Column: Eastern starts nationwide search for new coach

Eastern has head coach Bob Spoo for one more season, then it is time to find a new face to the program. The coaching search has begun.

Since Spoo’s announcement last Monday, there has been a Twitter uproar calling for defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni to be the next head coach.

It makes sense. Eastern is a small school that is not going to be able to afford a big time coach, and in this economy it might be better to promote from within. The Miami Hurricanes’ head coaching job recently opened up. Eastern is not going to compete with Miami.

Bellantoni is young and a talented recruiter, two things that are important in hiring new football coaches. Also, there is no denying that Bellantoni’s defense has been a catalyst for Eastern’s team ever since he has been here.

Even though Eastern was 2-9 this season, even with the problems, the defense was still one of the best in the Ohio Valley Conference.

I agree with people on Twitter that Bellantoni is a logical hire. If not Bellantoni, offensive coordinator Roy Wittke deserves a shot. He has been with Spoo for a long time.

Either way, the smart plan of attack in this coaching search is to look within the current staff. Bellantoni and Wittke should be atop the list.

Eastern’s athletic department will not release an official statement about their plan until Christmas break, but for now we can look at potential suitors outside of the Eastern coaching staff. We could call this athletic director Barbara Burke’s Christmas list.

Northern Illinois is a team in the top 25 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. The Huskies’ defense is only giving up 18 points per game in the Mid-American Conference. NIU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys might be a coach worth looking into.

Burke could make a huge splash if she brought in Missouri Valley Coach of the Year Trent Miles from Indiana State.

Indiana State went 6-5 this season, one of the most successful seasons in the Sycamores’ recent football history.

Murray State had one of the most exciting offenses I had seen this season against Eastern. If you’ve seen the No. 2 Oregon Ducks play football, the Murray State offense is just as fast.

I have heard that Racers’ head coach Chris Hatcher brought the style of offense to the team, but is probably impossible to reel away from another head coaching job.

Racers’ offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner has a hand in the offense to, and I think that offense might be successful at Eastern.

Those are just three intriguing names. There are plenty more, and here are some of the most unreachable ones.

Gus Malzahn has looked like a genius at Auburn, especially this season as Auburn is the No. 1 team in the land. Only a few years ago, Malzahn was coaching high school. He would be one of Eastern’s dream dates.

Paul Chryst is another wildly successful offensive coordinator at Wisconsin. The Badgers’ offense averaged over 40 points per game this season, and 450 yards per game.

Burke could make Washington Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan and offer he can’t refuse when he comes as the guest at this spring’s Athletic Director’s Gala.

Last but not least, former Minnesota Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress is looking for a job. But he is awfully expensive, I am sure. While all of these coaches are fun to consider, the fact of the matter is that many of them are unrealistic.

My advice is to hire from the current staff; however, no matter what happens in the coaching search, I have a feeling Spoo might have a say.

Alex McNamee can be reached at 581-7944 or [email protected]