SCOTTSDALE, AZ – Jeff Scott likes watching and listening to introductory news conferences, in part so he can map out what he'll say when his time to become a head coach arrives.
When it finally did and Clemson's co-offensive coordinator was named South Florida's head coach, Scott didn't get to prepare like he wanted.
There was a late-afternoon flight. A trip to the stadium. Dinner. A call from a recruit's father, another from a transfer.
By the time Scott finished his long day, the prep time for his introductory news conference had whittled down to a small window in the wee hours of the morning.
“At 12:45 in the morning, I'm staring at a laptop with a blank screen with a cursor,” Scott said Thursday. “I ended up putting my notes together and got to bed around 2, woke up about 5:30 to finalize them and I'm like, ‘OK, this is what it’s going to be like being a head coach.”
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley knows just what Scott is going through.
As second-ranked Tigers get ready to play the third-ranked Buckeyes in Saturday's Fiesta Bowl, the two coordinators have more on their minds than just trying to outwit the other.
Both are building game plans to push their current teams through to the national championship game while trying to wade through the waters of becoming a head coach for the first time.
“It's just a matter of managing your time,” said Hafley, who was named Boston College's head coach on Dec. 14. “It isn't always easy.”
Hafley and Scott, who was hired on Dec. 9, both wanted to finish what they started at their current schools, so instead of bolting to their news jobs, they opted to stick around until this season ends — either in Saturday's College Football Playoff semifinals or the national championship game Jan. 13 in New Orleans.
The finish-what-you-started mentality is admirable, but also tricky. It takes planning, multi-tasking ability, little sleep, lots of understanding from their families. There's travel, endless phone calls, film study and game planning for the Fiesta Bowl, getting to the know the players and staff at the new schools.
The key: making sure the current job and the next one get the same amount of attention.
“I spend all day preparing for the meetings, preparing for practice, watching film after practice, getting the next day's meeting ready,” Hafley said. “Then I go back and hang out with my family and when those guys go to bed, I do a little bit for what's ahead. That's it. You can ask the players and the coaches, I am 100% percent locked in. Nothing has changed.”
The first few days were the toughest.
Once the whirlwind of the announcement and introduction were over, Scott and Hafley had to start figuring out how to fill out their coaching staffs, which players will be returning and try cobbling together some semblance of a recruiting class for the early signing period.
The early signing period was Dec. 18-20, so the scramble was on to see which recruits would uphold their commitments and which would go to other schools. Making things tougher, assistant coaches who leave a school for another often don't want to leave their current program in a tough spot, so they ask for any announcements about their new jobs to come after signing day.
“I had to go through signing day without the recruits knowing how their position coaches were going to be,” Scott said. “That created a lot of phone conversations to earn some trust and build relationships in a hurry.”
Once the early rush was over, Scott and Hafley could divide their attention much easier.
Both spent the first week or so getting things in order for their new jobs while keeping track of their current jobs from a distance. Now that they're in the desert, the focus is on the CFP while still paying attention to what's happening in Tampa Bay and Boston.
“In all honesty, I haven't missed a practice, I haven't missed a day, I haven't missed meeting — I haven't missed anything,” Hafley said. “I owe it to the team, myself, to the staff to finish this thing and Boston College was awesome about it. They wanted me to do it and it was something I needed to do.”