One of the numerous college football programs to hire a new head coach last year was Arizona, who replaced Rich Rod with Kevin Sumlin, who was fired from Texas A&M last November.
Before Arizona named Sumlin as the new head man though, reports surfaced that the school was close to hiring Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo instead — that is until Arizona QB Khalil Tate made his voice heard. The Heisman contender tweeted that he “didn’t come to Arizona to run the triple option,” the offense Niumatalolo has been running his whole career.
Per reports in January, the tweet, along with the publicity it received, spooked Arizona out of pursuing Navy’s head coach any further.
“I knew exactly what I was doing when I tweeted that out,” Tate has since told Bleacher Report. “I don’t do Twitter. When I tweet something, I download the app, tweet, then delete the app from my phone. So when I tweet, it’s important.”
While Tate says he meant no disrespect toward Niumatalolo, and calls him a “great coach,” he adds that he was also speaking for his teammates who didn’t want to run the triple offense either with his tweet.
From then on, Arizona began meeting with Tate to get his take on candidates the school had been talking to:
Soon after, Tate began speaking to Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke on a regular basis about the coaching search. Tate says Heeke would meet with candidates and then get Tate’s thoughts.
”I was basically the spokesman for our team,” Tate said. “I would tell (Heeke), I like this, I don’t like that.”
Obviously this isn’t to say Tate had a LeBron James-like monopoly over the coaching search, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for Arizona to let their star athletes be heard in decisions like this.
Could we see this happen elsewhere? Maybe not, but it would still be a good idea for more schools to listen to their athletes on other issues.