UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Passion isn't always conveyed in public

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIt is the holiday season, and in college football, 'tis the season to hire head coaches. At last count, there are 25 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that have, or will have, new coaches going in 2012. Keep in mind there are 120 schools in the FBS.

Perhaps a job description could read as follows:

Wanted: Head Football Coach

Job Requirements: Win your opening press conference, win lots of games, keep the NCAA investigators away, beat our arch rival on a regular basis, recruit players who go to class and stay out of trouble, win conference championships, be a dynamic public speaker, and win bowl games.

Qualified applicants can expect an excellent income, but you might want to rent rather than buy a home. If it looks like you are struggling, we might have to let you go after two years.

Good luck.

Win the opening press conference? What does that mean?  

It seems many school presidents, athletics directors and hiring firms are really into people who immediately wow an audience, be it a group of media members or boosters. I keep hearing a coach who wins the press conference is a coach who shows passion.

I certainly understand that having a presence is important. Barry Alvarez has a presence. Bret Bielema has a presence. It helps.

They can coach, too, and is that not the idea here?

In the last few years, Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has been in the mix for a few head coaching jobs. On Thursday, after deciding he'd found the right fit, he accepted the top job at Pittsburgh. On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Chryst had interviewed the previous day.

Later in the story, the writer mentions that Chryst "is not considered a dynamic personality."

It is not the first time someone has described Paul Chryst in such a way. What is part laughable, yet insulting, is that there are those in school administrations who assume a more flat-line individual is someone who lacks passion.

Sometimes I think we overuse the word "passion." Being animated on the sideline or in a news conference could mean you have great passion. It also might mean you are an attention-starved blowhard.

To me, passion is defined in a very simple way -- what are you doing to make yourself and your team better when nobody is watching?  There are no TV cameras and the stands are empty. Preparation equals passion.

This is where folks like Paul Chryst shine. He loves football. He loves working with players and coaches. He enjoys preparing for a game, from the position group meetings, to video study, to the work on the practice field.

Is he the type who will wow the fans with his first news conference?   Maybe not, but is that really vital in determining whether someone can lead a football team?  

I should add that media members who cover UW football on a regular basis seem to like and respect Chryst. When you get to know him, you will find that he is pretty honest. At times he can be rather blunt, and he also can be pretty darn funny.

People seem to wonder whether Chryst can handle all the duties that go with being a head coach, from boosters and increased media obligations to dealing with issues that will be plopped on his desk.

I say the answer is yes.

To Panthers fans, I can offer you this -- if you are looking for someone who will parachute from a small plane, all in an effort to promote the spring game, someone such as Paul Chryst might not be your choice.   

But if you want someone who is a terrific coach, a terrific family man, and is as grounded as any football person I have ever known, you won't find much better than Paul Chryst.

And no, I am not his agent. I just happen to be a big fan.