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Post In which Furman Bisher learns about modern college athletics

Monday February 16, 2009

Furman Bisher should have just stopped after admitting, "I have no idea how a search firm operates." Far as I’m concerned, that would have saved him from the unfortunate paragraphs that followed in another attempt to stir the Bobby Knight pot.

If a veteran of sports journalism is unfamiliar with the use of search firms in the hiring process, there’s no shame if someone reading this wonders just how widespread the practice is. Hardly a sign of incompetence or fear, the enlistment of outside help is increasingly important as the salaries and stakes involved continue to grow. Below is a very incomplete list of high-profile hires made with the assistance of a search firm. You might have heard of one or two.

  • Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech football
  • Bruce Pearl, Tennessee basketball
  • Lane Kiffin, Tennessee football
  • Bob Stoops, Oklahoma football
  • Rick Neuheisel, UCLA football
  • Urban Meyer, Florida football
  • Mack Brown, Texas football
  • Butch Davis, North Carolina football
  • Randy Shannon, Miami football
  • Kevin White, Duke AD
  • Bo Pelini, Nebraska football. Bisher thinks that Vince Dooley would never have used a search firm. Would it surprise him that Tom Osborne did?
  • John Pelphrey, Arkansas basketball
  • Les Miles, LSU football (same firm was used to bring Saban to LSU)
  • Bobby Petrino, Arkansas football
  • Gene Chizik, Auburn football
  • Scott Drew, Baylor basketball
  • June Jones, SMU football
  • Tom O’Brien, N.C. State football
  • Mark Dantonio, Michigan State football

The point isn’t whether those were all good hires. It’s that the use of a search firm or consultant is so commonplace now in major college athletics that the exceptional cases are when a search firm isn’t used. Here is an example of the influence just one consultant can have on the career of a coach and the landscape of a sport:

A Neinas search can vault a coach into the national spotlight overnight. Take the meteoric rise of Florida’s Urban Meyer, who boosted his annual salary 12-fold after emerging as the winner of two Neinas-led searches. In 2001, Bowling Green, without Neinas’ help, hired the former Notre Dame assistant for his first head coaching post at an annual salary of $165,000. After a Neinas search, Meyer jumped to a $500,000 salary with Utah in 2002. After another, he landed his current $2 million-a-year job with Florida.

One final thing…Bisher wrote:

Could it be that when Vince Dooley hired Mark Richt to coach football at Georgia he went through a “search” firm? Of course not.

But of course Dooley did.

The past two to three weeks we have conducted a national search for a new head football coach. We talked to a lot of people and did hire Chuck Neinas as a consultant, and it was very helpful to us. In any event, I am pleased to announce that Mark Richt — offensive coordinator at Florida State, has been offered and accepted the position of head football coach at the University of Georgia.

7 Responses to 'In which Furman Bisher learns about modern college athletics'

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  • […] Groo fisks Bisher. […]

  • Criminy, that’s more than just a dumb column, that’s an out-and-out failure to do anything even remotely resembling fact-checking. It’s way past time to put ol’ Furman out to pasture.

  • Bisher needed to retire eons ago. I was interning with a TV station in college, and I was lucky enough to Turner Field to cover Cal Ripken, Jr’s farewell swing through Atlanta. It was two days after he hit that home run in the All-Star game. He was doing one big press session in the Orioles’ dugout on the opening day of the series, and Bisher was one of the writers on hand. He started this long rambling question about how Cal, Jr. had the opporunity to watch Cal, Sr. approach retirement, and if that had any impact on his own approach to retirement. Cal gave his own response. Then, Bisher goes, “by the way, what is your dad up to these days?” Well, anyone with a pulse and a working memory knew that Ripken’s dad had passed away from cancer several years before. It was a huge national story. Heck, Bisher probably wrote a column about it. Every single person in the dugout cringed. Ripken was gracious, reminding Bisher that his dad was dead. Afterwards, the reporter I was with (from the west coast, and having no idea who Bisher was) asked wtf was that old man thinking? The other Atlanta media there just kinda shook their heads… “That’s Furman”.

  • It really did show how shockingly out of touch Bisher is with modern collegiate athletics. I can’t believe the editors let this get published considering how preposterous the whole premise of the article is. I mean, I get the whole “stir up the nest” aspect but they’re really hanging Bisher out to dry by allowing to him look sooo bad.


  • Look Guys,
    I am as big a Dawg fan as anyone; but, get real. Furman Bisher is the cream of the crop of sports writers amid our lifetimes. Why dog him out about silly, modern practices which should not be evoked, or needed? Get real. Search consultants? Geeeeeeeez….. My bet is that many of you guys aren’t fit to shine Furman’s shoes. Have you any idea how much he’s done for your beloved Bulldogs via the years? We used to have some bad ones, guys…

  • Jimmy, you can think what you want of Bisher, but the fact remains that his comments in this case were admittedly written from a position of ignorance with little attempt to understand more about the subject. That’s not just unacceptable for a writer of Bisher’s stature; I wouldn’t even expect it of the greenest hire in the newsroom.