Gil Pound: Pound for Error 404: coach not found

Sep. 27—Our sports editor Matthew Brown must have had his crystal ball out when he wrote his most recent column.

From our weekend edition: "[Geoff] Collins, as of this writing, is still Georgia Tech's head football coach. But then again so is Bryan Harsin at Auburn. Will either still be the case when each one faces Georgia?"

One of those dominoes fell Monday as Tech fired head coach Geoff Collins. Collins was 10-28 overall leading the Yellow Jackets and just 7-19 in ACC play through three-plus seasons. His now former team was off to a 1-3 start in 2022, having most recently lost to Central Florida 27-10.

Athletic Director Todd Stansbury is gone too. He had held his position since 2016.

Collins came into a tough situation when he was hired in late 2018. He was taking over a program that had been running the option offense for over a decade at that point. What that does is severely shrink the recruiting pool on one side of the football. The top offensive high school prospects want to play somewhere that can prepare them to go pro, and you don't see anyone using the flexbone triple-option on Sundays.

So Collins was hired to bring the program into the present. How did he choose to do it? Marketing. He leaned into everything that makes Atlanta unique and great. Waffle House made its way into marketing materials. Atlanta's 404 area code started popping up on Bobby Dodd Stadium's Grant Field. 404 also happens to be the number of yards former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for on Oct. 17, 2020, when the Tigers thrashed the Jackets 73-7 inside Bobby Dodd.

There were other big problems with Collins' marketing strategy. University of Georgia fans, supporters, and alumni vastly outnumber those of Tech in the metro Atlanta area. The Ramblin' Wreck has no real territory to call its own other than its campus tucked into the sprawling downtown. Collins was trying to relate to recruits who didn't want to come to his program and to a fanbase that simply did not care.

In his weekend piece, Matthew already went over some options for Collins' replacement, so I won't do that again here. What I will do, for free, is tell Tech how to conduct its search.

First, forget about contracting one of those outside search firms. You're looking for your next head football coach, not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Those firms know nothing about your program, your history, or your culture. That is, until they research it all in order to make an informed pitch.

Form your own search committee instead. Find current/former players, big time boosters, and perhaps even representatives from the faculty and current student body. Ideally, the athletic director would serve on this committee, but GT finds itself needing one of those too. This committee would care about seeing the program be successful. An outside search firm only cares about its next contract. I'm not sure if Tech used one in the past to hire Collins, but the practice is becoming more and more prevalent and seems like a waste of time and money to me.

The next thing that needs to be done after a search committee is formed involves a little introspection. The higher-ups making the hiring decisions have to ask the question: do we want to just field a football program or do we want to actually be competitive on a national level? The commitment ($$$) has to be there, or else this cycle will continue to repeat itself every three to four years.

I say all of this as a UGA fan and alum because a lopsided rivalry is no fun. It's hard to Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate somebody when you've beaten them 97-7 the last two meetings.

LATE EDIT: Georgia Tech sent out a press release formally announcing Collins' firing after I had this column written. In the release: "Parker Executive Search has been contracted to lead the search." Oh well.