The recent opening of the position of Head Coach at the University of Mississippi became an even bigger news story today when the job was posted (probably according to state policy) on the University's website. Now I personally am already gainfully employed at a job I love out here in beautiful Tyler, Texas, so my interest in the position is minimal. I'm still considering sending in my resume just to see what kind of offer Mississippi would make, but it would take quite a bit to convince me. Even though tailgating in The Grove looks just awesome.
Reports from Oxford indicate, however, that other arguably less-qualified applicants than myself have emerged as interested parties. If Twitter rumors, message boards, and blogs are to be believed, Art Briles, the current Head Coach at Baylor University, is one of them.
The question we must ask ourselves, then, is do we have anything to worry about?
When rumors of a coach looking around arise, the first place people go is questioning that coach's loyalty. Maybe next they question his manhood, his honor, or his commitment to his current school. As if it is wrong for an employee with options to attempt to ascertain what in his own best interest.
We've been here with Art Briles before. In December 2009, he was widely rumored to be the preferred choice for Texas Tech before they hired Tommy Tubberville. He eventually parlayed that interest into a raise and extension with Baylor, recommitting to the school in January 2010. As a private school, Baylor is not required to report to anyone how much it pays its employees, so exactly how much Briles makes at Baylor is hard to pin down exactly. Some say it is as low as $1.55 million per year, which would be around 45th in the country and 9th in the 10-team Big XII. Others (like John McClain on his radio show today) believe it is actually closer to $2.1 million, a much healthier sum.
The move to Tech made perfect sense for Briles given his Texas roots, his history with the school, and the offensive set he prefers to run. West Texas generally and Texas Tech specifically were home (both personally and in his career) for Briles at one point in his life and apparently wanted to make themselves his home again. I wasn't sure if he would go or stay at the time, but either way, his interest in the job paid off. Even if he didn't intend to actually leave, he forced Baylor to step up and commit itself to him (and to football through the building of Baylor's gorgeous on-campus football practice facility and athletic complex) and earned himself quite a bit of money.
Without any inside information from Briles or anyone associated with the Athletic Department, and assuming that the rumors of his interest in the Ole Miss job are correct, I think he's looking to do the same thing again. His bargaining position could hardly be stronger. Though I have been critical of him this season, he has now led Baylor to back-to-back seasons of bowl-eligibility, strengthened recruiting, and even helped personally in wooing the biggest single contributor to the on-campus stadium he so dearly craves.
Briles has been rewarded for his efforts so far with the greatest news any of us have ever heard regarding Baylor football, that the University is exploring the construction of an on-campus football stadium. When the news came out, Briles seemed as giddy as a schoolgirl thinking of what it could mean for his program. His program. The one he has done more to rebuild than any before him.
It may seem negative to imply that Briles is playing Baylor, but I don't mean it to at all. It's exactly what he should be doing in his situation with the leverage he possesses and the goals he wants to achieve. And I believe it is exactly what he is doing and will continue to do. I believe that Briles wants two things more than anything else: money, and his stadium. When Baylor gives them to him, or assures him convincingly enough that he will get them, then he will recommit again like he did before. Ole Miss, which does not have any of the things that supposedly interested Briles in Tech two years ago (considering it is obviously not in Texas where he has spent his entire career, would be arguably be starting at a lower point now than where Baylor currently resides, and possesses no connection to Briles or his career to date) is simply a vehicle. There will probably be others until the point where Baylor gives him what he wants.
So the answer to the question of if we have anything to worry about with Briles is no, but only if we do what we already know we have to do to keep him.