Athlon ranks every coaching job in the Mountain West
The Mountain West is home to arguably the top Group of 5 program (Boise State) in college football, but that’s not the only attractive job in this league. Fresno State, San Diego State and Colorado State provide an intriguing second-tier of options, with Utah State and Air Force capable of producing winning seasons on a consistent basis. The bottom of the league features appealing destinations with San Jose State and Hawaii, but both of those jobs come with unique challenges.
Ranking the jobs for every FBS conference is no easy task. After all, the rankings are subjective based upon numerous factors, but 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, ability to recruit talent — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach?
Ranking the Mountain West Conference Coaching Jobs
12. San Jose State
The location is excellent, and there’s a fertile recruiting base at your disposal. However, this program had the lowest athletic expenses of any team in the Mountain West for the 2016-17 athletic season ($30.7 million by USA Today database). San Jose State hasn’t recorded back-to-back winning records since 1991-92 and has just three bowl trips since ’91.
Despite the picturesque setting, this job has its share of challenges. Facilities and budget remain an ongoing concern, and the program likely needs to replace or upgrade Aloha Stadium. The state produces quality talent, but keeping it at home isn’t easy.
The state of Wyoming doesn’t produce a ton of FBS talent, so in order to win in Laramie, a coaching staff has to succeed on talent development. Maintaining success over an extended period of time isn’t easy, but this program has seen its share of good coaches – Craig Bohl, Joe Tiller, Dennis Erickson, Bob Devaney – patrol the sidelines. War Memorial Stadium provides an interesting home-field advantage, as it sits just over 7,200 feet above sea level.
9. New Mexico
New Mexico has recorded only one season of double-digit victories (1982) in its program history and made just four bowl trips from 1931-96. However, since that span, the Lobos have played in eight postseason games, and the 2016 won nine games overall. Maintaining success, recruiting challenges and budget shortcomings must be navigated, but the city of Albuquerque provides a nice quality of life.
Nevada has outperformed its in-state rival UNLV on the gridiron, but there are budget issues to navigate with this job. Coach Jay Norvell ranked 10th in salary among Mountain West coaches in 2018. Additionally, only one coach (Chris Ault) managed to sustain success at the FBS level. On the positive side, Norvell guided the program to eight wins in 2018. That’s the highest mark since an 13-win season in 2010.
It’s a close call between Nevada and UNLV for which program is the better job in the Silver State. However, a slight edge goes to the Rebels, as this program will have an improved stadium situation with the Raiders coming to Las Vegas. An on-campus training facility (The Feritta Football Complex) is also under construction. While UNLV has a lot going for it, this program has just two bowl trips since 2000.
6. Air Force
The recruiting limitations for service academies provide some challenges, but Air Force has just nine losing seasons since 1982 and earned nine bowl trips since 2007. According to USA Today’s database, money isn’t an issue. The Falcons ranked second in the Mountain West in expenses from 2016-17 and first in total revenue. Contending for New Year’s Six bowl trips as the top Group of 5 team won’t be easy, but there’s plenty of year-to-year consistency to be found in Colorado Springs.
5. Utah State
Utah and BYU dominate the headlines in the Beehive State, but Utah State is a quality job or could be used as a stepping stone opportunity for coaches. The program’s previous two coaches – Matt Wells and Gary Andersen – left for Power 5 jobs after guiding the Aggies to multiple bowl games. Prior to that span, Utah State struggled to find its footing. From 1981-2010, the Aggies posted only two winning seasons. The state of Utah produces plenty of quality talent to stock the roster, and this program can tap into the junior college ranks for help. Maverik Stadium was recently renovated, while a new strength and conditioning complex opened in 2013.
4. Colorado State
Sonny Lubick proved coaches can win at a high level here, recording at least 10 victories four times over his tenure. The Rams have slipped a bit from that level, but there’s plenty of tradition and quality of life in the state of Colorado to make this job attractive for coaches. Another perk of this job: An-campus stadium that opened in 2017.
3. San Diego State
San Diego State has been considered a sleeping giant, but the program has started to shed that label over the last 10 years. The Aztecs have earned nine consecutive bowl trips and claimed two outright conference titles in that span. The city of San Diego provides an excellent quality of life, and a new stadium is on track after a ballot measure passed in the November 2018 election. Additionally, there’s plenty to like about the fertile recruiting territory in southern California.
2. Fresno State
Very little separates San Diego State and Fresno State among Mountain West jobs, but the Bulldogs have won with more consistency. Since 1969, Fresno State boasts a .582 winning percentage, with the Aztecs a step behind at .552. The job comes with first-rate territory for recruiting, but there are budget challenges and Bulldog Stadium is in need of renovation.
1. Boise State
Since joining the FBS in 1996, Boise State has posted 16 seasons of 10 or more victories, finished four times in the Associated Press top 10 and completed two undefeated seasons (2006 and ’09). In other words, this is the most successful Group of 5 program in college football in recent years. While the state of Idaho doesn’t produce a wealth of FBS talent, Boise State can tap into Texas and California for players. The quality of life is excellent, as Boise is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Facilities aren’t an issue, and according to the USA Today salary database, coach Bryan Harsin earned $1.6 million for 2018. A coach has everything he needs to win at a high level at Boise State.