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Colorado-based consultant Chuck Neinas has become a modern-day hired gun for athletics directors looking for football coaches.
AP photo by Reinhold Matay
Colorado-based consultant Chuck Neinas has become a modern-day hired gun for athletics directors looking for football coaches.

Looking for a football coach? Look up this guy for some help
Hired by Alabama, Chuck Neinas helps schools land their man

By Josh Cooper 340-2460

It's become almost a common scenario for a Division I-A athletics director. A coach gets fired, and he needs someone else. So whom does he call? Chuck Neinas.

Neinas has become a modern-day hired gun for athletics directors looking for football coaches.

"Chuck's background is in football and a lot of football coaches know him," N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler said. "He does a good job of knowing people, who they are and having contacts with them."

A former assistant executive director for the NCAA (1961-71), Big Eight commissioner (1971-80) and executive director of the College Football Association (1980-97), Neinas has a wide range of contacts throughout the college sports industry.

Since 1997, he has run Neinas Sports Services, a sports consulting firm in Boulder, Co., and he works with schools in hiring athletic administrators and football and basketball coaches. Most recently, he has helped conclude football coaching searches at Miami, North Carolina, Michigan State and N.C. State.

In the past, he helped LSU lure Les Miles from Oklahoma State. He helped Georgia land Mark Richt from Florida State where he was an assistant. In 2002, he helped Texas A&M successfully hire Dennis Franchione away from Alabama.

USA Today reports that Neinas receives about $30,000 to $40,000, plus expenses, for each search.

Count Alabama among his clients as the Crimson Tide looks for a replacement for Mike Shula, who was fired Nov. 26.

For example, when Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio told reporters he wasn't interested in the Alabama job, that happened because Neinas likely contacted Del Rio or his agent to measure interest.

That happened again recently with St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who told reporters that he didn't want the Alabama job.

"I think a lot of people don't understand in these coaching searches that you may be interested in a job, but you can't let it out in the public and can't talk to the athletic director," said Fowler, who employed Neinas to aid its recent search that concluded with the hiring of Tom O'Brien.

"They seem to like to have a go-between."

And Neinas has provided that for Alabama.

If Alabama wants to know if a coach has interest in a school, Neinas serves as the facilitator in negotiations. It's the same if a coach wants to express his interest in a job.

Also, after meeting with school officials and determining what they want in a coach, he'll develop a list of possible candidates.

And most importantly, Neinas never says a word to anyone besides the people who employ him. One industry insider joked that Neinas wouldn't tell his brother if he knew something.

"When a job comes open, coaches just know what to do," North Carolina sports information director Steve Kirschner said. "It's not written down. It's sort of evolved that way. Coaches know if they contact Chuck Neinas there will be a level of anonymity.

"He lets you know if they're interested and vice versa, and he gets out of the way."

North Carolina hired Neinas when it fired John Bunting. According to Kirschner, the school had targeted Butch Davis as the top choice, and the Tar Heels eventually hired him Nov. 13.

But if Davis had not shown interest, then UNC would've needed Neinas even more.

"He certainly helped us get in touch with Butch," Kirschner said. "It would have taken on a greater measure here had Butch Davis not been interested or we not been interested."

The Neinas calling card — silence and anonymity — never seemed more apparent than when N.C. State hired O'Brien.

While public speculation centered on Navy coach Paul Johnson, N.C. State managed to hire O'Brien from its league, the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The news likely came as a surprise to most Wolfpack insiders. Fowler worked through Neinas to gauge O'Brien's interest early. Then Fowler zeroed in on O'Brien before word leaked out.

"I think that there are coaches who are trying to see where they want to go or not," Fowler said. "If it does get public, it's a situation where people start bidding. The less public it can be, the better."

With as many clients as Neinas has, one might wonder if he plays favorites. According to Fowler that's not the case because each vacancy is different.

"There has to be a mutual interest," Fowler said. "I try to tell people that there were 10 pretty girls in my high school. Until one of them wanted to date me, it didn't make a lot of difference."

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