Back in November we asked the question, “‘Is he’s too young’ really valid?” With the vast majority of the major openings in college football filled, the answer is a resounding “No.”
Take a look at number of coaches that joined the under-40 club among FBS head coaches: P.J. Fleck (32), Kliff Kingsbury (33), Bryan Harsin (35), Matt Rhule (37), Brian Polian (38), Mark Helfrich (39) and Matt Wells (39).
Additionally, Willie Taggart got his second head coaching job at age 36 when he was hired by South Florida on Dec. 9, and three more schools (Arkansas, Southern Miss and N.C. State) got significantly younger with the hirings of Bret Bielema, Todd Monken and Dave Doeren, respectively.
When we asked the foremost expert on succeeding as a young head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, who was just 31 when he took over at Northwestern and is still only 38, he said, “Age is just a number. It’s something that’s out of your control. I think what’s more important is the evaluation of the coach as a leader and as someone that’s the right fit for your program.”
Age may be just a number, but those numbers are growing smaller and smaller within the ranks of coordinators and assistant coaches. Kingsbury’s replacement at Texas A&M, Jake Spavital, is just 27. Kingsbury’s co-offensive coordinators at his new job, Sonny Cumbie and Eric Morris, are 31 and 27, respectively, and his co-defensive coordinator, Mike Smith, is 31. Oklahoma State’s new wide receivers coach, Jason Ray, has yet to see his 30th birthday.
These are but a few examples, but the lesson is clear: enthusiasm and energy are in, and knowledge of how to work a rotary phone is out.
With the fear of hiring an under-40 head coaching becoming more and more a thing of the past, look for our feature “Is He’s Too Old’ Really Valid?” this coming November and “Is Hiring a 22-Year-Old Head Coach Really Wise?” in the not-too-distant future.