College football is a sport driven by the men on the sideline. Teams take on the attitude, approach, work ethic and style of their coaches — for better or worse. As we've seen throughout the history of the sport, one right or wrong coaching hire can change the trajectory of a program for decades.
One of the bigger names in coaching is currently out of a job. Greg Schiano — architect of the Rutgers revival between 2001 and '11 — is trying to get back into the sport. After being fired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2013 season, Schiano set out to become a better coach, both learning what he didn't know and trying to perfect what he thought he had already mastered.
While at Rutgers, he proved to be both one of the better in-game coaches in the land and a capable recruiter. It was arguably those two skills that were most responsible for pulling the nation's oldest college football program from the rubble to its first bowl appearance since 1978. The work he did in Piscataway to raise the program to new heights is considered by some as much of a factor in the Big Ten targeting Rutgers for expansion as is the fact that the campus sits in the shadows of the Big Apple.
In all likelihood, Schiano is going to again be roaming the sidelines of an FBS team starving for the energy he is capable of injecting into a program. Here are some possible landing spots for Greg Schiano in 2016.
The start of the season and the mess in Rutgers have taken some of the attention away from the troubles in Champaign. It's never good when you have to let a coach go a week before the first game of the season, but that's what the administration at the University of Illinois felt it had to do. When Illinois begins the search for a permanent coach moving forward at the end of this season, Schiano's name is likely going to be on the list. He could immediately establish a massive presence in the Chicago and St. Louis metros, while also reopening the recruiting pipelines he had on the East Coast. He could have the Illini competing for a Big Ten West Division title rather quickly depending on his ability to get kids to the Midwest.
The seat is getting warm for Gus Malzahn. The locals and boosters are growing restless and the time that one championship appearance bought is slowly running out. Auburn will never completely own the state as long as Nick Saban is in Tuscaloosa, but Schiano could be a formidable opponent on the recuiting trail. We saw what he was able to do with a few undervalued players from the Northeast. The possibilities of what he can do with dozens of the nation's top recruits only 100 or so miles away are endless.
It's looking like the curtain is closing on the Paul Rhoads era in Ames. It's time for new blood and a guy who can compete in a top-heavy division against the Stoops, Pattersons and Briles of the world. Iowa State is very much the Rutgers of the Big 12 in terms of recent history and success. A couple of seasons of the Cyclones finishing in the top half of the conference could make Schiano a potential A-list hire moving forward.
It's early in the season, but few expect Miami to contend for an ACC title in 2015. Once the Hurricanes run into the meat of their schedule and start dropping some big games, Al Golden's seat might be too hot to for him to sit in — and planes flying over games with banners won't be to blame. Schiano would be a nice fit in Coral Gables, having served two seasons as the Hurricanes' defensive coordinator before taking the Rutgers job. He'd immediately be one of the more formidable presences in the ACC from a recruiting standpoint, and that could very well translate to Miami being the school of choice of many top-notch players up and down the East Coast.
Unless you don't watch television, listen to talk radio or read, you know that there's a mess in Rutgers right now. The entire athletic department has done nothing but trip itself up at every opportunity since joining the Big Ten. A Schiano return to the helm of the football program would bring both a calming stability and an aura of excitement to the entire university. When he was originally hired there, he took over a program that — from a talent and recruiting standpoint — was in far worse shape that what Rutgers is currently in. As I mentioned, college football is all about coaching. Both Rutgers and the Big Ten would love to have a big-name coach leading the program that calls the nation's largest metropolitan area home.