Kingsbury, Fleck lead wave of 30-something coaches

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Matt Rhule, 38, had a similar situation with Temple. Rhule spent last season as an assistant with the New York Giants, but before that he had worked with the Owls for seven years, helping Al Golden revive a program that had been in the doldrums.

Rhule was perfectly content in the NFL, but when Steve Addazio left Temple for Boston College, things changed. Rhule’s wife still worked at Temple.

“While I don’t have 50 years of coaching experience, I came in with Temple experience,” he said.

Taggart _ the new South Florida coach _ was 34 when he took over at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, back in 2009.

_ THE PROCESS HAS CHANGED. Back in the day, athletic directors were often former coaches. Now the people running athletic programs are more likely to have a business background than a sports resume. Also, most schools use consultants and search firms to identify candidates.

“These are factors that have moved coaching searches away from the notion that a young coach has to bide his time and more towards the notion of `he’s either got it or he doesn’t, regardless of age,’” Campbell and Strong wrote.

When Tim Beckman left Toledo for Illinois after the 2011 regular season, Campbell, who became the Rockets’ offensive coordinator when he was 29, was the obvious choice to take over.

Fleck has been zooming through the coaching ranks since being hired by his alma mater, Northern Illinois, in 2007 _ which was his plan. His “bucket list” included being the youngest head football coach in the country.

“Somehow, some way. I knew what I had to do to get there,” he said.

Fleck followed Greg Schiano from Rutgers to the NFL, and after one season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ receiver coach, he was able to cross that item off the list.

_ PREPARATION. Campbell and Strong work with clients to prepare for interviews.

“If a well-prepared young coach goes up against an unprepared seasoned coach, the lack-of-experience factor is neutralized a bit,” they wrote.

In the case of new Nevada coach Brian Polian, 38, experience really wasn’t a problem. The son of former NFL general manager Bill Polian, who built Super Bowl teams with Buffalo and Indianapolis, has been working in football since he was 10.

“When most kids are working at a putt-putt or mowing lawns,” he said, “I was working as a go-fer for the coaches of the Buffalo Bills.”

Polian interviewed for the Stanford job after Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL in January 2011. The Cardinal hired David Shaw, who was 38 at the time.

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