We asked college football coaches across the country for their advice to a first-year leader of a program (like Illinois' Tim Beckman). Here's what they had to say:
"Every situation is unique. Hopefully we found the right balance between embracing the history and tradition of our program, while implementing our own philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. You have to trust your instincts and your coaching staff and not waver in doing what you believe is right."
— BOB STOOPS, Oklahoma
"Give all the players a fair shot based on your evaluation, not previous evaluations by others."
— LANE KIFFIN, Southern Cal
"Take care of and establish a great relationship with your coaches and your players and particularly those players. Because, when a crisis comes up during the year, they are the only people that can get you out of it. In other words, if you lose a ball game or two, them playing better and hanging together is what is going to get you out of it. I think it all goes back to the relationships you have with the players, the trust and caring about them. Then when something comes up, the alumni can't solve your problems and media can't solve your problems but those players can solve your problems."
— FRANK BEAMER, Virginia Tech
"The best advice I can give Tim Beckman in his first year at Illinois is to see what works best for being at Illinois and stick to it. What works at Oklahoma State might not work at Michigan or at Illinois or someplace else because every situation is unique and every school has its own dynamic. You need to find what works best for where you are and stay with it."
—MIKE GUNDY, Oklahoma State
"First of all, Coach Beckman is a great coach. His track record speaks for itself. There's a reason he's there at Illinois as the head coach. People have seen the fruits of his work. you have to be who you are. I have seen him at speak at different places. I was following Coach (Paul) Johnson who did some phenomenal things here. I'm not Coach Johnson. There's no doubt in my mind that I made mistakes. I'm still making mistakes. You do the best you can. This profession, there's no way you can get there unless you are a hard worker. You've got to believe in your core values."
— KEN NIUMATALOLO, Navy
"It's like when you get married, buy a house and have kids, people can tell you all about it but you never know what it's truly like until you go through it yourself."
— GARY PATTERSON, TCU
"The first thing I did was take a look at the players I had and figure out the best ways to get the ball to the players on offense who can do the most to help you win. Then do the same with your defense. Put your best guys in positions to make plays. As far as intangibles are concerned the most important thing to do is to get the players to buy into your system. You do that over time, not in one day, by developing trust and respect. Then you can get each player to buy into what he can do to help the team the best. This was not as difficult for me as it is for a totally new coach because I had been an assistant at Clemson the previous six years. I knew what I had and they knew me."
— DABO SWINNEY, Clemson
"You know I've been in this business a long time because I've known Tim since he was a little kid when his dad was one of my coaches at Iowa. I remember him running around at practice and now he is coaching in the Big 10. I have a lot of respect for him and his father. The best advice I can give is to develop a plan for winning and stick with it. Build a great foundation with quality kids and help them develop as young people, students, and football players. Don't get too high when things are going good and don't get too low in times of adversity. Surround yourself with quality coaches and a staff that you can trust and let them do their job."
— DAN McCARNEY, North Texas
"Coach Tim Beckman is a seasoned head football coach with great experiences along the way with some great coaches and mentors. He will prepare well and take advantage of the element of energy that goes with a new staff at a new place. Hopefully his team will have some good luck that goes with that energy and a good start provides some momentum and chemistry. That chemistry and oneness will provide wins and success."
— LARRY BLAKENEY, Troy
"It gets better. Seriously, try to enjoy it and know it that there will be things that pop up that you can't control, not to mention a few things you had no idea existed from any previous stop you've been. So trust your instincts."
— JON EMBREE, Colorado
"I'd say one of the most important things is staying true to your philosophy and finding a way to make it work, even if it's drastically different than how things had been done before you. Flexibility is also important, but the bigger-picture item is believe in your system, and get the right people around you who have that same belief, and work hard to make it happen."
— GARY PINKEL, Missouri
"There are countless facets of the job that are very important, but I recommend prioritizing your time to the best of your ability, placing the greatest emphasis on the areas that will help you win football games."
— GENE CHIZIK, Auburn
"I would tell Coach Beckman to enjoy the ride and everything that happens this season. He's taking over a great program in a great league. He may experience some good and bad things along the way, but I would encourage him to persevere and do what you believe in."
— LARRY COKER, UTSA
"One, remember that it is more of a marathon than a sprint. You are building a program, not just a team, and you should make decisions for the long term health of the program rather than a short term fix for a team. Two, you must have some mental recess time for yourself. Number three, make the best decision, believe in it and go on. Don't second guess yourself."
— MIKE MacINTYRE, San Jose State
"Every school and situation is different. You have a plan and philosophy, but you also have to be ready to adapt and adjust based on the situation. Some problems can be solved more quickly than others. I have always believed that a long-term approach is most beneficial to the student-athletes as well as the overall program."
— PETE LEMBO, Ball State
"It's probably one of the simplest, but most difficult things to do in a new job — be yourself. Tim's done a great job wherever he's been because of his willingness to stay committed to his values, philosophy and principles, and I'm confident the same will hold true at Illinois."
— RUFFIN McNEILL, East Carolina
"One of the things I would remind first-year coaches at a program is to really focus on what's important. Some times we're in such a hurry to change everything. Not everything has to change. There are some great traditions and history at places. Embrace that, but at the same time put your fingerprints on your program in the areas that you think are important. I think it's easier to go slow than it is go fast on change."
— BILL BLANKENSHIP, Tulsa
"Tim got the job at Illinois because he's a really good football coach. He knows what he's doing. He's been around. He's won everywhere he's been. He's got a good formula for winning. I think the biggest thing is to be yourself and do the stuff you believe in. He's got confidence in himself and his coaching staff. He'll do a great job without a doubt."
— SONNY DYKES, Louisiana Tech
"Win the leaders of the team over to accepting the change in culture. Every place is different and you must be open-minded because what worked at one place does not mean it will work at another."
— TODD BERRY, Louisiana-Monroe
"Have a plan, believe in your plan and stick to your plan; and always take care of the kids first."
— GARY ANDERSEN, Utah State
"Get to know your players as well as you possibly can. They will quickly realize you care when you impart discipline, encourage their educational pursuits, and how you coach them."
— TROY CALHOUN, Air Force
"Be yourself and enjoy the journey."
— PAT FITZGERALD, Northwestern
"Make sure that you hold everyone who touches your program accountable to the expectations of how yo want things done and not how they were done before. Do what got you here. Be yourself."
— MARK HUDSPETH, Louisiana-Lafayette
"Always stay true to your beliefs and do what is right."
— MARK RICHT, Georgia
"You need to build things fundamentally sound; don't get in a hurry and think you have to win that year. Do things the right way so that when you get two, three, four years down the road you want your foundation to be solid. If you do that you're going to have a chance — to me, if you start taking shortcuts, then three or four years down the road you won't."
— JOEY JONES, South Alabama
"Be consistent and honest with your players from day one because they have to trust and believe in the system you implement and your philosophies. Show them you care about them both on and off the field."
— RICK STOCKSTILL, Middle Tennessee
"Develop a plan and stick to it no matter what. Two things make you successful: (1) Drive, and (2) Faith: believing what you're doing is right."
— DARRELL HAZELL, Kent State
"You cannot win in college football without great organization and great assistant coaches."
— DAVID CUTCLIFFE, Duke
"Set the expectations, make sure that things are done your way and never compromise."
— KYLE WHITTINGHAM, Utah
"Same as 10+ years into it . . . one day at a time."
KIRK FERENTZ, Iowa