In the wake of Jerry Kill’s retirement due to health concerns, the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team had a chance to beat Michigan late on Halloween night and then only lost to Ohio State by 14 points this past Saturday. Defensive coordinator/interim head coach Tracy Claeys has openly campaigned for the full-time job, and there is now an indication he will have the interim tag removed from his title ahead of the season’s final three games.
A solid incoming recruiting class for 2016 makes continuity a potential priority, and the fact Minnesota has an interim athletic director is an added element that can’t be ignored. But that does not mean a search for a new football coach shouldn’t extend beyond Kill’s long-time loyal assistants, and Claeys appears to have the University of Minnesota convinced he is the man for the job and deserves a long-term commitment.
Particularly with all the higher profile openings that are coming after the season, Minnesota will not be a desired job in the big picture. But promoting Claeys is settling for convenience, rather than extending outside to vet candidates, and there are still questions about Claeys as an in-game head coach that still need to be answered.
Getting good effort out of players after a coaching change is prevalent in football, even in a unique situation like the Golden Gophers have right now after Kill’s retirement. Once that novelty has worn off, perhaps as soon as this coming Saturday against Iowa, we’ll really see what Claeys is as a head coach.
Simply put, there’s no way to know if anyone in next year’s recruiting class will become an impact player. The potential de-commitment of multiple recruits is a flimsy reason to settle and promote Claeys before the season is over, without a bigger search for a new head coach.
The Golden Gophers may never be more than mid-tier Big Ten team, and previous coaching searches suggest they won’t get their first choice in an outside search for a new coach. But promoting Claeys immediately is a commitment to settling, and that is the wrong path.