Neinas tells of one situation — no names, please — in which a school hired the coach that was really its third choice.
“The third guy was highly successful, but they don’t want to know they’re third,” Neinas said. “It can be embarrassing for a sitting head football coach to have his name out there and not wind up with the position. It’s basically to protect all the parties involved from having an embarrassing situation. You can’t always control that because there are leaks. But it won’t come from me.”
Neinas has built his contacts over four decades of work in college sports.
He began in the 1960s as an administrator for the NCAA, where one of his assignments was to organize national championship competition; he oversaw the beginning of the huge growth of what is now known as March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament.
From 1971-80, he was commissioner of the Big Eight. Then he headed the College Football Association. That group is best known for giving college football the expanded TV exposure it had long lacked, but it also played a huge role in setting standards for recruiting and academic eligibility.
It was at the CFA that Neinas worked with Mike Bohn, the new athletic director at Colorado — a search Neinas had a role in.
Neinas said searches for athletic directors are almost always more complex than those for coaches, simply because there are more issues to deal with and more administrators who have a role in the decision.
“He helps with searches,” Bohn said. “But I think many people underestimate his ability to help people understand other issues around intercollegiate athletics. It’s not just the hiring process. He has a keen insight into a lot of other nuances associated with the business.”
In all, Neinas has a list of 51 institutions he has helped in searches for a new coach or administrator.
About half the Southeastern Conference is on the list — Meyer at Florida, Mark Richt at Georgia, Bobby Johnson at Vanderbilt, Les Miles at LSU — as are Arizona State, Michigan, Kansas and Neinas’ own alma mater, Wisconsin.
He makes it clear that he’s not a decision maker, “only a conduit” for schools in search of a good fit.
It’s a high-pressure world he works in, but Neinas says the pressure never gets to him.
“I just enjoy it,” he said. “This may be misplaced, but I feel like I’m helping institutions, and that’s what I like to do.”
CFT: In a shocking move, QB Everett Golson is no longer enrolled at Notre Dame.
CFT: Former Penn State signalcaller Steven Bench joined the South Florida Bulls, he announced on Twitter.
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Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
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