Football: Nationwide search for new football coach underway
A week and three days after the decision was officially made, the dust surrounding the firing of football head coach Roger Hughes has begun to settle.
A successor has yet to be named and likely won’t be until mid-January. While the Department of Athletics has not named any of the candidates that it has interviewed thus far, numerous internet reports have surfaced regarding applicants.
On Nov. 24, mycentraljersey.com reported that Rutgers assistant coach Joe Susan could be a candidate for the job. Susan brings familiarity with Central Jersey, and specifically with Princeton, to the table. He is the Scarlet Knights’ recruiting coordinator and tight-ends coach and has assisted head coach Greg Schiano for his entire nine-year tenure. Previously, Susan was the head coach at FCS school Davidson College, where he guided the Wildcats to a 10-0 record in 2000. From 1991 to 1999, he was the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Princeton.
The report originally surfaced on footballcoachscoop.com, which also suggested that former Princeton quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett ’89 could be a candidate.
Garrett played at Princeton, quarterbacking the Tigers for the 1987 and 1988 seasons. In 1988, Garrett directed Princeton to a 7-2-1 record and won the Bushnell Cup. He finished second all time with 366 completions and first all time with a 66.5 percent completion percentage. He also has the lowest percentage of passes intercepted in Tiger history at 1.8 percent and ranks second in yards per game with 213.7. The central problem with Garrett is that he is the highest-paid assistant in NFL history and would have to take an enormous pay cut to coach at Princeton.
The website has also reported that the Tigers have contacted Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach Bob Surace ’90. Surace has been an assistant on head coach Marvin Lewis’ staff for eight seasons. For the past six seasons, he has served as assistant offensive line coach. Before joining the Bengals, Surace coached at Division III Western Connecticut State. In two seasons at the helm, Surace led the Colonials to an 18-3 record and a top-25 ranking.
Surace played collegiately at Princeton, earning first-team All-Ivy honors as a center in 1989.
Footballscoop.com has corroborated the report that Susan is interested in the job and has also reported that Central Michigan offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is interested in the job. In addition to coordinating the Chippewas’ explosive offense, Bajakian is the team’s quarterbacks coach.
Bajakian worked as an offensive quality-control coach with the Chicago Bears between 2004 and 2006, spending time primarily with the wide receivers.
Bajakian graduated from Williams College in 1996, where he was an All-New England Small College Athletic Conference and All-Eastern College Athletic Conference quarterback. He began his coaching career at the Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., as a quarterbacks coach.
These candidates are likely only a few of the many that will ultimately apply. The Department of Athletics is advertising the position on the website insidehighered.com. The position summary indicates that the department is seeking an individual to “engage in ethical and values-based coaching in order to develop the character and the skill of the University’s student-athletes.” The essential qualifications section includes “excellent organizational skills,” “demonstrated leadership skills and the ability to manage team dynamics” and “an understanding of the fundamental role that intercollegiate athletics, properly implemented, can play in the educational development of our student-athletes.” Preferred qualifications include “advanced degree” and “football-playing experience, preferably at the collegiate and/or professional level.”
The application deadline is Dec. 30.
The pool from which athletic director Gary Walters ’67 and his staff will be choosing from is wide, as ensured by federal and institutional regulations. Coaches from the FCS level will bring the most relevant experience to the table, but FBS, Division II and Division III coaches could certainly be solid candidates as well. It also would not be surprising if the Tigers looked to the NFL for a candidate. It was only a year ago that Yale hired Tom Williams as its head coach out of the Jacksonville Jaguars organization. The final decision will be made by committee.
When Steve Tosches was fired in 1999, the University chose to buy him out. This will not be the case with Hughes, who is under contract for one more year. Hughes will likely serve in the football office in an administrative position.
His coaching staff, which includes nine assistant coaches and a director of football operations, also remains under contract for now. But that could all change. The new head coach will be given full reign regarding his assistants and could end up cleaning house. That said, when Hughes arrived at Princeton, he maintained run defense coordinator and linebackers coach Don Dobes and defensive coordinator Steve Verbit. Verbit’s son Matt ended up quarterbacking Princeton a few years later and graduated in 2005 with the second-most yards in Princeton history. Verbit is the longest-tenured assistant coach at the University, as he has been on staff for 26 years. He has worked with Hughes and former head coaches Steve Tosches, Ron Rogerson and Frank Navarro.
As the assistants are still under contract, recruiting has proceeded as usual. The players were given last week and this week off and will begin off-season conditioning next week with strength coach Jason Galluci, who is not solely affiliated with the football team.