By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer
College football is currently sitting in a position of change and flux, especially when it comes to coaching. Fan bases and programs are quick to pull the plug, coaches are still adapting to the transfer portal as well as NIL and the face of the team has become the head coach more than ever. But in this changing landscape of college football, why would a player choose a coach who is not well adapted to the current trends and differences in the ‘new era?’
Let me preface what’s to come with a statement I truly believe — Dave Aranda is an elite defensive coordinator with a great knowledge of the game and has the makings of a successful head coach. With that said, I don’t know if he resembles a “successful” head coach in the modern collegiate game.
I don’t need to pinpoint all the differences between Aranda and the longtime success stories of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. Instead, I think a better way to resemble the changes is by looking into a coach at a future Big 12 northwest of Waco: Deion Sanders and Colorado.
I get it. The media has sucked the living essence out of the stories surrounding “Prime Time” to the point where the narrative is going overboard, but that’s the point. Sanders is a confident head coach, quick to confront his team after failure and just as quick to have its back after success. He is vocal in the media by creating “beef” with other teams and making everything that happens on Saturdays “personal.”
Sanders has been able to field the next big thing because he has expertly managed new resources in the transfer portal and capitalized in the NIL arena. Take away the personality, experience and “swagger,” and Sanders is still executing at a very high level. Now add back in the personality. As a player, Colorado would be the first team I hope calls.
In a time where social media frantically runs the way we interpret and ingest sports, why not take the opportunity to be a part of the next big thing? I understand that some players want something different than that, but the majority of high school students who are on their way to the next level will want to be invested in the same social media phenomenon they’ve seen. If a head coach and program are not able to capitalize on these great ways to spark interest, they’re doing something wrong.
Now take the transition back to Waco. Aranda’s chill personality has him subject to constant criticism, whether warranted or not, and he will stand up each week and echo the same sentiment about how talented his team is. We just can’t see it because it hasn’t transitioned from practice. If that’s from a personnel standpoint or execution, both flaws fall on him, unfortunately.
To top that, Baylor football has been miserable at keeping up with the extent of how deep the transfer portal is and has had underwhelming recruiting classes. Yes, there have been great playmakers as part of those classes, but the recruits are simply not enough to stay relevant and build something that lasts.
To Aranda’s credit, the past few weeks have shown a different man on the sideline showing enthusiasm instead of a stoic face no matter what happens. Is that enough to change the way the team approaches the rest of the season and the offseason? Absolutely not, but it is a start. Aranda is going to need to do a lot more to appeal to the greater public, especially after the disappointing 2022 campaign.
With big personalities, experienced coaching and a high level of competition being the storyline heading into the Big 12 realignment, Baylor is not the only school that will need to question the best way to address being competitive. If Sanders comes into the Big 12 and is the instant face of the conference, no one else will stand a chance in recruiting. Changes are coming, but maybe not the changes you’d expect.
This is not a hit piece. I am simply pointing out why a player wouldn’t want to play for a team that doesn’t strike a chord. In the end, get used to the stoic persona standing on the home sideline, because something tells me he’ll be here for a while. College football is changing, and maybe we should bet on Aranda changing too.