New coaches face obstacles on trail
November, 26, 2013
By Jeremy Crabtree | ESPN.com
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- When Chris Hauser walked into the Arkansas football offices for the first time last December, he expected an army of recruiting staffers to meet him and new Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema at the door waiting for marching orders. But what Hauser, Arkansas' newly hired director of recruiting, found was a skeleton crew left behind after the departure of Bobby Petrino and lame-duck period of interim coach John L. Smith.
It is similar to the situations Maurice Harris and Matt Dudek inherited when they arrived at their new jobs at Ole Miss and Arizona, respectively, after the 2011 season. Harris, Ole Miss' tight end coach and recruiting coordinator for offense, said only one recruiting staffer was keeping up with daily duties during the transition from Houston Nutt to Hugh Freeze. Dudek, Rich Rodriguez's director of on-campus recruiting and player personnel, hoped to have a team of around 15 to 20 interns help him hit the ground running when he arrived in Tucson. Instead, he found one administrative assistant.
There is already one high-profile coaching position open at USC and there are plenty of other programs poised to make a change at the top. But while the coaches hired for those vacancies come with a clean slate, they often inherit an empty house.
Thanks to college football's silly season of hires and fires, the things taken for granted on the recruiting trail -- like weekly phone communication, in-home visits, personalized daily mailings and social media marketing -- fall by the wayside. Left in the wake are recruiting classes in shambles and coaches hired with the expectation to produce results on the trail immediately. But that's easier said than done.
"I don't care where you go, the first year is definitely a learning curve and a process," said Hauser, who previously worked in coaching and administrative positions at Wisconsin, Toledo and Ohio State. "The unsettledness of the whole situation makes it an enormous challenge right away."
The simplest things, like having a place to sleep at night, are difficult when coaches arrive at a new job. Most live in extended-stay hotels or temporary campus housing because there isn't time to house-hunt, and they wouldn't know where to look in the first place. Even getting to work every morning is a chore. "Here I am trying to get to work in a town that I had never been in before, and I'm also telling coaches that have never been in Tucson, or in Phoenix, or in LA where to go," said Dudek, who came to Arizona after stops at Pittsburgh and Rutgers. "You don't even know where X High School was in Phoenix. You have to go search it out. It's a very hectic time right out the gate."
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