Everyone has had a flirtatious moment or two in their lives.
At times, something comes of it. Other times, maybe not.
Flirting doesn’t always involve someone of the opposite sex. The winking and the like could be a part of something as pedestrian as a job offer.
That was the case for McNeese head football coach Lance Guidry, who spent a recent weekend in Tallahassee, Fla., visiting with Florida State about a defensive secondary assistant’s position.
In today’s hyper-connected world of bloggers, internet sites and social media, an appearance by an FCS coach at a campus near you won’t stay unnoticed for long. GridironNow.com first reported Guidry’s meeting with the Seminoles, and it didn’t take long for the local media to jump on the story.
For those two weeks, the talk on the street was all about Guidry. Will he secure the job at Florida State and leave McNeese after only two years as head coach? Why is he thinking about and trying to leave the school he loves so much? If Guidry moves on to greener pastures, where will that leave the Cowboys program, and who could they hire quickly as the new head coach?
Will he get the job, and if so, who might replace him were the two main questions that had football circles in the area in a tizzy — and for good reason.
Let’s get to the place where this episode ended and work our way backwards.
After Guidry returned from his Tallahassee weekend, he confirmed with me that he was in talks with Florida State’s new head coach Willie Taggart, but would not go on the record about anything else.
That’s understandable from Guidry’s end because nothing had been finalized as yet. So there’s no sense in stirring the pot.
After a week and a few days, Guidry was able to go on the record through a prepared statement released by McNeese’s sports information office.
“I’m truly grateful to coach Taggart for his interest in me for a position on staff at Florida State,” said Guidry. “However, at this time, it just didn’t work out for either party, and I’m excited to remain a McNeese Cowboy.”
Guidry continued in his prepared comments, saying, “we have a lot of great things going on here at McNeese, and there’s a lot to be excited about this coming season and the coming years.”
So, after a well-followed flirtation with a Power 5 team, Guidry is staying home to continue leading this Cowboys program. This fall will mark his third season as head coach.
College football coaches are among a very small, tight-knit fraternity. And as in many walks of life, personal relationships are critical in career advancements and getting or staying employed.
Guidry is the most well-traveled McNeese head coach in recent years, with stops at Miami of Ohio and Western Kentucky. His coaching Rolodex (or cell phone contacts these days) has grown, so calls about jobs and interest are by-products of his resume.
It’s well known that Guidry worked under Taggart at Western Kentucky in 2011 and 2012 as his defensive coordinator. When Taggart moved on to become the head coach at South Florida, Guidry was tabbed as the interim head coach for Western Kentucky’s appearance in the 2012 Little Caesar’s Bowl.
So, there was history between the two men. So it should not have come as a shock to anyone that Taggart, who replaced Jimbo Fisher as FSU’s head coach after Fisher accepted the Texas A&M head job, sought out Guidry for an assistant’s position with the Seminoles.
As far as we know, Taggart didn’t reach out to Guidry when he (Taggart) left South Florida to take the head coach’s position with Oregon. But once the popular Taggart (three head coaching jobs in six years) moved south again to Florida State, the interest in Guidry was predictable due to his defensive acumen and also his ability to recruit talent-rich Louisiana and south Texas.
McNeese Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill and University President Dr. Daryl Burckel are tickled to have Guidry remaining as head coach.
There’s no doubt that a collective sigh of relief came from both men once the discussions between Guidry and Florida State ended. Burckel and Hemphill both knew, as did many with close ties and inside knowledge of the program, that McNeese dodged the proverbial bullet.
A Guidry departure, after a turnaround 9-2 season, and with national recruiting day looming Feb. 7, would have come at the worst time for a coaching change at the top. That’s not to mention the difficulties of organizing a search for a new head coach with spring practice scheduled to begin Feb. 28.
I’m sure there are more than a few McNeese supporters talking ill of Guidry for even thinking about leaving McNeese, much less for interviewing with Florida State, despite the program’s national stature.
If those thin-skinned, overly sensitive Cowboys fans want to organize and gather, please let me know when and where so I can explain the realities of the business of college football.
I would start with the simple fact that Guidry’s base salary is around $180,000, and he has a responsibility to his family first to provide a better financial foundation. That Florida State gig would have been in the $325,000 range. That’s enough to grab anyone’s attention and make them do a double take on their current pay stub.
Coaching at the FCS level compared to FBS Power 5 is like driving a VW Beetle and then taking the wheel of a Lamborghini. Not only is there a difference in pay, but also in facilities, support, national exposure, professional enhancement and additional avenues you can use to expand your contacts in that coaching fraternity.
Expectations at McNeese about competing for an FCS national championship are high, and maybe a bit unrealistic. I respect Guidry for setting and verbalizing the goal of winning a national title. But when you do that, fans will begin clamoring about why the Cowboys have not been able to win it. Then comes the questions over the competency of the head coach and his staff. That’s followed by the press conference to announce, “we have decided to go in a different direction for our football program.”
Some university administrators (I’m not saying McNeese falls in this group) and fans always think they can get a better head coach. Sometimes you can and do, but not always.
I’ve seen it happen so many times at various levels of football. Big, medium or small. No program is immune to illusions of grandeur.
McNeese is lucky and fortunate to have Guidry as head coach. He has the proven talent and the skills to coach the game to his players and coaching staff; has an extensive knowledge of sets, schematics and game plans; and above all, commands an intense drive, energy and passion to compete and win.
In his brief two years at FBS Western Kentucky, his defense was nationally ranked in several key defensive statistics. Last season, after deciding to hold a dual role as head coach and defensive coordinator, Guidry’s defenders were ranked No. 1 in the FCS nationally in rushing defense and third down conversion.
McNeese’s defense dominated the rankings in the Southland Conference, leading in eight statistical categories and rated second in three others.
Guidry is a known defensive commodity. And when he registers numbers like that, inquiries from the outside are sure to follow.
Boosters, fans, the players and future recruits should take it as an extreme compliment that any FBS program, much less Florida State, had an interest in hiring Guidry.
I don’t know exactly why an agreement between him and Florida State didn’t transpire. I asked the 46-year-old Guidry for further comment and details of his dealings, but he politely responded that all that needs to be said was covered in that press release and the prepared statements.
That was his prerogative, and I’m sure when he’s ready, more will be said concerning Florida State. My impression is he and Taggart ended those talks amicably and as friends.
I can speculate that maybe they couldn’t agree on the exact scope and responsibilities of the defensive position. Maybe they couldn’t come to terms on the length of the contract. All that would be sheer guessing on my part.
Usually when two parties show interest and hold an interview, and more than a week goes by — as it did in the case of Guidry, a job is taken and a change takes place.
This one went against the norm, which McNeese should be thankful for.
Rick Sarro’s perspectives and commentary can be heard on Soundoff 60 nightly, Monday through Sunday evenings, at 9 pm; broadcast on Suddenlink channel 4.