JSU could hire new football coach quickly
by Al Muskewitz
Dec 03, 2012 | 8333 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — The pursuit of Jacksonville State’s next head football coach may not take as long as previous coaching searches at the university.

President Bill Meehan said Monday JSU is no longer bound by the consent decree that prolonged coaching searches in the past and said the school was considering using “an external agency” to help in the process.

The Gamecocks fired football coach Jack Crowe after 13 seasons Friday with two years left on his $160,000-plus annual contract, sparking what athletics director Warren Koegel called “a lot of interest” in a job that has yet to be posted.

“It could be done quickly,” Meehan said. “We’re thinking about using an external agency at this point. There are a variety of folks who do that. I’ll be looking (for Koegel) to make a recommendation.”

Koegel said Monday school officials were still talking about hiring an outside firm or forming an internal search committee.

“We are weighing all those kinds of things right now,” he said.

He declined to comment on the potential benefits of hiring an outside firm.

In the past, JSU coaching searches were drawn-out processes. It might have been two days after the 1999 season ended that Crowe was introduced as the Gamecocks’ football coach, but it was done 49 days after Mike Williams walked away in the middle of the season. It took 54 days in 2000 from the time former basketball coach Mark Turgeon left for Wichita State and Mike LaPlante was named as his replacement, and 47 days in 2008 from LaPlante’s ouster and current coach James Green’s hiring.

The lengthy delay at JSU goes back to a consent decree it entered into with several other Alabama four-year colleges in 1985 to resolve their part in the 1983 Knight v. State of Alabama federal discrimination lawsuit. Under the terms of the decree, JSU had to establish a process for advertising and filling positions.

The university got out from under the decree in December 2006.

Koegel clarified his Friday statement about not having a list of potential candidates saying he didn’t have “a name in my back pocket I already wanted to hire.” He declined to offer his preferred background for the next coach.

“I’m talking to everybody,” he said. “I’m going to listen to everybody.”

Koegel said he already has received “a bunch” of inquiries about the job he declined to identify.

Two names picking up a lot of traction among the fan base are South Alabama assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Bill Clark and Hoover High School coach Josh Niblett.

Both have JSU connections. Clark was born in Anniston and is a 1990 JSU grad. Niblett was a former JSU assistant before enjoying success as a high school coach at Oneonta, Oxford and, now, Hoover, which plays in the AHSAA Class 6A title game Friday night.

Clark confirmed his interest in the JSU job to The Star Monday.

“I have not talked to anyone (in an official capacity),” Clark said. “I’ve had a lot of people who played at (JSU) and have been involved call me. Of course I’m interested. That’s my alma mater. My family still lives in the area.”

He said he talked with USA head coach Joey Jones about the opening after Saturday’s game in Hawaii, but told Jones he wouldn’t pursue it until speaking to him. He is expected to inquire this week.

“I don’t know what their interest is,” Clark said.

Clark, 44, was Prattville’s head coach for from 1999 to 2007 — going 106-11 and winning state titles his last two years — before joining Jones to start up USA’s program. The Jaguars went undefeated in their first two fledging seasons and now play in the Sun Belt Conference. If the Jags had full FBS membership this season, they would have ranked in the top 50 in total defense and pass defense. In 2011, still on the FCS level, they were ranked 16th in total defense and 10th against the pass.

“At Prattville we were probably more college than a lot of small colleges,” he said. “I can say I’ve seen the whole gamut from 3A (high school) to going Division I; I’ve basically seen it all. I kind of know what the (FCS) landscape looks like. I know what (FBS) looks like. You are what your experiences are. That’s definitely going to help.”

Niblett, 40, called it “flattering” to have his name connected to the JSU job, but he hasn’t had any contact related to the job. He said an acquaintance made him aware of his buzz in cyberspace, but he’s had little time to think about it.

“Right now I’m focused on winning this football game,” he said.

Niblett is 133-38 in 13 years as a high school coach — the same tenure as Crowe at JSU — and has gotten Hoover to the state title game all five years he’s been at the school. He said he enjoys coaching on the high school level and any consideration of moving up — he had a chance to stay in college coaching after JSU — would be a family decision.

“I just love the pureness of football and I love being a football coach; that’s what I love to do,” he said. “I love to mentor kids, I love to nurture kids, and I think college kind of restricts you in being able to do that because of the 21-hour rule and how much time you can spend with them.

“Coaching is a ministry to me. I want to have an impact on people’s lives through coaching. Right now I’m very happy where we’re at. It’s flattering (to be in the conversation), but there’s nothing to talk about; I’ve not heard anything. I don’t even know if I’d be interested. To be honest, all my focus is on what we’re doing here (this week).”

Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.

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