College

The Hat is Back, Return of the Mack

The NFL is full of young offensive minded head coaches practising all manner of tactical wizardry. This last week College ball thumbed its nose at these dark arts and said, enough! We want old guys, old guys rock.

To great fanfare two head coaching legends re-entered the gladiatorial arena this week after several years away from coaching.

Les Miles and Mack Brown are both winners of National Championships, both were somewhat  surprisingly out of work, both until recently staying in the game via commentating gigs, both in their sixties….the boys are back.

The Mad Hatter – Les Miles, Kansas University

In what has been a crazy season of college ball, there was still room for one more crazy loon.

Les Miles, 65 had been incredibly, out of work since mid way through 2016 when the LSU Tigers relieved him from his service.

Miles, synonymous with winning a National Championship with the Tigers, also had success at Oklahoma State, Michigan, Colorado and was the tight end coach at the Dallas Cowboys. However it is for his long and successful time in Baton Rouge that Miles is remembered and more importantly where his nicknames, the Hat or as he is affectionately called, the Mad Hatter evolved.

Enter Kansas University. The Jayhawks are a programme on the down. No winning season or bowl appearance in 10 years, this is a college looking for a shot in the arm to kick start a new chapter. The University has just committed $300m to facelift the stadium and signed Miles to a $15m five year deal. This underlines the School’s intent to grow its football programme to not only its students but more importantly potential recruits. This is where the key challenge for Miles is. Considered one if not the weakest programme in the Big 12, recruitment is harder against say Oklahoma or Texas. This where the battle is won or lost. 

The challenge for Miles will be, at least in the short term, recruiting at the 2 and three star level which he was not accustomed to at LSU. At the Tigers Miles developed a deserved reputation as a Coach who made NFL ready players.

At Kansas he will need to build a successful team first, which will eventually result in better recruiting classes in the future.

Miles has some experience recruiting in the Big 12 following his time at Oklahoma State. And he is still the  big name in Louisiana meaning he is likely to tap back in to that recruiting market. Add in Texas and the Kansas metropolitan area including its many Juco schools, there is a significant breadth of talent available to him.

But its the Mad Hatter that we love to see back in the game. Mike Leach at Washington State has kept us entertained these past two years with his rambling, hilarious press conferences. But Les Miles press conferences are box office. Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and St Patrick days rants, Miles is an entertainer. Oh and check out Les Miles podcast where he and Mike Leach get together on the same show. Comedy gold. Best of luck Coach.

Return of the Mack – Mack Brown, University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina this week announced Mack Brown, 67 as its Head Coach. This is Brown’s second stint at Chapel Hill having coached the Tar Heels from 1988-97, becoming what was the School’s second most winningest coach in programme history. But Brown didn’t have such an auspicious start as head coach of UNC first time around. In his first two seasons at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heel’s were 1 and 10 in both of those seasons. However that record was soon reversed with UNC having two 10 win seasons in his last two years. 

Of course Mack Brown is best known for his long and successful stretch as Head Coach of the Texas Longhorns in Austin Texas for 16 years including nine straight ten season wins and a National Championship.

Mack Brown doesn’t have the same initial problem as Les Miles as the Tar Heel football programme does not have a credibility problem. Indeed Chapel Hill is one of the most desirable locations to study. But its football program has been on a downward trajectory for some time now.

A lot of pressure now lies on the shoulders of this 67 year old. But Mack is back because he loves the game and he loves developing the kids into disciplined, winning football programmes. UNC has found itself a somewhat familiar winner. Time will tell if second time around for this old timer will prove successful.

Photo credit : espn.com

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