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LORAN SMITH COLUMN: Coaches just can’t get away from the sidelines

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

The Georgia coaches have just concluded three weeks of prospect evaluation, which will be followed by football camps during the month of June.

If they want to squeeze in a couple of weeks at the beach, July is the only time such opportunity is available.

By the end of the month named for Julius Caesar, there becomes a full-time commitment, which evolves into that first game week when the sleep routine drops to a little more than five hours a night and continues until the last week of November.

Coaches make more money than ever now, but they earn it.

Even so, there is very little appreciation for work ethic if there are not enough victories posted on fall weekends.

For those who make the big bucks and move on to high-paid coordinating positions in the National Football League or become a head coach, it is worth it. For the many, however, there comes a point when finding gainful employment outside the profession would be advisable. Some become fortunate with a change in profession, but the allure to coach is often too powerful to let go.

At the end of the 2011 season, for example, Mack McWhorter, who played and coached at Georgia before becoming the offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech and later the line coach at Texas, had pretty much concluded that he would retire to Athens and enjoy a relaxed pace.

Before he could get settled, he had an opportunity to join his old friend Bill O’Brien, who succeeded Joe Paterno at Penn State. In short order, Mack cast aside thoughts of mowing the lawn and puttering around the house. The opportunity to return to coaching was too alluring. He now coaches the Nittany Lions’ offensive line, excited about that five-hour sleep routine as another season of college football looms on the horizon.

Not long ago, after returning from an out-of-town trip, I spotted a business card on my desk with an Indiana University logo.

Before I took a closer look, I wondered aloud, “Who could have left that card?”

Soon I saw the name of Jon Fabris, the former Bulldog defensive end coach. When his affiliation with Georgia ended in 2009, Fab took a year to sort things out, trying his hardest to move into the business world.

But with the economy bringing about down times for employment, he finally chose to return to coaching—which he preferred anyway. He took a job with Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Miss., and moved his family to Oxford, 48 miles away, where he had played college football.

Now he is the defensive end coach for the Hoosiers.

We know Indiana as a place for basketball, but they like football in the Hoosier State, too.

Jon Fabris will put his nose to the grindstone with the most fervent commitment, believing that the program can win consistently with hard work and commitment. He will remind folks how Kansas State, where he was an assistant, went from the bottom to contending status — that there can be football revivals elsewhere.

When Willie Martinez left Georgia, he had an opportunity to coach at Stanford with Jim Harbaugh but didn’t want to live on the opposite coast from his parents, who are anchored in Miami.

Oklahoma became a compromise opportunity, but when Mike Stoops was let go at Arizona last year, his brother Bob (Oklahoma) chose to find a place for him on his Sooner staff. Willie became the odd man out but landed on his feet when Brian VanGorder, his longtime friend, left the Falcons to become defensive coordinator at Auburn. No doubt, VanGorder influenced head coach Gene Chizik to hire Martinez for the defensive backfield coaching position.

There was a time when coaching staffs remained intact for decades. They had the summers off to paint the house, go fishing, or play golf.

Not anymore. Coaching is a musical chairs profession and if you are lucky to find a seat, you won’t enjoy any 8-5 routines.