of software. It is all around us. That is specialization. How is it bureaucratized? We have the NCAA, the NAIA, the AFCA, the NFL, NFLPA and other sports governing bodies. It is bureaucratized. How is equality a factor? We have ethnic equity, gender equity, Title IX, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of 1972, the Grove City ruling of 1984, and that has affected this game. One of the reasons Grant Teaff, and I’ve never seen this written down anywhere as it is an assumption on my part, says we must grow in this organization and we are surely getting the revenues up to have a higher AFCAtop line revenue through dues, is so that we can afford to defend ourselves with a lobbyist in Washington, to defend our game and what it stands for, and that is the big picture. Things are changing around us and in many ways you and football are under assault. In the least case, football is competing for shelf space. Before I die I would like to write a particular book. The title of this book is going to be, “The Monetization of Modern Sport”. The seven trends I mentioned that define modern sport from previous historical periods suggest that there may be an eighth one. The eighth one is causing all of our problems. That trend is the increasing commercialization, professionalization, legalization and my word, which I assigned in an article that I wrote one time, is the monetization of modern sport. Think about it: The Monetization of Modern Sport. It is the thing that is creating more problems than anything else. With the advent of TV in the 1960’s, you are now increasingly in the entertainment business. Some of you will probably rail at that as I do; I’m in my 50’s, and I don’t like it, but it’s all moving in that direction. As coaches like to say to their players, “the big eye in the sky sees all”, well the television doesn’t miss anything that you do. All those guys that can make love, be President and coach football, they are going to second guess you on every call, because you are on TV, particularly if they write big checks
to their booster club. If you don’t win like in the NFL where you’ve got 31 teams, and 9 of them were 8-8, if you are 7-9, you’re fired. Does that make sense? Particularly when the margins are only a few points on but a handful of plays. Figure it out. Your job in the NFL hinges on a half dozen calls or bounces per season. The creation of parity as a business plan causes this, you know. That is the way it is. It is like my good friend and former coaching colleague, Mike O’Cain who got fired at NC State this year. He was 6-6 and went to a bowl game last year. He even beat FSU last year. He was doing everything right by any measure. He was doing all the right things. The Chancellor admittedly admired him. She loved his values, how he handled disciplinary matters, and what he was teaching the kids. I did the pre-game devotional before the Florida State Game in Tallahassee for Mike’s football team. Bobby Bowden has been doing FCA for 20 years. Changing and saving people’s lives, all the right stuff. Sixty percent of Mike’s team has a GPA over 3.0, he never breaks a rule, is loyal to his staff and his spouse, all the right stuff. He’s a family man and as clean as a whistle. 6-6 and you’re fired!! Why?? Because the N.C. State WR came up six inches short and didn’t get in the end zone against North Carolina, their must win game. So, instead of firing Carl Torbush at North Carolina who is speaking tomorrow at the FCA Breakfast, they fired Mike O’Cain at NC State because somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. That’s crazy. But, that’s where we are. God Bless Chuck Amato. He has wanted to be a head coach for 20 years, he is a fine coach and he is the new head coach at NC State. I’m happy for Chuck. That is what is going on in this business is the monetization of modern sports. Got down to six inches. The boosters worry about donations, the AD the gate, bowl revenue, and TV, the president image and institutional profile, and the Wolfpack guy about raising money in a break-even environment. Does he get fired, or does he not get fired? Six inches in one play. Then they start saying, well the attendance is off from 56,000 to 45,000, that’s 9,000 tickets at $20 a pop, which equals $180,000.00 per game, with five home games and very thin margins in the athletic budget, so let’s make a change and be bold! We have a reason to fire this coach, there’s not enough revenue. It’s the death of common sense. But, that is where we
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are. I paint that backdrop, not to be gloomy or negative here, but see all these people that write the checks, the boosters, they think that they have the right to vote on your job and they know just about enough like Nixon to call one play for George Allen. It is like the guys that trade the stocks on the internet for $8 per share. Because of their access to the stock market and the fact that they can trade for $8 per share, they think they can pick a stock. It’s the same thing, the ultimate First Amendment utopia. There is a guy in my town that bankrupted himself trading Internet stocks online. He went negative $600,000, lost his house, his Mercedes, and everything. Hey, for $8 per trade, that is a great deal! This crosses all layers of society. If I were a doomsayer, I would say that there are parallels to the spectacle of sport before the fall of Rome around 300 A.D., but I won’t say that because I’m an optimist dressed in crepehanger clothes. The lawyers, the accountants, the business people and the uninformed that are now becoming athletic directors and presidents are now driving the train. Many of them do not understand at all the ramifications of what you do, the good you do and in particular, what the challenges are that you all face. I use to say in recruiting, it’s a fourcell matrix. I was head recruiter at Connecticut, I was head recruiter at Maryland and Mike Gottfried wanted me to go to Arizona to be the head recruiter out there under Tony Mason and I said no because twice was enough in one lifetime. Anyway, the four-cell matrix says the kid can go to the right school for the right reason or to the right school for the wrong reason, the wrong school for the right reason, or the wrong school for the wrong reason. You have 25% chance of being at the right place for the right reason. It is the same thing here; people are getting fired for the wrong reasons. That is the monetization of modern sport. Historically there are four groups in sport, and I don’t want to bore you with all this, but you coaches are the guys are in the middle. You have the athletes and the fans, through history, then you have the patrons, and those are the people in the skyboxes in the Roman arena. Those are the patrons and they run the game. Those are the ownership folks in the NFL and in college, those sitting in the President’s suite. You’ve got the fans, they are in the stands and watching on TV, and those are the guys that say, Gladiators, kill
the tigers. They are also saying you had better win on Saturday because they are writing the big checks to the Booster groups which entitle them to vote on your job at the end of the season. Those guys are the fans. That’s the second group. The third group is the athletes or the players. Leadership scholars would say the players have more power, or they are more empowered than they have ever been before. Being a leader today is tougher than it has ever been. You have to control those guys in some manner. Use the word influence, not control. What leaders do is they influence, they don’t control. There is a big difference. Leaders are influencers. There are lots of ways to do it. Then there are the mentors, the managers, the coaches, and the ADs. You guys are layered in amongst all that in an increasingly monetized environment, so guess who is going to get fired, and that is the big picture. So you are in an environment that is increasingly competitive and more difficult to survive in than ever before. The periods of time for accountability are becoming like the NFL, if you don’t win this week, what have you done for me lately? You don’t have time to build a program anymore. The old school used to think that way. My son was a pretty fair country quarterback and Fred Goldsmith recruited him at Rice and hired him as a GAat Duke. Fred and I were at this convention about four years ago, I think it was in Dallas, and we were standing in the hall and he said, “How is your boy doing?” I said, “He’s doing OK.” He asked, “Does he want to be a coach?” I said, “Well, he watched me do it for 15 years. I think he is smarter than that.” Fred said, “Have him call me. He gives him a GA job. I never thought in the world Clint would do this. He goes to Duke as a quarterback GA at 23, coaches in Seminole Stadium against Bobby Bowden, and it was such a thrill for us. After having such a grand and glorious playing career which I won’t regale you with, his first year he got fired. He got even and married Fred’s daughter. He lost a career, but found a great wife. He is out of coaching after one year. The joke in our family is that it took him one year to figure out what it took me 15. The point is you have less power today and less security than ever before and it is due to this money thing. I’m going to talk about his at the end of the second hour. It is extremely important that you understand this as coaches. It is extremely important if
you are an assistant coach that your boss understands this. The athletic directors today that used to be our advocates and friends because of the monetization of modern sport are becoming our adversaries because they themselves are increasingly evaluated by money and losing does not draw nor pay. You see this now at the high school level, the college level and at the pro level for sure. What’s happening in the NFL is rolling down to the high school level. Now high school superintendents fire the coach for being 4-6-0. That is not the answer. That’s what George Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones do, so it must be right. Right? This is about the blind leading the blind, with all due respect to those fine owners. I’m not singling them out because it is this monetized environment which victimizes us all. The point is, if you as a coach don’t have a contract that is well constructed, or a sound employment agreement, whatever level you are at, it is clear you must. The Association, AFCA, says that all assistant coaches should have a one-year contract, clear and specific. If you don’t have the term, pay, perquisites, evaluation process, provisions for termination, rollover provisions, the non-reassignability clause, the termination clauses, separation, mitigation, no buy out language, and all that stuff, well, you are in danger. You are flying without a net. Your family is at risk unless you are wealthy and coach for fun. This is extremely important. I have written articles on that topic which if you sign that sheet I will be glad to send you. Lets move along in the interest of time to some of these basics of coaching career management. First, be loyal to your organization and to your bosses. I think this is extremely important. Loyalty is one of the virtues that drive this game. I think that if we don’t learn to do that, we are in the wrong business. I think loyalty says more about you than it does about them. If the organization is so corrupt or so poorly run that you can’t stand it any more, or your boss is so inept and unappreciative that you can’t stand it any more, be as loyal to them as possible until you are able to find a new position. That is easy to say and hard to do. Many times we are in situations in business where we are frustrated. But, loyalty is very, very important. In figuring a way out of places you don’t want to be, taking the high road, I think, is a very important principle. Don’t be negative in public. Bobby Bowden is a
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master, an absolute master, of managing the external relations of a football organization. Such a positive man. In private, be tactful and work around the difficulties as best you can and at the appropriate time, convey your true feelings. It is counterproductive to gossip, back bite, as that’s all cowardly stuff. This sounds kind of obvious, but think about it. The single most important thing that we can do to advance our careers is to be the best, to be competent, be positive, work hard, and take care of your subordinates and your players. The way you will advance your career is to be excellent. Coach Claiborne use to say, “Be the best,” as he told the players and the coaches. If you become excellent at what you do, people around you will talk about it. They will say this man is uncommonly good at something. Somewhere along the line you will get an opportunity, but you must be on the lookout for it and even seek it out. You must put yourself in the path of progress, you must lecture, speak, write articles, go to clinics, be a clean recruiter, but be known and be the best. It goes on and on to the things you must do. The single most important thing you can do is to be excellent, be positive and to work hard. You can’t let your light shine under a bushel basket. I can think of any number of great coaches that I have known who have had outstanding substance and were just excellent, but they never got the jobs that they felt they were entitled to. In some way, they wouldn’t do the things that made them a little more visible. They did not have a personal marketing strategy. I think you (coaches) are an unselfish group and you let your lights hide under a bushel basket by nature. We are seeing, however, a lot of guys coaching on the sideline today so they can be on TV and be visible when they might ought to be in the box for better field visibility and staff input support. Coach Bowden always says, “Make no lateral moves.” Coaching careers are too short. You have too little time to be moving laterally. If you make a move, move up, whatever that is. We all have to define what “up” is. Appreciate where you are. The grass is always greener, we know this. Look for the good things. Have an attitude of gratitude. Seek to move with the head coach’s help at the correct time. That is easy to say and hard to do. I remember when I left Maryland. I had to tell Coach Claiborne on a recruiting weekend, a Saturday morning, and I was with him for
five years, that I had to leave to get out on the field. He wouldn’t let me go until I broke down and cried in front him. He finally said, “OK Thom, if that’s what you need to do, you go ahead and go.” I got two extra weeks salary and they didn’t give that to anybody. Mrs. Claiborne told me through a mutual coaching friend that her husbands biggest career mistake was letting Thom Park get away. I was very proud to have heard that because he was a great coach and gave me my start. The point is you have to move with the help of people. Certainly don’t go behind their backs. Always move up. Don’t put a cap on what you think you can do. If Jerry Jones calls and he says he wants to talk to you about the head job with the Cowboys, and you say to yourself, “I’m not ready to be the head coach of the Cowboys,” don’t cap yourself. Let them decide what you can and can’t do. Heaven only knows enough people will say you can’t do this. I remember I applied to Lee Corso at Louisville as an assistant coach. I was 24. Lee said, “You’re too young, and don’t have enough experience.” He was 29. He was the head coach. Don’t let people tell you what you can or can’t do. Always move up. Work for people that you like and respect. I think this is extremely important. There is no sense in climbing the ladder of success if it is leaning against the wrong building. Quality begets quality. Surround yourself in your career with good people. If you are in a bad situation with folks that you don’t think are positive and outstanding individuals, then try to move yourself into another situation. You can get layered or trapped in lots of ways. We all have family and children, fiscal responsibilities and that is easy to say and hard to do, but I think it is very important to try to do it. Do the best you can where you are and excel. Excel in the here and the now. Roger Staubach said it best, “Don’t worry about the last play, don’t worry about the next play, worry about the one you are on.” The racquetball coaches say, “Play each point one point at a time and the results will take care of themselves.” These are basic principles that I think are so important. We are at the end of the hour and I have many other things to speak to you about. I want to tell you, “If you want this lecture in its entirety, it is in this book, the “1999 Nike Coach of the Year Clinics Football Manual” edited by Earl Browning through Coaches Choice.
I have grown men come up to me that are 45 years old at clinics and say, “I don’t have a resume. I have never written one. How do I do it?” I say, “Boy, is that amazing.” But it is true and there is an art to doing it. That is why Carol Ozee and her husband, Ken, who is a Dallas high school coach and athletic director and I wrote the book on it. Carol is the co-author of this book. She is really the driving force behind it. It talks about building a portfolio for yourself. It is an advertisement. It is a career advancement package. I think this is extremely important. As one of my professors said when I was doing my doctorate, “You do not write a thesis, you do not write a dissertation, you build one. I tell students, don’t write me a paper, don’t write a term paper for the semester, build it. Start in September and finish it in December. Spend four months on it. If you slap it together, in the last two week, trust me, I’ll be able to figure that out. The point is, you can take years to do this, but if you don’t have one, get started. If you go and find this book and then can’t find time to do it, then I say, you are an important person and you have lots of resources, get somebody to do it for you. Pay them to do it. You’ve got to do it. Get the whole thing databased. Every time you give a talk, do this, do that, you add it to your curriculum vitae. Build this package so that when you get a chance to go off on your big job or have an interview or what ever it is, it is locked and cocked and ready to go. Do that and start working on it and what you end up building is not a resume, you end up building a career advancement package. There is a difference. A resume is a one-page summary of a curriculum vitae. Curriculum vitae in academia could be a 50-page document. There is a short form and a long form. What you want to do is to build a package of materials that when you go in for an interview, the material is so outstanding that the people say you know, this person is really very well organized. I am impressed with their organization. According to a story that I got second hand, Charlie Weatherbie, the head coach at Navy, did such a great job in the interview convincing about a dozen Naval Admirals, Marine Corps Generals, very important people who were scrutinizers of leadership, that he was the guy that had the enthusiasm and the fire to do the job, that he got the job. He won it in the interview according to my friend who sat in those
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meetings. Interviewing is a skill. It is a learned skill. You will get better with time by practice. Just like the guy who asked the New York cab driver, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, man, practice”, the cabbie replied. If you have a chance to interview for a job, go do it. I had the chance to interview with Minnesota in 1983 with Les Steckel; he was on the cusp of getting the head job at Minnesota when they fired Joe Salem, even if Lou Holtz ended up with the job. Les called me in October and he said, “I think I’m going to get the job at Minnesota.” He was the receiver coach with the Vikings, and he asked me to come with him as the associate A.D., raise the money, build the football building, run the recruiting and handle everything that I don’t want to do anymore, and Les would be the football coach. I was very tempted to do that. I finally said, “Les I can’t do it. My wife is pregnant with our third child. I don’t want to miss that; I’m in the middle of my Ph.D. I want to finish it and I don’t want to live in minus 60-degree weather.” That was the deciding factor. I turned it down. My wife said, “Why don’t you go on the interview?” I said, “Because I know the answer. I’m not going to take the job.” She said, “Go and look at it.” I said, “Honey, I’m not going to take the job. I’m not going to burn the man’s money and time.” The interview could have changed my career because Les probably would have convinced me to take the job. He is a very persuasive guy. Always go for the interview. You will learn something. Moreover, you will expose yourself to new people and you might get the job the second time or you might get a job somewhere else because the search group is on another search somewhere else. In this close-knit culture that I talked about earlier, these are important things. That is called positioning yourself on the shelf of the mind. Every time a position opened at Florida State in the early 80s, about four separate times, I would have guys call me and they would ask, “Do you know Bobby Bowden?” I would say, “Everybody knows Bobby Bowden?” The question is, “does Bobby Bowden know me?” I would call him and say, “Hi Coach, it’s me. Do you know Wilbur Grooms?” He wants to apply for your DT coaching job. About the fourth time he said to me, “Thom, let me tell you how I do this. Anytime a position opens in my organization, I have about three or four names in my head, and I know whom I want. I will interview other people
and sometimes I hire people other than those three or four names in my head. I have a short list in my head for every position in my organization.” This is a guy, obviously a master at his craft, who knows who he wants. Marketing, positioning yourself is getting yourself on the shelf of the mind of those people whom you would want to work for or with. How do you do that? You have to get around. You have to talk to people. You have to make your wishes known. Go up to somebody at a convention and say, “You know, I am very happy where I am, and I work for a great person, but truthfully if I ever had a chance to work for you, I want you to know I would like to do that.” Just be clear and direct sometimes. There are few windows of opportunity, so if you position yourself correctly, good things may happen. This is a long-term game, so be patient and sometimes you will get the job the second time. Chuck Amato just got the head job at NC State and he wanted that job for 20 years. When he had his press conference, he says, he was like Susan Lucci who waited 18 years for her Emmy. If you have a mentor, it is extremely important. Joe Paterno had Rip Engle. Jerry Claiborne had Bear Bryant. Lou Holtz had Woody Hayes. If you have a mentor that can help you, it makes it a lot easier. Build this package. What comprise this package are a resume, a curriculum vita, and one page football summary. You can make a document called a football summary, which is a very interesting thing to do. Take the first year that you were in the game of football. Go through every year and list on a piece of paper the most important thing you did in football each year. That captures the essence of your football background. Then, if you have that which I call a football summary sheet, your one page resume of your curriculum vitae can highlight other things you may have done beyond football that search committees find important. So, the one page football summary is something that is a creative idea. Your curriculum vita can be 20-30 or even 50 pages that talk about all the things that you have done in your career and academics. You can list all of the clinics where you have spoken and so forth. When you apply for a job, you need to enclose a one page cover letter that says why you are writing, expressing what your qualifications are, and enclose all the required forms and ask for the interview appointment. Be brief and the objective is to get the interview. I have become a
student of resumes. Look at a lawyer’s resume sometime. Go get some ideas on how other people do them. There are ways to do resumes in business and in academia and each is different. This is art and not science. Put it in a leather binder. Go to a local supply store and spend $25-$50 and make it the best looking one that you can. The Japanese call it understated elegance, but make your career packet the very best one in the applicant pool, by looks first, and then by organization and content. I remember when I was a GA at Maryland. I was trying to get on there and Coach Claiborne had 100 resumes on his desk. On the top were Les Steckel’s and mine. The reason ours were on the top was because we had both been Marine officers during the Vietnam War and he was a patriot. He wanted guys like that. That is a big reason why I got the job. Make it the most outstanding packet they see. Here are some do’s and do not’s in this process. A lot of this is self evident, but I will point it out to you. Don’t make typos. My daughter sent me a resume the other day and asked me to look at it. She had a typo on it. No good. Be neat, be consistent and be totally truthful. Don’t ever enhance something that is not true on a resume. As soon as you do that and someone finds out, they will attack your credibility. You are finished. If somebody who was there with you observed what you did and read what you wrote in your resume, they would say, “Yep, that was exactly the way it was.” That is the way it should be in your career materials. For example, it says in the materials for me speaking at this convention that I was Randy White’s position coach at Maryland. That is not exactly true. I was the graduate assistant in 1972 that coached him, but I was not his position coach. That got misconstrued, somebody read it and the fish got bigger. Be brief, be clear and precise and make sure you get the details right. Here are some things not to do. If in your application package they ask for a salary history, by all means go ahead and include your salary history. But, if you state a salary need, you can eliminate your candidacy. The search committee’s job is to narrow the pile down and funnel it down to final candidates. When you recruit athletes and you say we have 30 scholarships, lets start with 2,000 prospects and we will work it down to 90 visits, and we’re going to sign 30. If we’re to visit 90 or whatever the rule is today, we are doing the same thing with
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jobs. We get 100 resumes, sort them down to 50-75, get to 15 semi-finalists, do telephone interviews down to 8 finalists, do more telephone interviews, and then we will personally interview 4. We’re going to fly four in. The job of that search committee who are composed of a whole lot of folks that don’t understand a whole lot about football, is to eliminate candidates. You will have chemistry professors on there, EEO officers, deans, physicists, counselors. You will have a whole lot of different types of people evaluating your materials, not you now, but your materials, so they had better be good! We say if any time a committee gets to be over 10, it becomes a mob. We find this to be true. Their job is to eliminate candidates. Don’t give them a reason. You want the interview. If you talk about prior changes - that could reflect negatively on you. Don’t do that. Don’t limit your geographic boundaries. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t talk too much about values and philosophy or someone will disagree with you and eliminate you. Don’t offer them any negatives. They will find them soon enough. They are looking for them. Make it easy for them to give you an interview. If you go to the interview, and you get to talk to them, now you can be persuasive. Now, if you want to eliminate yourself, you can. I was in the final three for the presidency and the CEO job of the NAIAin 1996, the last time it was open. I went to the interview in Dallas and I thought it went very well. After two hours with an AD, a college president and a chancellor, I said, “You know, I can not take this job. I want to take it and I hope you are interested in me, but my son is getting ready to finish his last two years playing quarterback at Villanova University and I am going to go to the game every weekend for the next two years and I don’t think I can give this job the kind of time that I need to and do that too. I’m not going to miss his career. He is only going to be here once.” I withdrew from that job. I really wanted that job. They were very appreciative and understanding for my honesty with them. You give yourself that empowerment to make such decisions. That is the trick. Weed yourself through that process to getting the interview. I said earlier, anytime you have a chance to interview, by all means go do it. It is a learned skill and you will get better at it. It is important. Learn to know your potential employer. In the NFL, many times they have 2-3 day interviews for head coaches.
It becomes a rather intense thing and you get to go up on the board and diagram all kinds of stuff in front of very knowledgeable people, such as Dan Marino, for example, on your offensive strategy and passing game. This is the way the process works. You really have to know your employer, your offense, their offense, the defense or whatever your specialty is, but it is the subjective things beyond that like values, people and does this fit? These will probably be the keys to whether you get the job or not. Sometimes it is just who you know. You need to be a master of your craft because after you are 30 or 35, peopled expect that you are. We talked earlier about knowing yourself and what you have to offer. I think what you need to do in front of the search committee is to articulate and identify your three greatest strengths. Be able to expound on those. People are getting agents and advocates now and they are now doing it the way that the business world has been doing it for 30 years. That is to have search firms conducting searches. You will have to be able to see who you are and how your strengths match up with the needs of the hiring entity. The search firm’s job is to figure that out. They usually take 30% of the first years compensation as a fee to do this. You have to represent yourself at that interview. We talked about communication, which is so much a part of the contest. Communication comes in many forms. I think we need ways of sending messages that when we become aware that it isn’t just what we say. Ask your dog and ask your children how they read your messages. My dog knows when I walk into the house if I’m in a good mood or not. We send off lots of messages. It’s not only what you say but it’s how you say it. Four principles of labor economics here: be there, be on time, set goals and task accomplish them. If everyone in America did that the gross national product would double over night. Obviously, be on time, be prepared, look good, be the best-dressed person in the room, and have a career package of materials that look that way. You can go into a Japanese building and there is sense of understated elegance about the whole thing. You know, this is really big time. You can smell it. Know what you are doing. People can figure it out. I’m in the investment business. I can tell you if you get with somebody with about $10 million to invest, they probably have been around long
enough to figure out whether or not you know what you are doing. A whole lot of body language is going on. In every initial meeting it is pure human animus in the first four minutes when two living organisms meet each other. How did you meet your wife? I met my wife in Church in Adelphi, Maryland. I sat down at one end of the pew; she sat at the other end with nobody in between. The minister had been trying to set us up for some time. He said that I have this guy that is a coach at Maryland and you have to meet him. I looked at her and I said, “Hey, I like that gal.” That’s how you meet your wife, that’s the way you get dates. Men supposedly take only a few minutes while women take an hour or more to make such initial analysis. That is the way many times people get jobs. If you can go in the first four minutes of that interview and break the ice well and set the tone and do all these subtleties like eye contact and being positive and a good handshake, it is very important. When you walk into the room, you must bespeak confidence. This is basic stuff, but I’m telling you it is important. During the interview have good, incisive questions for them. I don’t care if it’s the Dallas Cowboys or a high school, I don’t care. The principles are the same. If I am an athletic director or a college president and I am trying to hire a coach, if they can ask me very insightful questions about where I am taking the institution or what is my philosophy on gender equity, or dealing with the media, and so forth, I am impressed. I want a guy that wants to know what my problems are. Be prepared to do that. You need to do your homework. Salary and benefits and any negotiations come last. None of you are there for the money anyway. You get the job first. I’ll tell you what my tactic is, and I think this is extremely important. I think you get down to the end and actually you get the job, get them to commit to you conceptually, present your laundry list to which they must agree, get it in the media so there is an institutional commitment and then negotiate the details later. If you really want the job, by doing that you have leverage. You see, leverage is everything in negotiations. This is the game within the game. You get the job, you say YES. Final four, I like this. I am very interested in this, you can talk concept, I need this, this and this. You can get down to the money conceptually and then you can work out the details after you make the commitment in
• Proceedings • 77th AFCA Convention • 2000 •
public and if there is a disagreement and if it is bad enough, they aren’t going to fire you. You haven’t lost a game yet. You have leverage. That is a negotiating tactic. That should come last. And get professional help with this. Abraham Lincoln is credited with the adage, “any principal who represents himself in a major transaction has a fool for a client and an idiot for a lawyer for letting him do it.” Don’t be an idiot. Always follow up with a thank you letter every time you interview. You never know if will you get the job the second time or who will be on that search committee the next time. It is a skill, it’s learned by practicing. All of these things are all very important. Here are some rules for negotiating which is another important element. I think in this day and time with sophisticated things coming our way, you see coaches getting more and more of what they call coaches’ agents. I don’t use that term. Sports agency is serving in an agency relationship to represent a monetizable athlete in the NFL, the business of professional sports. That’s sports agency. A coach’s agent is really an advocate in a negotiation, a friend, and a consultant who functions in an advocacy position on behalf of the coach. That is an unregulated non-licensed activity and anybody can do it who has a business card and a client. That is different than being a player agent where there are increasingly regulatory requirements. I call them a coach’s advocate. I think in this day and time, with the times being what they
are, you are really wise to get help in this area. I will tell you that the other side is getting very crafty with terms, language and legalism. I have seen a Division I-A top 25football coach’s contract with a defined term for five years from December 31, 1997 to January 1, 2002. That’s not five years. Figure it out. I look at this and I say, “Either these guys are deceitful or stupid. I don’t know which.” Either one is unacceptable. That was at one of the top programs in the country. I had a good friend who was kind of ushered out of a Division I-A job about five or six years ago. This was a very good man. There was a process that the athletic director used to get rid of him. There is a way that they do this in the AD profession now, and one of the ways they do this is they interview the players. They start accumulating information to use against you. They start leaking this to the media so they build a case with the public. If there is not enough revenue from a business perspective, they say, “Hey, we have to make a change here because we are in the red. If we could win, because we can throw the ball more and make things more appealing to the mass spectatorship, maybe we need to make a change to get that done.” So, they need to build a case. So, the coach, an honorable man, ends up after weeks and weeks of media pounding, after coaching nobly for 30 years, he ends up in the AD’s office and the AD says, “This is the way it is. It is in the newspaper. This is the way the players
feel.” You as the coach are thinking, do my players really feel that way about me? Then, the coach says, “OK, I quit.” It cost him $350,000. Always make them fire you. If your contract has a reassign ability provision, you can be removed from your duties. If you are going to run the wood working shop or be the grounds man, don’t sign it. You don’t want to do those jobs ever. You want to go out and coach somewhere. The institution puts in a reassignability provision so they can say that we are good guys here. You are no longer the football coach so they are reassigning you and they are going to pay you the same. They pay you the same and reassign you to something you do not want to do or cannot do. Not being a football coach, you say, I’m leaving this job, I’m not going to be the fundraiser here. If it says you can be re-assigned, and you don’t win, you will be. Then they can either fire you for incompetence or not have to pay you as much in a settlement or owe you nothing because if you leave, you are now in breech of contract and they owe you nothing. These things are tricky, so get help. The mitigation language in coach’s deals, which in my opinion fringes on the criminal for the schools that use it, is another item that is a killer in a termination situation that ruins your settlement. There are a host of items the lawyers have done to threaten your security, so get help. Thank you so much.
Speak Up For Football
Coaches have many opportunities through media interviews, coaches’ radio and television shows, speeches, etc., to put in a good word about the sport and the profession. Always look to improve football’s image by saying something positive about the game. It will help all of those involved — players, coaches, officials, administrators and fans alike.
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High school football is an integral part of America’s athletic heritage. Be sure to encourage community involvement at every opportunity — including coaches’ television shows — to ensure the success of high school football in your state.
• Proceedings • 77th AFCA Convention • 2000 •
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