We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach?
(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)
1. West Virginia
Pros: West Virginia is the most SEC-like of the Big East schools. There are no pro sports to share the spotlight with in the Mountain State; the Mountaineers are the game in town. And while the Big East takes its share of abuse, the league offers the easiest path to a BCS game — and BCS money — on an annual basis.
Cons: Under the current landscape, it is going to be difficult for a Big East team to play for a national title. A team like West Virginia would have to go undefeated and even then, the Mountaineers would have a tough time beating out a one-loss SEC or Big 12 team in the BCS standings.
Final Verdict: West Virginia is the best job in a BCS league, which makes it attractive. But the relatively low national profile of the Big East prevents it from being an elite job.
Pros: Pittsburgh is located in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, which gives the Panthers the best recruiting base of any Big East program other than South Florida. The school also shares its football facility with the Pittsburgh Steelers — which can be a positive (NFL influence) or negative (no on-campus stadium).
Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Pitt over the past three decades. The Panthers have only had a winning record in 14 of the 29 seasons since Jackie Sherrill bolted.
Final Verdict: Former coach Dave Wannstedt proved that you can attract talent to play at Pittsburgh. But it’s a school with a ceiling. The Panthers should be a consistent winner in the Big East, but can you win a national title? Not likely.
3. South Florida
Pros: South Florida has a tremendous local recruiting base and is a member of the conference with the least resistance to a BCS bowl. The Bulls have an outstanding track record in their brief history; they only have one losing season in 10 years as a member of the FBS, and they have averaged 8.4 wins over the past five seasons.
Cons: South Florida lacks tradition and does not have an on-campus stadium. The Bulls play their home games 15 miles from campus. And while the recruiting base is strong, South Florida will always have a tough time beating out the Big Three — Florida, Florida State and Miami — for top prospects.
Final Verdict: Many view South Florida as an emerging national power. The school does have a ton of potential, but it is difficult to get overly excited about a program that is the fourth-most relevant program in its own state — even if that state is Florida.
Pros: Louisville has solid facilities and is in a good spot geographically to consistently attract top recruits. Kentucky is not a great talent producer, but Louisville can recruit Ohio and Illinois due to its proximity to those states and has always done a good job recruiting Florida.
Cons: The school lacks football tradition and doesn’t have the fan base that most of the other schools have ranked in the top 50 of this list. When the Cards are good, they draw well. But two years ago, in the final season of the Steve Kragthrope era, they ranked 71st in the nation in attendance, averaging 32,540 per game.
Final Verdict: Like many of the schools in the Big East, Louisville is only as good as its coach. Bobby Petrino won big in his four years. Kragthorpe flopped in his three seasons. With the right fit, Louisville competes for league titles.
Pros: Rutgers’ location affords the coaching staff the opportunity to stock its entire roster with local talent. The facilities have been upgraded in recent years, most notably the $102 million expansion to Rutgers Stadium. Also, being just over 30 miles from New York City — the media capital of the world — can’t hurt.
Cons: The school has almost no tradition; prior to the mid-2000s, the program was irrelevant. And while support for Rutgers football has grown in recent years, pro sports will always be No. 1 in the metropolitan area.
Final Verdict: Long considered the sleeping giant on the East Coast, Rutgers has emerged as a consistent winner in the Big East. Whether or not this is a true destination job is up for debate, but it’s clear that you can win a bunch of games and go to bowl games at Rutgers.
Tradition can only take you so far.
Top-notch facilities; weak recruiting base.
Not every coach is as good as Brian Kelly.
Other Big East Content:
The Best Coaching Jobs in the ACC
2011 Big East Predictions
2011 All-Big East Team
Todd Graham and Dana Holgorsen Don't Like Each Other
Charlie Strong Has Louisville Going in the Right Direction
West Virginia Remains the Big East Favorite