When the regular season wraps up in November, Houston’s Tom Herman might have an opportunity no coach has ever gotten: First pick of the country’s top-tier job openings.
LSU, Texas, Southern Cal, Oregon and Notre Dame could all have vacancies in a couple of months. If Auburn and Penn State somehow implode down the stretch, however unlikely that may seem, perhaps those two jobs come open as well.
Herman will earn a handsome pay day wherever he ends up, but his upcoming choice leads to an interesting debate. How do the SEC’s best coaching jobs compare to those at other elite football programs? And on what criteria should we consider a job “good” or “bad?”
SEC Country decided to consider the following factors in its ranking, and give each school a 1 to 5 rating (1 being the lowest) in each category that makes up a composite score.
- Money: How much revenue does the school generate, plus its conference if applicable, and how much could it pay a coaching staff?
- Location: How far do the country’s best recruits have to travel to see your school? How much in-state competition exists? How much talent resides in-state?
- Facilities: Is there an indoor practice facility? How recently was the stadium renovated?
- Tradition/culture: Has the program historically won? How invested is the fan base? Is there a “brand” coaches can sell to recruits? (whatever that word actually means)
- Current standing: How is the program trending right now? Has it been consistently competitive over the past decade?
So without further ado…
Tier I — Best of the best (24 points)
LSU: Money? Check. This is one of the most profitable programs in the country. The Tigers have a near recruiting monopoly on the state of Louisiana, which has produced some incredibly good prospects of late. Plus Louisiana borders Texas. Death Valley is iconic, the fans are rabid and the team has won at least 8 games in every season since 1999. When athletic director Joe Alleva called this a top-five job in the country, he wasn’t just blowing smoke.
Alabama: Even after all the up-and-downs of the Mike Shula/Dennis Franchione years, and the Mike Price fiasco, the Crimson Tide hired a national championship-winning coach from the NFL in Nick Saban. The job was good before he arrived. Now? The thing is built like an iron fortress. The Facilities are top-notch, Alabama’s a longtime winner and living dynasty, and the money is a-flowing on campus. The only knock might be its location. Though bordering the prospect-rich states of Georgia and Florida, Alabama itself is not a massive recruiting ground. Only six of the Tide’s 23 Class of 2016 enrollees came from in-state. Saban has been able to recruit nationally, which is a big factor in his perennial success.
Ohio State: Geography is a much bigger hindrance for the Buckeyes. While they get their fair pick of Ohio and the nearby Midwest states, they’ve also needed Urban Meyer’s Florida connections to lure some big prospects from the Sunshine State. Standout linebacker Raekwon McMillan, a former 5-star, hails from Georgia. But the money (thank you, Big Ten Network) and the recent success, being only two years removed from a national title, are hard to match. They more than make up for the Big Ten’s lack of “sexiness” compared to the SEC.
Tier II — Schools on deck (23 points)
Florida: You could make an argument the Gators belong a tier higher, and that’s fine. Their recruiting advantages are crazy good. The money situation is phenomenal. They’ve been a national powerhouse since the 90’s, when Steve Spurrier built them into one. Heck, you can coax 8 wins out of Ron Zook if you put him in The Swamp. Meyer and Jim McElwain show how quickly a competent coach can reverse this program’s fortunes. The facilities aren’t quite “5 out of 5,” and as far as profitability goes they were $37 million in the positive in 2015 — 15th nationally — but Florida is still unquestionably an elite program.
Georgia: Like LSU, the Bulldogs are set up quite nicely as the state’s go-to Power 5 football program. The entire state — and specifically the rapidly expanding metro Atlanta area — is full of recruits that not only go on to become college stars, but NFL players as well. The facilities are improving, with construction of an indoor practice facility already underway. The money is top-notch and Mark Richt built Georgia into a consistent winner. Georgia and Florida are both probably top-five jobs.
Texas: Not too long ago, there were few questioning this as the country’s best job. Now? With the Big 12 a political mess, the Longhorn Network a financial mess and the on-field product stinking more often than not, the Longhorns lose points for all the negative noise. Even with the money, tradition and prime recruiting positioning, Texas needs some help right now. As far as LSU’s hopes for Herman go, this’ll make Alleva’s case a little easier.
USC: Southern California is a recruiting paradise. There’s plenty of financial support to go around, and the peak Pete Carroll years weren’t too long ago at all. There’s an NFL team in town now, though, and athletic director Pat Haden doesn’t sound like the easiest boss in the world. There’s a definitely culture problem surrounding this program right now, and that’s hurting a little bit.
Tier III — Still way up there (22 points)
Tennessee: Keeping top Tennessee talent in-state has proven tough for Volunteers coach Butch Jones lately. He’s been forced to continue poaching nearby Georgia and North Carolina. Location aside, you can’t deny Tennessee has a ton of great things going for it, especially now that it actually has a promising, competitive season in the works.
Auburn: If Malzahn actually was fired, which seems much less likely, you think it wouldn’t be filled in a heartbeat?
Texas A&M: The Aggies’ stock has been soaring over the past few seasons. Either it’s peaking right now, or it’s a future elite.
Michigan: Setting up shop in Ann Arbor is a huge disadvantage here. So long as the coach is a strong recruiter and likes traveling like Jim Harbaugh, this is a great job.
Oregon: Insanely nice facilities, the Nike partnership and being the Pacific Northwest’s premier program are all huge pluses. If Mark Herzlich gets canned, a ton of coaches will come clamoring for it.
Oklahoma: An old-school team that’s still chugging right along into the 21st century. Like LSU, the Sooners haven’t won fewer than 8 games since 1999. But the Big 12 and Oklahoma’s recruiting competition are negatives for now.
Notre Dame: Where’d it all go wrong for the Irish? Probably Charlie Weis. Well, that and kids realizing L.A.’s a little more fun than South Bend.
Tier IV — Best of the rest
- Florida State
- Penn State
- South Carolina