He hears it all the time: Why does a school need a headhunter?
Sugiyama takes a break from his lunch of Caesar salad with sliced hanger steak.
"People say, 'Isn't it the athletic director's job to find a coach?' " he says. "No, the AD's job is to hire the best person. The coach is often the highest-paid employee of the university and the state. Many people consider it malpractice not to use an executive search firm to make the best decision possible."
He's biased. He also has a point.
Florida State is out $18 million after ousting Taggart after 21 games. Arkansas owes about $10 million to Morris. Serves the Razorbacks right for hiring a guy who went 14-22 at SMU.
Sugiyama worked with Stanford on the 2006 hiring of Jim Harbaugh.
More recently he helped place Lane Kiffin at FAU, Blake Anderson at Arkansas State, Seth Littrell at North Texas and Jason Candle at Toledo. All have had their contracts extended at least once. In fact 93% of the coaches Sugiyama has placed over the last five years have been extended, his company says.
Of course, half of the teams lose every Saturday, and not every Sugiyama search yields gold. Take the 2011 hiring of Charlie Weis at Kansas.
He won't say which candidates he brought to Sheahon Zenger, the since-ousted Kansas athletic director who fired Loyola basketball coach Porter Moser while at Illinois State. Reports linked Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren to the Kansas job. And an industry source said NFL veterans Dave Wannstedt and Herm Edwards were considered.
"I did my job," Sugiyama says.
In the end, the school decides and lives with the consequences.