Blue White Illustrated

January 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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6 6 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 2 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M A college football coaching carou- sel unlike any other has finally stopped spinning. Now, the question is this: Is there a better way to go about the process than the one we all witnessed in 2021? For those who were not keeping score at home, 16 head coaches were fired during the middle of the season, according to Sports Illustrated. Five of those pink slips were issued in mid- October. Twenty-eight jobs were open and later filled by mid-December. Countless other coordinator positions and assistant coach opportunities were also handed out over that same period of time. New Penn State defensive coordina- tor Manny Diaz called the two weeks between being fired at Miami (Fla.) and landing with the Lions "a hell of a month." He's been on both sides of this equation. The now-47-year-old spent two weeks as Temple's head coach in December 2018 before bolt- ing from the Owls to take Miami's top spot when Mark Richt unexpectedly retired shortly after Diaz had left Mi- ami for Temple. Then, this year Diaz was strung along by the Hurricanes for a while until they finally put together a strong enough offer to bring Mario Cristobal in from Oregon to replace him as head coach. One of the reasons for all of this rushing around is the early signing day. It was hailed as a big win for coaches and student-athletes when it went into effect for the 2018 recruiting class. Some parts of it certainly are prefer- able, but there have been many unin- tended consequences. The other reason is the transfer por- tal and the opportunity it has provided athletes to leave for a new school with- out having to sit out. It's why Diaz was asked at his intro- ductory presser if there is a better way for universities and coaches to handle all of the madness. His answer was the right one: not really. "I think everyone agrees there's a better way," Diaz said. "I just don't know if anybody can agree on what that better way is. The early signing day has a lot of advantages. And then what would you do with the midyear [enrollees]? Just about everybody's class now, half the guys are midyears. "The biggest thing that changed ev- erything is the transfer portal. I think everybody gets it. You've got players leaving college football teams midway through the season. They all want to find a new landing ground before the spring semester. Because we are a school, and because this is collegiate sports, we deal in semesters. So, there's always an urgency to add new players at the turn for the semester. "In the NFL, they play a season, then [some teams] change all the coaches, and then they change all the players, and the free agency begins. They have a draft, and they can set it whenever they want to. "It's more difficult at the college level for us to marry our calendar, as well-intentioned as that may be, be- cause we have a school semester in the spring, and the student-athletes and the coaches have a lot of incentive to get as many of their players there for January as they possibly can. And then if they can't get there in January, then they've got to get there for summer school." In other words, if you think things are going to slow down between the end of the regular season and sign- ing day, think again. Talks are ongoing about moving the early signing day to January, but that would more than likely just change the choke point of when things happen and not the actual process of them happening. As Diaz said, early enrollment num- bers for athletes continue to climb across the country. To steal a phrase from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, the toothpaste isn't going back into the tube. There will always be a push to sign recruits as soon as possible so that they can do that. And administrators will always have an incentive to put coaches and their staffs in place as far ahead of signing day as possible to keep as many recruits in the fold as they possibly can while hopefully flipping others from elsewhere. Thus, the madness may not be fun for everyone, but it's the new normal in college football and will continue to be in the future. Firings will still take place during the season. Players will also still hit the portal before the regu- lar season ends. It may not be the way many fans prefer things to be, but there is not going to be a consensus solu- tion. Calendar changes can certainly be made, but there will then be a new list of circumstances that all parties must consider, and those will bring their own challenges. "It's easy to identify the problem," Diaz said. "It's much more complicated to come up with a solution because I don't know that there is one. As with most hard problems, if there was one solution, it probably would have been figured out by now and implemented." ■ O P I N I O N GREG PICKEL No Quick Fixes For The Sport's Accelerating Pace THE LAST WORD High-value transfers like senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie illustrate the need for schools to move quickly while they rearrange their rosters and coach- ing staffs in the winter months. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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