A Successful Blueprint For A Head Coach in Waiting Arrangement

I was inspired to write this after reading Head Coach in waiting-good idea or recipe for disaster? written by Cane Ressurection earlier today.  I encourage everyone to take a moment and read his fanpost. 

Instead of trying to steal CR's thunder or replying with a long winded comment on his post, I thought I would recreate as best I can, a story I wrote for another sports blog last year before the Champs Bowl, about how to make the HCIW arrangement work.  I do not have my notes so I will go mostly from memory on what I remember, therefore all the details may not be as accurate as I would like.

Here then is the blueprint for how to make a HCIW agreement work, or at least as much as I can recall of it.

The HCIW plan can be a successful arrangement and provide a seamless transition from the old guard to the new guard if it can somehow be modeled after the Wisconsin HCIW deal between Coach Barry Alvarez and then in-waiting Coach Bret Bielema.  The plan must be laid out in black and white, have a clear cut agenda, be agreed to by all parties, and there can be no gray areas or coaching conflicts.

Wisconsin pioneered the HCIW concept back in June of 2005 when they announced that Coach Barry Alvarez would be relinquishing control of the football program after the 2005 season to HCIW Bret Bielema.  There had been HCIW deals prior to that, but only in basketball, and this was the first such arrangements I could find ever in college football.  Today there are many HCIW deals in place including one in our own ACC, at Maryland between Ralph Friedgen and Jim Franklin, there is also one at Texas between Mack Brown and Will Muschamp, and there are presently deals in place at Oregon, Kentucky, and Purdue.

On December 10, 2007 we learned that:

Bowden to return for 33rd season at FSU; Fisher in line to replace him (with video)

If you have a few minutes you should click on this link and read about and listen to how the arrangement was laid out for us about the future well being of our football program.

Also, I find this quote interesting.

At Florida State, President T.K. Wetherell and then-athletic director Bill Proctor told Bowden they wanted to name Jimbo Fisher the coach-in-waiting. Fisher was given that role in December 2007, during his first season as the Seminoles' offensive coordinator.

FSU junior quarterback Christian Ponder is glad the school made the move.

"It helps us, to know who's going to be the next head coach," Ponder said. "We're not really sure when it's going to happen, but to know and to have that figure already in place definitely helps because you know what he's going to bring to the table. ... So when that transition occurs it's going to be easier."

Bowden said having a successor has paid off with potential recruits.

"These kids look at me, they know I ain't going to be around there forever," Bowden said. "They know I'm not likely to finish their term at Florida State. But we can say, 'Hey, there's the guy that's going to take my place.' And then he gets to talking to them and they love him to death."


Is it just me, or does it seem that things taken a dramatic turn for the worse since 2007?

The first key to a successful HCIW deal is that the termination date for the current coach must be defined and agreed to in advanced by all parties, and the transition date should not, under any circumstance, be more than 1 year away.

"Every year I'll just re-sign it and tell 'em if I want to coach another year," Bowden said. "I couldn't ask for anything better than that."


This was the first mistake FSU made, the year to year deal Bowden currently has in place. 

By giving Bowden the option to  "see how I feel at the end of the year," or the more recent "I will evaluate myself after the season ends," we have now wound up with a completely dysfunctional football team on the verge of a total collapse.

The next thing Alvarez did at Wisconsin is to allow Bielema full access to all his notes on team matters from the years past, and copy him on all the notes he took on daily basis. This only seems logical and worked out well at Wisconsin, however I have my doubts that Bowden's notes would be of much use to Jimbo.  The point is though, the sharing of as much possible information to help your replacement succeed.  I can't say for sure, but I don't think Bowden is all that eager to help out Fisher as we would like him to be.

Next, HCIW Bielema was present at and sat in on every offense meeting, defensive meeting, and special teams meeting between coaches.  He watched and learned how Alvarez conducted these meeting, to get an idea of what went on during these meetings, how to run these meetings, and what was going on in the day to day happenings of the other parts of the team that he was not in direct contact with on a daily basis.

Whenever Alvarez held a press conference, HCIW Bielema would attend, not to participate in, but to listen in on the questions being asked of the Coach Alvarez, how he answered those questions, about what information to release regarding the status of the team, and to become familiar with the members of the media.

Finally, as the season was coming to an end, there was a transition period where Alvarez slowly relinquished some of the day to day functions of the team, turning them over to the HCIW. 

There was no questions who the number 2 coach was on that team. 

There were no conflicts, power struggles, backstabbing, or sabotaging, between coaches on that team. 

And finally the returning players, on all sides of the ball, were gaining respect and getting to know their future head coach.

There is one point I have not yet mentioned that made this transition work at Wisconsin, that is unique to Wisconsin, and that is not applicable here at FSU.

After Alvarez retired as head coach of the football team, he became the AD at Wisconsin.

Regardless of that last fact, if everything is spelled out in black and white and there are no gray areas, no coaching organizational infrastructure nightmares, and a clear cut plan of action, there is no reason why a HCIW agreement cannot be successful.

Too bad for us we don't have the willingness, intelligence, leadership, or desire from the top, to have thought this HCIW agreement out a little better, and thus have avoided the state of chaos we are presently in.

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