Hiring Ianello Was A Mistake for Akron

By Ryan Isley (Originally posted on 10/7/2010)

University of Akron athletic director Tom Wistrcill and his entire staff are learning an important lesson the hard way that you cannot judge a book by the cover.

Last football season, the Zips were a woefully underachieving 3-9 (2-6 in the MAC), bringing to an end the six-year tenure of head coach J.D. Brookhart.

During the hiring process to replace Brookhart, Wistrcill and his staff were hoodwinked and bamboozled by Touchdown Jesus into hiring then-Notre Dame interim head coach Rob Ianello.

Wistrcill was out to make a splash with this hiring, knowing that the football team was falling behind in popularity to the men’s basketball team, which had been to three straight MAC championship games (they made it four this past seasonafter Ianello was hired) and the men’s soccer team, which had just advanced to the NCAA semi-finals five days before Akron announced Ianello as their new head coach.

What better way to make a splash than to steal away the guy that Notre Dame had tabbed to run their program when they fired Charlie Weis? Or so Wisctrill thought.

Ianello sold himself to Wistrcill the way he sold his former teams to recruits, and Wistrcill fell hook, line and sinker for everything the 45-year-old Port Chester, New York native was selling.

Wistrcill did the equivalent of going through a drive-thru and ordering a gourmet cheeseburger only to drive away and unwrap it to find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as the Zips are now 0-5 with no end to the misery in sight.

Looking at the bio that Akron has distributed about Ianello, they will tell you that Ianello is the only coach to be named one of the 25 best recruiters nationally from 2005-09 by Rivals.com and that he directed three straight top-10 recruiting classes at Notre Dame from 2006-08.

What Akron has either failed to realize, or has decided to completely ignore, is the fact that Ianello has been an assistant recruiting coordinator or a recruiting coordinator at Alabama, Wisconsin, Arizona and Notre Dame, schools that are a lot easier to sell to recruits than is Akron.

What Akron will also tell you is that Ianello served as the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame in 2009, when the Fighting Irish had the sixth-best passing unit in the country in and were ninth-best overall offensively in the nation.

What they neglect to tell you is that the offense was led by quarterback Jimmy Clausen (now the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers), wide receivers Golden Tate (an AP All-American) and Michael Floyd (one of the best sophomores in the country despite missing five games to injury) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (the top-rated tight end in the country this season).

Those caliber of players are just simply not going to commit to Akron.

Need proof?

Of the top 150 recruits listed at ESPN.com, seven of them are verbally committed to Notre Dame, even with Ianello not there, while Akron will not be mentioned in the top-150 at all.

What Wistrcill and Akron did was make a hire based on Ianello’s recruiting past and completely ignored the fact that he had been no higher than a position coach until last season at Notre Dame.

Wistrcill needed to get a name, not a resume.

He knew that he needed to be able to put fans in the seats of their new $61.6 million stadium, as their failure last season resulted in less than 10,000 people filing through the gates for the season finale.

Unfortunately for Wistcrill, the fans were not as easy to trick as he was, which was evident when less than 16,000 fans showed up for this season’s opener against Syracuse. Those who did show up left shaking their heads in disgust after watching the Zips get dominated by one of the worst teams in the six BCS conferences.

Akron had scheduled their second game of the season against FCS opponent Gardner-Webb and just over 10,000 fans showed up for that. To make matters worse, the Zips found a way to lose that game before heading on the road for two weeks.

After losses at Kentucky and Indiana, two more BCS non-powerhouses, Akron returned home where they were thumped 50-14 by Northern Illinois in front of just over 12,000 fans.

Last season under Brookhart, the offense averaged almost 301 yards per game and gave up 367 yards per game defensively.

So far this season, the Zips are worse in each category, averaging just 267 yards per game on offense and allowing 462 yards per game on defense.

Quarterback Patrick Nicely has regressed under the eye of Ianello, completing just 46% of his passes and has just three touchdown passes to two interceptions.

This does not bode well for a program that the returned 17 starters from a year ago, a team that many thought would compete for the top spot in the MAC East before collapsing.

Then again, maybe Wistrcill should have just checked out the book from the library instead of committing to it and buying it because of the cover, because so far the story inside has been less than uplifting.

Of course, Ianello could write a new chapter in that book with a win against Kent State this Saturday, but so far there is nothing to suggest that this story is that type of fairytale.

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1 Comment

  1. […] and head coach Rob Ianello. I know – this is coming from someone who wrote last season that the school made a mistake in hiring Ianello, who thought Ianello’s team embarrassed themselves against Kent State and who made fun of Ianello […]


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