In pop culture we ascribe the head football coach as a fiefdom ruler. This archetype exists in places like film and TV because it was once true — Bear Bryant, Adolph Rupp, Knute Rockne, etc. — but the modern landscape has created additional layers of bureaucracy between what a coach wants and what he can actually get.
Look at Michigan: Head coach Jim Harbaugh tweeted a treatise in support of playing the 2020 season on Monday at the same time the leaders of his own institution are very likely in support of its cancellation. This is not to say that football coaches don’t have power, and a tremendous amount at that. Consider this a clarification: Coaches wield influence of varying degrees but aren’t making decisions (especially large scales ones like playing a sports season in a pandemic) in a vacuum.
Over the course of the last two weeks, Banner Society asked a variety of coaches the same question: If there’s no 2020 college football season, what are you going to do with the significant amount of time you’d normally spend coaching? This question was sent out between July 31 and August 2, and every single coach polled responded with some iteration of the same question: “Why? What have you heard?” Most coaches aren’t omniscient totalitarians. They just wish they could be.
Some coaches immediately worried about having a job at all, while head coaches are worried first about how many of their staffers will be fired or furloughed:
DEFENSIVE ANALYST, GROUP OF 5 SCHOOL: I think I’m gone if it happens. I don’t think it matters if we play some games or if the season is cancelled before we start. Positions like mine aren’t under contract. Best case scenario it’s a furlough, worst I’m just cut. And I don’t think I could get a high school job right now, either.
POSITION COACH, GROUP OF 5 SCHOOL: There’s a possibility I’ll be furloughed. This is a public university and money is not great right now. If I’m around, I know we’ll be doing a lot of the off-season stuff like self-scouting. I’d really like to expand our player meetings and create more professional development. We can do playbook stuff but if there’s no ball for 12 months that’s not going to hold their attention.
HEAD COACH, FCS SCHOOL: Right now I have no idea how many on my staff I could keep. I’m under contract with the school, after that I don’t know how many guys I can keep paid. That’s my number one concern. That’s my only concern, that and figuring out how to keep the players enrolled and fed and taken care of. I would assume the school would have me go out and work as a fundraiser to help close the gaps. That’s probably the best use of my time if I can’t coach, try to get some money coming in. Recruit that way.
Ironically, the un- or barely-paid in the coaching world likely won’t stop working, but instead do the same jobs (if not more):
GRADUATE ASSISTANT, POWER 5 SCHOOL: Well I’m not worried about a salary cut (lol). It’s a great question because I don’t think we know what to do in our positions. We would still forward scout opponents, self-scout ourselves and write up ideas on how to improve in all different areas, all aspects. I think we’d probably focus more on recruiting where we’re allowed to. Not much else we could do, though.
Support personnel and staffers are actively looking at plans where they can “hide” personnel from the chopping block by reassigning them:
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, POWER 5 SCHOOL: Personally, I’ll shift to roster management for all things non-football. We’d have to find out how often we could gather our [players] and how much contact we could have. The primary shift for me is the academic monitoring. We met in the Spring to build a contingency plan for no practices, games or team activities for a calendar year from that point. Personally I want to try to assign any at-risk employee for furloughs to academic monitoring. It’s a lot harder for a school to justify dumping someone who is in charge of academic monitoring.
Among assistants who didn’t believe they’d be fired, there’s a mounting dread that the expectation will be to stay as busy as they’d normally be in the regular season, something that simply isn’t possible. They’re predicting the gaps will be filled with ‘crootin’:
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR, FCS SCHOOL: We’re officially cancelled, so the plan right now is that we move all staff, position group and offense/defense/special teams meetings to Zoom. So in that way the players are doing the exact same thing. We’ll recruit in Zoom exclusively. Our potential in-person activities right now are team lift and individual lift. Right now we’re creating ‘phases’ for everyone to pass in order to have those in person events happen. Anything we would do normally that you couldn’t recreate on Zoom is TBD. And in my opinion with the MLB stuff, it means it’s not happening at all.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, POWER 5 SCHOOL: My concern right now is that we’re going to believe we can stay as effective and busy as normal. That’s probably what everyone will think at first. The reality is that meetings aren’t going to be the same without actual football. Teaching won’t be. That’s not how it works. What’s realistic is that we should be able to maintain as much communication with our current guys, not try to recruit at triple the volume. That’s stupid too. At this point, no one knows. Honestly I’d rather go fishing than Zoom.
POSITION COACH, POWER 5 SCHOOL: Recruit, recruit, recruit. We’re expecting the NCAA to change some things around and allow us to interact more with prospects. I’ll stay in touch with my [position] guys on the roster and probably do virtual meetings, but we want to try to make up ground in recruiting.
If your job is already ‘crootin’, well, not much changes, to be honest:
RECRUITING COORDINATOR, POWER 5 SCHOOL: We’re all guessing right now, because with what I do specifically we’re all hunting for leverage. In recruiting we’ll just go ahead and close out the current class. We’ll probably end up spending a lot more time in touch with the underclassmen we can talk to after Sept. 1. The education process with those guys is now front and center and that will take place virtually on our campus. Film is gonna hard to project without combines and game tape. We’re gonna be guessing on some kids.
And if all else fails, there’s always lawn care.
POSITION COACH, FCS SCHOOL: I wouldn’t mind teaching. Some of us are certified to do that. Hell, I’ll mow grass. At our level, our school is really invested in our program and in football but there’s a reality financially. Right now I’m more worried for the assistant coaches in other sports. I think they’ll touch football last if they have to at all.
POSITION COACH, DIVISION THREE SCHOOL: I have three new job titles: Admissions Counselor, Academic Counselor, Grounds Crew.