How Arkansas State hired four coaches in four years and continued to win. He may never be equaled – The Athletic


Editor’s Note: This story is part of the Secrets of the Coaching Carousel series exploring unique aspects of college football coaching changes and more.

Dean Lee has two daughters. One is called Diamond and the other is called Pearl. They are 26 and 24 now, but in December 2011 they were teenagers. Their father was the Arkansas State athletic director and he needed to hire a football coach.

The Red Wolves had just been undefeated in the Sun Belt and their coach was poached by Ole Miss, so interest was high. So high that Lee’s phone just kept ringing. Lee didn’t have time to sift through all the calls from coaches who wanted the job, agents who wanted their client to get the job, or associates who wanted to recommend a particular coach. So he had an idea – an idea that would force him to requisition the phones of his two teenage daughters.

“They had been brought up in the sports world,” says Lee, who now heads the Berryville, Ark Chamber of Commerce. “They knew it was important.”

Lee left his own phone to do the regular job of being the DA. He gave Pearl’s number to coaches and coaching agents who had made it through the first round of Cups. He gave Diamond’s number to the coaches who had made his list of finalists. If Pearl’s phone rang, it wasn’t essential to answer. But if Diamond’s phone rang …

Needless to say, Lee gave Diamond’s number to Gus Malzahn. And in one of those calls, Malzahn accepted the job. His hire was the second of four in a coaching carousel that will likely never be surpassed or even matched.

Four times in four years, the state of Arkansas has hired a football coach. Each coach has won at least one conference title.