Baylor hires former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe to take over the embattled program.
When do you announce an uninspiring coaching hire? How about right in the middle of Memorial Day when no one is obviously paying attention to the college sports world.
Baylor didn’t hire Mack Brown to take over the program. It didn’t get Tom Herman, or any other big name who’d be the sure-thing to step in and keep the machine rolling. However, Jim Grobe just might be the exact right guy to get the program through the storm.
After originally installing defensive coordinator Phil Bennett to step in for Art Briles, Baylor was reportedly looking at Bear legend Mike Singletary, but in Grobe the program is getting a no-nonsense veteran who knows a little bit about making something positive out of impossible situations.
For now, the goal is for Grobe to step in, be a respected head man who can get the job done for now, and then assess further. He’s 64 and hasn’t coached since 2013, but he’s a coach’s coach who knows a little something about working at place where the odds are overwhelmingly against him.
Wake Forest is a small school in a big conference and used to getting picked on, but in 2006, Grobe pitched a gem as he turned the team from a 4-7 clunker the year before to the 2006 ACC Champion going 11-3 on the way to the Orange Bowl. He followed it up with a strong 9-4 campaign and an 8-5 2008, making it the greatest three-year run in the program’s history by a mile.
And now it’s his job to see what he can do with a loaded Baylor team, all while the embattled school and football program try to figure out how to make good on the disastrous allegations under the watch of Briles and then-school president Ken Starr.
Grobe couldn’t quite keep the magic going in Winston-Salem, coming up with five straight losing seasons after 2008 before resigning following a 4-8 2013 season, but again, it’s Wake Forest. It wasn’t necessarily a sustainable situation in a division with Clemson and Florida State. Even so, he managed to be the type of coach who could be the best one on the field, only without the top-flight talent to hang with the rest of the ACC.
But he never had the pieces in place Baylor will have coming into the 2016 season. It won’t be his job to make apologies for the school’s past, and it won’t be Art Briles Part 2, on the field, but he can take a team with a loaded group of skill players, just enough talent on defense to get by, and the lowered-expectations that’ll come after all the controversy to potentially make something special happen.
Grobe managed to create good, hard-nosed defenses that were able to keep his teams in games, but this time around, he’s got the firepower to go along with his style.
So yeah, it might have been Memorial Day weekend when the hire was made, but it was a quick move that gives Baylor all summer for the new coach and staff to work and make something big happen.
Soon enough, Baylor will go after a right-fit, turn-the-corner guy like WKU’s Jeff Brohm, or even get Herman from Houston – and the program has to soon come up with a plan to prevent the 2017 recruiting class from being a total disaster – but Grobe is a break from the past, and even at his age, he represents a fresh start.
For now, that might be good enough.