TERRE HAUTE —
Do you want to know who’s on the short list to become Indiana State next football coach?
Ask ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman. Actually, you can ask, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to tell you.
Certainly, he wasn’t going to blab the candidates to yours truly, but the search continues apace for the Sycamores’ next football coach.
When reached on Sunday, Prettyman was driving to talk to — ha! — only he knows. But the search is narrowing in on specific targets — five finalists, according to Prettyman — and while Prettyman is vague about who those targets are he’s happy with where his search is taking him.
“We’re getting closer. We’ve got it narrowed down to five people. I’m doing all of the follow-up and I’m visiting as many people as I can to make sure we have the right person to lead our program to where we want it to be,” Prettyman said.
And who is that right person? Prettyman won’t say. When asked who the five finalists were, Prettyman declined out of respect for the fact that some of them are under contract and that some have teams that are still playing in either the postseason or a bowl game.
Prettyman was asked what tied together the five finalists.
“They’re men of great character with experience leading young men and people,” he said.
Fair enough. But as the man in charge of keeping ISU’s football momentum going, what’s a common theme that he expects to see/hear from his candidates?
“Everyone has done great homework on this job. I’ve driven home the point that we’re not satisfied with where we are right now. I’ve made every effort for them to convince me that we can achieve a conference championship and national championship here,” Prettyman said.
“They’re all trying to put their best foot forward, so they’re telling me what I want to hear to an extent, but its been a unique mix of humility and strong self-confidence among all of them and its something I admire,” he added.
Since Trent Miles announced his move to Georgia State on Nov. 30, a significant portion of the 2012 ISU coaching staff has either followed Miles to Georgia State or taken a job elsewhere.
Jesse Minter (defensive coordinator), Harold Etheridge (offensive coordinator), Shannon Jackson (defensive line) and P.J. Volker (linebackers/recruiting) all followed Miles to Atlanta. Ronnie Lee (special teams) took a job at Idaho.
Coaches that remain under contract from the 2012 staff are Dave Telford (quarterbacks), Eric Brown (outside linebackers) and Mike Mickens (cornerbacks). Wide receivers coach Steve Watson’s contract ran out at the end of the season, but he could return.
“They’re working with the returning student-athletes and getting them ready for finals. They’ve stayed in communication with recruits,” Prettyman said.
At this stage of the game, the timeline is one of the most important factors regarding a football hire. Though this week is a dead week for recruiting in football, the longer ISU waits to make a hire, the more it puts itself behind the 8-ball in terms of recruiting before football signing day on Feb. 6.
“It is my goal to finish this before Christmas. It could happen a lot sooner. Right now, I have no intention for it to go past that,” Prettyman said.
• When the new man is hired … — Since Miles departed, I’ve heard a lot of input from fans on how ISU should approach replacing Miles, who was beloved by most in the community.
(Though I’ve had a minority of readers who have expressed distaste with how Miles left ISU.)
One of the reasons Miles was beloved was because he’s a Hautean and because he was so good at reaching out to those in the community. I’ve had it put to me that Miles was so good at it that he can’t be replaced, and that whoever does replace him, has a hill to climb to maintain or even regain community support.
No doubt Miles was great at the public relations aspect of his job. He’d have been good at it whether he was a Hautean or not. He’ll be good at it in Atlanta too.
And there’s also no doubt that ISU can’t hire a coach who doesn’t understand that his job involves selling his program to the community. This is FCS football after all. Nothing comes easy when there’s three Division I programs within two hours’ drive. The new Sycamores’ boss can’t be an insular, football 24/7, addicted to X’s and O’s type who doesn’t understand the greater world around him. That would set ISU football back because it needs a public face the public enjoys and trusts.
But I dismiss the notion that it’s 100 percent on the head of the new coach to maintain or regain community support. That ought to be a two-way street. As much as the new coach has to have his door open to the community, the community needs to have its doors open to him … and its minds too.
I’ve always been the type of person who gave someone the benefit of the doubt until they did me wrong. I think Terre Haute’s reaction to whomever is ISU’s next football coach ought to be handled in the same spirit.
It doesn’t mean that the new coach can’t be scrutinized or even questioned whether he’s the right man for the job, but it’s not completely about that in the grander scheme of where ISU’s football program is.
At this stage of the game, after the football program has been put back on solid footing, support for ISU shouldn’t have to be fought for in the Terre Haute community. If it does have to be fought for, it says more about the community than the man charged with maintaining or regaining support that would be that fickle.
ISU’s football program has progressed to the point where support from the community should be the default position. Something to be lost, not gained or regained.
To me, that’s just being hospitable to the newest Hautean, whomever it may turn out to be. That’s how I want the town I call home to be. I’m hopeful that, for the most part, that’s how it will be for ISU’s next coach.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.