In the next couple of weeks, there will be numerous new head coaches hired across college football.
Fan bases will be energized. New expectations for programs will be set.
Most of those head coaches who are hired in the coming weeks, however, will be fired within three years. That’s just how it goes in college football. Win now or get fired.
Very few coaches have the “it factor” to last more than a couple of years at a program. For every Kirby Smart or Lincoln Riley, there are 25 versions of Chad Morris or Will Muschamp.
Tennessee Vols fans are hoping that head coach Josh Heupel can be more like Smart or Riley than Morris or Muschamp.
Fortunately for Vol fans, I feel confident that Heupel has the “it factor” that will allow him to enjoy a long career on Rocky Top.
The thing that separates Heupel from some of those coaches who get fired after a couple of years isn’t necessarily his offensive prowess — though that certainly helps. It’s his competitive edge.
All head coaches are extremely competitive. It’s part of the reason they’re in this business. Heupel’s competitiveness, however, is on a different level.
Heupel wants to win. And he wants to win big. He isn’t putting a limit on what the Volunteers can do or how quickly they can do it.
“From the moment I got here, I never placed a ceiling on what our football team could do,” said Heupel on Monday. “You’ve heard me say it, that we’re in a race against ourselves.”
Heupel took over a bleak situation at Tennessee. And he could use that situation as an excuse for not winning more games this season. But that’s not how he approaches being a head coach.
The expectation at UT is to win, regardless of the opponent. Heupel isn’t “punting games”. He went into the Alabama and Georgia games expecting to win, even though the deck was stacked against the Vols.
Not all coaches have that same approach. Former Vols head coach Butch Jones spent several years making every excuse possible for his team. From the youth of the team to the fact that half his team had never flown on an airplane, if there was an excuse to be made, Jones made it.
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, a hot name in coaching searches in recent years, is an example of a coach not quite having the competitive edge it takes to win a championship.
Campbell is a great developer of talent. And he’s a good coach But he doesn’t have the “it factor”.
These recent comments from Campbell about “being the best version of yourself” in response to a question about winning the Big 12 is a perfect illustration of a coach who doesn’t have the necessary competitive spirit to win big in college football.
Matt Campbell at Florida would be a beautiful disaster pic.twitter.com/6Zg3FYzGCS
— zach ragan (@zachTNT) November 22, 2021
The goal should always be to win a conference championship. I don’t know care if it’s Alabama or Vanderbilt. That’s why you compete. Great things can’t be achieved without great expectations.
Head coaches are like quarterbacks. They’re all talented to some extent — otherwise, they wouldn’t be at this level. But it’s the competitive edge that separates the average quarterbacks/coaches from the great quarterbacks/coaches.
Tom Brady is great because he refuses to accept losing. Joe Burrow was great in college because he was almost always the most competitive player on the field.
Heupel has that same competitive spirit. He wants championships. That’s what he’s chasing, regardless of the situation he inherited at Tennessee.
“I’m here because I believe we can chase championships at Tennessee,” said Heupel when he was hired this past January.
Heupel experienced winning a national championship as a starting quarterback in college. The same mentality he had in 2000 as a championship-winning player at Oklahoma is the same mentality he has now leading the Volunteers.
And it’s why I believe Heupel has the ability to get UT back to a championship level.
Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK