For decades, all power in college football resided with management — coaches, TV networks, the NCAA, the big schools — and the players were at the mercy of the NCAA and its cheap, petty rules and notions of amateurism.

Now all the power lies with the players, and once again it has swung too far to one side. The game is in disarray. Players transfer willy-nilly, jumping into the transfer portal by the thousands each year and chasing NIL money, selling themselves to the highest bidder. Rosters are fluid. So are whatever rules that remain.

Which is why some coaches are heading for the exits. They’ve seen enough. 

Jeff Hafley left a head coaching job at Boston College to become defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. Reportedly, he will likely take a pay cut; according to Sportskeeda, he was being paid about $4 million per year at BC. 

When has anyone given up a head coaching job at an FBS school to take an assistant coaching position in the NFL?

Two other head coaches also voluntarily took lesser positions. South Alabama’s Kane Wommack and Buffalo’s Maurice Linquist resigned to become co-defensive coordinators at Alabama.

Who does that?

Chip Kelly does. At 60, he wasn’t able to leave the college game, but he tried. He reportedly pursued several NFL jobs but failed to land one; instead, after six seasons as head coach at UCLA, he resigned and accepted a position as offensive coordinator at Ohio State. He took a huge pay cut to do it, giving up a $6 million salary (and potentially a $4 million buyout if he was fired).

College football: The business that’s like no other
College football: The State of the (Dis)Union

After 15 years as a college and NFL head coach, he decided he’d rather call plays for Ohio State than continue as a head coach in the college game. Not even the allure of money, three winning seasons and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten next season was enough to keep him at UCLA or to continue as a head coach.

That’s how bad things are in college football.

There have been other defectors. Liam Coen gave up his position as offensive coordinator at Kentucky to take the same job with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At least it wasn’t a step down. USC assistant Kliff Kingsbury, who left the college game for the NFL in 2018 before returning as a collegiate head coach and assistant, returned to the NFL as offensive coordinator for the Commanders.

Jim Harbaugh left Michigan to coach in the NFL. He decided to flee the college game rather than face an NCAA investigation at Michigan.

When Nick Saban retired as head coach at Alabama, some speculated that NIL contributed to his decision (he denies it).

TV analyst Kirk Herbstreit tweeted, “CFB in its current state will be seeing more and more coaches heading to the NFL. Without boundaries and regulation that makes sense, coaches that get real opportunities in the NFL will be gone. ... The sport is spiraling out of control as we know and many of these coaches are not sticking around and waiting.”

When assistant coaches behave badly, where does the buck stop?

College coaches are being forced into the role of general manager and farther and farther away from actually coaching teams. They’re working the transfer portal and looking for NIL money and trying to keep up with the constant turnover of players. That’s not why they became coaches. It’s become too much — the general turmoil and unrest in the game, the constant realignments, all of it.

CBS’s Tom Fornelli summed it up well when he wrote, “When Kelly took the UCLA job, there wasn’t a transfer portal. There wasn’t NIL. There weren’t conference games against Rutgers. All of those things exist now, and yes, there are a lot of football coaches who don’t enjoy this new college football landscape.”

College football reporter Pete Thamel quoted an unnamed source about Hafley’s move to the NFL: “He wants to go coach football again in a league that is all about football. College coaching has become fundraising, NIL and recruiting your own team and transfers. There’s no time to coach football anymore.”

“A lot of things that he went back to college for have disappeared,” a source told ESPN about Hafley’s decision.

“College coaches leaving for lesser jobs at the NFL level will become much more common in the new era,” tweeted college football writer Barrett Sallee. “... There will be many more.”

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly looks on from the sidelines during a game against Utah, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Salt Lake City. | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press