When Dirk Koetter and Greg Schiano lead their respective teams in the Insight Bowl on Tuesday, the two will engage in a coaching chess match that figures to be more intense than the average one.
That is because, when Arizona State is on offense and Rutgers is on defense, they can move many of the pieces themselves. Koetter, ASU’s head coach, doubles as offensive coordinator, Schiano of Rutgers is his own defensive coordinator.
The two are part of a small but growing fraternity in college football — head coaches who also coordinate the offense or defense. This season, 19 of the 119 Division I-A coaches pulled such double duty, up from two a decade ago.
"It’s something that I do because I’ve always coached offensive football, and I’m passionate about it," Koetter said. "Some coaches do it to keep the hands-on control or streamline their staff. I’m sure those are the benefits to it, but I do it mostly because I like it."
A big reason for the rise in dual coaches-coordinators is the increased emphasis on offense in college football over the last 20 years. Some new coaches — including Koetter when he took over Boise State’s program in 1998 — prefer to continue oversight of the offense that made them hot commodities as coordinators.
Fourteen of the 19 doubleduty coaches are offensive coordinators.
"Many of us got hired as offensive coordinators and want to keep the job as head coach," Texas Tech’s Mike Leach said. "Everybody wants to be a head coach, and some still want to keep coaching in the pure sense of it (as a coordinator)."
The dual responsibilities mean lots of hours of work. In addition to the game-planning, meeting-running and playcalling chores of coordinators, there are the program oversight, staff administration and public-relations duties as a head coach.
Schiano — who took over the defensive coordinator duties this season after Paul Ferraro took a job as specialteams assistant with the Carolina Panthers — said it took time to adjust to the additional workload.
"There was no way I could have done it in the first four years, while I was trying to build this program," Schiano said. "But the faith I have in our coaching staff and the maturity of our players, I felt, was something that made the decision easier.
"I didn’t think it was time for a transition to a new coordinator. I thought it was time to keep what we had going."
During games, Schiano calls the defensive plays and relays information to players through his defensive assistants. He said he rarely meets with his defense at the bench because he must keep his focus on the field when the offense is on it.
Ryan Neill, a senior defensive end and the leader of the defense, said the unit communicates more efficiently with Schiano running things.
"Coach Schiano was involved in the defense when he was just the coach," Neill said. "Obviously, everything done was approved through him. Now, he tells me exactly what he wants out of our defense, and I am the voice to the players."
Still, the time demands are a big reason some coaches who assume a coordinator’s role later relinquish it.
Frank Solich gave up the offensive coordinator duties while coaching at Nebraska, and he hired an OC when he took over the Ohio program before this season. Chris Scelfo no longer coordinates the offense at Tulane.
Bronco Mendenhall of Brigham Young remained the defensive coordinator after being promoted to head coach before this year, and he said he "underestimated" the demands of both duties. But he plans to keep them.
"It was hard to have consistent blocks of time for each job," Mendenhall said. "It was difficult on game day to focus on defense and also manage a game. It’s been a challenge, but I wouldn’t have changed it."
In recent seasons, Koetter delegated some of the offensive coordinator responsibilities to ASU quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich and offensive line coach Brent Myers. He gave them titles of passing-game and runninggame coordinator, respectively.
"I think the time issue of doing both jobs — in my case, at least — is made out to be a little bit more than it really is," Koetter said.
Koetter attends the offensive meetings each day, but Helfrich and Myers run them. During games, Koetter has been ceding more and more of the play-calling responsibilities to Helfrich, though, of course, he reserves the right to overrule at any time.
"When I was backup to Andrew (Walter), I’d stand next to Coach Koetter, and he’d be talking into his headset, debating with Coach Helfrich about what play to run," Sun Devils quarterback Sam Keller said. "I’d say a good portion of the play-calling this season came from Coach Helfrich.
"Coach Koetter has a lot of faith in him, seeing it from up in the booth and being so diligent about setting up the game plan, setting up for three or four plays down the line. They think alike, so there has been a lot of good interaction between them."
After handling many of the offensive coordinator chores for ASU, Helfrich is getting the job for real. After the Insight Bowl, he will join Dan Hawkins’ staff at Colorado and run the offense.
"All those job titles can be just words sometimes," Helfrich said. "We have done a lot of collaborative stuff here, so I think I’ve been in that offensive coordinator role, per se, for a little while. And I think that will help me hit the ground running for this new job."
Considering he will have a new quarterbacks coach next year, it is possible Koetter will resume true double coachcoordinator duties. He suggested his 2006 role will depend on the hire.
"If we do not find the right guy, I’ll do the whole (QB coach) job myself," Koetter said, smiling. "I’m sure Sam and Rudy (Carpenter) will love that."
Doing double duty
The 19 Division I-A head coaches
this season who also are listed as a coordinator:
Art Briles, Houston offense Pete Carroll, USC defense Tom Craft, San Diego St. offense Walt Harris, Stanford offense Jim Hofher, Buffalo offense Nick Holt, Idaho defense June Jones, Hawaii offense Brian Kelly, C. Michigan offense Dirk Koetter, ASU offense Mike Leach, Texas Tech offense Doug Martin, Kent State offense Bronco Mendenhall, BYU defense Shane Montgomery, Miami (Ohio)offense Hal Mumme, N.M. State offense Houston Nutt, Arkansas offense Ed Orgeron, Mississippi defense Greg Robinson, Syracuse defense Greg Schiano, Rutgers defense Steve Spurrier, S. Carolina offense