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My case for Kerry Coombs

  • Covering every UC football contest from Rick Minter's beginning in 1994 through Brian Kelly's win in the Bowl on radio (and most games since from a different perspective) I'm blessed with a little insight most don't have.

    Through 10 seasons of Rick Minter, I witnessed good and bad. The Humanitarian Bowl in '97 was the peak; the two seasons that followed were the bottom.

    Their was a brief resurgence in the early 2000s thanks to the fortuitous landing of quarterback Gino Guidugli (he first committed to Kentucky). But, after a 5-7 2003 which culminated in a shootout loss to Louisville, Minter's time ended and the tri-annual holiday dances with coaches began.

    From a historical perspective, as I've mentioned more than once, UC has it's own argument for "Cradle of Coaches" with Minter's three assistants that landed NFL head coaching jobs (Mike Tomlin-Steelers, John Harbaugh-Ravens, Rex Ryan-Jets). He also had numerous other successful assistants, including current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher move on to illustrious college jobs.

    You could take that "Cradle of Coaches" argument further as we now have had Mark Dantonio leave for Michigan State, Brian Kelly for Notre Dame and now Butch Jones at Tennessee.

    You can take it all as a compliment, or you can take it as UC becoming the "Carousel of Coaches".

    Folks, I'm here to tell you it's time to pull the plug on the merry-go-round. I find it not so merry.

    Without question, Whit Babcock will find a great candidate and I'll be a supporter regardless. I'm a UC guy. When I started doing Bearcat games in the 90s, our recent coaches were at places I either had barely heard of or never heard of. They all gave UC great efforts, but my investment begins with being a fan at a young age, a graduate, the husband of a graduate and the father of a graduate (with more to come).

    When a coach leaves my alma mater, I'm hurt a little bit. I understand the economical reasons, but more and more, those are starting to even out. The program has grown since Minter's first bowl game, since Dantonio's win over Rutgers and has been fairly steady since Kelly's "lightning in a bottle" years and Jones.

    That's why it's tougher to understand each departure. I'm always of the belief that it's difficult to find a better place to bring up a family AND make a decent sum as a college coach than Cincinnati.

    My wife also went to Tennessee and I do understand the appeal and the culture.I also understand that they won't be particularly tickled with a 4-8 start.

    My only comments to Butch would've been, "You can stay here and build it and be on a monument. A couple million here is worth more than a couple mil elsewhere. You can always find more money, but you don't want to be sitting around with your new girlfriend after a few weeks and find she's much more demanding and fickle than your old one."

    As I often warn my careful what you wish for.

    On to the present....

    In some of the lean Minter years, there was always a contingent of locals that would say, "UC should just hire Kerry Coombs!"

    I had met Kerry at Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown functions, but I found the whole thought absurd. Yeah, Colerain was dominant, but the Gerry Faust experiment was over.

    Since then, I have met and known several of Kerry's assistants at Colerain. I have met others that worked around him. Most importantly, as Kerry was brilliantly hired by Brian Kelly, I got to know him better.

    For those of you that still look at him as Colerain's coach, he was part of a makeshift staff in 2006 that stepped in and coached Mark Dantonio's team to an International Bowl win, with Dantonio's players and Dantonio's plays.

    To whip together a team in 15 practices using someone else's language and with a mix-and-match staff was incredible.

    Kerry then was instrumental in getting Brian out to each and every function in town. Kerry knew the areas, gave Brian some tips and BK would take over the room. I know as much, because I introduced them both at a booster function in Anderson Township.

    Kerry was instrumental enough in Kelly's success here, that he could've gone to Notre Dame. He could've coached in TWO national championships--here (if Nebraska had beaten Texas) and with the Irish.

    Instead, the players spoke and UC was wise enough to elevate Coombs as Butch Jones came in. At the time, I texted Kerry to thank him. He wrote back, "I belong here."

    So, he spends the 2006 bowl gamel, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 here with bowl games in every year but one. That's not bad on a resume.

    Finally, after last season, he left. Some were upset, I was not.

    All Coombs did was exactly what Mick Cronin did. He left the known of Cincinnati, for some experience under a nationally-recognized coach in Rick Pitino who had a track record of assistants moving on to better jobs.

    Ditto for Kerry Coombs. Urban Meyer was the most sought-after coach last year and in previous years. Plus, like it or not, Ohio State has much money and influence as anyone in college sports. Though a Bearcat through and through, I thought Kerry did the right thing.

    Some will complain about his secondaries and quote numbers. To those, I tell you the coordinator calls the defense and if his secondary is in that defense, it is not necessarily the fault of the DB coach if a player is burned. Likewise, if the coverage is soft, it's not necessarily the call of the DB coach. Someone else makes those calls.

    My impression of Coombs as a DB coach is seeing him work his group relentlessly, simultaneously praising and criticizing. He's a dynamo on the field. After most practices, he's hoarse and has worked up a sweat.

    This is based on watching countless practices at Nippert, the Sheakley Athletic Complex, or Higher Ground. The man LIVES for practice.

    When Brian Kelly left, players lobbied for Coombs. When Jones chose to mingle about the dance floor, I'm told players lobbied for Coombs and were planning an appeal to Whit Babcock. On Twitter, former Bearcats Connor Barwin and Armon Binns of the NFL supported Coombs. Even a Xavier guy, Pat Kelsey, now head basketball coach at Winthrop tweeted support for Coombs.

    He is no longer a high school coach (and by the way, so was Auburn's Guz Malzahn). Six-plus years here as a defensive backs coach/associate head coach and a 12-0 season at Ohio State with Urban Meyer shouldn't be discredited.

    You don't think there was some strategy involved in Meyer hiring him out of Cincinnati? You don't think Meyer knows a thing or two about football?

    Beyond football, Kerry has charisma that hasn't been seen since the leprechaun (Kelly) left. He transcends energy and I've heard more than one person tell me how electrified they've been hearing him speak. At UC, the product must be sold on AND off the field.

    Whatever you hear from Kerry will be genuine. There won't be a handbook of cliches. His investment in this community goes beyond building his resume and reputation.

    The only question comes offensively.

    As locals know, Colerain ran the triple-option. In Division I football, that's not going to fly beyond a play or two. Coombs would have to hire an imaginative coordinator to draw something up that would attract athletes and fans.

    I've often said, "10-3" football doesn't sell here. Brian Kelly agreed with my theory. Points on board=butts in seats.

    On the other hand, running quarterback concepts are alive and well if you look at some of what Butch Jones did, what Urban Meyer's done historically and what "Johnny Football" Johnny Manziel has done.

    I have to think with his connections that Coombs could find the talent to come up with such an animal. The downside is you may have to switch coordinators if it's successful. For the record, I'd much rather play musical coordinators than musical coaches.

    If not, we likely could be going through this same exercise in 2015.

    I trust Whit Babcock and I will support his choice, but I'd rather the administration save the search committee dollars and use them to buy some thermally-insulated golf shirts for Kerry Coombs to wear on the sidelines.

  • I haven't been crazy about the idea, but you write a compelling piece.

  • IMHO, Coombs has to head coach at a MAC level school. Until he has success at that level, he is not part of the conversation.

    I don't fault him for leaving and I have nothing against him, but he has to prove himself.

  • Please no, with all do respect.

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  • Only question about Kerry is since he has only been a college coach 6 years, all in Ohio, does he have the connections to gather a staff? A top of the line O-coordinator would be key. Maybe Bajakian would be interested in staying?

  • I will keep an open mind and while I have a preferred candidate it is more of a gut reaction than anything else; the decision for a head coach goes beyond what happens on the field and I think what goes on in promoting your product may be more important now and I do think KC would promote the program in a way others haven't, the key would be his staff and ability to let go and rely on that staff.

  • Thanks for your argument, Scott. I know that coach Coombs will be a very good division 1 coach, and I agree it may as well be here. I am so tired of seeing coaches leaving all the time, and the fans saying things like," he could have been the one to put us on the map, or he could have had monuments to him built, if he had only stayed". This guy literally bleeds Cincinnati, and like coach Cronin would tell you in no uncertain terms, that this is his DREAM JOB.

    The drawback is in no small part that he walked all over some of our fans schools, and it will be hard to let that go.

    I am an old Colerain grad so I am an easy sell, but if you want to try someone who genuinely wants to be here, Coombs is the man.

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  • To use the Mick analogy Scott and others have used--- Mick went to Lousivilel and following that he became the head coach at Murray State. I agreed with you 29Bearcat that Mick would have to have a stop at as a headcoach at a MAC/Sub-Belt school first to truly equate to the Mick analogy.

  • Understand your concerns and others, but otherwise we should all be preparing for the next restless week in 2015. I wouldn't discount Kerry and his contacts and abilities. Brian Kelly and Urban Meyer didn't. Personally tired of the three-year tango.

  • That's been my thinking, too. We may have one more 3-4 year cycle first, but I could see him being the guy down the road.

  • Well thought out reasons for hiring Kerry

    I would rather see UC hire the best candidate. I don't see Coombs as ready yet

    Who is to say Coombs wouldn't move on for "bigger" jobs if he were to have success in Clifton

  • We could be preparing for that week when we fire him for having three straight 4-8 seasons. Someone else said it on this board in another thread, but compare this to Bill Stewart of West Virginia. He's a player's guy and never had any head coaching experience or was even a coordinator for WVU. Look how that turned out.

  • Count me among those who believe that Kerry's skills might actually translate better as a Head Coach than as a position coach. But while your argument is compelling, making Kerry our next coach is too big a gamble.

    CBJ talked all year about how thin our margin of error was. The same is true of our program overall. We cannot afford a dry hole. As gut-wrneching as the past week has been, imagine what it would be like if we had a head coach with a record of 4-8, 3-9, 3-9. Having to fire a coach because they didn't continue the tradition of winning would be much worse.

    That pains me, because I really like Kerry and I think he would be a good HC eventually. But I don't think we can take that risk.

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  • What kind of staff do you think he would attract? Any educated guesses on who would be his first choices to be coordinators would be?

  • I'll admit this is a compelling post, but I believe what most people believe and that he hasn't proven himself as a head coach or even a coordinator. I think the best thing would be to hire Coombs as our defensive coordinator and if the next head coach doesn't pan out or leaves we can then see if Coombs has the abilities to move up to head coach. My problem is that I like a progression. He should go from position coach to coordinator to head coach.

  • Not arguing for or against here, just adding to the resource file: Both Art Briles at Baylor and Bill Blankenship at Tulsa were long-time successful high school coaches who joined college coaching staffs and, within a few years, became successful college head coaches. Briles most people know about, and Blankenship in just his second season as head coach led Tulsa to the C-USA title.

    One other thing I will say is that, because of the impact of technology allowing ideas to be easily shared and the growth in sophistication at all levels of football in the past 25 years, I don't think the gap between how college staffs operate and how top high school staffs operate is nearly as large as it once was. Thus, I think the jump for bright coaches isn't nearly as big an adjustment as what it once was.

  • just wondering for all of the posters who seem adamant against hiring coombs if you have any experience seeing him coach or coaching with him? The guy can coach!! As Scott said why would Brian Kelly and Urban Meyer want him on their staffs if he was so terrible at what he does????

  • Kelly and Urban wanted him on their staff--- not be the head coach of their football program.

  • i played under coombs for three years. he is an amazing motivator. He knows how to get the most out of his players. He is a great leader. I would not mind seeing him lead our cats. The issue is i am just not sure what his offensive and defensive strategy would be. i think he would run the spread.

    The ideal situation would be for him to come in here to be a defensive coordinator or co coordinator. The man is a great leader and loves Cincinnati. I would like to see them groom him to be the head coach. I will say this about Coach Coombs he is the best motivator i have ever been around and he lets his coaches coach he was more of a CEO of our colerain team. He did take over the defense at colerain later on in his career at Colerain but position wise he lets his guys coach.

    To be honest i feel strongly that he would stay in cincy as head coach no matter who offered he loves cincy, it pained him to leave to go to the Columbus Buckeyes but he wanted to learn from Urban Meyer. (I cant fault him for that)!!!!

  • Coombs is Mick without the HC experience. I'd definitely consider it, but maybe we're better off taking one more MAC guy while Coombs gets some HC experience somewhere. The thing is, I don't think Coombs wants to move far away to get the experience...his family is still in Cincinnati from what I understand. I think we have to try to make a splash with Tressell...if not look at the MAC guys and if someone completely impresses us take them, if not take Coach Coombs.

    This post was edited by Eric Lilly 16 months ago

    Follow me on twitter @EricLilly7. Intimidate.Dominate.Celebrate.

  • The Im local, wont leave cheerleader stuff would play at first. At some point you gotta win, at what point outside of high school (hello gerry faust) has he proven that? Id rather someone win, be relevant and maybe leave

  • I understand there is some risk involved but I would also say that he is a tremendous leader of people and has outstanding management skills and marketing savvy. I believe these are the qualities that makes people successful no matter what they are doing.

  • I think Coombs has to be apart of the package some how. Like others I am nervous about him being a head coach but I want him back here.

  • If KC was hired I'm sure some of the current staff would stay which would help with current players and current recruits.. Everyone wants someone with passion, and loves Cincinnati well KC has both