How Not to Conduct a Coaching Search

Mack RhoadesGiven the recent success of the University of Houston football program, UH athletic director Mack Rhoades has been able to fly largely under the radar of public scrutiny.

Rhoades came to UH after the past two UH head coaches Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin were hired, so he really had nothing to do with the revitalization of Houston’s traditionally innovative football program that Briles and Sumlin engineered.

Rhoades’ first coaching change after coming to UH was dubious, although he at least had the good sense to mitigate the negative impact of that decision by hiring a protégé of the coach that he replaced.

Rhoades’ second coaching change was equally uninspired. Why replace an older coach who had revived the basketball program with another older coach who has been out of coaching for several years?

But despite those missteps, Rhoades was in a perfect position to hire the best coach available to replace Sumlin, who everyone even remotely connected with college football knew was going to be plucked by a program in a BCS conference after leading UH to a 12-1 record. Given UH’s recent success, how hard could that be?

Well, maybe harder than you would expect, particularly if you are ill-prepared to conduct the search.

Two weeks after Sumlin elected to take the head coaching position at Texas A&M, it is painfully clear that Rhoades was inexplicably unprepared to replace Sumlin.

After being used by the coaches at Wyoming and Louisiana Tech to improve their respective contractual positions, Rhoades panicked and bestowed the head coaching position at Houston to Tony Levine, an obscure assistant coach who has never been seriously considered for a major college head coaching position before.

Indeed, but for reaping the benefit of Rhoades’ questionable decision-making, Levine probably would not have been a candidate for more than a relatively minor assistant coaching position at another college program.

Meanwhile, Rhoades chose Levine over a more qualified member of the Houston staff, Jason Phillips, whose background is remarkably similar to that of Sumlin at the time the latter was hired as Houston’s head coach.

Phillips – who is indisputably the best recruiter on the current UH staff – will almost certainly now move on to greener pastures, probably as the offensive coordinator for SMU’s June Jones, who tried to hire Phillips four years ago when Sumlin persuaded him to stay at his alma mater. After being rejected by UH for a less-qualified candidate, it is extremely doubtful that Phillips will stick around this time.

And realistically, given that Levine has never coordinated either an offense or a defense at the major college level, how likely is it that he is going to be able to attract the coaching talent necessary to sustain Houston’s tradition of innovation that has been built under the regimes of Bill Yeoman, Jack Pardee, John Jenkins, Briles and Sumlin?

As a Houstonian and a UH alum, I hope Coach Levine well. He appears to be a genuinely nice fellow and a good member of UH’s current staff.

But as a longtime observer of – and participant in – the politics of big-time college football, my instincts are telling me something much more troubling about the UH athletic program.

That is, Mack Rhoades is a lightweight who is in way over his head.

2 thoughts on “How Not to Conduct a Coaching Search

  1. I agree. It seems like Rhoades cast a very shallow net and as a result, it’s going to be difficult for UH to maintain its recent level of success.
    I wish Coach Levine well, but I’d say the odds are less than 50-50 that he succeeds in his tenure as Cougar head coach.

  2. Did you write about the wrong school? A&M showed us how “not” to conduct a coaching hire with Sumlin.
    Captain Bowtie went AROUND his AD and fired Sherman on the road while recruiting – AFTER Byrne had given Sherman the green light for another year!
    The A&M entire Athletic Department is run by the haves and big money wigs.
    How many different leaks surrounded the Aggie Head Coaching search? You know Byrne actually wanted Larry Fedora???
    Now counter the leaks with Mack’s coaching search. Which is why I’m baffled with your article.
    You do know Sumlin was not the OC at Oklahoma. And Briles was the RBs coach at Texas Tech?
    Being a assistant HC is much more important than being a OC or DC.
    Do you remember Maggards coaching list when Sumlin was involved!? It had freaking Jack Pardee and John Jenkins on it..
    Christensen was never a serious candidate nor was he offered. Dykes never had an offer on the table as well. Both of those guys have agents that leak information. Mack specifically said anything leaked would be false. Levine was our number 1 guy after what I heard at the Football Banquet I attended.
    I could disagree with you more also on the Rayner Noble firing, and Tom Whitting article. Which as turned out to be a homerun. Noble had a following out with his own players, it’s bad when the players are begging your AD for their own coach to be fired. Rice BLEW by us in Nobles last years.
    As was the James Dickey hire. Another home run. You know Dickey is out recruiting A&M-UT now? Wait until we’re in the Big East.
    Mack is doing all the right things.
    The Levine hire is real simple:
    a) hire within the guy who actually ran the team – who the recruits love – who the players love. keep both systems the same. A guy that you’ve got a good look at for 4 years. That will stay here as long as we want him to (opposite of that POS Sumlin)
    b) hire an unknown OC/DC that you’ll have to pay more that’ll set you back at least 2 years
    c) hire a coach that’s won with Dooley’s recruits, that’s still unproven in the longterm, doesn’t really recruit that well at La Tech the last 2 years, that’ll bolt for Tech whenever Tubberville is fired. Oh, and more expensive.
    Time will tell if Levine is successful.
    What exactly is much more troubling about the UH athletic program exactly? What are you talking about? Did you not goto the donor meetings a few weeks ago and see how our budget is compared to 2009? 2001?
    Season ticket sales?
    Private funding?
    What you’re saying is completely factless and relying solely on internet gossip.
    How is the UH athletic department in serious trouble with the imminent move to the Big East? New Stadium/Arena? 250 Million being spent on the campus? You have read about our Master Plan correct?

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