Former head coaches find homes in ACC

January, 28, 2013
1/28/13
3:30
PM ET
You know the old football cliche -- if you play more than one quarterback, that means you have no quarterbacks.

What if your team has a head coach, with a former head coach added into the assistant staff mix? This season in the ACC, we get to find out whether the same cliche applies.

Two former head coaches have landed jobs in the league -- NC State head man Tom O'Brien is now at Virginia as tights ends/associate head coach; and former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal is at Miami, also as tight ends/associate head coach. Both were fired after the 2012 season ended. Georgia Tech also has hired a former head coach in Ted Roof, now in charge of the Jackets' defense.

These hires have put the ACC in a rather unique situation. Of the 14 head coaches who were fired or resigned in the 2012 season, six have landed other jobs. Five of them are now assistants -- two are in the ACC; two are in the SEC (Joker Phillips at Florida and Ellis Johnson at Auburn); and one is in the Big Ten (Bill Cubit at Illinois).

While it's certainly not unusual for fired head coaches to find assistant coaching jobs elsewhere, it seems rare to find three former head coaches taking jobs in one league within a month. There are various reasons for their decisions, but one interesting connection. Each worked previously at the school they have joined.

O'Brien worked at UVa for 15 years under former coach George Welsh. He hired London at Boston College. And he just spent six years as a head coach in the ACC. O'Brien was not ready to give up coaching just yet, and all those connections made sense. So he took London up on his offer.

Cristobal played at Miami, and was an assistant at Miami before getting his shot at FIU. Staying in the area made perfect sense.

Roof, meanwhile, is from Georgia, played at Georgia Tech and previously served as Jackets' defensive coordinator under George O'Leary. He also was the head coach at Duke from 2004-07. Of the three, he is the only one who did not take his team to a bowl game as a head coach.

Their experience is undeniable. But there is also one natural question that already has been raised. Will there be too many chefs trying to bake a souffle? Both O'Brien and Cristobal addressed how they will handle their new found roles as men taking orders as opposed to giving orders during their respective introductory press conferences.

"I should be the best assistant here because I know what (London) goes through, the day-to-day grind it takes to be a head coach," O’Brien told local reporters in Charlottesville. "If I can take some of that off of him and make us all better coaches, that’s what I want to do."

Said Cristobal: "I was the same person as an assistant coach, as a head coach. I don’t think that changes,” he said. “I think you are what you are when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. I don’t think it changes. If it does you were probably raised the wrong way.

"I’m ready to accept and excel at each and every role I’m assigned to so that we can do whatever possible to make sure we flat out win at everything we do — football, classroom, community, everything."

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