Head Football Coaches: Five Keys to a Successful Hire

Category: Search Process

Football can be a high profile sport on a campus and a successful football program contributes to the engagement of students and alumni with the institution, attracts academically qualified recruits, and supports school spirit. When the time comes to hire a new head football coach there are five key points to consider.

  • The search must be efficient and move along quickly. New head coaches ideally like to start at the beginning of the new year in order to have time to round out the recruiting class. This means the search typically takes place at the end of the football season—a time that is traditionally off cycle for most institutional hiring so it is important to plan who will be involved in the process.
  • The search priorities need to be highly focused. Institutions need to be clear about what the goals are for the football program, the challenges for the program, and the opportunities for success. If the program has not been competitive then you are looking for a head coach with one set of skills. If the program is very competitive and your current head coach was lured away, then you are seeking a new head coach with a different set of skills.
  • You need to have your data organized. Head football coaches, in considering an opportunity, want to see data with regard to recruiting plans and resources, staffing and resources, facility challenges, fundraising details, and overall budgets.
  • Diversity in the pool is important. You want your coaching staff to reflect the diverse backgrounds and experiences of your student athletes so you need to be very deliberate in reaching out to a wide range of potential candidates—for example, sitting head coaches, as well as assistant coaches. Look at benchmark and aspirant institutional programs, and across different conferences.
  • Be nimble. The process must be fluid to allow the committee to review and screen candidates quickly to stay in front of a competitive recruiting market. Work closely with Human Resources ahead of launching the search to ensure they are prepared to move the compliance portions of the search quickly and will be available to provide key information and support.

Dell Robinson

Search Associate - Athletic Practice, Spelman Johnson

Dell Robinson earned his BS in Physical Education from Ohio University and his MS in Sports Administration from Iowa State University. Prior to joining Spelman Johnson, Dell most recently served as Commissioner of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. During a span of 25 years Dell has served as the Associate Commissioner of Legislation and Governance at the Mid-American Conference, Assistant Commissioner for Compliance at the Western Athletic Conference, and Director of Compliance and Enforcement at the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Dell served as the Vice Chair of the Division II Collegiate Commissioner Association. Dell has also served as the Chair of the NCAA Division II Football Committee. Dell is a member of the Ohio University College of Business Executive Advisory Board, as well as a member of the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation Board. He served two terms as Chair of the Ohio University National Alumni Association and was honored with the Ohio University Distinguished Service Award.