Just weeks apart Eastman and Beaudine Management Consultants picked up two new college football clients; and ironically the proximity of the agency's new customers is a "hop and skip" away from one other. The first catch for E&B was Ole Miss, and the most recent, being the University of Memphis. Both schools are similar in having endured a couple of disappointing seasons on the football field while preparing to usher in a new athletic director at some point in 2012, and now Eastman and Beaudine has helped them in their respective search for a new head coach. The two institutions are a mere 85.89 miles away from each other and their needs are similar. However, what both institutions will receive is something totally different. Ole Miss needs an experienced, energetic coach who can win now, and Memphis needs a coach with the potential to turn the program around for the better.
Last week Eastman and Beaudine was successful in its pursuit for Ole Miss, helping the school snag Arkansas State Head Coach Hugh Freeze. For an encore, the agency helped Memphis fill its void with the hiring of TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente. E&B was successful in their search for the two institutions because they found the right fit for each respective program, or did they? The biggest challenge for the firm recognized by Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated as the top in the executive search industry, was not location as I previously pondered, instead it was distinguishing the two programs to two prospective coaching candidates.
Ole Miss is a member of the Southeastern Conference; The University of Memphis is a member of Conference USA. One may ask which conference is better, which one boasts the most eminence? Fact: A team from the SEC is responsible for winning the National Championship for the past five years (Florida 2007, LSU 2008, Florida 2009, Alabama 2010, and Auburn 2011). On the other hand, Conference USA is not considered a BCS Conference with an automatic qualifying bid.
Fact: Ole Miss has won six SEC Championships and has appeared in 33 bowl games, the last was the Cotton Bowl on January 2, 2010, in which they defeated Oklahoma State 21-7. Memphis, on the other hand, has not yet won a Conference USA Championship and has appeared in a bowl game 7 times, with the most recent a 41-10 loss to South Florida at the St. Petersburg Bowl on December 20, 2008.
Fact: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, MS seats up to 60,580 people. Through seven home games at Ole Miss in 2010, the average attendance was 55, 898. The Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, TN holds up to 61,000 people. The average attendance for 6 home games in 2010 was 23, 918.
If I put myself in the position of an experienced and proven coach who saw the openings at both institutions, which one would look more appealing? Which one could easily be considered as a better fit for me, and which one would give me better results and less headaches? Eastman and Beaudine had to configure some type of measuring scale to assess which program was right for each candidate.
With the hire of Freeze, Ole Miss was able to nab an established head coach who has won at every level. From the halls of Briarcrest Christian School to the residence halls of Arkansas State, Freeze has been a winner. At Briarcrest, as a girls high school basketball coach and football coach, Freeze embedded the DNA of winning into both sports. He guided the Saints to state championships back in 2002 and 2004 on the gridiron. As head coach of NAIA(National Association of Intercollegiate Atheletics) member, Lambuth University, Freeze was successful in leading the team to a 20-5 record in his two years with the program. In addition to turning the program around, he broke some school records along the way and led them to their first playoff appearance in 11 years. In 2009 he led the school to its best regular season record posting a record of 11-0. They won one postgame before being eliminated from the postseason and ending the season as the sixth ranked team in the NAIA. In 2010, Freeze joined the staff of Arkansas State University as a offensive coordinator. Although the team posted a record of 4-8, the offense improved remarkably. A year prior to Freeze's reign over the offense, the Red Wolves were at the bottom of the NCAA FBS rankings in offense at 95. However, he was able to pull that ranking up to 45, while at the same time breaking all types of school records in the process. In his first full season as head coach at Arkansas State, Freeze guided the team to a 10-2 record overall, and 8-0 in league play. Arkansas State will play in its first bowl game for the first time since 2005.
The University of Memphis was able to secure its football savior in Fuente. The administration was wowed by Fuente at the last minute and saw the potential he has to turn the entire football program around on a long-term basis. As co-offensive coordinator for TCU, Fuente aided in helping a offense break school records with a high octane attack. In his first season as a signal caller for the Horned Frogs, the team was written in the single season record books for points scored with 498, total offense with an average of 456.7 yards per game, and eighth in passing efficiency. In 2010, Fuente was apart of an offense that was responsible for 73 touchdowns, 541 points, 6,199 yards of total offense, and 327 first downs. The same year TCU was ranked 4th nationally in scoring, 10th in rushing, and 12th in overall total offense. Fuente's most noteworthy feat was helping anchor a offense that had back to back BCS appearances; TCU won the Rose Bowl earlier this year.
One program has a tradition in football with high expectations in what is regarded as the most dominant conference in college football. The other program has very little tradition and has under-achieved in its conference over the past few years. The football program hasn't been rich in its culture for a while, yet the demand for success is high.
Both programs are close in proximity, but not so close on the field.