Troy Calhoun is the favorite, or at least near the top of the list, for many Gopher fans. He has good offensive experience and I'd find it hard to believe that anybody being considered a candidate has done more with less than Calhoun.
Playing and Coaching Career
1985-88 - Quarterback at Air Force Academy
- 1989-94 - Air Force Academy (ast)
- 1995-2001 - Ohio (QB and OC)
2001-03 - Wake Forest (OC)
- 2003-05 - Denver Broncos (ast)
- 2006 - Houston Texans (OC)
- 2007-present - Air Force Academy (HC)
Calhoun has a nice mix of coordinator experience at the college and pro level to go along with a few years of being a head coach. Experience is solid.
Why He Fits
I said it in my lead, but find me someone out there who has accomplished more with less than Troy Calhoun. Has he won a national championship or even a Mountain West Conference Title? Well no, I'm kind of giving him credit for doing really well without actually winning anything significant. But consider the fact that the Air Force Academy is one of the most difficult schools in the country to get admitted to. Fewer than one in 50 get admitted and that is just the general student population. Academic standards are incredibly high but that is just the beginning. There are athletic standards (which shouldn't be too difficult for a football player) and there are character standards. And finally you have to get around the whole committing to the Air Force for a few years after your four years in Colorado Springs.
So take your average high school football player. He first has to be a kid who has D1 talent. That player also has to smart, not just kind of smart but at the top of his class smart. Then he has to be a kid of high character who can get references from community leaders and possibly government representatives. Then he has to be even slightly interested in attending a service academy and give years of his life to the Air Force when finished with his undergrad. And then if he gets admitted he is able to compete as a Fighting Falcon. It is amazing that AFA is even able to field a football team. But they do not just show up, they compete in the best non-BCS conference and have succeeded.
Troy Calhoun has challenges. If Glen Mason thought there were recruiting challenges in Minnesota he should spend a season in Colorado Springs. But I'm still not finished with the challenges of coaching at a service academy. The Academy also has specific height and weight standards that are not to be exceeded. So imagine trying to field a football team but not allowed to bring in players above a certain height and weight. Their Wiki page points out they do what they can to work around the weight restrictions.
Given the physical restrictions that military service puts on cadets, Air Force football has traditionally been based more on speed, willpower and technical execution than on pure size and strength. The Falcons have traditionally run a triple option offense, and have routinely competed favorably against bigger and stronger national opponents.
One would expect that Air Force would be at a significant competitive disadvantage in a very good Mountain West Conference that has been fielding BCS Bowl teams over the last few years. While Calhoun has not managed a conference title his Fighting Falcons have been ranked and fared very well in the MWC finishing no worse than 5-3 in his first three seasons. Nobody knows the MWC better than Jeremy from the Mountain West Connection...
He has been stuck as the third or fourth best coach in the league record-wise behind TCU's Gary Patterson, BYU's Bronco Mendenhall, and Utah's Kyle Whittingham. However, he has done more with less then any team in the league. The Academy has weight restrictions which can hurt the team along the offensive and defensive lines, and can cause the team to wear down at the end of the season. Everyone knows his style is to run the triple option, but the passing game has been used a bit more and that is partly because they have Tim Jefferson who can throw the ball and it can create big plays when the option lulls the safeties to sleep.
So far as I re-read what I've typed it looks like my justification for why Calhoun would be a good fit is because he has a lot of challenges at Air Force. But the reason he fits is that he has been successful in spite of these challenges. A winning record in a solid conference with significant road blocks to success is a recipe for a good coach. Calhoun has had the experience as a coordinator both at a BCS school and in the NFL. He then has had just a few years as a head coach but has been rather successful with a .638 win %.
He has good experience, he has proven he can win and most importantly he has proven he can win in spite of significant challenges most coaches do not have to face.
Why He May Not Fit
First and foremost, Calhoun is an Air Force Academy graduate. Secondly if he is possibly going to leave AFA, there is a strong likelihood that Colorado's job will be opening up and he'll make the move to Bolder. If Minnesota is his only BCS job offer, there is a chance that he'd take it. If he has options and one of them is just a few hours from his current home, I think we are left out in the cold. This really isn't a reason why he may not "fit" but it is certainly a reason why he may never end up here.
While faring well in the MWC, Calhoun has yet to upset the apple cart and knock off a ranked conference opponent. In his three years in the MWC the Fighting Falcons are just 2-8 against the MWC's big three of TCU, Utah and BYU. The two wins came back in 2007 when neither team was ranked. This isn't to say that he hasn't done well and he hasn't done more with less, but I'm just pointing out that he hasn't exactly been the class of the MWC. Truth be told I'm not concerned about his record vs. the TCUs and Utahs of the world. There are a lot of BCS programs who would consistently finish 3rd or 4th in the MWC. I'm just trying to come up with a reason (however small it may be) why he wouldn't be the home run hire that we all desire.
Experience - B+
Proven Winner - B+
Minn/B10 Ties - C+
Recruiting - n/a
A common knock on Calhoun is that some Gopher fans do not want to see the triple-option offense run at TCF Bank Stadium. Most of us believe that this would not be the case and there is no doubt that Calhoun is capable of implementing an alternative offense. As an offensive coordinator at Wake Forest and in the NFL for Houston Calhoun did not run the option and he was successful. So the option doesn't concern me because I doubt it would be utilized here and even if it were then let's go with it. Georgia Tech rode a version of the triple-option to a BCS game last year.
Calhoun falls into the non-sexy candidate group but that doesn't mean he wouldn't be a great hire. The kill-shot hires like Leach, Harbaugh, Peterson, Patterson, etc are the ones we'd all get very excited about. The next group of candidates are guys who would be very solid hires since we are still dreaming they are considered second tier guys. Golden, Calhoun, Hoke and Sumlin would all be excellent choices. Of this group I think I like Calhoun the best. He competes in a better league than Golden or Sumlin and has the highest win% of any of them in spite of having a MUCH smaller pool of athletes to choose from. It won't be long and those dream candidates will fade away then these guys who are currently being considered second tier (or 1-A) will be the ones we hope end up in Dinkytown.
I like his experience as a coordinator at a BCS program, a coordinator in the NFL and a head coach in the best non-BCS league. While at Wake his offense led the ACC in total offense and his statistical success at Houston isn't very compelling it should be noted that he was forced to work with David Carr in the final year of that experiment. And his primary running back was Ron Dayne, so it wasn't like he was working with anything more than mediocre talent.
The biggest question mark is whether or not he'd come here. I'm sure Maturi and the Parker search firm are scouring the back channels for an uber high-profile candidate of the Tubby Smith ilk. Once those avenues are exhausted I sincerely hope he makes a call to Colorado Springs to not only gauge Calhoun's interest but to convince him that Minnesota is the right place for him to land.
Interview with Denver Post prior to this season.
- Colorado Springs Gazette on Calhoun and Air Force being ranked this year.