There is a distinct difference between being a coach in the NFL and being a coach at the college football level. Yes the talent plays on a whole new level in the NFL but this difference between the two levels of football goes much deeper than talent. NFL players know the game. NFL players do not need motivation to play. Most NFL players have been around the block five to ten times and already know the grinds of the NFL football season. A coach can try and give a "Win one for the gipper" speech but the truth is many NFL players are either going to give their all or they aren't. College kids are a different breed of football player. Many college kids have just turned eighteen and are still very impressionable. A coach showing that he believes in the team and believes they can win every game they play makes a big difference in the college game. If you question this look no further than Pete Carroll of USC. There is no better motivational coach in the college game. Yes Carroll has the single best recruits in the nation year after year but he has a tough job that many of us don't realize. Carroll has to preach to these stars to play together. Carroll has to make these kids believe that the team as a whole is far more important than any one player. This may not sound like a hard job, but when all you are dealing with are the best players from every high school in the country it becomes just that. Reggie Bush in high school was the standout every one talked about. Matt Leinart walked that same path during his high school days. In college Carroll made these two believe that if they played together the end result would be far more satisfying than any individual awards these two might achieve on their own.
If you still have doubts on motivation and the role it plays in college football take a look at Fresno State. Pat Hill arrived in 1997 as our head coach and he brought the message that he wanted to make Bulldog football into a national player. The players began to believe in Hill's message. Fast forward to 2001 when Fresno State finally reached what Hill had been preaching for the three years before the dream 2001 season. The players bought into what Pat Hill said and they achieved at the beginning of the 2001 season what Hill had said was possible. Today the message has become tired. Today the players hear the same thing every year and become tired of it. Today Pat Hill's message is not as much motivational as it annoying. However it doesn't have to be this way with Pat Hill and the Bulldogs. His message needs to change with the players and the direction the program is headed. Hill needs to realize that he cannot continue to spit out the same exact thing year after year. Every season does not present the same challenges with respect to the players you have in the system and what is on the line. 2001 offered a chance at something bigger and better. 2004 offered the same exact chance. 2002-2003 did not offer this chance because the talent level at Fresno State was not there. Pat Hill needs to realize that maybe 2007 is not the kind of season where you aim for it all. Instead your motivational message should be to play hard and let everything fall into place. With a few breaks here and there you do not know what can happen. On any given Saturday one team can defeat another in college football (or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for that matter). Over the past ten years we have seen Pat Hill's message begin to mean less and less. In order for him to take control of this team once again he has to figure out a new message to convey to his players.
I began this blog with Pete Carroll because he has found a way to keep his team at the top of the college game every year regardless of what has happened. I understand his recruits are top of the line but without great coaching it does not matter how good your players are. Boise State does not have top of the line players but Petersen gets the most out of them because he knows how to motivate his players. Petersen has figured out a way to keep his players striving for the ultimate goal of winning the big game one day. In his career at Boise Petersen has witnessed two undefeated seasons (Although the first ended with a loss to Louisville). As long as Petersen understands what these kids need he will always be a great coach to the Broncos and their program. I believe Pat Hill can be a great coach again for the Bulldogs but he has to realize things cannot remain the same forever. His insistence on running the same exact offense without changing anything will not work in today's world. Yes in the NFL the same system can work for many years, but college is forever changing. In the 1990's the option offense was all the rave, but where is it now? Pat needs to motivate the Bulldogs and his players need to trust in him once again. The players need to believe that Pat's best interest is getting the best out of each and every one on the Bulldogs football team. If Pat can find a way to motivate the Dogs again we will see a vast improvement out of the team. 2008 should be a year to make a run, but if Pat cannot motivate these men 2008 will just be another lost season just as the past two seem to have been.