My Favorite AFCA Clinic Talks from the Past Few Years

It’s almost that time of year again, when the entire college football world comes together in one place to learn from one another, meet new people, and get back together with guys you haven’t seen all year.

If you’re a coach heading to Louisville on Sunday for the 2015 AFCA Convention, you can find the highlights of the schedule here.

Below are some of my favorite clinic talks from the past two conventions. As a reminder, I’ll be blogging daily summaries at the end of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and I’ll also be sending out my complete convention notes to all my subscribers shortly afterward.

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Mark Dantonio on the Secret to Michigan State’s Success

Dantonio quickly became on of my favorite guys in the business after listening to him talk about all the contributions that each individual staff member had made to the team who won the Rose Bowl that year.


This isn’t in the notes, and you’d never know it by watching him at press conferences, but Dantonio is actually kind of hilarious. The problem is that his expression never changes much, even when he’s trying to be sarcastic like he was last year in Indianapolis.

Fred Farrier on Networking and Managing Your Coaching Career

My first time attending the convention was in 2013, and so I attended the ‘First Timer’s Meeting’ in Nashville with a lot of other guys. Fred Farrier was the speaker there, and I loved what he had to say so much that the next year I went back and listened to him speak again. (He’s speaking again this year, so I highly recommend attending, even if this isn’t your first convention)

There are tons of tidbits on networking and how to conduct yourself in the notes, so if you’re someone trying to get ahead in the business, be sure to read them and put them into practice.

Bill O’Brien on “The Blueprint” and his Keys to Success

In January 2013 when giving this talk in Nashville, Bill O’Brien had just received the Coach of the Year award for his job in turning around the program at Penn State, just a season after the Jerry Sandusky scandal came out.

O’Brien, now back in the NFL with Houston, spoke about his time working under Bill Belichick and with Tom Brady as the Patriots offensive coordinator. Like a lot of the guys on this list, he stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.

“When you’re a head coach, you have to surround yourself with high-character, no-BS people. You don’t have the time for that in football. They have to be hard working and understand that it’s not gonna be easy.”

David Shaw on Chemistry, Leadership, and Hiring New Coaches

Shaw was a great speaker in Nashville in 2013. He was very open and honest about what his views are on a lot of things, including recruiting. He views the rigorous academic standards required at Stanford as an advantage, not a disadvantage. If you’re looking for mentally tough football players, there’s no better test than working towards a Stanford education while playing football.

win game

It was satisfying to hear a “big time” coach like Shaw talk about how he won’t play along if recruits play games or if he has to work extra hard to get them on the phone. I have a lot of respect for guys who know the kind of player they want, and don’t go chasing after every recruit with several stars in their ranking because they may be a great talent, or even worse, have the dreaded “potential” hanging over them.

David Cutcliffe on Winning


After nearly winning the ACC (in football!) at Duke, David Cutcliffe spoke in the general session about his philosophy, and like a lot of successful people, he views the people in the organization as the most valuable. According to him, he made sure the every last person he hired, including the secretary and other members of the support staff, absolutely loved football.

He also gave me on of my favorite quotes I’ve ever heard at a clinic:

“There’s no bigger fool in the world than the fool who thinks he can fool young people.”

It’s true Cutcliffe values real people who are genuine, because a team with little to no chemistry isn’t going to win very many football games.

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