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Rolling the dice on Alex Golesh may be USF’s best bet

John Romano | There are bigger names and more impressive resumes but Alex Golesh has a lot of the qualities a program such as USF craves.
Alex Golesh did not have a lot of name recognition before becoming Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2021, but his reputation in coaching circles has been unquestioned as he has moved from job to job.
Alex Golesh did not have a lot of name recognition before becoming Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2021, but his reputation in coaching circles has been unquestioned as he has moved from job to job. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Dec. 4, 2022|Updated Dec. 6, 2022

TAMPA — People who have worked with Alex Golesh seem to love him. When you wonder why USF hired another coordinator to be head football coach, that’s important to remember.

A succession of schools also put Golesh in charge of their recruiting efforts at a fairly young age. That, too, is a consideration if you have questions about his resume.

And a lot of people quickly tied him to Cincinnati, a school with a recent string of top-25 finishes, as a potential candidate for head coach, which is not bad company to keep.

The point, as you might guess, is that Golesh is not a splashy, sexy hire.

He’s not Deion Sanders. He’s not Jon Gruden or Jamey Chadwell or Matt Rhule or any of the other fantasy choices that have popped up and disappeared on social media.

If you want to compare him in a damning way to Jeff Scott, that’s a fair point to make. He’s a lifelong assistant whose offensive acumen is inextricably tied to a high-profile head coach.

So, yes, USF is taking a gamble here. The Bulls are making a bit of a reach.

They are putting their future in the hands of a 38 year old who has never been a head coach at any level and does not have the name recognition to instantly entice boosters to spend more money on a stadium or for recruits to immediately move USF to the top of their lists.

But I would prefer a gamble to a fantasy (Sanders) or a retread taking a step down in conferences (Manny Diaz and Tom Allen) or the momentary rush of a headline (Gruden or Jim Leavitt).

Related: 5 thoughts on USF hiring Alex Golesh as Bulls’ football coach

Essentially, USF athletic director Michael Kelly is willing to deal with short-term accusations that he did not aim high enough in exchange for a coach he believes is a long-term solution.

Let’s face it, fans would be more excited about Golesh if Scott had never been in charge of the sideline at Raymond James Stadium.

That’s the real problem here. Golesh is exactly the type of up-and-coming assistant coach that an aspiring program in a Group of Five conference should be seeking.

Except, three years ago, Scott also looked like that type of coach. And while he did a lot to restore a sense of purpose in the USF football offices, he was a complete flop on the scoreboard.

That means a lot of people are going to look at Golesh as another potential swing-and-miss.

And maybe that’s how it will turn out.

USF certainly has its challenges as a football team. A school with no campus stadium that has historically depended on a commuter student population in a market with three major professional teams in a state with several other higher-profile programs. That’s a lot to overcome.

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But that’s also why the Bulls would be better served by a young, enthusiastic, motivated candidate who is as eager to make a name for himself as a coach as USF is as a program.

If you’re fixated on the idea that Golesh, like Scott, has never been a head coach, then you should also think about this:

Kirby Smart had never been a head coach when he went to Georgia. Lincoln Riley had never been a head coach before taking over Oklahoma. Josh Heupel had never been a head coach before he was hired at UCF. Jimbo Fisher had never been a head coach before he was promoted at Florida State.

And the list goes on and on.

There is risk involved when giving a coach a fresh opportunity, but that risk is mitigated when the person has energy and charisma in abundance, as associates say about Golesh. And that risk is mitigated when the person has been through rebuilds in other programs like Golesh has.

Now, would it have been safer to hire a successful head coach from a smaller program like Chadwell at Coastal Carolina or Sanders at Jackson State?

Yeah, it might have been. And Kelly did spend time talking to Chadwell, as well as Sanders. But Liberty was about to offer Chadwell a ton of money and Sanders was on the radar of Power Five schools so USF was fighting an uphill battle in those situations.

The bottom line is there are no guarantees here. The NCAA record book is littered with the names of coaches who were feted at their introductory news conferences and never reached the end of their contracts.

So, is Golesh a bigger gamble than some others?

You’re darn right he is.

But, for a program eager to grow, that’s how you win big.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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