A fantastic piece on Chuck Neinas and the general concept of hiring ‘search firms’ in college athletics from USA Today.
The president of Neinas Sports Services in Boulder, Colo., has handled six coaching searches this season alone. He’s leading the hunt to fill vacancies at Alabama and Louisiana Tech. He recently has completed four coaching searches that concluded with the hirings of Randy Shannon at Miami (Fla.), Butch Davis at North Carolina, Tom O’Brien at North Carolina State and Mark Dantonio at Michigan State.
Over the last decade, Neinas has helped schools hire some of the biggest coaching names in college football: Mack Brown at defending national champion Texas; Bob Stoops at Oklahoma; Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame, then Washington; Les Miles at Oklahoma State, then LSU; Mark Richt at Georgia, and Dennis Franchione at Texas A&M.
Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College says hiring Neinas is a waste of money. Any athletics director should know who’s hot and who’s available in the coaching fraternity, he says.
“I don’t see what information Neinas brings to the table that an AD can’t get themselves,” says Zimbalist. “But if they don’t hire him, and they make a mistake, somebody will say, ‘You blew it, everybody else in the conference used Neinas.’ So he has this self-perpetuating monopoly.”
Castiglione says Neinas is worth it for several reasons. An AD can pool his or her information with Neinas’. With Neinas chatting up coaches year-round, he’ll have the most up-to-date information. Also, his price is “very reasonable,” says Castiglione, compared to the wider business world where executive recruiters often command a fee based on one-third of a candidate’s first-year salary.
Most important, using a middleman enables schools to recruit without leaving fingerprints. Neinas can call potential candidates without naming his client, check backgrounds and references before things even get to the official contact stage. If a school ends up hiring its second or third choice, well, they can still say the coach was their first choice. With no one the wiser. As Castiglione says, “One has to remember, the search process is supposed to be secret.”