Georgia Tech made the widely expected departure of coach Geoff Collins and athletic director Todd Stansbury official Monday.
Typically, schools like to hire an athletic director before a coach, and they expect a search firm to help both causes—the new AD could come in with their own short list of contacts and candidates and need assistance in handling the search while getting integrated with the rest of the department. All of this is important for timing reasons. If the Yellow Jackets are going to run a real athletic director search, it could take a few weeks, likely putting a full hiring process for a coach on the relative back burner until around Halloween.
Because of this, the Georgia Tech job landscape seems wide open as far as the kind of candidate that makes sense. If Georgia Tech is going to hire a sitting coach, it likely won’t get one in house before the end of the regular season. UConn and Texas Tech each filled their jobs in November last year, but Texas Tech hired a non-coordinator assistant coach (Joey McGuire) and UConn hired a coach who didn’t have a job (Jim Mora).
Tech fans may bristle at someone whose offense has roots in the option system after the Paul Johnson years. But Jamey Chadwell’s offense at Coastal Carolina works and he has the personality that is far from a buttoned up stuffy football coach.
If the program wants to search for an established coordinator to take over, that strategy will also come with timing considerations. A source tells Sports Illustrated that Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken was a name mentioned as a potential target, but a coordinator leaving such a high-profile job before the end of the season seems unlikely, although not unheard of (Lane Kiffin left Alabama in 2017 between the national semifinal and championship games). Coordinators whose programs are out of conference title or CFP contention by November might be more fair game before Thanksgiving.
There is also the matter of Georgia Tech’s reputation—as one source put it: “They’re an engineering school; you have to make that cool somehow [to the fan base].” This is not a new plight for GT. Many schools, like Stanford, Vanderbilt, Rice, Northwestern, USC and Miami, have used good football programs to forge a more tangible link to their cities. Much of Collins’s early work was an exercise in rebranding. The city’s area code (404) was plastered throughout the city, as were links to the popular southern staple Waffle House. He notably had the team line up in the flexbone formation that had become the bane of the program’s existence, only to shift to a five-wide set to rapturous applause. It was necessary work, but the wins never came.
But in Atlanta, this has been the missing piece for decades, and it’s not going to get any easier now that Georgia is seemingly a perennial Death Star you have to play every year. Few things are more embarrassing than the biannual tradition of Bobby Dodd Stadium looking like this:
If the board is open-minded, Georgia Tech would be derelict in duty to not strongly consider a Black coach. There is no name that resonates more in Atlanta than Deion Sanders, a near mythical figure in the city who played with both the Falcons and Braves. Sanders’s name has been mentioned in searches at Arkansas, Colorado State and TCU within the past few cycles. The current Jackson State coach may fit in Atlanta, but he may not fit what the Yellowjackets need to take it to the next level (mainly, money). But perhaps that is Georgia Tech’s biggest problem.
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According to a report from ESPN, Georgia Tech has had only one Black coordinator in the past 40 years (Brian Baker for one season in 1995), and no Black head football coaches in its history. Unfortunately, it is not a rare distinction and far too common in college athletics. Of all the programs that have never hired a Black coach or AD, Tech stands out like a sore thumb. Atlanta is one of the Meccas of Black history, culture and business in this country. Quavo and Samuel L. Jackson are never going to swap their red and black for navy blue and gold, but if Georgia Tech is interested in connecting with its city, Black leadership of its football program is most certainly not a bad place to start. It won’t necessarily be a substitute for winning, upon which any coach is judged, but it would be something more than slapping an area code on a flat bill.
As far as other Black coaches who could fit at Georgia Tech:
- Florida State’s Alex Atkins and Miami’s Josh Gattis are coordinators in the ACC (Gattis was considered for the Virginia job as well as other head-coaching vacancies).
- Ryan Walters is quietly coordinating one of the best units in the sport so far this season at Illinois.
- Georgia run-game coordinator Dell McGee is a lifer in the state at the high school and college levels. McGee was on Kirby Smart’s initial staff at UGA in addition to his time at Georgia Southern, where he served as an interim coach in 2015. No one can fully put a fence around the state, but McGee’s time there would certainly help recruit better local talent and serve as a portal beacon to lure back players who have left the state.
- There are also two Los Angeles Rams coaches who have ties: Eric Henderson (defensive line coach) and Thomas Brown (assistant head coach/running backs). Brown, an Atlanta native, played at Georgia, had a three-year run as offensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes from 2016 to ’18 and recently interviewed with the Miami Dolphins. Henderson, who was close to joining Billy Napier’s staff at Florida, played for Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech and would offer a link to former players that some believe is sorely lacking within the program.
Like other NFL teams, the Rams aren’t keen on letting coaches walk for lateral moves, but a Power 5 head-coaching job certainly isn’t that. Tech, the coaches’ camps and Rams would have to be fully motivated to get something done, which is where coach Sean McVay comes in.
The NFL has been obsessed with finding the next McVay, who has amassed quite the coaching tree since taking over in 2017. Zac Taylor (Bengals), Kevin O’Connell (Vikings), Brandon Staley (Chargers) and Matt Lefluer (Packers) have all moved on to become head coaches. The other thing they have in common: They’re white. McVay has an opportunity to stand on the table for multiple Black assistants during this cycle if Georgia Tech comes calling or if a pro team wants to give defensive coordinator Raheem Morris another shot.
Either Henderson or Brown would likely lay out a plan to bring McVay’s offense to college, which in simplest terms marries an outside-zone running scheme with a devastating play-action passing game for a QB-friendly balanced attack. Kentucky began laying the groundwork for this type of move with McVay assistant Liam Cohen, who returned to Los Angeles to run the Rams’ offensive after one year in Lexington.
With a power vacuum at the top, Georgia Tech moves forward into a most fascinating search with many uncertainties, especially when you stack up the multiple factors at play—what the job is, what it isn’t and what it can or even should be moving forward.
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