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For some coaches, a college job can be a better workplace than the NFL

All things being equal, give me the boolah-boolah.

Even when you consider the risk of getting hit in the eye by a Frisbee, give me that stroll across campus in springtime.

Given the right opportunity, let me go back to college.

This feeling isn't unusual. Most people I know would love to go back to school. Life was prettier. There was less pressure. Life was, well, younger. The days did not seem quite as mean, and the world did not seem quite as ruthless.

Turns out, Charlie Weis feels that way, too.

And Dan Quinn.

And more and more, a lot of football coaches.

Perhaps this is the answer to the riddle of what appears to be a sideways move by Weis. Now, most Florida fans seem to be delighted at the prospect of Weis as their offensive coordinator, and after watching a season of headless quarterbacking, who can blame them? Even after his failure at Notre Dame, Weis has enough Super Bowl rings to dazzle whichever quarterback recruit the Gators might desire. He ought to do just fine.

Still, there are those who wonder about the Whys of Weis. Why would a guy who was the offensive coordinator for Kansas City's playoff-bound NFL team trade in that job to be the offensive coordinator of a college team? Why would Weis stuff his ego — no, ego isn't a bad thing, and besides, Florida fans have seen one or two up close before — into a moving van and leave the big time behind?

Maybe it's because of where he's going (to a fresh start). Maybe it's because of where he has been (away from Chiefs coach Todd Haley). And maybe it's this: If an assistant coach can get in the right situation, a college job can be a much, much better workplace than the NFL.

Like the rest of us, coaches are conditioned not to think so. Everything in college about football seems to be a climb toward the NFL. Every player, from the freshman star to the walk-on who can't figure out how to snap his chin strap, thinks about the NFL a mandatory six hours a day. Every coach, too. In football, that's the way the traffic flows.

Coach in college? Egad, that's where all the homework is.

Lately, however, coaches seem less inclined to think of college coaching as something less. It's fairly common to see a coach moving back to campus — Monte Kiffin (the ex-Bucs defensive coordinator at USC), Joe Barry (the ex-Bucs linebackers coach at USC), Ron Turner (the ex-Bears offensive coordinator at Stanford), Willy Robinson (the ex-49ers defensive coordinator at Arkansas). For instance, Quinn, the new Florida defensive coordinator, has worked for four NFL teams over the past decade. Even Will Muschamp, the Gators' new head coach, returned to college after a taste of the NFL.

So what's the lure? (Besides, of course, that Animal House was much more fun than Any Given Sunday.)

Lifestyle, for one. The NFL has become a 13-months-a-year profession, with the predraft and the postdraft and the organized training and the offseason program. Vacation time is usually from 2 to 4 p.m. on the third Tuesday of June. Unless, of course, something comes up.

College? Yes, there is recruiting, and the act of persuading an 18-year-old who thinks he knows everything to come on board can be distasteful. But it's over fairly quickly. Yes, you have to nod when some booster tells you why the team needs to run more double reverses. Also, there is spring practice.

On the other hand, there is an offseason. It's shorter than most think, but it's there.

Then there is this: With the right program, a good assistant can put down roots. College is still a place where a coach can gain advantages on the opposition in terms of recruiting, facilities and scheduling. The NFL is a place where the head coach might get fired in two years or less. It happened this year to Josh McDaniels, Mike Singletary and Eric Mangini. In the NFL, a coach has the moving vans on speed dial.

Besides, in the SEC, a coach can pretty much be sure there will be a season next year. That's not true in the NFL, where there reportedly have been discussions that assistant coaches might be asked to take a large cut in pay if there is no 2011 season. Yeah, like a work stoppage would be their fault.

Also, there is the money.

A key reason the NFL used to have it all over college coaching was it had more zeroes on its paychecks. That isn't always true anymore. A recent survey by USA Today said 106 assistant coaches — 51 in the SEC — made more than $250,000. The SEC has four defensive coordinators making $700,000 or more. Auburn just agreed to pay its offensive coordinator $1.3 million per season. In other words, college football isn't just about two bits anymore.

Most of all, it's lifestyle. It's the comfort level. Some head coaches — Joe Paterno, Steve Spurrier, Butch Davis, Lou Holtz — were always a better fit in college. Some assistants seem to be, too.

Perhaps this is the attraction for Weis. Why else? I'm not sure being the offensive coordinator at Florida is going to make him a better candidate for, say, the Boston College job or the Colorado job than if he had stayed with the Chiefs.

The talk of friction between Weis and Haley persists. Haley, after all, can be abrasive. But for crying out loud, Weis worked with Bill Belichick. Who's more abrasive than him? I'd bet getting Haley's fingers out of his playbook was part of Weis' motivation to leave, but probably not all of it.

Weis has said he wants to spend more time with his son, who will be a graduate assistant at Florida. Couple that with being the guy in charge of touchdowns for the Gators and it isn't a bad way to make a good check.

Will this work? And if it does, will it last? Will Weis be able to score often enough — as in almost every time the Gators have the ball — to please a fan base that is chocked full of offensive coordinators?

We'll see.

For now, the Weis move looks like a wise move.

Welcome, Charlie. Have fun at Gator Growl.

For some coaches, a college job can be a better workplace than the NFL 01/04/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 9:30pm]
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