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As discussed in last week’s issue, UTSA Athletics Director Lynn Hickey has announced three finalists for head coach for UTSA’s football program. Larry Coker, Paul Randolph, and Mel Tjeerdsma (Church-Ma).

When I initially discovered that Coker was interested in the job, he immediately got my endorsement (although I’m pretty sure my endorsement means very little to him). But after some hard thinking, I began to consider the possibility that perhaps Coker may not be UTSA’s best choice for the position. Is he qualified? No doubt. In his first year at Miami in 2001, he led the ‘Canes to an unblemished season and took home the ADT National Championship Trophy.

That’s pretty impressive for a first-year coach. It pains me to say it, but not even Pete Carroll from Southern Cal did that (argh!). In his five seasons at the helm of one of college football’s premier programs, Coker guided Miami to a 53-9 record. Damn. That’s awesome. Coker’s success on the field was matched by his successes off the field too. His team had the highest graduating percentage of all colleges in 2004, with 84 percent, compared to a national average of only 58 percent.

Despite all the success Coker had with the ‘Canes, they are a Division I school and already have established themselves a perennial powerhouse. UTSA will start conference play as a Division II or even III program, then move up to Division I. Coker has had success in a Division I school, not a start-up program such as UTSA.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mel Tjeerdsma also has had lots of success, but at the Division II level. He’s the head coach at Northwest Missouri State University, where he guided Northwest to two back-to-back Division II national titles in 1998 and 1999. Mel is also an educated man, having both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in physical education. Nice.

It seems as if Tjeerdsma would be the prime choice for Hickey and her staff simply because he has tons of experience with Division II football programs, which, as mentioned earlier, is what UTSA will be. However, Coker is nationally renowned as a major college football coach, and having him here would not only bring a barrage of national attention, but also lots of money to cut into the $84 million price tag UTSA is staring at.

So, nationally recognized, Division I champ, or not-so-recognized Division II champ?

I’m torn.

I have one final suggestion for Hickey and her staff: try to entice Pete Carroll from his multi-million dollar salary, national championships, Heisman Trophy winning career at USC and take a major pay cut to come coach some Division II football in the two-one-oh, and build a program from the ground up.

Sounds good to me.

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