Quotes from the Jungle: Tigers, Huskies and Cougars

Here are some insights from some of the best college football coaches in the game today:

On the experience of the coaching profession: “You have to enjoy the whole journey. Enjoy all it. You have to enjoy the bad, you have to enjoy the good.” – Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers Head Football Coach (August 23, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

On defining yourself in regards to your coaching career: “My identity is not tied up in being a football coach or being the coach at Clemson. My identity is tied up to who I am as a man, and being a father to three sons, and being a husband and being a good citizen, you know, trying to serve my community. That’s what my identity is tied up in. I love coaching football, I’m passionate about it, that’s what I do. But I’m so much more than that.” – Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tigers Head Football Coach (August 23, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

On building a program and the patience it requires: “I think the results are probably slower to come than we had hoped for and expected. You know, it’s been an awesome, and a hard, and a frustrating, and a rewarding two and a half years. And what I mean by that is that, this just a tough process. And I think a lot of times when you come in from the outside and your trying to establish your way of doing things it just takes some darn time to get things done. After two and a half years, we feel like the process is in place and we feel really good about it.” Chris Petersen, Washington Huskies Head Football Coach (August 18, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

On keeping players focused despite social media: “It’s hard because they’re bombarded with messages each and every day. The social media is a blessing and a curse. It allows us to get our message out to our fans and recruits but it also bombards our players.I think our culture is so insulating though that I’d be a fool to think that our guys didn’t hear it but, the thing I’m probably most proud of is that they don’t listen to it. They understand that our goals internally are the only ones that matter and that our goals will never change. It doesn’t matter what last years team did or how good last years team was. What matters is this is the 2016 team and quite frankly we haven’t done anything yet.” – Tom Herman, Houston Cougars Head Football Coach (August 18, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

“You can win as many games as you want but if the culture is not there it’s not sustainable.” – Tom Herman, Houston Cougars Head Football Coach (August 18, 2016 – Jim Rome Show)

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo



Saban’s Culture Makes it a Smart Choice to Keep Kirby On


Tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship features three college football head coaches: Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Georgia’s Kirby Smart.

Smart is currently the Alabama Defensive Coordinator who was recently named Head Coach at the University of Georgia.

Due to college football’s schedule, Smart has had to assume both roles, as Saban has allowed him to remain on staff and finish Alabama’s run at their fourth national championship in seven years.

Clearly, Saban feels comfortable that Kirby will be ultra focused on getting his defense ready to the best of his ability, even though Saban knows Kirby will be dedicating some of his time to putting a staff together at Georgia and recruiting against Alabama and other SEC rivals.

Here are a few articles that give some perspective on Kirby’s unique situation:



This dual role is interesting for me to fathom as a college basketball coach.

Due to the calendar/schedule, this is much more of a possibly in college football than college basketball. As a matter of fact, I have never heard of a team making a Final Four run with an Associate Head Coach/Assistant Coach who was already hired in another program, have you?

I think the sheer logistics on the coaching staff allow college football staff members to share some of the load of losing a coordinator or position coach. This would be much more difficult in my opinion on a college basketball staff because of 1) a small staff size and 2) the fact that in the tournament teams play Thursday/Saturday or Friday/Sunday on the first two weeks of the tournament. These back to back games would severely limit a coaches ability to do both jobs to the best of their ability.

Either way, the fact that Saban is allowing this shows the confidence he has in himself, his culture and Alabama as a brand.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


“After Further Review…” – USC (Finally) Makes the Right Call & What Their Decision Can Teach Others in College Athletics

Yesterday, the University of Southern California announced that  Clay Helton was being named the permanent head coach, removing the interim tag he has assumed since replacing former head coach Steve Sarkisian on October 12th.

Helton went 5-2 since replacing Sarkisian as the interim head coach, and will play in the PAC-12 Championship game vs. Stanford this weekend.

Nevertheless, USC’s decision to keep Helton has raised some eyebrows. Many media members and alumni have said that USC needed a “big name” for a job this prestigious and that Helton was not a worthy hire.

However, based upon the student-athletes’ reactions I would beg to differ. Did you see the reaction of the USC player’s when USC Director of Athletics, Pat Haden, told them that Helton was being retained? (USC Player’s Reaction to Helton Being Named Head Coach)

Haden noted that, “after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searcing for in a coach was reight here in front of us.”

This hire is a risky one for Haden, who himself is on the hot seat for the hiring of Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin and how both of those tenures ended. Haden also hired former Florida Gulf Coast University Men’s Basketball Coach, Andy Enfield, who has not produced since his arrival in April of 2013.

Nevertheless, I believe that Haden observed Helton, listened to the student-athletes and saw immediate results, on and off the field.

Let us not forget that Haden had the chance to hire another interim head coach in Ed Orgeron, back in 2013. Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin just five games into the 2013 season. Orgeron went 6-2 during his interim stint, bringing life back to the USC football program and was widely supported by his players.

Despite Orgeron’s efforts and popularity, Haden went with Sarkisian. Sarkisian was one of the key members of the staff during the Pete Carroll era, an era Haden desperately wanted to rekindle.

However, for USC that era was long gone. Haden was essentially hiring an alum thinking that would be a quick fix to get back to the glory days. He was wrong. Very wrong. Just like the Carroll era that ended with shame, so did Sarkisian’s short tenure.

Plain and simple, Haden learned from his mistake. Haden clearly hired the person who EARNED the job. It was not about politics or personal agendas or getting a “big name.” It was about hiring the best fit for the program at that particular point in the program’s history.

Helton PROVED that he can run a program by getting the student-athletes to buy in to his coaching philosophy, by recruiting at a high level and by winning games the right way.

Kudos to Pat Haden for making the right choice. Maybe his decision to listen to what he observed will influence other athletic directors to make decisions with their head versus media hype, political/personal  agendas or alumni/booster pressure.

Give ’em hell, Coach Helton!

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo


“Saban: The Making of a Coach” – Book Notes

I recently finished Monte Burke’s “Saban: The Making of a Coach” (2015).

Not only is this a fascinating biography on one of the true coaching legends of our time, but it also provides some insights into Saban the man as well. From his childhood to his dynasty at Alabama, he are some notes I gathered from Burke’s work.

Saban-The Making of a Coach Notes

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye…

Recently several college football coaches have made decisions to leave their current programs to move on to better opportunities for their professional careers.

Notable coaches on the move include former Wisconsin Head Coach, Bret Bielema, who left his Badgers for the University of Arkansas. As a football decision I can understand why Bielema made this choice. Arkansas is in the nation’s premier football conference (SEC), has more resources than its Big 10 counterpart and more importantly, even if you lose one game, you can still play for the BCS National Championship. In most other conferences a one loss season means that a National Title is out of the question, but not in the SEC. Alabama’s current scenario is just this when they face undefeated Notre Dame in the coming weeks.

Arkansas Athletic director, Jeff Long, had Bielema on the radar even before this season ended though because Bielema sent Long a letter last year to congratulate him on his handling of the Bobby Petrino scandal.

Some might say that Bielema was recruiting Arkansas’ brass last April and that may be fair.

However, I always think, “what about Bielema’s current players?” Did he tell them the right way? This of course is a question that should be asked of any coaching departing for another program.

We all have heard the story of Todd Graham, current Arizona State Head Coach, who left the University of Pittsburgh after less than a year. It wasn’t that he left which necessarily bothered people. How can any of us say we wouldn’t take our “dream job” which also happens to be closer to family? I don’t think we could.

However, for Graham to contact his players via text message is simply unprofessional. How can a coach (a.k.a. teacher) conduct himself like this? Quite frankly it is irresponsible and pitiful. He is supposed to be responsible for teaching the college students on his team how to act as men. Not how to take the easy road out of town.


I recall when I had to tell my team at Penn State Beaver when I decided to make the move to Clarion University in October of 2011. I interviewed in late September and revisited with my wife the following day to see what she thought of the school and people there. After accepting the position, I told my Athletic Director and Director of Student Affairs at Penn State that same day. I had a resignation letter ready for them, which I handed in person to them later that day. Then I called a meeting in our locker room which I told all of the players at Penn State that I was taking this position to better myself and my family. Although it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, it was the right way to tell them. The student-athletes deserved to be told the right way.

There is never a good time to leave a program, which I understand. In my case it was at the end of September, just a few weeks before the season began. However, I had two trusted assistants and a manager in place and felt comfortable in leaving the program I had built in their hands.


Even more recently, I had to tell my team at Clarion in November of 2012 that I was relocating with my wife to New Haven, Connecticut where she pursued her career in higher education at Yale University. In addition, we were expecting our first newborn and also sold our house. These factors were a blessing, but also complicated matters.

Although I was only afforded to notify my team two days before my last day of work by my administration and head coach, I was at least able to bring the team together after practice and tell them face-to-face. I saw many tears shed that day, but again it was the right thing to do.


Which brings me to Head Coach Gary Andersen. He recently took the Head Coaching job which was vacant at Wisconsin once Bielema left for Arkansas, despite reiterating to his administration and players that he was going to stay at Utah State. Since Utah State had already played its bowl game the players were already home for their holiday break when Andersen accepted at Wisconsin. Nevertheless, Andersen valued the student-athletes he recruited at Utah State enough as players and people to personally make a phone call to each of them to tell them of his decision to leave. His reported 106 phone calls that took him until 2:30 a.m. to complete should be praised.

Although it was not face-to-face, it was the best Andersen could do given his circumstances and for that I applaud him. Having spent some time in Logan, I have a feel for their basketball program a little bit. I know the level of dedication that the Aggie faithful feel for Coach Stew Morrill due to all of the success that Utah State Men’s Basketball program has had during his tenure. Likewise, I am sure it was difficult for the Aggies fans to see Andersen leave after such a successful season on the gridiron.

It is easy to run and hide under the cover of a new job, new responsibilites and a busy schedule. Moving your family, finding a new home, and jumping into your new program are all musts when taking over a new coaching job. Still, Andersen obviously learned from the previous mishandlings of his colleagues’ departures.

Or maybe he didn’t learn anything. Maybe he just did what was right because that is who he is and that is what he stands for.

Kudos, Coach Andersen! I will be cheering for you and your Wisconsin Badgers and I hope when the coaching carousel begins for college basketball coaches this spring they can learn from you.

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