Coaches earn looks, still eyeing showdown; ASU coach says he's 'happy where I'm at'

Published 30 November 2017

JONESBORO -- The coaching carousel sings its familiar tune, and athletic programs across the nation will watch their successful football coaches get swept away.

At one point this season, there were 10 head coaching vacancies in the Power 5 conferences, and as of Tuesday night, seven of those vacancies remain.

Saturday’s game

Troy at Arkansas State

WHEN 6:30 p.m. Central

WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro

RECORDS Arkansas State 7-3, 6-1 Sun Belt Conference; Troy 9-2, 6-1

TV ESPN2

As those spots are filled, new vacancies will unfold, and the cycle will continue.

Arkansas State University (7-3, 6-1 Sun Belt Conference) and Troy (9-2, 7-1) will play for a share of the Sun Belt title Saturday, and the programs' head coaches are prospects for several of those prestigious coaching vacancies.

ASU is competing for its third consecutive Sun Belt championship under Red Wolves Coach Blake Anderson, whose offenses have set school records for total offense (476.5 yards per game in 2014) and points scored (40 points per game in 2015).

Troy has a chance to finish with its second consecutive 10-victory season under Trojans Coach Neal Brown, whose team was ranked No. 25 at one point last season -- the first ranking ever by a Sun Belt team -- two seasons after serving as an offensive coordinator at Kentucky and Texas Tech.

Anderson did not expand on his professional future at the team's weekly news conference Monday.

"I'm thinking of Troy and that's it," he said. "I've got people that take care of those things, and ultimately God is in complete control.

"And I am happy where I'm at, and we're not near done with what I want to do here."

The comments were similar to what Anderson said at the Little Rock Touchdown Club in late October, when he said ASU fans should expect him to return for a fifth season.

That same day, ASU Athletic Director Terry Mohajir said he was preparing for a time when Anderson voluntarily leaves.

On Monday, he used the same phrase: "Change is inevitable," Mohajir said. "The only variable is when.

"That's why we focus in building a program with academic success in order for us to recruit the best students to our athletics department," he added. "At the end of the day, we say, you're choosing a university. Change is inevitable, she or he may be your coach, but you have to choose the right university to be successful, graduate and get a job to start your life."

When Mohajir announced last week that ASU was moving forward on the $29 million north end zone expansion project at Centennial Bank Stadium, he said that the expansion "could help coach retention" because ASU's facilities could compete nationwide.

ASU defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen, who was hearing the news for the first time, smiled and gave Mohajir a hug.

ASU will break ground on the project this week, when Troy will come to Jonesboro to play the Red Wolves on national television.

Anderson said of all the Sun Belt coaches, Brown is "probably the guy I'm closest to" and that "we've been good friends for years."

ASU beat Troy 35-3 last season in the only meeting between the two coaches, and Brown dismissed the notion that this week's game would have any implication in their professional futures.

"When I think people are evaluating you, I think they're looking at the complete body of work, probably going back to when we were both coordinators," Brown said. "I don't think that this game will determine that."

"For me, this game is an opportunity for us to win a conference championship, because we've done a lot of great things over the last two years. But we failed in our final game of the season last year to win a championship, and we have that same opportunity. So with all our success we've experienced over the two years, I would like our kids in our program to experience a championship."

Sports on 11/29/2017