All on Quinn
With talent in place, pressure is on head coach
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 21:08
It doesn’t take the most avid college sports fan to realize that rarely do coaches with a 9-27 overall record in three seasons receive a contract extension. As Jeff Quinn begins his fourth year as head football coach, expectations have mounted and results are being touted as necessary.
Not in recent memory has the football team displayed more promise prior to the season opener. With the return of several key seniors – Khalil Mack, Branden Oliver, Alex Neutz, Colby Way, Najja Johnson, Jimmy Gordon and Fred Lee – along with sophomore quarterback Joe Licata, who led the team to a three-game winning streak after taking the helm toward the end of last season, the program has crossed the threshold into a horizon of expectations involving a MAC Championship and bowl game appearance.
Without much of a record of success behind him, and a fan base insistent on a favorable outcome in the upcoming season, the chants from the galley cannot help but bellow: It’s do or die for Quinn.
The collective sentiment is clear: If Quinn can’t win this year (with this team) it will never happen. There are premier players at all ends; there is heavy depth at the running back position, a strong blocking wide receiver in Lee, a potential first-round NFL draft pick in Mack and a premier quarterback (the first to be a returning starter under Quinn). The level of talent on the team has never been stronger.
Four of the Bulls’ nationally recognized players are not Quinn’s recruits; they are remainders from the days of Turner Gill. In the spring, Rivals.com rated this year’s incoming freshmen the second worst recruiting class in Division 1A football. So as much potential as this team has, it is not the head coach who has been able to muster the talent. After this season, when the key seniors are gone, the Bulls will enter a period of rebuilding and a new era of uncertainty.
It appears a bit premature that Quinn was offered an extension. In fact, the university may recognize this, too. An Aug. 16 tweet by Buffalo News reporter Bob DiCesare indicated that the extension agreement has yet to be executed. What kind of statement is it to offer a contract to someone and announce it publicly but neglect to complete the deal afterward?
Though with his initial contract set to expire after this season, Quinn’s dismal record and lack of long-term development are important holes in the prescription Athletic Director Danny White has seemingly endorsed.
On Tuesday, during the team’s weekly gathering with the media, White shared his feelings of elated expectations. “From our perspective as an administration, over the top impressed with the work of this football staff led by Jeff Quinn,” he said. “We are extremely impressed with the progress of the football program … We’re talking about talented athletes, great students, impressive young men, and we feel very confident that they’re going to lead us back to where we were in 2008, certainly back to a bowl game and contending for a MAC Championship this year.”
For a basketball guy, White is more impressed with Quinn (a coach undeniably unproven) than he was with Reggie Witherspoon (a coach with a history of success and building character athletes). Neither coach was a White hire, though he wound up choosing to keep the coach who hasn’t won.
Quinn wouldn’t start to experience the thrill of victory last season until he began starting a quarterback who he didn’t want to start the entire season. And he didn’t really even figure it out – he was forced to put Licata in after Alex Zordich almost benched himself with a horrid performance under center.
Aside from hiring famed basketball veteran Bobby Hurley as head basketball coach, White’s time at UB thus far has been primarily spent on one endeavor: fundraising. A quick perusal of his Twitter account verifies his readiness to advertise, and the football team has subsequently procured a slate of nationally televised games this season – which does the university no harm.
But White is setting himself up to look good in the short term. Hurley will be inheriting a team that Witherspoon groomed, and if he wins with them, it will look smart on the part of White. If Quinn wins this year with talent groomed from the Gill era, it will appear sage as well. One thing to remember with White is that the possibility of success always bears the possibility of departure. Winning in Buffalo could mean the opportunity to venture elsewhere – in a more competitive conference.
In the meantime, however, an agenda is in place, and Quinn’s role is subject to scrutiny. And there is a lot at stake.
With more media exposure and ample talent for Quinn to utilize, the expectations for this season are high. If he doesn’t win at least six games this year and fails to make a bowl game, his head coaching position should be terminated.
Fans of the area’s professional football team are well aware head coaches customarily get three years to prove themselves in this town (consider Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey). Quinn will have four and if this season lacks progress, there is no reason to suspect it will come in more time. We would be remiss in forgetting to invoke the adage: “Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.”
If Quinn can’t do it this year, it will be time for a change in leadership. If he does take this team as far as they are capable of going, then he will have earned a chance to continue. He had his trial period; now this is his ensuing test.