Most inside the fan base have been a little on edge since the announcement that Lincoln Riley had left Oklahoma for the bright lights of Los Angeles, California, aka “La La Land.”
Riley’s surprising departure to become the head coach at the University of Southern California, yes, the real USC, means the Sooners are suddenly looking for a replacement.
One might have wondered on Sunday, ‘how does this effect Clemson?’ That question might be answered in one simple word. Dominos. When a coach leaves by choice or is asked to leave, it sets forth a chain of events that ripples across the landscape of college football.
Brent Venables, like it or not, is one of those coaches that could be affected by the falling of those domino’s. The longtime Clemson defensive coordinator, and former Oklahoma assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, is reportedly one of the top candidates the Sooners are targeting.
Let’s assume for a moment that Venables is offered the job. Here’s a look at the pros and cons, as I see it anyways, of the choice he faces as he and his family go about the decision they face.
- Financial: Venables is among the highest, if not the highest, compensated coordinator of all college football. One would think a jump to Oklahoma would surely at least double, or might even triple his yearly income. Money has a way of changing things, quickly.
- Autonomy: He would be the head man. The boss. He has worked as an assistant for Bill Snyder (Kansas State), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) and of course, Dabo Swinney. Oklahoma has excellent facilities and deep pockets that will soon get even deeper with the move to the SEC. This opportunity would give him carte blanche regarding resources to try and build something that’s his.
- Familiarity: Venables was an assistant in Norman from 1999-2011. He has friends and family there. He is well thought of there. He knows the potential recruiting bounty of that area and he is already known as the consummate recruiter. Also, nostalgia factors in to some degree. There is always an allure to going back.
- Immediacy: One has to ask themselves, at certain junctures in life, could this opportunity be my last? Venables is 50 years old, still young, and he may feel the need to leave because he might feel he might never have this unique of an opportunity again. He also has to consider the shelf life of an assistant coach when it comes to head coaching opportunities.
- Financial: How much money is enough? Sure $6-7M is greater than $2.5-3M. I’ve always been of the opinion that for Venables, money isn’t what drives him. If he chooses to stay, I suspect, while not his intention, he will receive an increase in salary. Any increase has to be viewed as an investment in the future of this program.
- Comfortability Behind the Scenes: If you’ve ever watched Venables face the media, it’s clear it’s not one of his favorite things to do. Yes, he is an extremely intelligent, articulate and knowledgeable defensive coordinator. However, as head coach at a high profile program such as Oklahoma, he would have to be the front man, the face of the program. In the offseason, it would take more time away from his family. Leading, teaching and building young men is another thing he’s passionate about and while he would still get to do that, not quite to the same degree. I just can’t see Brent Venables as the front-man at a Prowl and Growl-like affair. He is passionate, no doubt, and it’s not intended as derogatory to say that Venables just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that cares much for the politics that can be involved with being a head coach at a program like Oklahoma.
- Family: Venables has been a hot commodity for years on the coaching carousel, yet he’s always been aware of what change means to his family. They are all reportedly very happy at Clemson. He has said it over and over, that his life at Clemson is near perfect. His immediate family, his wife, four children, as well as his extended family, his brother and recently, his in-laws are all here. Proximity to family seems a priority and important to him.
- Loyalty and Commitment: I believe, stay or go, no one would ever claim a lack of loyalty or commitment in Venables. He is passionate about his craft. He’s on record as saying his situation here, compared to other places, offers him and his family a near perfect life. In his words ‘why mess up happiness?’ I’m not suggesting that he is just loyal to Clemson. He is amongst it’s greatest ambassador. He sells recruits and their families on the foundations of faith, family, football that embodies Clemson’s culture. Not just in word, but in deed. Every single day.
Clearly, Venables and his family could end up facing a difficult decision. When you’re as successful as Venables, you are a sought after commodity, it’s inevitable. His success affords him the luxury of having many opportunities.
Knowing of his previous comments regarding family, I suspect that particular pro/con will be where the root of his final decision lies. The Clemson family anxiously awaits a resolution to the Sooners coaching search. I’m sure if it comes to it, he’ll make the right choice for him and his family. However, Tiger fans everywhere hope it somehow will still include orange on his color wheel.
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