Howard Schnellenberger, the famed head coach at Miami, Louisville, Oklahoma and most recently at Florida Atlantic, recently gave an interview to Larry Vaught at VaughtsViews.com. Schnellenberger provided a myriad of thoughts on what direction Kentucky should go in hiring its new head coach, provided they indeed decide to make a change.
“Miami was going to drop to Division I-AA before I got there and it was about the same way at Louisville,” Schnellenberger said. “Both were on their last gasp. They both called a timeout and tried to analyze what to do and who to bring in. In both cases, they brought in somebody that was bigger than the job. That’s one part of the equation at Kentucky."
Obviously Kentucky is nowhere close to dropping to FCS, but the program has struggled of late. Kentucky football recently dropped below .500 all-time for the first time since 1902. The Wildcats are 1-8 this season and are in the midst of their third straight losing season.
“If they do decide make change, they have to decide what they have done in the past will not get it done,” said Schnellenberger. "Bring in someone with a proven track record and has a reason for wanting the job. If you give me 20 minutes with a coaching candidate, I can convince him why Kentucky is a good job.”
Schnellenberger emphasizes that the ideal coaching candidate not only knows how to win, but wants to win at Kentucky.
“Kentucky has every natural resource you need to be good,” Schnellenberger said. “There should be no inferiority complex at Kentucky. If the university will focus its resources financially, spiritually and psychologically for the development of a great football program with the right guy in charge that brings a lot of confidence with him and a lot of public awareness to the university, then they have a chance to succeed."
According to Schellenberger, Kentucky presently finds itself stuck between mediocrity and success. From 2006 to 2011 the Wildcats bounced anywhere from five to eight wins.
"The worst thing that can happen to a program is going 4-8, 6-6, 5-7, maybe 7-5," he said. "Just good enough to every once in a while have a winning season. Those are the ones that limp along and there’s no way they will take the next leap up.”
But Coach, does Kentucky have the facilities to compete in the SEC?
“Bull—-. Facilities are the last thing you need," said Schnellenberger. "At Miami we had the worst facilities of any top 100 team in the country and we won the national championship. At Louisville, look at where we were before they got Papa John’s (Cardinal) Stadium and we beat Alabama."
In Schnellenberger's mind, everything Kentucky needs to succeed is already at its fingertips. He thinks an SEC schedule can be used to the Wildcats' benefit in recruiting.
"Kentucky is in the greatest conference in the world. It’s people that make a difference because you have the schedule to sell. You are in the most productive, financially sound conference in all of them. The university is an outstanding academic institution. You are sitting in a great geographical area. And you are fortified by the best basketball team in America.”
If there are four schools in the country that will never be confused as anything but a basketball school, Kentucky is one of them. But Schnellenberger doesn't see that as a negative.
“At Louisville, I used the basketball program," he said. "Can you imagine bringing football players in from Florida and bringing them into Rupp Arena on any given game and see the pageantry and excitement and all that. That is a recruiting opportunity that is unprecedented. Only a few schools have that kind of stage. You have all kinds of stuff going at Kentucky.”
It remains to be see what steps Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart takes with his football program but a stop in Louisville to see the old coach is certainly one of them.
Read the full interview at VaughtsViews.com.