The term “boomerang generation” is used to describe the hordes of kids that leave their parent’s home for college and return as young adults. Like the Australian icon, they go leave, see a bit of the world, and come back home.
In college football, and specifically the Big 12, there’s a growing generation of boomerang coaches. They started out as highly successful players, left home either to play professional football, to coach, or in some cases, to do both, and return to their alma mater.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy is currently the poster child for boomerang coaches. Gundy played quarterback for the Cowboys from 1986-89 and left school as one of the most decorated players in school history. He remained in Stillwater as a coach until 1995, coached wide receivers at Baylor in 1996, then served as the quarterbacks coach at Maryland from 1997-00. He returned to Oklahoma State as the offensive coordinator in 2001, rose to head coach in 2005 and has led the Cowboys to heights previously unseen, winning the Big 12 and the Fiesta Bowl one season ago.
Another prolific Big 12 quarterback returned home yesterday, as Texas Tech hired former standout quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. The first of Texas Tech’s many successful Air Raid quarterbacks, Kingbsury may bring former Red Raiders back to campus. Sonny Cumbie, Texas Tech’s starting quarterback in 2004, is currently on staff in Lubbock. Former Red Raiders wide outs Eric Morris and Trey Haverty are currently coaching wide receivers at Washington State and TCU, respectively.
Elsewhere within the conference, Texas recently promoted its own former quarterback, Major Applewhite, to offensive coordinator, and former Oklahoma quarterback Josh just completed his third season calling plays for the Sooners.
Kingbsury, Applewhite and Heupel are all familiar foes. Coaching against each other will just be a continuation of when the trio quarterbacked their schools against one another a decade ago. Heupel completed his Oklahoma career in 2000, Applewhite graudated a year later, and Kingsbury moved on a year after that.
The Big 12 is hardly unique to hiring former players, but the league clearly sees the value in it. While other coaches may just see a job as the next step on the coaching ladder, former players are emotionally invested to help their alma mater succeed. And, as we’ve already seen in Gundy’s case, former players are more inclined to stick around when other schools come calling.
Like boomerang kids, the current crop of boomerang coaches won’t stick around forever. Opportunity will come calling with raises and promotions. But, at least for these coaches, it wouldn’t happen if not for the chance to return home.