Next coach doesn’t have to be family
Sometimes, it’s OK to go outside of the family.
This isn’t the mob or a gang, where it’s blood in, blood out.
The search for the next McNeese State head football coach will captivate Lake Charles. After all, that person is arguably the most noticeable person in the city. He will certainly be one of the most talked about.
McNeese Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill and school President Dr. Daryl Burckel have to ace this hire. That much is obvious. They can make up for some of the mishandling of how they let go Lance Guidry, by nailing the new hire.
But let’s be clear: they don’t have to hire a "McNeese guy." When talking to people with knowledge of the coaching search, they get the feeling that the next coach won’t have a McNeese connection. I’m here to tell everyone that it’s OK.
The last time McNeese hired a coach with no connection to the school to lead their football program was a man named Bobby Keasler. Seven Division I-AA playoff appearances and one national championship game appearance later, I’d argue that he was a pretty good choice.
Let me say, if the absolute best choice is someone who has McNeese ties, then go after him. But McNeese can’t limit itself. It has a team that can do damage in the Southland Conference next season. It also has a tough nonconference schedule, so the Cowboys have to be ready early.
And what will probably be the biggest factor in the hiring process: money. The McNeese administration will have to start digging under couches and picking up pennies on the sidewalk because they are so far behind what the top Football Championship Subdivision schools are paying their head coaches.
Grambling State’s Broderick Fobbs, who does have a McNeese connection, made $319,000 before any incentives kicked in. North Dakota State’s Chris Klieman earned a $324,000 base rate, and James Madison’s Mike Houston makes $390,000 a year.
In January, when Guidry was exploring the idea of joining the Florida State staff as an assistant, the expected payday was in the neighborhood of $300,000.
I don’t expect McNeese to come up with that kind of money for the next head coach, although maybe it could surprise me. But if McNeese wants to get into the club, it looks like the neighborhood of $300,000 will get you a difference-maker of a coach.
Guidry made $180,000. I believe that the McNeese boosters will contribute to the new coach’s salary. But, at a certain point, the school needs to make it worthwhile for the coach.
If McNeese wants to check most boxes that it wants but at a price that’s closer to what it’s paid, Texas A&M-Commerce’s Colby Carthel still fits. He’s won at the Division II level, his offenses put up big numbers, he has the recruiting connection to the state of Texas. But he has a pretty obvious connection to Stephen F. Austin Athletic Director Ryan Ivey, who hired Carthel when he was at TAMU-Commerce.
If McNeese is truly going to make this a national search, then knowing all of the candidates is impossible. But it would be encouraging.
I do expect the Cowboys to hire an offensive mind as a head coach. For anyone who follows coaching searches and hires, teams love to go the opposite of the coach that they let go. If the former coach was a strict disciplinarian, the next coach is usually a fun players’ coach and vice versa. In this case, Guidry was a defensive coach and wasn’t afraid to let everyone know it. With so many complaints about the offense last season, it would seem to make sense.
McNeese is going to have to take its time, but at the same time hurry up and make the hire. The more days that pass without a new head coach being named, the more recruits can be poached. With the early signing day approaching, if those recruits leave, the new coach may be at the mercy of prospects he may not prefer. Or he may have to dip into the transfer pool more than he wants to.
No matter what, this needs to be done soon. The longer this goes on, the more I’ll start to believe that it’s not a "McNeese guy".
Remember, that won’t be a bad thing, Cowboy fans.
David Berry covers McNeese State
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