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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Coaching Moves

The Coaching Race Heats Up

The race is on in Boulder and elsewhere, as the coaching carousel continues to add riders, lose riders and generally make life interesting for all those attuned to the machinations of the rumor mill. For a short time Sunday night, if you were paying attention, Jon Gruden was hired at Miami (Fla.) — an unknown number of years, but to the tune of $3.4 million per season. That’s some serious change, even for a former Super Bowl-winning coach. Come Monday night, of course, Gruden was in his customary spot: providing analysis on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Still, it’s an interesting development to follow; only now, when several positions become available at once, could such a rumor be started, believed and gain traction.

This is a clear signal to a school like Colorado, for instance. The signal: that nice head start, one that provided Colorado with a month of time with which to begin its coaching start, now means nothing. Not when Miami fires Randy Shannon and hires — allegedly — Gruden in the same day. While Colorado was dragging its feet, intently investigating the possibilities, Miami was running its two-minute offense.

Not that there’s any proof that slow and steady doesn’t eventually win the race; U.S.C.’s coaching search in 2001 — a search that ended with Pete Carroll — is evidence that it pays to investigate all corners. Colorado is doing just this as we speak. Brian Cabral had his interim period to show his worth; Cabral remains a vital piece of Colorado’s future, but I sincerely doubt his becomes the university’s choice to replace Dan Hawkins.

Mike Bellotti was the program’s first choice, it seems. He’s no longer on the board; my money is one Bellotti returning to the Pac-10 — the current Pac-10, I should say, not its newest member. Eric Bieniemy has since become the front-runner, and for good reason.

Not only is Bieniemy an accomplished assistant on both the college and N.F.L. ranks, he’s a meaningful part of Colorado’s past — the Buffaloes won with Bieniemy, both when he was the team’s star running back and a position coach.

So if that’s where Colorado goes: great. Congratulations. Just don’t settle — not that hiring Bieniemy would be settling in any way, shape or form. It will be only a matter of time before he lands a head coaching job either at a major college program or in the N.F.L.; get on board now, while you still can. Miami should be taking notes.

Like Colorado, Miami aimed for the stars early: in my mind, hiring Bellotti would have been a coup for the Buffaloes, just as Gruden would have been with the Hurricanes. Now Miami needs to take a page out of Colorado’s play book, slowing down its coaching search to better identify each capable candidate. Having said that: as it’s sometimes said, take your time and hurry up.

Not that Indiana is going to come and steal Miami’s thunder. Or that Minnesota’s candidates are necessarily of the same caliber. Nevertheless, take note that the coaching carousel waits for no program: once it gets rolling — once names like Mike Bellotti and Jon Gruden pop up and disappear — there remains little time to stop and catch your breath. The clock is ticking.

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  1. Salt Pillar says:

    Hearing Bellotti’s name so much less than 2 years after his “retirement,” I have to conclude that his questionable severance package at Oregon was a shakedown and that he envisioned this return all along. I’m curious which Pac-10 team he’s set his sights on. Cal? UCLA? ASU? You mentioned it Paul; where are you thinking?

  2. Matt Rob says:

    Stanford. Harbaugh goes to Michigan and Bellotti goes to Standord.

  3. DaU!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    I hope Miami doesn’t hire Gruden

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