Chuck Neinas' name came up again this week
as North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour introduced Butch Davis
as new football coach of the Tar Heels on Monday. Baddour thanked Neinas
for his assistance in bringing the former Miami Hurricanes and Cleveland
Browns coach to Chapel Hill.
Baddour's credit, the search that culminated with the hiring of Davis
was done with an infinitely higher degree of discretion than the one
which left the program with John Bunting in the driver's seat. If you
recall, Baddour publicly courted Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer only
to be rebuffed after the Hokies boss had further feathered his nest in
"Hey, Dick, here's your sign," Beamer
could have said, a la Jeff Foxworthy.
Given the spectacle of N.C. State's
recent venture in hiring a basketball coach, Wolfpack athletic director
Lee Fowler might do well to put Neinas on his speed dial as a successor
to Chuck Amato is sought. Had that phone call been made after Herb
Sendek left for Arizona State, the Pack would have been saved the
suspense and agony of missing on high profile types such as John
Calipari of Memphis and Rick Barnes of Texas.
The really sharp coaches — Barnes,
Beamer, and Calipari among them — have become adept at playing publicity
about potential job changes to their advantage.
All the more reason to involve Neinas,
who understands the procuring process absolutely. When Neinas is sizing
up a job vacancy, he's been known to ask a hiring entity if they are
receptive to paying for a house hunting trip for a new coach's wife.
He's that thorough.
He's the eharmony in coach
He's constantly working his network of
contacts to find out who among coaches and athletic directors might be
receptive to moves and what it would take in terms of compensation,
perks and incentives.
There's a way to hire a coach and
there's a way not to. It doesn't help a new coach's acclimation when he
comes in as an institution's third or fourth choice. Although Sidney
Lowe certainly has State off to a promising start, the example of Matt
Doherty reinforces that point.
The UNC-Chapel Hill fan base was baited
with Roy Williams and the switch to Doherty never gained total
Such fiascos are not in Neinas' modus
As an experienced and objective third
party, Neinas is adept at matching athletic programs with the best fits
in terms of hires. He's based in Boulder, CO, and he's the industry
standard for headhunting athletic personnel. A former Big Eight
commissioner, his contacts are impeccable and he avoids media like cats
Even in the age of Internet awareness
and scrutiny, Neinas works under the radar.
His involvement can eliminate the
agendas of search committees such as the one that brought John Thompson
to ECU as Steve Logan's replacement.
College athletic programs can figure
they're saving money on the front end when they write the check for his
finder's fee from what they might be paying on the back end in terms of
buying out multi-year coaching contracts.
Neinas' involvement has certainly paid
off for East Carolina in terms of the impact of Terry Holland as
athletic director. The 21-16 win over N.C. State in Raleigh last
Saturday night, a 7-5 football record thus far this season and the
pending trip to the "Pizza Bowl" in Birmingham serve as tangible
validation of Holland's administration.
ECU had been through a dramatic
downturn in its football program, a year of interim leadership in the
athletic program and one AD search committee without producing an
acceptable AD candidate before Neinas was consulted. From that point,
the search moved in a relatively-quick manner with the much-celebrated
hire of the former Virginia basketball coach and AD.
It didn't take Holland long to get his
people in place. Neither Thompson nor basketball coach Bill Herrion made
it through their first season under Holland's evaluation before they
were presented with their walking papers.
The decision to hire Skip Holtz was
obviously a solid one. The Pirates have gone from 2-9 the season before
Holtz arrived, to 5-6 last year, to a winning record this season.
Holland hired an experienced head coach who brought in a quality staff
and an improvement in competitiveness was apparent from the outset.
Now comes the tricky part — keeping
Holtz at an institution which can't provide the resources of a Bowl
Championship Series conference affiliation. This situation was
anticipated by Holland weeks ago with the organization of a drive to
raise funds that would supplement ECU's compensation for deserving
Holtz is on the low end of the Division
I-A spectrum in terms of salary and overall compensation. His package at
ECU is worth about $425,000 annually, not including bonuses. The average
in Division I-A, according to a study by USA Today published this month,
Holtz is living in the low rent
district among college coaches and he's doing a high-dollar job.
Holtz has a young family to consider in
terms of his career. If he's anything like his dad, Lou, he won't mind
changing jobs if a more rewarding opportunity is presented. The job he's
done in two years at ECU certainly puts a gold star on his resume.
The plea for financial support doesn't
come at the best time for Pirate fans, many of whom are adjusting their
budgets to be in Birmingham. There are Christmas gifts to purchase, too,
which enter the financial equation.
Still, Holtz has earned a contract
extension and a raise at ECU. His staff should be rewarded as well for
the monumental transformation that has taken place. The Pirates were
3-20 in the two years before they came on the scene. They are 12-11 —
winners — in the two seasons since then.
One wonders if Neinas hasn't already
put out feelers to see how happy Holtz is in Greenville and how
receptive he might be to going to a program where his freshly-proven
abilities and those of his staff might make more money.
ECU can hardly afford not to make him
It would be a shame for Holland to have
to go through the football hiring process as ECU's Division I-A sister
institutions in the UNC System have done and are doing. Holland might
even have to call Neinas and enlist his assistance in finding a
replacement for the winning Skipper of the Pirate Ship if Holtz sees
greener grass elsewhere.
That doesn't have to happen if ECU
supporters step up financially. Neinas has given the Pirates enough help