Snow Crosses Enemy Lines
06/27/2011 04:06 PM
In essence, Clifford Snow didn’t do anything that hadn’t been done before. Coaches and players who have donned Wildcat Blue have ended up in Cardinal red.
But Snow raised eyebrows in the Bluegrass recently when he left his position of director of football operations at the University of Kentucky after one season to take the same job at the University of Louisville.
The Cardinals visit Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 17, and Snow won’t face anywhere near the hostility that Rick Pitino did upon his return to Lexington as the U of L coach. But Snow heard some good-natured trash talk from the Kentucky players when he informed them he was leaving for U of L.
“Some of the players booed me in the hallway; then they came up and hugged me,” Snow said. “They said ‘We’ll see you in September, and we’re going to kick your butt. I said, ‘Well we’ll see, but I’m still going to come hug you after the game.’
Snow has a history with both UK Coach Joker Phillips and U of L Coach Charlie Strong, serving as director of football operations at South Carolina when both Strong and Phillips were assistant coaches there. Snow worked with Strong for four years in Columbia compared to just one with Phillips.
Snow said that he and Strong had discussed working together again if Strong ever became a head coach. And a door opened when U of L director of football operations Ryan Solesky left for another job.
Phillips granted Strong permission to interview Snow, who accepted the job shortly thereafter. And Snow knew the move would make some waves.
“I’m sure there are fans who are thinking, ‘What is that moron doing?” he said “How could you leave Kentucky for Louisville and go from the SEC to the Big East. But the reality of the business is you’ve got to look at the big picture. Two good programs, two good coaches; two coaches you know and are familiar with. There’s only one director of football operations at each school, so opportunities to move are limited. You don’t really get to dictate when you can do that. When the Louisville job arose, it something I had to take a look at and I ultimately decided it was better to make a change at this point.”
While Snow said there were some issues at UK that kept it from being the right fit for him, he made it clear that none of those issues involved Phillips.
“It had nothing to do with Joker,” he said. “I respect everything Joker is doing with the Kentucky program, but you want to be able to do your job to the best of your ability. I’ve worked with Charlie a little longer, but both of them are great guys. I got to spend a lot of time with Charlie while he was defensive coordinator (at South Carolina). To watch how he handled the defense and the players and coaches, you knew that he’d be successful and his time would eventually come. And we had talked in the past and it was one of those deals where we said, “If you ever get a head coaching job…. And the opportunity to work with him again was too good to pass up.”
Snow was appreciative of how Phillips handled his decision.
“First of all, Joker was kind enough to allow me to even interview for the job,” Snow said. “And he said, ‘I don’t want you to leave,’ but he was fabulous. He understood my reasoning. It was something my wife and I felt was in the best interest for me career-wise. I felt really bad because Joker gave me a chance, and it was a great one-and-a-half years. It was just something I believed I needed to do.”
Snow certainly isn’t a trendsetter in leaving Kentucky for Louisville or vice versa. We all know Pitino’s story. Two of Phillips’ current assistants at UK, Greg Nord and Mike Summers, were one-time members of the U of L coaching staff. And UK assistant basketball coach Kenny Payne starred at Louisville before joining John Calipari’s staff at UK last season. The late Marvin Stone finished his career as a Cardinal after starting at Kentucky, and the same goes for football players such as Carwell Gardner and Jeremy Darveau.
The director of football operations is a behind-the-scenes position that deals with mainly travel, lodging, camps, clinics and other paperwork. And Snow is a guy that likes to maintain a low profile, which should make the transition a little easier, especially when he returns to Commonwealth Stadium on the opposing sideline.
“For the Kentucky fans that know me, they might yell and heckle when I go back,” Snow said. “But I don’t think many people knew who I was. I like to stay out of the public. I just want to work hard and do my job.”
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