Head-coaching experience shouldn’t be a requirement

I was on ESPN-680 with Bob Valvano on Tuesday, and the host said he just felt like Kentucky needed a proven head coach to take over its football program. It’s a popular view out there and there’s a reason to get behind that point of view.

And yet two of the best SEC hires in recent years are coaches who did not have previous head coaching experience.

One is Dan Mullen, who was offensive coordinator for Urban Meyer at Florida when he was hired by former UK associate athletics director Greg Byrne at Mississippi State.

In four years as the Bulldogs’ coach, Mullen is 28-19 overall. He took the team to a blowout win over Michigan in the 2010 Gator Bowl, which cost Rich Rodriguez his job in Ann Arbor. (Byrne then hired him at at Arizona.) This year, Mississippi State is 7-2 overall and 3-2 in the SEC.

The other coach is Vandy’s James Franklin, whose Commodores just beat the Cats 40-0 last Saturday, which was the final straw in the Phillips’ Era.

Franklin was Ralph Friedgen’s offensive coordinator at Maryland when he took the Vanderbilt job. He is now 11-11 overall with the Commodores and 5-9 in the SEC. His team is 3-3 in the conference. Remember, UK has not had a winning SEC record since 1977.

Not saying that UK should hire a coach without head coaching experience, but it should not be seen as an impediment.


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  1. Jim Dawson says:

    I don’t believe Franklin is a success because he beat UK! UK is just that BAD. We don’t want to be Miss st or Vandy!
    UK fans want to BUILD something! Hire Fat Phil or Petrino and be done with it….both have name and experience and can build us back to something respectable.

  2. Dini says:

    Every person is an individual and good leaders have certain qualities that are there regardless. Give them a chance and they can show them. So, yeah, you can get a good assistant to take over and become a successful head coach. It is kind o of like poking holes in any argument. There are always exceptions.

    You will have much more success though when choosing someone who has already shown an aptitude to being able to administer at that level. Joker was a class act, most agree. He also proved that administering as a head coach is not something everyone can do well. Finding someone who has already demonstrated that ability might prevent us from having this situation again in the near term.

  3. JuBrHo says:

    Can an unproven coach do well? Sure, and those are good examples. But, the question really isn’t whether new head coaches can do well. The question is really, what is best for this program? Do we want to be a testing ground for potentially good coaches? I think of Billy Gillespie and Joker Phillips, when I think of guys with potential. If that’s all UK football can afford, is potential, or that’s all we want to hire, than so be it. But, we’ll always meander between terrible and mediocre. Instead, it would be nice to turn the Curse of Bear Bryant on it’s head, and hire the absolutely best head coach money can buy (spend the money). Then, watch as the fan support (make money) and wins come rolling in. Think “Calipari” hire. I’m sick of ranging between a stepping stone at best and stomping grounds at worst. Let’s hire a proven winner.