As I have spoken with folks about Rob Ianello, reviews have been mixed.
My personal interaction with him has been limited. But it's also specific to the media. I don't think it matters a whole lot how a coach treats reporters. The important interactions are with players and fans. For what it's worth, however, Ianello has always been friendly with me. He also has been more secretive than J.D. Brookhart, whose candor made him a reporter's dream.
But back to the important interactions. Word among current players is that Ianello has not hid his desire to start a rebuilding process. That means that contributors from last year won't necessarily be contributors in 2010 if Ianello believes there is a younger guy with more upside. Sources have told me that at least two starters from last season have sought to redshirt over fears that their final season won't yield the playing time they hoped. (I'm not sure why redshirting would solve that problem.)
And then there's the Shawn Lemon incident. The coach made a careless texting slip-up, which could happen to anybody. The problematic issue is: Should the coach be talking behind a player's back like that?
Many fans have shown their displeasure that the coach canceled the annual golf outing -- an event where fans can get a chance to learn more about coaches.
Ultimately, the next six months will be much more important in determining Ianello's reputation among fans and players. It comes down to a simple question: Does he win?
But in the mean time, I'll throw in my two cents of advice for the coaching staff, based off my five years of covering Akron's football program:
1) Ianello came to Akron from Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, the coaches are permitted (if not encouraged) to hold the attitude that fans are privileged to watch your games, and any interaction that coaches have with them is to be rare. At Akron, you have to nurture the fan base. And if you have bigger goals for the program, you'll have to spearhead a dive into new demographics. At Notre Dame, canceling a golf outing is no big deal; games will still sell out. At Akron, you're missing a chance to connect with lukewarm fans who are on the border between attending only the homecoming game or going all-out to get season tickets.
2) When you enter a new job as the person with ultimate power, you have to assure the stakeholders of their place in your plans. Within the dynamics of Akron football, fans are stakeholders. They put a lot of time and money into following a product that the typical Northeast Ohio sports fan does not. Obviously, stakeholders also include former players, whose scholarships and years of hard work are easily threatened.