The coaching clinic juggling act – it’s all business

There are plenty of other places Georgia football coach Mark Richt would rather be on this gray rainy day. But three days after signing a highly rated recruiting class, Richt stood in a hotel ballroom in the middle of Long Island at a Nike Coach of the Year Clinic.

Looks like double speed outs with a middle read and a shallow cross controlling the middle

Coaches at schools who sign lucrative sponsorship deals with Nike are required to speak at two instructional clinics each year. From late January to early March, 71 major-college coaches will travel to 21 clinics across the country. They will speak to youth, high school and small-college coaches about “The Bulldog Passing Game” (Richt) or the “Broncos Winning Philosophy + Punt Returns” (Boise State’s Chris Petersen), all while spreading the gospel of a certain shoe and apparel company, of course.

“Normally a couple days after signing day, after the grind of a season that begins Aug. 1 goes through bowl season, then right into recruiting, usually you pass out for about a week, but somehow, now I’m in Long Island, N.Y., on the Saturday after signing day, and I’ll be honest with you: I’d rather be with my wife and kids, OK?” Richt says to the hundred or so coaches. “But when you get where you’re going, you get excited about talking ball. Excited about being here.”

. . . . Before 9 a.m. Saturday, Richt left Atlanta on a commercial flight and arrived in New York shortly before his presentation. Rohe says that because of stormy weather Richt was worried he might not make it back to Athens that night to interview coaches. So why did Richt fly into a city amid one of the worst winters in recent memory to speak to coaches from an area outside Georgia’s recruiting base?”I think it’s part of the contract,” he says. In fact, it is.

Last year, Richt’s total compensation was $2.9 million. According to the terms of his contract, $742,000 of that sum is from “compensation for his Equipment Endorsement Efforts.” He also receives $3,600 worth of shoes, apparel or equipment manufactured by Nike each year. In the contract, it states “Richt agrees to fully comply with and abide by the terms and conditions of the Nike contract.” . . .

The Coach of the Year clinics date to the pre-swoosh dark ages, when Nike was known simply as the Greek goddess of victory. Rohe, a former track coach and the director of football recruiting at Tennessee in the 1960s and early 1970s and later the longtime director of the Citrus Bowl, says the clinics were founded in the late 1950s by legendary coaches Bud Wilkinson (Oklahoma) and Duffy Daugherty (Michigan State). After former coaches Johnny Majors (Tennessee) and George Perles (Michigan State) took over, they asked Rohe to serve as director. Nike began sponsoring the clinics in 1992.

At the end of June, Rohe meets with the regional clinic directors, gives them the list of Nike-sponsored coaches available and asks them to list their top 15 choices.

“Of course all of them pick Petersen, Jim Tressel, Mack Brown and Bobby Stoops,” Rohe says. “I divide them up to give each one a headliner. I assign four or five coaches to each clinic since we lose a few coaches.”

…Rohe has mastered the delicate scheduling dance in his dealings with the prima donnas and those much more easygoing. “I recruited Brown out of high school when I was a head football recruiter at Tennessee,” Rohe says. “So I know the good guys and the bad guys and the guys who are difficult to work with.”

. . . “Some of these contracts are so big, you have to get some other value out of them, other than just the uniforms,” Rohe says. For example, Central Florida’s George O’Leary, who also was at the Long Island clinic, receives $455,814 for “Services, Speaking, Equipment and Apparel Endorsements,” the bulk of which is offset by the value of UCF’s contract with Nike.

Now millionaires, these coaches were once in the same shoes as those in the audience. The three-day clinics offer 24 hours of instruction, taught mostly by high school and small-college coaches. Of course, the headliners are the main attraction.

Before Richt begins his presentation, he tells the group he might be interrupted by a phone call from a recruit who is expected to sign. He talks about the play-action passing game and scribbles plays that are projected on a big screen. As he grabs a football to illustrate a point, his phone rings. It’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College nose tackle John Jenkins, who is from Meriden, Conn.

“I’m in Long Island, N.Y., at a Nike clinic talking about the QB-center exchange. But I’m taking your call,” Richt tells Jenkins.

….Richt heads to his laptop to show game film. The coaches lean closer. In a darkened room with film running, this particular species — the sweatsuit-wearing sapien — is in its natural habitat.He shows plays from previous seasons, interspersing X’s and O’s with lighthearted commentary. After one receiver repeatedly drops the ball, Richt jokes, “This guy would make a lot more money if he could catch. I’m not telling you who he is because his mom would get mad at me.”

Before his time ends, he says, “Don’t lose sight of the fact that we’re educators. That we serve as fathers to these men. Even if they have a father, they will listen to you more than their dad.” He talks about character and backing up words with action. “God bless you all. Have a good day,” Richt says as the crowd applauds. “And if you have a guy that wants to play for Georgia, give me a call.”

(h/t Blutarsky.)

One, Richt is a good guy — that’s obvious to everyone who has dealt with him. Second, I look at this as some kind of positive externality — it might be a bit weird that these guys are contractually obligated to do these clinics and don’t necessarily do them out of the goodness of their heart or for an extra $100 bucks, but I always found the clinics helpful (as much for the smaller college and high school guys as the big name ones) and the manuals are a great resource too. Football coaching is a strange pyramid or tournament. That’s why I don’t mind guys trying to cash in when they can — most put in decades of a nomad lifestyle bouncing from school to school, and your continued livelihood is placed firmly in the hands of very capable nineteen year-olds, and if that isn’t job security I don’t know what is.

  • Alex

    These Nike clinics are great. Went to the one in Hartford last year and saw Coach Niumatalolo speak. Listening to him talk it is very clear why Navy has been such a good program the past few years. Was amazed how basic his teaching methods are.

  • i picked up the coach of the year clinic book last year due to your recommendation of the pieces by Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. a LOT of it was way over my head but a decent chunk of the presentation formed the nugget of a few pieces i penned for Roll Bama Roll.

    as a result, i went back and purchased a few of the older editions and have really gotten a lot from them. while it may be an onerous duty these guys are contractually obligated to perform — it’s one of the few ways they can directly get across the basics of their various approaches. in that respect it’s invaluable for anyone with even a passing interest in the sport.

    so much of the regular coverage of teams tends to focus on the surface and day-to-day dramas of the various programs. while many very good reporters understand the inner workings of the teams they cover, the daily grind of the job keeps them from really explaining this to the readership. what the clinic manuals help with is explaining that granular level approach of the coaches.

    the one thing i’ve learned reading these books is to better appreciate the breadth of the job today. as much as we get caught up on the specific shortcomings of a given coach or try to pigeonhole his efforts in a convenient category, the clinics show how much of the job is necessary outside of that limited measure.

    that anyone is successful in mastering one of these is impressive, that some coaches are superb at almost all of them is simply astonishing.

  • Dennis

    I have now gone to 4 of these types of clinics in the last three years. There are vendors present, Choices Choice coaching books and DVD’s at tremendous discounts, and losts of like minded people. The speakers, however, are the best part. I am amazed every year at the quality and enthusiasm of the speakers. They often give you their email address, even their telephone number! They offer to duplicate their presentation information and send it to you; usually for free. They even invite you to come to their campus, to spring football, or offer free tickets to games. Finally, inspite of any tiredness or busyness, in all those sessions over 4 years, the only guy to mail in a talk and waste my time was Frank Beamer. These guys really care, and are excellent teachers.

  • CoachH

    I have been to Nike clinics and to the clinic sessions at the national AFCA convention. Both are good but it does seem the “big timers” don’t want to be at the Nike Clinics and try to get out of there as soon as possible so it is hard to talk to them.

    From what I have heard from different people is that the Glazier Clinics have become superior to the Nike Clinics. If you compare the lineups of speakers and number of locations then I have to agree with them.