Inside the world of college football headhunters: How a 'crazy' Chicago exec helps schools reel in the big fish
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Inside the world of college football headhunters: How a 'crazy' Chicago exec helps schools reel in the big fish

The leaves have fallen; the golf clubs are in storage. As fall gives way to winter, the college football industry prepares for what it calls "jobs season."

Rutgers pulled the plug on Chris Ash. Florida State launched Willie Taggart. Arkansas booted Chad Morris on Sunday. That's three Power Five head coaching openings with more to come Dec. 1 as America devours Thanksgiving leftovers.

At the center of these transactions will be agents, athletic directors and, of course, the coaches themselves.

But there's another key group - headhunters. They're the Match.com of the process.

They don't offer the deals or sign the contracts, but they do far more than run background checks so schools can avoid the embarrassment of a George O'Leary, whom Notre Dame quickly dumped in 2001 because of lies on his resume.

The modern headhunter is part researcher, part sounding board and part concierge, making all the arrangements on the down low for conference calls and interviews.

And in the case of one industry veteran in Chicago, Glenn Sugiyama, a whole lot more.

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips jokingly describes him as "crazy," and it fits, considering Sugiyama once sent a decoy plane to Boise, Idaho, to throw off technologically astute reporters and fans.

Central Michigan AD Michael Alford spent five straight days with Sugiyama as they crisscrossed the country on a search that yielded former SEC coach of the year Jim McElwain.

"It's not a business for him," Alford says. "It's a passion."

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