Athlon ranks every coaching job in the Pac-12
The Pac-12 is going through a bit of a rough stretch — only two league teams have made the College Football Playoff — but this is still a good league with a lot of quality jobs. USC, despite its recent struggles, remains the clear-cut No. 1 job in the conference, but there are several other schools that should be able to produce national championship-worthy teams. Bottom line: The Pac-12 has potential; it’s up to the programs, with help from the league, to live up to that potential.
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 Pac-12 Coaching Jobs
12. Oregon State
There have been pockets of success — most notably under Dennis Erickson in the early 2000s and Mike Riley in the late 2000s — but few programs have struggled to compete as much as Oregon State over the last 50 years.
11. Washington State
As with most programs, the right coach at the right time (i.e. Mike Leach) can enjoy success at Washington State, but there are too many obstacles (poor recruiting base, remote location, lack of tradition) at Washington State.
As the flagship state university in the biggest state (by population) in the nation, you would think that California is set up for big-time success in college football. That, however, has not been — and currently is not — the case. Jeff Tedford is the only Cal coach who has had more than two straight winning seasons since the early 1950s.
It might seem strange to have a school that won a national title as recently as 1990 so low on this list, but that run started by Bill McCartney and continued (for a bit) by Rick Neuheisel — the Buffs finished the season in the AP top 10 five times in an eight-year stretch — is not the norm in Boulder.
Arizona has attracted some well-respected coaches over the years — Larry Smith, Dick Tomey, John Mackovic, Rich Rodriguez — but just can’t seem to remain relevant in the Pac-12. The Wildcats have had only four seasons with nine or more wins since joining the Pac-10 in 1978.
Thanks in large part to its move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, Utah has made a steep climb up the college football food chain over the last decade. The facilities are solid, the recruiting base is underrated and the fan support is outstanding.
6. Arizona State
This is a pretty good job for a school without a great local recruiting base. The weather is ideal, the facilities are strong (including a renovated Sun Devil Stadium) and there is decent tradition. The right coach should be able to win consistently in Tempe.
Stanford is not for everyone, but it’s a great job for the coach who embraces the school’s mission. One word of caution: While there is a lot to sell in recruiting, the academic standards for athletes are the highest among any FBS school.
Few schools can match the upside of this job (great recruiting base, top-notch academics, beautiful campus), but there are other factors (second fiddle in its own city, questionable commitment from the university, no on-campus stadium) that make winning big at UCLA more difficult than it should be.
Oregon’s place on this list is a good indication of just how important commitment from a school (thanks to an extremely wealthy donor) can be when evaluating the strength of a coaching position. There are other positives with this job — great fans, great campus — but Oregon wouldn’t be in this position without Phil Knight’s money.
This is a proud program with a strong tradition that is located in a great city and plays at one of the most picturesque settings in college football. It’s not immune to mediocrity or worse — just look at the stretch from the early 2000s to the mid-2010s — but Washington is a highly desirable job.
How’s this for a selling point: The USC coaching staff has the ability to stock its roster with elite talent without ever having to jump on a plane. No job is perfect — USC’s administration has been a mess of late — but this is an ideal position for someone who wants to coach on the West Coast. It’s hard not to win at USC.