BOULDER, Colo. - His Rolodex is impressive. His reputation is impeccable.
Often, when big schools such as Georgia or Florida or Colorado begin the delicate task of finding a new football coach or athletic director, one of their first calls isn’t to a candidate, but to Chuck Neinas.
With 45 years of experience at the highest levels of college sports, Neinas is one of the best-connected people in the business. Working from his small office in Boulder, Neinas uses his connections to undertake the job of finding out who might be available and who isn’t, all while keeping the process under the radar.
“I have a file,” Neinas said of the voluminous number of contacts he’s made over the years. “But the thing I also have is I have a network of contacts who are pretty trustworthy. Very trustworthy.”
His is, indeed, a high-stakes game, and much of it is played out well before a vacancy ever develops.
Neinas (pronounced NI-nes) spends lots of time on the phone with coaches and athletic directors, talking, probing, finding out if they’re happy with their job and, even if they are, if there is any other job they might leave their current one to take.
When a university hires him to help look for a new football coach, the process usually begins with the athletic director filling out a long questionnaire filled with obvious topics, such as the school budget and scheduling, and the not-so-obvious, such as whether the school would be willing to pay for a house-hunting trip for the coach’s wife.
Some involve schools that already have a list of candidates and want Neinas to augment the list from the long scroll of head coaches and top assistants with whom he keeps in touch. Others seek Neinas only as a go-between for an athletic director and one specific coach.
“He does a thorough job,” said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who hired Urban Meyer in December, a negotiation made complex because Meyer was under contract at Utah and also considered a candidate at Notre Dame.
“He helps you find out information on the front end that helps,” Foley said. “You find out who’s interested, who’s not interested. He’s responsive. If you call him, he calls you back. If you ask him to find something out, he finds it out.”
And most of all, Foley said, “he doesn’t talk to anybody” in the media, or anywhere else that could turn a search into an embarrassing situation, a more likely possibility now than it was 20 years ago, before reporters and the Internet turned up the spotlight on seemingly every search.
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