So why would Eddie Gran – one of Florida State’s top assistant coaches and one of the nation’s best recruiters – leave such a storied program to join Tommy Tuberville at Cincinnati?
“He was the best man at my wedding,” said Gran with a grin.
“I knew I had a chance to hire him because nobody knows him as well as I do,” said Tuberville.
The two coaches met in 1989 when Tuberville was a defensive coach at the University of Miami and Gran was a graduate assistant at East Carolina under defensive backs coach Chuck Pagano.
“We were at a coaching convention in San Francisco and Coach Tuberville was getting ready to go ski,” Gran told me. “They had just won the national championship at Miami and Coach Pagano introduced me to him. I met him and shook his hand and he said, ‘Be there on March the 10th.’ That was the beginning.”
“I raised Eddie from a pup,” said Tuberville. “I’ve seen him grow up from a young man that wanted to coach to becoming one of the better ones in the country. I’m proud to be his friend.”
When Tuberville got his first head coaching job at Ole Miss, he hired Gran to be his running backs coach. After four years there, it was on to Auburn where they coached together for another 10 seasons.
“He taught me what work ethic was, he taught me that technique and fundamentals are the things that win games, and you have to get kids that are smart and willing to work hard,” said Gran. “If you get that combination and have a great work ethic you have a chance. And he taught me to make sure that you treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s not that hard.”
Now Tuberville is giving his long-time assistant his first opportunity to be an offensive coordinator.
“To be a coordinator has always been a dream of mine,” said Gran.
“I’ve watched him grow and work at it and it’s hard to become a coordinator when you’re the running backs coach,” Tuberville told me. “I’ve always told him that you have to know more than just the running backs. So over the last six or seven years, he’s really made himself learn the quarterback position, the offensive line position, and all he needed was somebody to give him a chance. I know what he can do. He works hard and works well with players.”
Tuberville’s confidence in Gran’s ability to make the step to coordinator was evident in the makeup of Cincinnati’s offensive coaching staff.
“I let him hire his coaches,” said Tuberville. “I interviewed them too, but I said, ‘You know these guys…you know what you want to do. You pick ‘em out and we’ll sit down and interview as many as we can.’ He did a good job and they’re working well together. This is all new for him, but he’s excited.
“I told him that the number one thing that he had to do was hire a good quarterback coach and you’ve got to lean on him. Darin Hinshaw (former QB coach at Tennessee) is a good guy and he works well with Eddie and I think it’s going to be a good relationship.”
“He allowed me to hire a staff that I think is as good as any in the country,” said Gran. “It’s a great unit that works well together and we’re all on the same page.”
In addition to coordinating Cincinnati’s offense, Gran will continue to recruit in South Florida.
“I’m in my 28th season and I have not had another recruiting area – ever – at any school,” said Gran. “There are high school head coaches in South Florida now that I recruited when they were players.
“The coaches here will all have a Cincinnati area – all nine of us will have 10 schools in this area. Ohio is where we are going first. But everybody will also go out into other areas, and for me, that will be South Florida.”
“I made him stay in South Florida all of his life and he’s developed a lot of relationships,” said Tuberville. “That goes a long way in recruiting. Eddie has the personality where he can sell, and recruiting is nothing but selling yourself, your school, and your football team. He’s earned a lot of respect from high school coaches because when he takes a player, he takes care of them. He makes sure they get an education number one, treats them fair, and those coaches in South Florida understand that. It’s made him one of the best recruiters that I’ve ever been around.”
Gran is also a man of faith whose life was changed when the third of his four daughters was born in 1999.
“She had a rare brain disease and was given between two and four weeks to live, and she lived almost six years,” said Gran. “It made me a better father, it made me a better husband, and it made me a better coach. I really understood where my priorities were. She gave me and my family the greatest gift that a man could ever have: We all know where we’re going when this life ends. We’re very blessed for that.”
“I remember getting that call from him three or four days after she was born,” said Tuberville. “He said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but she’s not responding.’ I tell you, he and his wife Rosemary were two tough troopers – It’s awfully tough to lose a child. All of the players there at Auburn rallied around him and I think the kids learned a lot from it.”
Eddie and his wife started a charity called The Sydney Gran Foundation to support children’s hospitals and other families whose children are facing serious illness.
“We would like to raise somewhere between 60 and 80 thousand dollars because that would get us up to $500,000 dollars and then it would be endowed forever,” said Gran. “Sometime here, I think we’ll have another fundraiser to try to help out the foundation.”
But for now, Gran is busy getting to know his players…and happy to be reunited with his old boss.
“I was away from Coach Tuberville for four years, and to get back together with him is just fantastic,” said Gran.
“He has a lot of enthusiasm and works well with kids,” said Tuberville. “He’s going to make a great head coach. He’ll be a head coach in a few years and I think this is the next step. He’s interviewed for a lot of head coaching jobs, but he’s been turned down because he’s never made his own calls. Well, now he gets that chance. Let’s see what he can do.”
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