Matt Kupec: Is There a “Right” Age to Hire a College Coach?

by Matt Kupec

March 26, 2019

Southern Illinois University Director of Athletics Jerry Kill recently made a great hire by bringing former SIU basketball standout Bryan Mullen back to Carbondale as the Salukis new head basketball coach.  Coach Mullen has been a top assistant for the Loyola Chicago basketball program over the last four years and should return the Salukis back to the hierarchy of college basketball.

At thirty-two years old, Mullen becomes one of the youngest head coaches in Division I basketball.  In addition to Coach Mullen, the SIU football coach Nick Hill is just 33 years old.  Combined these two head coaches total just 65 years in age!

Is this unusual to have such young coaches or is this consistent with trends in the coaching field?

I immediately thought about my alma mater UNC with 67 year-old football coach Mack Brown, and 68 year-old basketball coach Roy Williams.  Heck, the two SIU coaches are younger together than BOTH Coach Brown and Coach Williams!!  But also remember that Coach Brown was 34 years old when hired as Appalachian State University’s football coach.  Coach Williams was 42 years old when Kansas made the former UNC assistant its head basketball coach.  Neither of the Hall of Fame coaches started head coaching careers at UNC but both have had remarkable success in Chapel Hill

But even at UNC, young coaches have been hired in the past.  Bill Dooley, who was my UNC college coach in the late 1970’s, was hired in 1967 at the tender age of 33 years old.  The basketball coach at the time was “ancient” 37 year- old Dean Smith who had been hired six years earlier at the even younger age of 30 years old.  So, UNC has had mix of young and old over its history.

So, is it the trend to hire young coaches?

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About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.