Major changes to college football coaching coming?

For now, much of this discussion is admittedly just a thought — a concept that came to me and my already wandering early offseason Irish mind. But this goes much deeper than Notre Dame. I’m beginning to think we are on the cusp of some major changes in the way high-quality coaches look at college football.

It’s harder to win than ever. The job is more demanding than ever. It requires more time than ever. More patience than ever. More considerations than ever. More concessions than ever. The reality is we live in a day and age where players are gaining more autonomy by the year and coaches have less power. Coaches are not used to this. Some react better than others to this new reality. Do more coaches start opting for the NFL or retiring for media jobs in the new age?

Let’s examine where I see this dynamic headed in the near future piece by piece.

The NCAA

Syndication: Detroit Free Press

Take Jim Harbaugh for example. He just won the Big Ten two years in a row but was and is still interested interested in the NFL. He was looking at NFL jobs even BEFORE he was notified Michigan is being investigated for some lower-level recruiting violations. Might he be more interested in leaving now?

Why is the NCAA cracking down on Harbaugh trying to recruit his way through the pandemic instead of nailing teams for direct pay-for-play multi-million dollar deals and completely fake classes and degrees? Who wouldn’t be tired of dealing with this group picking and choosing randomly who to target or not at any time for anything? How is this proper prioritization?

247/365

Dec 30, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman lifts the trophy after the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2022 Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field. Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

There is no off time for college head coaches anymore. In the modern age, there is simply too much to do. Whether it be in an official capacity for football activities or fundraising or what have you. There is always something to worry about. Somewhere to go. Somewhere to be. Every day.

At some point that grind takes a toll. I could see how some coaches would appreciate switching to NFL life where those above you “shop for the ingredients and you cook the meal.” This life isn’t for everyone. There’s no way to coast to glory. Those that win now grind and grind incessantly. Some that used to be up for it simply aren’t anymore.

Player Poaching

Nov. 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) runs the ball against Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Aiden Gobaira (91) during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard enough to recruit high school players. Now coaches must continually recruit the players already in the program equally as hard to keep them. Coaches must be both on the hunt and vigilant of interlopers into their territory.

This often means that players that develop and grow at “non championship competing level” schools then transfer to a larger competing national brand name school benefitting the “big boys” and putting a perpetual ceiling on what the other programs can ever achieve. Right or wrong, it’s a new reality. This creates a clear haves vs. have-nots scenario where some folks will never have a chance to win big. Frustrating for many coaches I’m sure.

Transfer Portal In General

Nov. 19, 2022; South Bend, Indiana; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) hands off to running back Logan Diggs (3) in the first quarter against the Boston College Eagles at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches by nature like control and power. They are losing more of each as the years move along. Players being able to move year to year has changed the sport forever. There is no more “wait your turn” and “pay your dues.” These days, if a player isn’t happy, he leaves.

This changes how coaches coach. They feel this pressure. They do not like the dynamic being flipped where they know they no longer hold all the power. Some are quick to adapt. Some will not be. Their inability to adapt will burn them out before their time.

NIL Inequities

Oregon head coach Dan Lanning takes to the field with his team as the No. 9 Oregon Ducks take on the No. 21 Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

There are going to be some excellent, extremely gifted coaches that may never get a chance to truly compete for titles because their school cannot compete in the name, image and likeness game to the extent rivals can. Again we find ourselves in a classic have vs. have-nots big-picture scenario.

I can’t imagine the frustration of coaches who put years into genuine relationship-building with recruits only to lose out to blank checks in the 11th hour. The issue is that even if your school is involved with NIL to a large extent, those that often get ahead are “allegedly” skirting the rules anyways.  Name, image and likeness isn’t the problem. How it functions is. I bet this keeps coaches up nights. Rumors, lies, agents, go-betweens, etc. Who has the patience to deal with this issue day in and day out every single time a great player is interested in your school?

 

In Conclusion

Oct. 15, 2022; South Bend, Indiana; Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw talks to quarterback Tanner McKee (18) in the first quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I think in the next handful of years we will start seeing some surprises. Coaches retiring early for media jobs realizing the grind isn’t required to make a living and be a name wouldn’t shock me a bit. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some big-name college coaches give the NFL chance either that wouldn’t at all previously or do so earlier than they planned.

This isn’t even so much about actual effort as much as it’s about mindset. Those that can put their egos aside and share the stage with the players in the modern era will succeed. Those that resist are going to begin to resent the grind. That point is the beginning of the end and the desire to roam new pastures.

Change is the only constant after all right?

For more Irish news & notes follow John on Twitter @alwaysirishINCAlways Irish on Youtube and or your preferred audio podcast provider.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire