Before we can discuss what Troy is and what the program needs in the wake of program patriarch Larry Blakeney's retirement, first we must recognize what the program is not.
First, it's not a program with unlimited resources. Blakeney made $505,000 a year. His nine assistants made about $900,000 collectively, with no assistant earning more than $150,000. Athletics director John Hartwell says Troy sits in the middle of the pack in the Sun Belt and those numbers figure to rise with a new coach, but how high?
The Sun Belt is also one of the most wide-ranging conferences in FBS, both in terms of geography and scheme. The league stretches from Idaho to southern Georgia, from North Carolina to New Mexico, and from the passing offenses to ground-based attacks and everything in between. To be successful at Troy, a head coach has to win games first, and energize the base & the university as a whole second. It won't be easy; but the right guy can succeed.
Any FBS head coaching job, especially one in the South, is going to generate a lot of interest inside and outside the profession.
While he will step into a special assistant to the athletics director role within the department, Blakeney said he will not be involved in the quest to find his replacement. Hartwell said the search will be handled internally, with the help of an advisory committee of former players and local business leaders. The vibe from today's press conference leads us to believe that Troy is looking to hire someone from outside the program.
With that in mind, there seem to be two logical routes this coaching search can take:
The hot, young name:
Most of the names thrown out in the 18 hours following Blakeney's announcement have fallen in this group. The energetic younger coach who will be able to engage and get today's young recruits. We've seen assistants from LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, USC and Oregon to mention just a few named already as "candidates". With the way salaries have risen in FBS (and especially Power Five) football of late, most of these "candidates" are making more, or very close to, what Blakeney was making already. Furthermore, the assistants they know and trust would be more hard pressed to come to Troy for what is likely to be available in the assistant pool. The worst thing a hot young assistant can do is take a job where he doesn't have the resources to compete. Three years later he is burned out and his career path is in serious jeopardy. Let's say Troy can bump the pool for assistants up to $1 million, that's an average of about $110,000 per assistant. Is that enough in the eyes of a hot young up and comer to build the staff that he needs to help them win?
We're definitely not saying there isn't a wonderful "up and comer" out there that would love to have his first opportunity as head coach be at Troy, we're just saying that it has to be the right fit. For example, would Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown find the opportunity intriguing? One would think so. For what it's worth, Brown's base salary as the OC at Kentucky is $550,000.
The proven winner:
When a head coaching position comes open fans typically begin salivating over that young offensive coordinator who knows how to score a lot of points.
When a head coaching position comes open athletic directors typically begin salivating over coaches who will win games.
We have no idea on his interest level or if it exists at all, but Steve Campbell is the archetype of the coach Troy should have in mind. A Troy graduate, Campbell led Mississippi Gulf Coast to a junior college national championship in 2007 and guided Delta State to a Division II national championship in 2000.
Now in his first year at Central Arkansas, Campbell is 129-41 as a head coach and has never experienced a losing season. With stints as an assistant at Auburn, Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee and Nicholls State, Campbell has ties across the Deep South. Oh, and his defensive coordinator, Greg Stewart, yeah, he was a four year starter at Troy (won two national championships there).
Campbell makes $185,000 at Central Arkansas. With reasonable salary expectations, he could build a quality staff of guys who know how to win at Troy.
On paper, our staff believes hiring a guy like Campbell or his coaching twin make a lot of sense for Troy. Wins, and winning the right way, are what Troy needs to build the program to the top. Add in a coach who is looking to win and stay and this seems like a potential home run hire.
Life isn't played on paper though.
As always, we will keep you informed as we know more.