Commentary: With the OK near, let the KSU rumor mill begin
by John Bednarowski
January 04, 2013 12:39 AM | 9723 views | 13 13 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MDJ sports editor John Bednarowski
MDJ sports editor John Bednarowski
Will Derek Dooley be the first head football coach in Kennesaw State history?

One of Dooley’s biggest supporters did not dismiss the idea.

“I don’t think I should comment on that,” said Vince Dooley, the former Georgia coach and chairman of the Kennesaw State football exploratory committee, on Thursday. “You should probably ask the other Dooley about that.”

Efforts to contact Derek Dooley were unsuccessful, but the non-denial from his father holds weight.

Vince Dooley, who is still a Kennesaw State consultant, said he would be there to help in any way once the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia gives the final approval for the Owls to go ahead with their football program. KSU will be on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, and sources close to the Board of Regents say the final approval is a mere formality.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, KSU athletic director Vaughn Williams will begin the process of hiring the first head coach that will lead the team on the field. If Williams expects the program to kick off in the fall of 2015, he will have to hire a coach soon, and it only makes sense that Derek Dooley would be a prime candidate.

Rumors around the university say that the powers that be — Williams and university president Dan Papp — will be trying to make a splash with a big-name hire, much like Georgia State did when it hired Bill Curry to build its program from the ground up.

Dooley, aside from being related to arguably the biggest football name in the state of Georgia, fits that bill. A former SEC coach at Tennessee, and before that at Louisiana Tech, he would bring instant notoriety to KSU. He also knows what it takes to recruit the Southeast.

However, Dooley may have nearly 5 million reasons to decide against taking the job.

Tennessee bought out his contract, which was to last until 2016. That means Dooley will receive approximately $100,000 a month for the next 48 months — rounding out at about $4.8 million. Or, to put it in better perspective, it’s half of the $200,000-a-year salary range the exploratory committee suggested for the new coach.

If Dooley isn’t the guy, then here are a few names that other people close to the program have batted around:

* Current San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt.

Leavitt was the head coach at South Florida from its beginning in 1997 as a Division I-AA program. He built the Bulls into a nationally respected program, compiling a 95-57 record and, in the process, taking it from I-AA to I-A in Conference USA and the Big East.

At one time, Leavitt was considered a leading candidate to take the Alabama job, but he actually turned it down twice.

He was fired from South Florida in 2009 for allegedly grabbing a player by the throat and striking him twice. A year later, Leavitt settled a wrongful termination suit for $2 million and an additional $750,000 for what USF called contributions to building the Bulls’ football program.

* The well-traveled Brian VanGorder.

Once a successful defensive coordinator at Georgia — in 2003, he won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant — he has a career record of 19-25 as a head coach, but most of those wins came in the early 1990s at Wayne State, his Division II alma mater in Detroit. In his single season as the head coach at Georgia Southern in 2006, he led the Eagles to the worst record of their program’s history (3-8).

Van Gorder resigned from Georgia Southern after one year to become the linebackers coach for Bobby Petrino with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, and the following year — after spending one month as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator — he returned to the Falcons to begin a four-year tenure as Mike Smith’s top defensive assistant.

VanGorder left the Falcons after the 2011 season for Auburn, before becoming a casualty of Gene Chizik’s firing last month.

Like Dooley and Leavitt, VanGorder would definitely know the metro-Atlanta recruiting base — maybe even better than the other two — but in 30 years of coaching, four years is the longest he has spent in any one job.

* Maybe more for comic relief than anything else, one notable name that has popped up is former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.

Supposedly, Papp and Tressel grew up in the same Ohio neighborhood, and Papp does have a Tressel-signed football in his office.

Tressel is currently the vice president of strategic engagement at the University of Akron, and while he would definitely make a big splash and bring KSU plenty of notoriety, Tressel is the longest of long shots because he is currently serving a five-year “show cause” penalty by the NCAA.

The NCAA accused Tressel of withholding information and lying to keep ineligible players on the field during Ohio State’s cover-up of players trading autographs and memorabilia for tattoos.

If KSU wanted to hire Tressel, they would have to “show cause” as to why its program should not be put on sanctions for hiring him, and the university could then face severe penalties if Tressel were to commit any further violations during his penalty. The “show cause” runs until 2016 and would probably be a serious deterrent for the Owls.

All those candidates would make a big splash, but if those rumors are true, there is one obvious candidate that they are overlooking.

How about current Georgia Tech defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Andy McCollum?

McCollum knows every back road in Georgia from recruiting for the Yellow Jackets, and he knows the ones in Cobb County even better after playing his high school football at Marietta, where he is part of the school’s athletic hall of fame.

His son, Drew, will graduate this spring from Marietta and will likely become the fourth-generation McCollum to compete in college. What

better place could he do that than for his father at KSU?

McCollum also knows how to transition a team from I-AA to I-A, as he did in his seven years at Middle Tennessee State. While McCollum didn’t have a winning record (33-44) with the Blue Raiders, he won a Sun Belt Conference championship in 2001 and had a history of beating programs like Vanderbilt, Troy, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech.

Now, we will all get to see where Williams, Papp and the Owls turn next.

John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at or

Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 12, 2013
........Plan B......

KSU Men's soccer

*only school in the Atlantic Sun without a men's soccer program.

Why not recruit 20 guys and play the game. It won't cost $3.5 million a year and you won't have to find 100 players, 10 coaches, 5 trainers and three cute girls to carry around the coach's headset wires!
BJ Locksave
January 08, 2013 what's plan B???

January 07, 2013
Great Article!

I am excited for the KSU football program, but even more excited and proud that they are trying to build this program the correct way. Going for a name with great experience is a great way to increase the brand recognition of the school and recruit solid players to put the program on the path of longterm success.

Proud Alum

South Ga Owl
January 05, 2013
David Dean, Head Coach Valdosta State. Just won 2nd National Championship as a head coach. Has 1 as an assistant too. From Atlanta- played at Georgia Tech. Great recruiter and can spot talent. Knows how to win- that's what will build a program and sell tickets!
January 05, 2013
Leavitt knows how to build a program but he acts like a raving lunatic on the sidelines. It wasn't too much of a shock to hear he struck a player. But he wasn't fired over that, it was for interfering with the ensuing investigation. I don't know if a university wants to hire a coach who sues his employer after being fired for cause.
Rod Sanchez
January 04, 2013
How about Giff Smith? He's a former GT defensive line coach and recruiter. He's a graduate of Pebblebrook High School and knows Cobb County well. He's a former Georgia Southern All American and was part of national championship teams there. He just was released as a defensive coach with the Buffalo Bills. Great opportunity for the school and Giff.
Bill Smitherton
January 04, 2013
McCollum did a great job at MTSU, 20 of those losses were to BCS schools like Bama and UF in money games. He would be a big get to build a program and is a local guy.

Tressel has a show-cause and can't coach in the NCAA.

Dooley should be able to get a better job than KSU, that would be sad for him and stupid of his dad to put him in a situation like that instead of a D-1 program.
KSU Alumx2
January 04, 2013
McCollum has the experience, the recruiting knowledge and contacts to build a program quickly! And, if that is really a list that Papp and Williams are considering, I hope the board is asking why is there a trail of NCAA violations or job hopping in each. Start of with class - hire the Marietta boy Andy Mac!
January 04, 2013
Dooley? He couldn't win at UT with every possible tool UT and the SEC gives him, how could he do anything at KSU? Because he has the "name"..NOT..UT just learned that lesson.
January 04, 2013
Dooley would be excellent for KSU and give him a ground-level program to build his way. Lots of Tennessee fans have not given him due credit for cleaning up Lane Kiffin's mess, upping academic standards for athletes, making some solid recruiting efforts and building the Vol For Life program.
Just Sayin....
January 04, 2013
I am quite familiar with the situation at UT and quite frankly, Dooley is a fine man and would work incredibly hard to make a name for KSU. TN is irrational at best when it comes to coaches in the past few years and much of that has to do with the meddling of alumni.
Harold S
January 04, 2013
Get McCollum... local and can sure recruit!!!
Space Raider 2
January 06, 2013
ANDY MAC!!!!!! The biggest no brainer in the world! Nobody has done more with less than he did when we transitioned from 1-AA to 1-A at MT! Heck he almost beat BAMA in BAMA and did beat Vandy everytime we played! He would bring in the players and build it!
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