I think Coach Van Gorder is a good man and a good coach. However, I think his career decisions in the last four years have indicated that he is impatient, short-sighted and lacks Strategery. The move from UGA DC to Jacksonville Jags LB coach seemed hasty and lateral at best. I actually expected BVG to be successful at Georgia Southern. But his aborted stint there reminded me that being a successful head coach is about more than just knowing your X's from your O's. It's about winning while appeasing multiple constituencies. Van Gorder proved himself not up to that task. He can be prickly and he was reluctant to embrace the program, its people, or its traditions.
"Would you still be smiling if I went 3-8 and left you coachless after a year in the middle of recruiting season? I mean, you know, rhetorically speaking."
Before he coached his first game in Statesboro Van Gorder scrapped several school traditions, alienating students, alumni, and community supporters he'd later need after his loss to creampuff Central Connecticut set the tone for the year.
When Erk Russell installed the triple option at Georgia Southern, he realized the types of kids he would be able to successfully recruit would be small but fast--and well suited to the triple option scheme. The trouble is, big schools don't want a triple option coach these days (which may be why Navy's Paul Johnson--despite an impressive won/lost record-- hasn't risen any higher), so Van Gorder installed a pro-style offense that would make him a more attractive candidate to larger schools down the road. Inheriting a playoff team from the previous season, Van Gorder's edition was worse in almost every conceivable measurement. His scheme and his personnel were mismatched. I doubt a more mature coach would have attempted something similar.
Making matters worse, Van Gorder scrapped GSU's tradition of arriving at Paulson Stadium in yellow school buses. When Erk created the program, the yellow school buses were the best they could do, and Erk (and every successor until BVG) kept the tradition in observance of the program's humble roots. But, Van Gorder didn't think the yellow school bus was classy enough. He also tinkered with the uniform. A wiser man would have asked and been told by more experienced peers that if you are going to go monkeying with a school's tradition, you'd better win BIG.
[Pictured: Candidate Van Gorder, with resume hanging from his belt]
Unfortunately, Erk Russell's death didn't help matters, in part because of the unflattering comparisons, and in part because Erk wasn't around to offer a vote of confidence to keep the haters at bay. In hindsight, Van Gorder was poorly matched to the job. His upward mobility was transparent, and when the going got tough, he took the first train out of town rather than wait around to get fired next season if he couldn't make the playoffs.
I have to think it will be a long time before anyone offers him a college head coaching position, and not just because of his modest
Career Consultant &
Statesboro Bureau Chief