News broke on Thursday that Nick Saban and Alabama have hired former Michigan linebackers coach George Helow effective immediately. Helow coached at Michigan during the 2021 and 2022 seasons before mutually agreeing to part ways prior to the 2023 season. There is some history between Helow and Alabama as he interned there in 2012.
The ramifications here could be anything from miniscule to massive, and we’ll never fully know the answer. Today let’s focus on this hiring from three different angles: on the field impact, the perception of Alabama based on this hire, and the perception of the Big Ten/NCAA and “competitive advantages”.
It’s safe to say Helow knows a ton about the make-up of this Michigan roster and it’s coaching staff. Just one year removed from the program, he certainly knows of countless player tendencies and habits. This could be vital to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide coaching staff as it gives them a small advantage. Helow also likely knows the play-calling tendencies of both of Michigan’s coordinators as he worked hand-in-hand with them. Specifically, he’s likely very familiar with defensive coordinator Jesse Minter’s scheme and how Michigan wants to play defense.
Given the ongoing saga of sign-stealing, Michigan has undoubtedly changed their signs multiple times since Helow left the program so his intel won’t be helpful there. He also won’t be on the field at the Rose Bowl as he was not hired in a coaching role at Alabama.
Perception of Alabama’s Hire
Some may call this hire desperate by Alabama. In my opinion, this is an expert hire in gamesmanship. It’s as close to hiring away a current coach as you can get. I have no issues with it as it’s within the rules. Really, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be allowed. Helow shouldn’t be precluded from an employment opportunity solely because of who’s on the schedule for a given team. That would be a terrible precedent to set. Saban is the master of this type of gamesmanship and I respect him for it.
Perception of the NCAA/Big Ten
To me, this is another item on the laundry list of reasons why the Big Ten and NCAA investigations into Michigan and the advanced scouting scheme are a farce. To be clear, I have no issue with Alabama hiring a former Michigan coach. I also have no issue with advanced scouting. The fact that one is within the rules while the other is not is asinine at best.
You can’t with a straight face tell me that iPhone footage from 100 feet away provides more of a “competitive advantage” than hiring a coach who worked for an opposing program less than a year ago just weeks prior to facing them. The NCAA rulebook is laughable at this point, especially in the NIL era.
If George Helow’s hiring tells us anything, it’s that every college coach is doing whatever they can to gain a competitive advantage. To reiterate, I have no issue with what Alabama is doing. My issue is with the sport as a whole using a rulebook from the 1990’s full of cost-cutting measures in a sport that brings in billions of dollars annually.
What do you think about George Helow’s hiring at Alabama? Will it have any tangible effects on the Rose Bowl? Does his employment last past January 2nd, 2024? Does the hire provide more or less “competitive advantage” than what Connor Stalions allegedly did?
Let us know what you think in the comments below.