In January, I asked a journeyman FBS assistant coach if he was working hard or hardly working.
“Am I on the record?”
“Bored out of my fucking mind.”
If you follow your favorite team’s coaching staff on social media, you see a wave of nonstop information. They want you to believe that life for a college football coach is a ceaseless, sleepless succession of events, mantras, improvement, and competition.
“And hey, sometimes it’s really busy. Catch me in October, and it’s everything we’re selling. You’re in the office by 6:30 [a.m.], film, game plan, staff meeting, position coaches meeting, game plan, film. Then you get the kids, and it’s teach ‘em, coach ‘em at practice, dinner, film, phone calls for recruiting, film, and you’re home around 11 p.m. on good nights.”
But in January during recruiting dead periods? Or June? Surely there’s enough time for Will Muschamp to learn what Star Wars is.
“Yeah. I watch Netflix sometimes. I drink a beer. We aren’t fucking robots.”
Here’s a rough calendar on when your coaches might actually not be #grinding.
1. Right after National Signing Day in February
“Most of us get extra time off this week. You can take an extra day, turn it into like a three- or four-day weekend and go somewhere with your family. Everyone leaves. Other than the Fourth of July, this coming weekend is the quietest of the year for FBS coaches. Except head coaches.”
What are head coaches doing?
“Bullshit. Everything that makes them the man. Administrative. Meeting with donors maybe. School stuff. I don’t know.”
So when do they take a three-day weekend?
“In the summer. Maybe. I know a bunch who never vacation. They buy million dollar lake houses, and they’ve never been. I know a head coach who has never been to a vacation home he paid cash for.”
2. Right before National Signing Day (this is a new one)
Coaching staffs are still trying to suss out the long-term impact of December’s new Early Signing Period, but lots of Power 5 staffs have found themselves considerably less busy in the weeks leading up to February’s NSD.
“Except we’re sure as shit not acting like it.”
“Yeah, even if you class is wrapped up and you’ve got three fourths of the signatures already from December, that’s not the time you want to look like you’re coasting.”
After NSD there’s a significant split — if you’re a coach at a FBS school, especially in the P5, enjoy this week’s break — because when you come back, you’ll be gorging on 2021 recruiting (2020 was already well underway).
“Evaluations, tapes, making phone calls, all that. It’s the window of time where you can hustle and make it count a year down the road, but it’s also the time where head coaches like to show their staffs are working just to work. Depends on the situation. First-year staffs are setting up their recruiting. Seventh-year guys are working, but they know how it’s coming in and what to do.”
If you’re at a lower school — anything from FCS to NAIA — your next few weeks won’t be as busy, but it’s just as likely that you’re not done recruiting.
“Just my opinion, but if you’re a small school and wrapped up your recruiting before NSD, you’re doing it wrong. You’ve got to wait to see and what shakes out above you and who falls. You have to account for the trickle down of guys who can’t qualify, grayshirts, all that shit. You will never really know who your best 22 or 14 available really are, because guys you don’t think you can get will end up calling you right now.”
3. After spring practice but before camp season
“Depends on how your school schedules it. If you start spring ball early, you might have a gap before you can recruit or run camps. Smart coaches will schedule around having too much of a gap, to keep you in the office.”
But even if you’re in the office during this period, it’s not the maniac pace of in-season?
“Yeah, it’s probably the closest you’ll get to whatever a normal job is.”
This is when other coaches visit and you have time to talk strategy?
“Yeah, you have a lot of visitors roll through. Not sure I’d say we’re always talking strategy. Lot of bullshitting. Sometimes we’re just gossiping.”
4. The Fourth of July
“If you’re in the Power 5, your vacation block is either the end of June before the Fourth or the first part of July after the Fourth. Every coach is out. This is the actual vacation, phone off, if you can manage it.”
This is when you’re the most afraid of something bad happening with a player.
“I love my guys. They’re like sons. [The players] can truly become like family to you. But I do not want to hear from their asses on vacation. It is never good when you see that number pop up and it’s July 2. That’s somebody getting out of or going to jail.”
It’s an extremely slow time of year, but there’s an increasing trend of holding summer events on campus for high school juniors. Your P5 school has one of these most likely, usually called something like “Saturday Night Lights” or “Big [Mascot] Night” or “[Team Color] Party” or some nonsense.
“We’ll throw time and effort into that like it’s February. That’s how you win in February and December now. So we’re busting ass to build for that one night, and then we’re outta there. Gone.”
5. When you’re fired but still working
This isn’t an annual occurrence, but with the rate of firings in FBS, most coaches eventually find themselves in December limbo.
“The ‘transition staff’ deal is a pretty strange time. If you’re actually fired — like, the coach is fired but you’re all finishing out the season, or there’s an interim so you know you’re done after December — you’ll still work your ass off with the kids. You won’t short any of that. But the rest, shit. Human nature.”