College Football

Does Staff Continuity Set Up Minnesota, Northwestern for B1G Success in 2014?

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, right, looks at the scoreboard during the second half of the Texas Bowl NCAA college football game against Syracuse, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, in Houston. Syracuse won 21-17. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Andrew CoppensContributor IFebruary 12, 2014

The coaching carousel seemingly never stops in the world of college football. Every offseason it seems as if nearly every staff needs to find a new assistant or head coach. 

However, the Big Ten is home to two exceptions to that rule: Minnesota and Northwestern. According to research by CoachingSearch.com, those two coaching staffs have reached rarefied air. 

Even more impressively, Minnesota and Northwestern are the only FBS schools to have the same coaching staff for a fourth straight year. 

That little factoid is a fun answer to a trivia question, but it could be much more than that for schools trying to be contenders on a yearly basis. 

While the quality of the coaches matters, there is no substitute for being able to be on the same page year in and year out.

Minnesota's staff continuity isn't a new story, especially given the issues head coach Jerry Kill faced this past season. However, it is a great indication of just how much holding a staff together can matter to a team and a season.

Would a staff that was all new to each other have been able to handle its head coach taking a sabbatical in the middle of a season?

In the Gophers' case we saw a team that never missed a beat. They managed to take down both Nebraska and Penn State, enter the Top 25 for the first time since the 2008 season and win more games than they lost without Kill at the helm of the ship on Saturdays.

Northwestern has been on a steady incline (last season's injury-riddled 3-9 record notwithstanding) over the last three years, and a lot of it comes down the pull that head coach Pat Fitzgerald has. He has been incredibly loyal to Northwestern, his players and the coaches that serve under him.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

One might say that's the secret ingredient to this whole equation. Both staffs have incredible love for and loyalty to the head coach they serve under, and the love and loyalty are returned in kind.

Not only is the work environment stable, staff continuity also allows the program to set out long-term goals, and in the world of college football that means setting up a four-year plan. The trick is also getting to see that plan work out as a staff. 

Oftentimes that never happens and coaching tenures can be cut short thanks to a lack of continuity.

It also means a lot on the recruiting trail, where coaching stability is often a major consideration for prospective student-athletes. 

"Nowadays, coaching stability is such an overlooked thing," Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian said, via CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd. "For me, back in the day, when I was offered, my odds are pretty good that Coach Fitz is going to be here four or five years."

Northwestern and Minnesota are about to head into the final year of those four-year plans and the first recruiting classes are about to become seniors. Will this be the year either the Gophers or Wildcats end up challenging for a Big Ten title?

Minnesota's staff has cleared every hurdle but one (beating Wisconsin) on its way to this point and this season. Northwestern has been on the brink of greatness for two of the past three seasons. 

Winning the Big Ten title may be a bit of a stretch, but if either can win the West Division one of the major reasons for that success will be having a coaching staff that has stayed together. 

 

 

*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens

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