College Football Coaches: Better to be Feared or Loved?

College football is my, and most of America’s, favorite part of Saturday’s in the fall. Watching your favorite team, and watching different highly ranked teams compete on primetime. As I religiously watch I begin to notice different styles of play by different teams and more importantly different styles of coaching. Some coaches are celebrating with their players and in a constant dialogue with them, while others have a stern look on their face the whole time and are there to do one thing and that is to win. Boom! On Saturday, while I am watching the games, Mr. Machiavelli pops into my head.

One of the main points in The Prince by Machiavelli is the question of is it better to be feared or loved as the prince. Machiavelli points out that, “one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved” (Machiavelli). We know that Machiavelli’s opinion is to feared over loved because a connection with the people under love can easily be broken and then you are destroyed. Whereas being feared will preserve your time as prince, because people are too scared to challenge you.

I was thinking how there are coaches in the NCAA that have that same style. Some choose to be “feared” by there players and some choose to be a “player’s coach” and be loved.

Nick Saban and Mark Dantonio are two perfect examples of coaches that are “feared” by their teams. That is not saying that the players are actually frightened by them. They are just not the player’s best friends. They are all business when it comes to football. This mentality has been very successful for these two coaches. Saban’s overall record at Alabama is 78 wins and only 15 losses. And Dantonio’s overall record at Michigan State is 67 wins and 30 losses.

The thing we have to remember about these two coaches is something that Machiavelli harps at throughout The Prince, and that is that if you are feared you cannot be hated. These coaches are hard on their players but are not hated by them. The players still want to give 100% for them. That is the key to their success. Both of the coaches are “lions” in Machiavelli’s eyes. They are harsh and feared, and it works for them. But in college football you do not have to be a lion to be successful.

Brian Kelley and Pete Carroll are two coaches that are known for being “player’s coaches”, loved by the team not feared. I am talking about Carroll’s days at USC not in the NFL. Both of these coaches have had great success while being loved by the team. Kelley’s overall record at Notre Dame is 41 wins and 15 losses, and Carroll’s record at USC was 83 wins and 19 losses. These coaches were able to have winning programs while still being loved because they embraced the role of the “fox” that Machiavelli talked about. They recruit players that embody the deceitful characteristic that is needed by a fox. The prime examples are Reggie Bush and Everett Golson.

Unfortunately for the coaches that are loved but not “foxes”, things do not go to well. Our very own Brady Hoke and Jerry Kill of

Minnesota are the perfect examples. Hoke’s overall record at Michigan is 28 wins and 17 losses and Kill’s overall record is 21 wins and 22 losses. They are both known for being loved by their player’s but without the aspect of deception that is needed to win. Hoke is now facing that fire, which we can clearly see by the rallies to get him fired.

Historically the coaches that are “feared” have a much better success rate than those loved. Proving Machiavelli’s point that it is better to be feared than loved. Therefore it is better to feared, but not hated, and if you choose to be a “loved” coach you must be like a fox or else your team will most likely lose a lot of games.

-Johnny Luciani

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