It’s a no-brainer when listing the top coaching jobs in college football.
You start with Alabama. Look at what Nick Saban has done in his 11 seasons in Tuscaloosa. He’s 130-20 with four national titles. But it wasn’t like that before he arrived. As great of a program as Alabama is, the Crimson Tide went through a rough patch with coaches.
Mike Shula was 26-23 in four seasons after being hired on the heels of Mike Price being fired before coaching a game in 2003. Before Shula, Dennis Franchione was successful — 17-8 — but bolted after two seasons. In the four years prior to that, former Alabama player Mike DuBose was 24-23.
Look at Florida. Steve Spurrier won a national title there and piled up yards and wins like no other coach in Gators history. After Spurrier left, it took three seasons of Ron Zook (23-14) before Urban Meyer arrived in Gainesville. After winning a pair of BCS championships, Meyer briefly stepped away from football. Will Muschamp was fired after going 22-16 in three seasons and Jim McElwain (22-12) was fired in the middle of his third season in November.
Florida brought in Dan Mullen — 1 of 5 new coaches hired in the SEC since the end of the season. Tennessee (Jeremy Pruitt), Arkansas (Chad Morris), Mississippi State (Joe Moorhead) and Texas A&M (Jimbo Fisher) complete the carousel.
Those examples bring us to the point: What college football coaching jobs are viewed as the best? We asked 20 SEC Country staff members to rank how they see the best jobs. Here’s how they ranked them:
Ranking college football’s best coaching jobs
Also receiving votes: Washington (32), Nebraska (28), Virginia Tech (21), eight teams mentioned in 2 or fewer of SEC Country’s 20 voter rankings.
We asked several SEC Country writers their takes on various jobs.
Even after toiling through nearly one month finding its coach, Tennessee made the cut.
“Tennessee doesn’t have to compete with anyone else in the state of Tennessee for football recruits,” SEC Country’s Eric Bolin said. “Sorry, Vandy and Memphis, you may get the odd in-state 4-star, but the masses inside Tennessee want Tennessee. And it isn’t exactly a state devoid of talent. Toss in, too, its proximity to the states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina — other states the Vols could vulture from — and the complete mediocrity that is the SEC East [granted, in recent years partially because Tennessee has been so average or worse], no good reason whatsoever for UT-Knoxville to languish.”
As you might expect, Alabama garnered more first-place votes (15 out of 20) than any other job.
“It’s not just that Alabama is committed to having a top-notch program, it has total commitment from the administration, the school, the fans, etc.,” SEC Country Alabama team writer Christopher Walsh said. “It’s something that was regained when Mal Moore was the athletic director and he began the drive to upgrade the facilities. That happened before Nick Saban arrived, and the coach probably never would have said yes to leaving the Miami Dolphins had that not first occurred. Alabama continues to reinvest in the program and has everything in place for continued success, including a strong talent base for recruiting, brand recognition and an incredible history.”
Here are what others said about teams around the SEC:
Justin Ferguson: “I think Auburn is one of those rare places where you can win like a top 10 team without being an undisputed top 10 job. Because it’s in the SEC West, Auburn will always be in the mix for a championship if it can win double-digit games. Auburn is in a great recruiting spot, but it doesn’t completely own a territory. It doesn’t recruit nationally like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame or Michigan, and it’s not located in a talent-rich state such as Georgia, LSU or any of the Florida or Texas schools. The facilities aren’t at the elite level of other contenders, but Auburn is pushing to change that. Auburn is great in a lot of areas that you judge a job, but isn’t necessarily top of the line in any of them. Being in the top 15 with potential to rise into the top 10 over the next several years is a good spot for this program.”
Andrew Astleford: “Yes, Florida has hit a rough patch. The Gators haven’t sniffed being a serious contender for a national title since 2009 under Urban Meyer. But the job remains a jewel, if the right personality can withstand the position’s significant demands and make use of its built-in advantages because of its location within the talent-rich Sunshine State.
“What coach wouldn’t want the chance to make a name for himself within such a fertile recruiting ground? What coach wouldn’t want an opportunity to answer a question that drives so many: What if I realize my potential there? Sure, the competition for talent is fierce. Florida isn’t guaranteed to be an annual contender because of its proximity to so many tantalizing young stars-in-the-making, as recent mediocre seasons have shown.
“But would you rather be Florida’s coach pitching the idea of staying close to home or Jim Harbaugh trying to sell a South Florida kid on the idea that Michigan winters aren’t all that bad? Would you rather be Florida’s coach trying to wake a giant that has fallen on tough times with the help of homegrown athletic marvels or Scott Frost trying to tell a kid from Orlando that Nebraska is the ‘hot’ place to be? Please.”
Ryan Young: “Yes, Alabama has more pull with recruits than any program in the country right now and all the resources any coach could ask for, but whoever follows Nick Saban faces impossible expectations with almost no chance to escape his shadow. That is the only knock on Alabama as a job whenever it comes open. That said, because of what Saban has built, the program is set up for sustained success.”
Ranking SEC’s best coaching jobs