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Sports take: Coaches display class with committment to schools

Jan. 20, 2010

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Baylor head coach Art Briles was courted by the Texas Tech University administration to return to the Red Raiders, this time as the head coach. Briles reaffirmed his commitment to Baylor during the winter break.
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McClatchy News
University of Texas defensive coordinator was reportedly offered a "lucrative" deal to leave the Longhorns and become the University of Tennessee head coach. Muschamp refused the offer.
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McClatchy News
Duke University head coach David Cutliffe was offered the head coaching position at the University of Tennessee. Cutliffe declined the offer, citing his heart was with the Blue Devils.

By Matt Larsen

Rick Stockstill. David Cutliffe. Will Muschamp. Art Briles.

These college football coaches won't be found all over the front pages of sports sections or dominating news channel airwaves. They are not the featured video clips on ESPN.com, nor are they stealing time away from Brett Favre and Lebron James in the SportsCenter highlights.

However, mention the names Chip Kelly, Lane Kiffin and Pete Carroll to an average sports fan and he or she could probably tell you why they have made headlines in the last two months.

Kelly was the first of the trio to accept a head coaching position (Notre Dame) and Carroll's departure from USC for the NFL provided Kiffin the chance to jump into the Los Angeles starlight as the Trojans' new coach.

While Kelly, Kiffin and Carroll are connected by their decisions to take more prominent, potentially higher-paying jobs, the commonality between Stockstill, Cutliffe, Muschamp and Briles lies in their refusal to take or pursue those big-time jobs.

Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee's head coach, displayed his loyalty to the Blue Raiders program by declining the head job at East Carolina.

David Cutliffe chose to stay at Duke and continue to build on the foundation he has started.

"I have a lot of ties and a lot of people that I'm very close to, and a lot of respect for the University of Tennessee," he told ESPN.com. "But my heart is here. We've worked very hard these two years to change the culture, to change the team physically.

"You feel like the job's not done, and in this era, it bothers me, what we do as coaches, moving here and there. This is mid-January. Nothing about that felt right to me as a person."

Sure, one can argue that he is just spouting words, and that he simply wasn't offered enough money. Yet, if that was the case it could not have been because Tennessee had any shortage of funds.

Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator at the University of Texas, turned down a "lucrative" offer from the Vols according the ESPN.com. Muschamp chose to remain the Longhorns' contractual coach in waiting.

And then there is Art Briles.

As former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach involuntarily exited Lubbock, Briles' name arose as a potential replacement for Leach.

Briles' history as Tech's running back coach, his success at the University of Houston and at Baylor and his experience as a high school coach at a number of West Texas schools fueled talks that he could be headed back to Lubbock.

However, as Stockstill, Cutliffe and Muschamp, Briles did not see the opening as an opportunity to take a big-time coaching position at an established program. Rather, he chose to see his current job as a greater opportunity.

"I am proud to be a Baylor Bear," Briles said. "And remain committed to making this program a source of pride for the Baylor family. I feel good about the direction of our program and the foundation that has been built for future success.

"Our coaching staff is excited to finish this recruiting class strong and start preparations for the 2010 season."

Of course it is understood that someone must eventually fill vacant coaching positions, and it is virtually inevitable that he must leave another program in order to do that. I am not out to bash the decisions made by Kelly, Kiffin and Carroll.

There are many factors that play into a decision to take a coaching job, and it is far from my place to condemn their choices.

Rather, my goal is to call attention to the coaches who saw an opportunity to set a new precedent.

As the trend to work oneself up the coaching ladder so often makes the news, the coaches who choose to remain committed to their programs send the message that opportunity is not always moving on and moving up.

Briles, among these, sends a message of dedication and perseverance consistent with what he preaches to his players that seeks to redefine opportunity in the world of college football.

Matt Larsen is a sophomore journalism major from Katy.