2012-2013 Bowls - Introducing The Interims
Who are the bridge-the-gap coaches in the bowls? Get to know them.
Who are the interims?
By Rich Cirminiello
Eight head coaches will lead programs into bowl games over the next three weeks knowing that their assignment has a very short shelf life. Lead the team, bring home a postseason victory, but once the final gun sounds, go speak to the HR department; your separation package awaits you.
The interim head coach is an interesting creature this time of year. He's still being paid and has a job to do, yet he's essentially a temp, soon to be out of work because his school's head coach has either been fired or has taken a job elsewhere. For those left behind, there's a mix of emotions. While you lead your kids the way you always have, lurking is the need to network and mine a new opportunity as quickly as possible. Openings fill up in a hurry this time of year, and bills won't stop coming in 2013 just because the band has broken up.
This postseason's eight interim head coaches were chosen by their respective administrations because they're professionals, able to lead young athletes during unique times. They want to win, sure, and they want to do their schools, players and fans proud. But most of all, this is a coveted audition, a high-profile chance to go from temp to perm, and land a new job as the old one quickly comes to an end.
Arkansas State vs. Kent State in the GoDaddy.com
Interim Coach: John Thompson
Who is he? Thompson is a three-decade veteran of the coaching ranks, much of it coming in the SEC. He's spent a quarter-century as a defensive coordinator, the job he was hired by Gus Malzahn to perform in 2012.
Here's the scoop: While Malzahn, who's now at Auburn, wanted to coach this game, the Red Wolves felt it would be better to turn the page. Anointing Thompson makes sense since he has head coaching experience from his days – as disastrous as they might have been in his one year stint -at East Carolina. Arkansas State is a mature and veteran-laden squad that ought to be fine for the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Plus, Malzahn was in Jonesboro for one year, so it's not as if the upperclassmen only knew one man as their head coach.
Cincinnati vs. Duke in the Belk
Interim Coach: Steve Stripling
Who is he? Stripling was hired in 2010 to be Butch Jones' assistant head coach and D-line coach. A year later, he added the responsibility of defensive run game coordinator to his duties. He has a distinguished track record of coaching up defensive linemen, mostly in the Midwest region, and is loved by the Bearcats vets.
Here's the scoop: Stripling makes perfect sense for this gig since he's already done it once before. He was Central Michigan' interim coach for the 2010 GMAC Bowl, leading the Chippewas to a 44-41 double-overtime win over Troy after Jones accepted the Cincy job. Stripling will simply serve as a one-game bridge until Tommy Tuberville takes over, and then will join Jones at Tennessee as soon as the Belk Bowl ends.
NC State vs. Vanderbilt in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City
Interim Coach: Dana Bible
Who is he? Bible has been Tom O'Brien's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the last 14 years, both at Boston College and NC State. For the Music City Bowl, he'll be in the awkward position of taking the place of his good friend and mentor on the sidelines.
Here's the scoop: The Wolfpack was already facing an uphill battle against red-hot Vanderbilt in Nashville's Music City Bowl. The task won't get any easier now that O'Brien has been dismissed, and Dave Doeren is waiting in the wings to take over on a full-time basis. Those players with NFL futures, like QB Mike Glennon and CB David Amerson, will be fine, but the rest of the team's psyche should be extremely fragile if this team goes down early.
Northern Illinois vs. Florida State in the Orange
New Coach: Rod Carey
Who is he? It took the administration about 24 hours to decide that it didn't want Carey to be its interim coach; it wanted him to be the permanent successor to Dave Doeren. He has made a rapid rise up the coaching ranks, using Wisconsin-Stout, Illinois State and North Dakota as stepping stones before becoming the Huskies' offensive coordinator.
Here's the scoop: Carey is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, he brings much-needed continuity, the coordinator for prolific QB Jordan Lynch, who's the catalyst for the program. On the other hand, the first game of his head coaching career will come in the Orange Bowl … against Florida State. At least Carey will have no worries keeping his kids focused and motivated after they've had to hear for the past few weeks how they don't belong in a BCS bowl game.
Purdue vs. Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas
Interim Coach: Patrick Higgins
Who is he? For the second time in a month, Higgins is interim something. For the last three games of the regular season, all Boilermakers wins, he was the interim offensive coordinator following a Gary Nord back injury. And now he's bridging the period between the Danny Hope firing and Darrell Hazell hiring. He's been Purdue's wide receivers coach the last two seasons.
Here's the scoop: Purdue's assistants, including Higgins, must juggle dual-responsibilities this month. Of course, the main priority will be to prepare the Boilermakers for Oklahoma State, who is a 17-point favorite in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. However, there's also the business of finding a job for 2013, which would certainly get a huge lift if Higgins can engineer one of the postseason's bigger upsets.
San Jose State vs. Bowling Green in the Military
Interim Coach: Kent Baer
Who is he? For the second time in his career, Baer is an interim head coach, a title he briefly held at Notre Dame after Tyrone Willingham was fired in 2004. Baer has been a defensive coordinator at eight different schools, and was instrumental in San Jose State's improbable 10-win regular season and No. 24 ranking in the polls.
Here's the scoop: There's pride. There's always pride and a desire to send the seniors off with a win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl. However, Baer and the staff might already know where they're headed as soon as next Wednesday's game ends. You see, now that Ron Caragher has been hired from the outside to be the new head coach, former coach Mike MacIntyre will get a chance to reunite at Colorado with many of the assistants who helped turn dust into gold with the Spartans.
Texas Tech vs. Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Interim Coach: Chris Thomsen
Who is he? The interim coach, Thomsen, has substantially more experience than the pending head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, who's only 33 years young. Thomsen was the Red Raiders' O-line coach in 2012, but led his alma mater, Abilene Christian, to six straight playoff appearances prior to getting to Lubbock.
Here's the scoop: Texas Tech might not skip a beat against Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Thomsen is an offensive innovator, who plans to unleash QB Seth Doege and the rest of the offense. It's going to help the interim coach that his Red Raiders plan to play with something to prove to former boss Tommy Tuberville, who unceremoniously and unexpectedly bolted to Cincinnati earlier in the month. Bank on Tech playing with a little extra bounce in its step as it begins to turn the page on a new chapter in its history.
Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza
Interim Coach: Lance Guidry
Who is he? Remember Guidry, one of the all-time faces of the interim head coaching fraternity? He was the Hilltoppers defensive coordinator in 2012, but is far better known for an impassioned locker room speech prior to guiding Miami U. on an interim basis to a 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl victory. Guidry's effort during that postseason went a long way toward earning him his present job at Western Kentucky.
Here's the scoop: With Guidry's ability to motivate and his past experience, the administration probably took 30 seconds to approach him about replacing Willie Taggart on an interim basis. He's the right man for the job, passionate, focused and well aware of the historical significance as the Hilltoppers seek their first-ever bowl victory against Central Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl.
Wisconsin vs. Stanford in the Rose
Interim Coach: Barry Alvarez
Who is he? Alvarez is temporarily stepping down from his AD perch in Madison to lead the program he built into a Big Ten powerhouse as the head coach from 1990-2005. He's the architect and the father of Badgers football, winning three conference titles and three Rose Bowls during a celebrated tenure on the sidelines.
Here's the scoop: Alvarez's first game in seven years as a coach is one of the best and most talked about storylines of the postseason. Who better to pick up where Bret Bielema left off than a man who has already coached in three Rose Bowls, winning two of them? Current Badgers players requested that Alvarez lead the team to Pasadena, so motivation and focus will not be an issue against Stanford.