Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee will all have new college football coaches next year.
The SEC is college football's No. 1 conference, so it's no surprise there's a lot of interest in the coaching positions at Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas. Although each of the three schools has a lot of positives, is there much separating this trio? The Razorbacks and Volunteers have upgraded their facilities in recent years, while the Tigers are just two years removed from a national title.
Which job is the best opening in the SEC: Arkansas, Auburn or Tennessee?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Perhaps a few years ago, I would have said something other than Tennessee, but now it’s pretty obvious Tennessee is the best open SEC job this season. The Volunteers are on more solid ground after cycling through Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley in three years. Even through all the turnover and losing, good players still found their way to Knoxville, even if them could tackle. Like most SEC schools, the commitment is there, the facilities are there, the money is there. Instead, the Tennessee job is better for right now than the other two for what it’s not. The Vols aren’t in the West, even if they have to play Alabama every year. They don’t have the headaches of an Auburn job that eats its own. They have a better track record than Arkansas. All the jobs are tough, a good coach can win at any of them. But Tennessee has the greatest potential for short- and long-term success.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Tennessee is the best job opening in the SEC, but they are all solid gigs. Arkansas has done much to elevate its standing in the college football hierarchy with major facility upgrades in the last few years. But this program lacks an elite recruiting base, is in arguably the toughest division in college football and has yet to prove it can win an SEC title. Auburn has more upside than the Razorbacks, as 2010 proved, and has the best in-state talent pool of the three, but a bizarre and unreasonable fanbase (and their expectations) combined with always being No. 2 in their own state makes the Plains an volatile place to coach. Tennessee has a better tradition of sustained success than both and has arguably the best facilities in the nation. And today, the East is a slightly "easier" place to reside than the West. In the SEC, my rankings would go Tennessee (6th), Auburn (7th) and then Arkansas (9th) — but all three are top 30 jobs nationally.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering each of these jobs would rank among the top 25 in the nation, it’s not easy to choose the best one out of this trio. Arkansas strikes me as a program on the rise, especially as it continues to upgrade the facilities and after recording back-to-back seasons of at least 10 victories from 2010-11. However, the Razorbacks don’t have a ton of in-state talent to build a program around, which means recruiting Texas is a priority. And of course, there’s already Alabama and LSU in the same division, which makes getting to the SEC Championship – at least right now – very difficult. Although Auburn won a national title in 2010, dealing with in-state rival Alabama is never going to be an easy task. The Tigers also seem to be in a bit of disarray right now, especially with the NCAA snooping around the program for recruiting violations. Tennessee has an easier path to a SEC Championship right now, even though Florida is back on the rise, and South Carolina continues to improve under Steve Spurrier. The Volunteers have solid facilities and are willing to spend to get a good coach, but just like Arkansas, there’s not a ton of in-state talent to build a program. With all of those factors considered, I’d have to give a slight edge to Tennessee as the best job out of this trio. However, if Arkansas can hire the right coach and successfully recruit Texas, the Razorbacks have a chance to surpass the Volunteers for the No. 1 spot.
For me, it comes down to Arkansas or Tennessee, because as long as Nick Saban's in Tuscaloosa, I want nothing to do with the job at the "other" Alabama school. That said, it's very close, but I'll go with the Hogs' job over the Volunteers' gig. Yes, Arkansas resides in the same division as Alabama and LSU, not to mention Mississippi State, a Texas A&M program that appears to be on the rise and an improving Ole Miss, but that doesn't mean the Hogs aren't in position to make some noise of their own. Don't forget what Bobby Petrino had accomplished with the program before his unexpected dismissal. That's not the case with Tennessee, who has seven or fewer wins in each of the last four seasons and will be hiring its fourth head coach in four years in the near future. Tennessee was once considered one of the best jobs in all of college football, and I'm not saying it won't ever reach that level again. However, the Volunteers' glory days seem almost like a distant memory these days, and I'm not convinced it won't take some time to get the program back to the level the powers that be and the fan base expect it to be at. Regardless of how long that takes, the pressure will always be there to win "now" in Knoxville, especially with what James Franklin has already done in just two seasons at Vanderbilt, the "other" Tennessee school. Arkansas also has made more of a commitment recently to improving its football facilities, an aspect that can never be overlooked, especially in the SEC, and whoever gets the Hogs' job doesn't have to worry about competing with another SEC program, let alone major FBS member school, in his state. Both teams have plenty of questions surrounding them headed into the offseason and will likely be looking at major turnover, as it applies to the coaching staff and player personnel, and both will play difficult schedules in 2013. Still, if I had to choose, I would probably take the Arkansas job over the other open ones in the SEC because I think the Hogs are better situated to turn things around in the near future and there's no question that there is less pressure to win in Fayetteville than Knoxville, or even Auburn for that matter. Of the three jobs, I think it's less stressful and much sweeter to win big with the Hogs than either the Vols or the Tigers.
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