11/15 - ASU has age-old question - East Valley Tribune: Sports

11/15 - ASU has age-old question

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Posted: Friday, November 14, 2003 11:13 pm | Updated: 1:58 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

When Dirk Koetter announced he was bringing all but one of his Boise State coaches to Arizona State, questions arose within the ASU football community about the staff's youth and experience.

In generally reviewing what the new coach had planned for the program, ASU athletic director Gene Smith discussed Koetter's plans for his staff. Koetter responded that he was confident in the group he was bringing with him.

Now, with Koetter about to conclude his third season with a losing overall record at ASU — he's 16-19 with two games remaining this year — those questions are surfacing again.

Is the staff too young? Is it lacking in overall football experience to match up with other Pac-10 schools? Are the coaches established enough to successfully recruit? Do they know what it takes to win in the highly competitive Pac-10?

When a team that was three points away from being the preseason Pac-10 favorite is residing in the basement in mid-November, all aspects of the program are being scrutinized.

"What people are questioning is 100 percent right," Smith said. "We'll have to look in the mirror at the end of the season."

Fans clamor for change.

Perhaps it should be noted there was a shake-up of Bruce Snyder's staff following a 3-8 record in his third season, his first losing.

Koetter has already endured a losing season, and he'll need victories today at eighth-ranked Washington State (8-2, 5-1 Pac-10) and Arizona on Thanksgiving Friday just to break even this year.

Snyder fired defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who was having difficulties with the players. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli resigned in protest.

Wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell took a better job, and quarterbacks coach Dan Henson also left.

The result was four new coaches on a nine-man staff.

Are similar changes forthcoming at ASU?

Smith said it was too early to discuss that.

"I'm allowing this staff to move forward with its plan," he said.

The losing season finally getting to him, Koetter gave a passionate defense of his staff before Thursday's practice.

Asked what it was he liked about the group and what its strengths were, he said, "Loyalty."

"My guys are my guys. Those guys are the reason I got here," he said. "They're part of the reason I got from where I was at to where I am now. Those guys are loyal to me, and I was loyal to them."

Koetter, who personally monitors ASU Internet chat rooms, responded to the criticism of his staff.

"A lot has been said about the youth of our staff," he said. "I would say take a look at how old Oklahoma's staff is."

The Tribune did just that.

The average age of the Oklahoma staff, including 43-year-old head coach Bob Stoops, is 39.8 years.

The average age of the Arizona State staff, including the 44-year-old Koetter, is 38.6 years. The age range is 30 to 45.

However, the range in age for Oklahoma's staff is 31 to 53. Additionally, Stoops' director of football operations is 67-year-old Merv Johnson, who coached NCAA Division I-A football for 38 years at Missouri, Arkansas, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.

One of the criticisms of Koetter's staff is he has no veteran adviser familiar with winning at the highest level of college football.

"I didn't think about youth," Koetter said. "Those are my guys, OK? So I was named head coach of Arizona State. What was I supposed to do, ditch all my guys and hire a bunch of 60-year-olds? That (age) didn't even enter my mind. My guys are my guys. Enough said about that."

For the sake of conversation, the Tribune queried several new Pac-10 coaches on their thoughts of putting a staff together.

It should be pointed out that Koetter was the only one who was running his own program and thus had the option of bringing a group of people he was already working with.

Coaches such as Jeff Tedford at California, Dorrell at UCLA and Buddy Teevens at Stanford were assistants when they were hired at their respective schools.

Coaches had different opinions of staff makeup. Some had a general idea of what they were looking for, while others were more specific.

Cal's Tedford has a staff that averages 38.8 years. The age range is 27 to 52.

Tedford's second Cal staff got younger when Justin Wilcox, 27, replaced 60-year-old Bob Foster. Foster, who worked at Oregon with Tedford, was brought in to help start the program. "I thought he brought a nice balance," Tedford said of Foster.

But, "I really didn't look at the age of people, just guys that I knew were good football guys, were going to work hard that could recruit," added Tedford, who has proven his coaching mettle in two seasons in Strawberry Canyon.

The only vision Tedford had was that he wasn't looking for the old-school type coach.

"I wanted good guys who are great coaches and teachers that can communicate with players. Not a bunch of yellers and screamers," he said. "I didn't want anyone with hidden agendas, but who just wanted to work hard and to be successful."

The youngest coach in the conference, Dorrell, 40, specifically wanted a battle-tested staff.

The ages on Dorrell's staff range from 32 to 55.

"I wanted a balance of different viewpoints . . . from a coaching standpoint, from a former head coaching standpoint, from a coordinator-ship standpoint," Dorrell said. "I wanted coaches that have a strong affinity to build relationships with the players, not just on the field, but off the field as well."

Oregon State's Mike Riley had to put together a second Beavers staff after his original one scattered following his unsuccessful tenure as coach of the San Diego Chargers.

"I didn't really say I was going to get some old guys, some young guys," said Riley, “but that's how it turned out. One that's older than me I've coached with it seems like forever. I do like the fact we have a wide variety of ages. I think the balance is great."

Oregon State is unique among Pac-10 staffs because of Riley's background in the NFL and CFL. He and his staff have logged 58 seasons in three pro leagues.

All but two of the Beavers' 10-man staff have coached in the Pac-10.

"That's a bonus for me in that most of my background is in the Pac-10 and the West Coast," said Riley, 50, whose staff ranges in age from 27 to 61. "Originally, the guys I started working with weren't West Coast guys. But they became West Coast guys and established recruiting contacts six years ago."

Again, Koetter indicated he did what he was supposed to do.

"The same people who are talking about (Boise State's) Dan Hawkins being the greatest coach in America right now, when he moves on and takes whatever job he's going to take, you think he's going to take his guys with him, or hire all new ones?" Koetter said.

Smith, who has been speaking with Koetter frequently in recent weeks, said he will review all aspects of the program at season's end as he always does.

"People will be concerned about what will be done to change to get it going in the other direction," Smith acknowledged. "Everything involved with the program will be dissected. When it's all said and done, what do we do to make it right? What changes will we need to make?"

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