“Win. Win. We want to win.”
Those were the words of M. Dianne Murphy, Columbia’s athletic director, when asked what the main concerns were in looking for a new football head coach.
Put simply, that is exactly what the athletic department hopes to achieve when it selects the new coach.
Winning will be a tough task for this new coach, as Columbia football is coming off of a 1-9 season and will be losing a host of key seniors in the coming season.
How do Murphy and the rest of the search committee plan to find a coach who will help the team win?
Despite the poor record from this past season, Murphy and the rest of the search committee believe the program is capable of a quick turnaround.
“We expect our program to get better over a very short period of time,” Murphy said. “We believe by doing the right things, by having the right staff, by doing the right recruiting…all that is a process that translates into winning.”
The search committee consists of Murphy, former football head coach and current Associate Athletics Director Ray Tellier, and some key alumni and current players.
There is consensus within the committee that one of the most important factors when looking for a new head coach is his ability to change the face of a program that has such a storied history of poor performance.
“We’ve got to change that culture of losing, and that comes with confidence,” Murphy said. “That’s getting enough guys, the right guys coaching them up, giving them the confidence to make those big plays, the right time in that game—and it’s a change of culture. And that’s a hard thing to overcome.”
Players also acknowledged the problem. Junior quarterback Sean Brackett—the team’s only captain returning next season—said there must be a complete attitude change.
“Just come in here with a winning attitude—winning culture—and just change everything, because we haven’t been getting the job done on the field with wins and losses,” Brackett said. “I think that’s a really important thing, for a new coach to come in here and just help change the culture.”
A coach with a history of winning that displays a desire to win will be a strong candidate for the job, but he will also need to build a team that is up to the task.
The second layer of the coaching search is much more complex. The new coach must be able to recruit the right players, implement the proper system, and motivate the team if he hopes to be successful from the start.
Recruiting is tough enough in the Ivy League, and a 1-9 season does not look good in the eyes of potential freshman recruits.
Murphy stressed that the candidate must be able to not only recruit but recruit specifically for the Lions.
“We want someone who is an excellent recruiter, who is going to be an excellent recruiter specifically for Columbia,” Murphy said. “Columbia, as you know, is a very different institution than maybe even the other Ivy League institutions, with the City of New York.”
When asked about looking for a coach who has demonstrated a knack for recruiting in this part of the country, Murphy said she believes that such a focus would limit the team, and that because of the unique nature of the Ivy League, the recruitment search must be nation-wide.
Having new energy and the ability to motivate will also be keys.
“I think that’s an important thing for the coach to come in right away and just instill a new energy for the players and the program as a whole, just to get us off on the right start,” Brackett said.
Though everyone on the committee acknowledges that there will be some sort of a transition period, players like Brackett and linebacker Josh Martin—who will be entering their final season at Columbia—hope that transition time will be short.
Characteristics that the players hope will carry over from Norries Wilson’s time are the coach’s attitude toward his players and his leadership abilities.
“Coach Wilson, he was a great leader,” Martin said. “One thing that he did very well and I think he was a good example of was caring for the players. You knew that he cared about us and he cared for us.”
Murphy stressed the importance for the committee to take its time and find the right person for Columbia, despite the desire to select a coach as soon as possible.
“You don’t just walk out and hire a coach,” Murphy said. “You’ve got to care about it. There’s nothing more important I can do right now than get the right football coach. Just because you’re the right football coach at Ohio State University doesn’t mean you’re the right football coach at Columbia University. We have to get the right guy for Columbia.”
Though Murphy believes strongly in finding the right coach, the committee has set a Dec. 15 target date for its final decision. That leaves eight days for the committee to find the man to lead Columbia next season.