HUNTINGTON — In 2020, COVID-19 was the headline throughout college football.
As Marshall’s football program looks ahead to the 2021 season, though, the effects of the pandemic are still there.
With Marshall now searching for a head coach following its decision to not renew the contract of Doc Holliday, COVID-19 seems to have its thumbprint on each aspect of the future.
As the Marshall football coach search committee convened on Friday to initialize the process of looking at candidates, they did so with several factors in play.
Financially, the impact of COVID-19 hindered all of college sports, causing athletic budgets to shrink, which ultimately played in for many universities at each level.
While Marshall University did its best to maintain during the pandemic, it was not immune to the pandemic’s impact as several departments have had to shrink or not fill open positions.
Athletics is no different.
Now-former Marshall head coach Doc Holliday made $755,000 annually, which ranked 92nd among FBS teams and eighth out of 14 teams within Conference USA.
That $755,000 a year came after Holliday was given a contract extension that was announced before the 2014 Boca Raton Bowl and finalized in January 2015 by the Marshall Board of Governors.
Holliday’s initial contract with Marshall was a five-year deal signed on Dec. 17, 2009, that paid him $600,000 per season.
Football is certainly a business, and with that, the business side of the head coaching search will be interesting to see play out.
Does Marshall try to increase its new coach’s pay to ascend up the Conference USA ranks or will Marshall take a step back in terms of its pay in an attempt to save money at a time when every university nationally is looking to do the same?
Considering the pandemic’s impact, the likelihood is that Marshall’s financial matters will play a significant role in determining who the leader of the Herd in 2021 and beyond will be.
While COVID-19’s biggest impact came in terms of finances and game play, the newly-started offseason is showing that there are plenty of other ways the pandemic factored in to the process.
Marshall’s committee began breaking down candidates during Friday’s meeting, and looking at the 2020 season is difficult to assess due to the many facets involved.
Search committee members can’t just look at game-play and on-field results because some of those results may have come while teams were short-handed or impacted in some way due to the pandemic.
Many teams also lost games, which means the sample size for assessing performance within the last year is also limited.
It’s all part of the difficulty facing committee members as they look for the new leader of Marshall’s football program.
The final aspect — and, potentially, most interesting — is the logistical impact of the actual search itself.
For decades, coaching candidates have tried to organize meeting times for interviews and campus tours — clandestine or otherwise — to take place so that the committee members can get a feel for the candidates in person.
Given the pandemic, that is not likely to happen in this particular search — at least, not initially, according to those familiar with the process.
It is expected that candidates will engage in virtual meetings when interviews start early next week.
Once Friday’s original list of candidates gets taken down to the finalists for the position, it is then that those finalists will arrive on campus for in-person talks with the committee.
It is expected that the process will move forward quickly in the early portion of the week with initial interviews and discussion before the committee shrinks down its list for finalists.
Timing is important in the scenario, too, because of recruiting purposes, which are further impacted due to the availability for seniors to return in the 2021 season.
Marshall’s new head coach will have to be in place in time to address his team and find out what seniors will use their extra year of eligibility or who is leaving, then attempt to recruit as best as possible prior to the 2021 National Signing Day, which is Feburary 3.
Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick, who is chairman of the search committee, was not able to be reached for comment.