By now you’ve surely seen the finalists for the Augustana football coaching job, which I wrote about here.
They’ll begin meeting with the media on Wednesday, with David Brown, the head coach at Missouri S&T, the first in line.
Based strictly on resume, Brown is the most attractive candidate in my opinion, coming off a 10-win season in D2, and also with experience as a position coach at the Division I-A level and as a coordinator at the FCS level.
He would be the first black coach in Augustana history, and while I’ve heard some snide suggestions that Augie won’t hire an African American, or that this is a Rooney Rule kind of thing, I think it’s important for me to defend the Augie administration here. I don’t believe Brown’s race will be a factor one way or another. You could actually argue that the Vikings could benefit from having a coach of color, but like I said, I don’t think it will be a factor either way, and it shouldn’t.
Daren Wilkinson will visit with the media Thursday. He’s the only candidate without head coaching experience, but it’s unclear how much that matters. Bill Gross had said they wanted a coach with experience as a head coach, and that makes sense, because generally first-time head coaches are hired to take over rebuilding programs, and Augie is not rebuilding.
I’m not sure the time is right to turn the job over to a rookie. That said, Wilkinson spent four years at SDSU, so he’s familiar with the area. Jed Stugart knows him well and spoke highly of him. And it’s not exactly like the guy is small time. He was out of coaching last year, but spent the previous four years as the QB coach of Colorado State, a Division I-A program.
Jerry Olszewski will meet with the media Friday. I’ve heard from a few media folks that cover D3 and have dealt with Olszewski since he’s been the head man at St. Olaf, and they were effusive in their praise.
Jerry’s (I’m gonna get real tired of typing this guy’s last name if he gets the job) record may not seem terribly impressive (32-18) for a guy trying to make the jump from D3, but the MIAC conference is an outstanding league, and for him to go 15-5 the last two years is nothing to scoff at. Plus, St. Olaf is similar to Augustana as a college. The other two guys are big-school guys. Olszewski could have an advantage from working at a place that gives him familiarity with the environment he’d be working at.
You’d have to assume Mike Aldrich is rooting for Olszewski to get the job, as Aldrich would be a logical replacement for him, as he is a St. Olaf alum.
On the other hand, Aldrich would make for an intriguing possibility as the new defensive coordinator at USF, since the Cougars are in need of one now that Jon Anderson has taken the head coaching job at West Virginia State, but more on Mike in a minute.
I was mildly surprised to hear about Anderson, since I wasn’t sure if he was actively seeking a head coaching job, and to get a D2 job for his first ever head coaching job is pretty impressive.
And it’s deserved. There was some hesitation of whether or not Anderson would be able to aptly replace Chuck Morrell as USF D-coordinator, and to be fair, that was more because of how highly-regarded Morrell was than because of any doubts anyone had about JA.
But Anderson kept the Cougar defense at a high level, and seemed to gain more confidence and comfort as a leader when given more responsibility. His players absolutely loved him.
I’m told (though have not confirmed) that Anderson is not being given full authority to name his own staff, and it sounds unlikely that he’ll be bringing any USF assistants with him.
My guess is assistant head coach Robert Tucker — Stugart’s one hand picked assistant when he was hired — will step into the role of D-coordinator for USF, and that a part-time assistant will be made full-time to replace Anderson. That’s fine, because Stugart is very loyal to Tucker (though Tucker may have to work to earn the kind of rapport with the players that Anderson had).
Still, USF would be, in my opinion, foolish not to at least think about what Aldrich might bring to the table.
Think about it: Aldrich just two years ago led Augie to 11 wins and the D2 quarterfinals. He’s got years of experience recruiting Minnesota, an area the Cougars haven’t exactly cleaned up in (though they’ve done OK there of late), and an area where Aldrich has done very well. What would be a better way to continue twisting the knife in the Vikings’ back? They could potentially put the new Augie coach in a seriously deep hole in trying to recruit against the Cougars. If you don’t think Aldrich would strongly consider the opportunity to get revenge on the school that fired him you’re kidding yourself.
I know, it’s an extreme longshot. While Aldrich and Stugart have always seemed to have a pretty good relationship, the same can’t necessarily be said for the other USF coaches. Would it work to suddenly put Mike in their midst? Perhaps not. Mike is a 4-3 guy and USF has been running a 3-4 for a decade. Plus, if Tucker is indeed the DC, there’s really not room to put Mike on the staff in a different capacity.
I’ll give Stugart credit, when I broached the possibility to him on Tuesday he didn’t dismiss it. He said he likes Mike and thinks he’s a good coach and left the door cracked open on perhaps working with him.
When I texted Mike he said he was very happy for Jon Anderson and his family, and he did readily admit he’d have interest in replacing him.
Getting back to the Augie job — you may have noticed in the story that Jeff Holm left open the possibility another candidate could still enter the picture. I don’t know if I’d read too much into that. I’m guessing one of the three finalists will get the job. But I do think it means that Augie had some other guys they were hoping (are hoping?) to get applications from. Is St. Cloud’s Scott Underwood one of them? Kalen DeBoer? Hard to say. No one has denied that there were talks with those two, but Holm confirmed that neither officially applied. It seems like there’s a story behind DeBoer’s non-apply, but I’m probably not going to get it (it could simply boil down to Augie not being able to meet his salary demands, or DeBoer not wanting to leave — or not feeling pressured to leave — Southern Illinois).
Underwood told the St. Cloud Times’ Andy Rennecke that he decided not to apply because he felt an obligation to the players he recruited to SCSU. That’s admirable, but I’m not sure it’s a good career move, as the Huskies have still not shown much commitment to football. Augie is simply a better job.
Then again, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, the fact that Holm is leaving open the possibility of a fourth candidate stepping in could mean that there already is another candidate, but that he wants to stay off the record to protect himself in case he doesn’t get the job.
In other words, maybe Underwood (or someone else) could still apply, and the Vikings will only announce it if they hire him.
I’m basically throwing stuff at the wall here, but it’s all plausible.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to meeting the three candidates. It might seem like a fairly underwhelming trio, but in reality these guys are really no less impressive than the names we’ve been kicking around, we just don’t know them as well because they’re local.
As I said, Brown looks like the best candidate as of now, but we’ll see who “wins the press conference” this week.
I expect a decision by Monday or Tuesday of next week.