1993-1998: Linebackers coach at Kansas State
1999-2003: Linebackers coach at Oklahoma
2004-present: Defensive coordinator at Oklahoma
Current Position: Defensive coordinator at Oklahoma
Philosophy: During his tenure at Oklahoma, the Sooners have consistently ranked amongst the nation's top offenses using a version of the "Air Raid Offense" which Arizona currently employs. The OU offense has a reputation for being high-scoring and fast paced unit, and it's likely Venables will keep the spread offense in place at Arizona.
As a linebackers coach, Venables has produced five Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winners. In a conference loaded with top offenses, Venables' defenses rank near the top of Big-12 and are usually one of the better units in the country. He's always had the talent, but Venables has been great at maximizing his player's ability and combining it all together to create aggressive, hard nosed defenses that make things difficult for opposing offenses.
Reasons he should be hired:
1. Winner: In his time as an assistant coach, his teams at Kansas State and Oklahoma have gone 70-13-1 and 134-31, respectively. Venables has never known anything but success, which is exactly the sort of the Arizona football program needs at this time. By hiring An infusion of a winning attitude into the Wildcat program would make Venables a great fit for the team moving forward.
2. Energy and enthusiasm: For an Arizona fan base that had grown tired of the sideline antics of Mike Stoops, the hiring of Venables would be a welcome change. He is often shown on TV firing up his players and giving them chest bumps for good plays, and is the type of coach that players love to play for.
3. Affordability: As the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Venables currently makes about $450,000 per year. If he's hired at Arizona and given his first head-coaching gig, it likely would come at a much lower rate than what it would take to bring on a Mike Bellotti or Chris Petersen. The hiring of Venables would be a cost effective option for the Arizona football program.
4. Recruiting: Based solely on his experience and past performance as a coach, it is likely Venables could keep at least the defensive commitments in the 2012 class on board. At Oklahoma he's developed a reputation as a coach that recruits at a high level, and it's likely he would be able to use that relationship to help recruit Texas and the surrounding states to help lure prospective recruits to Arizona.
5. Charasmatic: As passionate as he is on the field, Venables has developed a reputation as a great man in the community, a requisite for developing relationships with recruits and boosters that are vital to keeping a program running. With Byrne's north end zone project heavily reliant upon donations from boosters, Venables would be a great face for the Arizona program and someone the fans could rally behind to improve UA football on and off the field.
Reasons he should not be hired:
1. We've been here before, haven't we?: Eight years ago, then Athletic Director Jim Livengood hired 41-year old Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to take over for John Mackovic following two and a half years of mediocrity. Some Arizona fans may be reluctant to accept a coach cut from the same cloth as coach Stoops, and his current position could be enough to stack the deck against the 40-year old Venables from the get-go.
2. Why isn't he a coach already?: Widely regarded as one of the top assistant coaches in the country, surely there is a reason why Venables has not received a head coaching job of his own. Whether it be his loyalty to Bob Stoops, his waiting for the right situation to take over, or another unknown reason, if Greg Byrne is going to seriously consider the Oklahoma defensive coordinator, he'll need to dig deep and find out why Arizona would be his first head coaching job.
3. Can he do it with less talent?: Oklahoma has consistently boasted top recruiting classes during Venables' career at OU, giving him plenty of talent to form his formidable defenses. He'll have to prove he can do it at Arizona before he will be able to attract that level of talent to his own program, and while he's a good coach, transforming a young UA defense into a solid unit may be too much of a challenge for a man with no head coaching experience.
4. Could he already have a dream job? It might be possible that if Venables is hired by Arizona, if another opening became available, he could trade the Wildcats for, well, a different group of Wildcats. He played two years as a linebacker under current head coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State and he also coached under him for five years before heading to Oklahoma. With Synder turning 72 years old a few weeks ago, he could very well be winding down his career in Manhattan. It's possible that the Oklahoma defensive coordinator has not yet gotten a head coaching job of his own because he's waiting to go full bore after a future opening at his alma mater. This potential uncertainty surrounding Venables may be enough to keep Greg Byrne from pursuing him too aggressively throughout the process.
5. Experience: The Arizona football program is in a very delicate state right now, and a bad hire could set the it back even further. Greg Byrne may be looking for a head coach with a history of success to turn the program around, and may not be ready to turn the program over to a young defensive coordinator with no head coaching experience. If head coaching know-how becomes a deciding factor for Byrne, it very well eliminates Venables as a candidate for the vacant head coach position at Arizona.