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? Today we focus on the SEC.
(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)
Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the SEC for 2013
Pros: Location. Location. Location. Florida is a public university in a state that produces a tremendous amount of top-flight talent. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium offers one of the best atmospheres in college football, and the fan base is as rabid as there is in the nation.
Cons: Expectations are sky-high at a school that has won two national championships in the past four seasons. If you don’t win — and win big — things can turn ugly very quickly. Just ask Ron Zook.
Final Verdict: Florida presents one of the elite coaching opportunities in college football. You have everything at your disposal to compete for national championships on an annual basis. There is no excuse not to be good at Florida.
Pros: Tradition. With the possible exception of Notre Dame, no school in the country has more tradition than Alabama. The Tide have won 23 SEC championships and (depending on who you ask) 15 national titles. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate and the recruiting base is strong.
Cons: Coaching football at Alabama is arguably the most stressful job in collegiate athletics. It’s takes a certain kind of coach to deal with that type of scrutiny.
Final Verdict: Alabama is unquestionably one of the premier jobs in the nation. The coach who can deal with the demands of the job — like Nick Saban — will win at a very high level in Tuscaloosa.
Pros: Georgia has tremendous tradition and is located in arguably the finest college town in America — Athens. The Peach State might not produce talent at the same rate as Florida, Texas or California, but metro Atlanta is always strong, and small towns such as Columbus, Valdosta and Warner Robins consistently produce elite talent.
Cons: There are really no negatives to be found at Georgia, other than the fact that you are competing in the very difficult SEC, and you have a fan base that demands you win at a high level.
Final Verdict: Georgia is a great situation, but you clearly have to have the right guy in place to win big. After Vince Dooley won the third of three straight SEC crowns in 1982, the Bulldogs went nearly two decades — and went through two more coaches — before their next league title, won by Mark Richt in 2002.
Pros: It’s become a bit of a cliché, but there really is nothing like being in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in the fall. That environment is one reason the Tigers are able to recruit so well. The other? The state of Louisiana is arguably the most underrated talent producer in the nation.
Cons: LSU has so much going for it, but why have so many coaches failed to win at a high level in Baton Rouge? From 1971 though 2000, the Tigers only won one outright SEC championship, in 1986 under Bill Arnsparger.
Final Verdict: It’s hard to find a reason why LSU would not be a desirable coaching position. Sure the competition is tough and the fans are demanding, but that comes with the territory. The school has won two national titles in the past 11 seasons.
5. Texas A&M
Pros: Texas A&M’s facilities are among the very best in the nation. Kyle Field is a bit on the old side and is set to undergo a renovation, but as far as the facilities for recruiting — football complex in the south end zone, the indoor practice facility — A&M has very few rivals. The recruiting base is among the best in the country, and the Aggies, the only SEC school in the state of Texas, should be able to battle the University of Texas for the best players in the state.
Cons: Even with so much going for it, Texas A&M has had trouble sustaining success throughout its history.
Final Verdict: Texas A&M is a very intriguing position. It has everything you would want in a job — great facilities, strong following, tremendous recruiting base — but the competition in the SEC West is fierce. If you win at A&M, you will have earned it.
Pros: Auburn and Georgia are the only two schools in the SEC with at least five winning conference seasons in each of the past four decades. Clearly, this program can be a consistent winner in the nation’s most difficult conference.
Cons: Auburn is a state school with a great following, but it will always be No. 2 in Alabama behind the Crimson Tide from Tuscaloosa.
Final Verdict: If your ego can handle being the second most important coach in the state, then Auburn can be a destination job. The school — with its fine tradition, strong facilities and outstanding recruiting base — has proven over time that it can compete on a national level. The Tigers, after all, won the BCS crown in 2010.
Pros: Who wouldn’t want to recruit to picturesque Neyland Stadium, with its 100,000-plus orange-clad zealots cheering on the Vols each week? And while Tennessee has struggled in recent years, the program enjoyed tremendous success in the not-too-distant past. From 1989-2001, the Vols went 80–20–1 in the SEC and claimed four league titles. During that span, they were ranked in the final top 10 of the AP poll seven times.
Cons: The Vols must recruit nationally because the state of Tennessee does not produce enough BCS conference players to stock the school’s roster. This is not a concern for UT’s chief SEC rivals Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Alabama.
Final Verdict: Tennessee is a great place to coach, but the Vols have slipped down the SEC food chain over the past decade. We now have Tennessee seventh on the list in the league.
8. South Carolina
Pros: South Carolina is home to arguably the most loyal fans in the nation. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Gamecock fans routinely filled 80,000-seat Williams Brice Stadium even though their team averaged only six wins per season. In addition, the facilities are great, and the recruiting base is strong.
Cons: Steve Spurrier has broken through in recent years, but South Carolina football has historically been one of the nation’s most underachieving programs.
Final Verdict: South Carolina has won 17 SEC games in the past three seasons — by far its best stretch since joining the league — but we’re still not ready to put this program on the same level as SEC royalty like Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida.
Pros: Recently renovated Reynolds Razorback Stadium — with its 76,000 seats and 30x107-foot LED video screen — is one of the most underrated venues in the nation. Arkansas is the only BCS program in the state, giving the school an advantage in recruiting homegrown talent.
Cons: The Hogs have found it tough to win consistently since bolting the Southwest Conference for the SEC in the early 1990s. Arkansas is 85-89-2 in the SEC and has only once had back-to-back winning seasons in the league.
Final Verdict: Arkansas is quite similar to several of the non-elite coaching positions in the SEC. It’s a good job, but it’s not a destination job for a coach with national title aspirations.
10. Ole Miss
Pros: Historically, Mississippi produces as many Division I prospects per capita as any state in the nation. There is plenty of competition for these recruits (Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU, etc.), but a good coach will be able to keep the Rebels stocked with solid talent. Support for Rebel football is also very strong; the Rebs averaged 57,066 per game in 2012. Also, Ole Miss’ facilities have improved tremendously in the past five years.
Cons: You have to go back to the early 1960s to find a time in which Ole Miss was a major player in the SEC. The Rebels haven’t won a league title since 1963, and they are only team in the West (outside of SEC West newcomer Texas A&M) that has not played in an SEC Championship Game.
Final Verdict: Ole Miss has made the commitment to its football program, but it takes more than a commitment — and more than one top-10 recruiting class — to beat the elite SEC programs on a consistent basis. This job has great potential, but Ole Miss hasn’t “arrived” yet.
Pros: Missouri has an underrated recruiting base. There is a solid crop of instate talent every year, and Mizzou does a decent job landing players from Texas and Illinois.
Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Missouri. Dating back to the days of the Big Eight, the Tigers have only had seven winning seasons in league play since 1983. The SEC East presents several huge challenges on an annual basis.
Final Verdict: Missouri is a good job — but not a great job. You can average eight wins per season and go to decent bowl games, but the Tigers aren’t much of a threat to contend for SEC titles.
Pros: Kentucky, after firing Joker Phillips, has made a commitment to football. The school has announced facilities upgrades, and the pay scale for the new staff is significantly higher. And while the state of Kentucky doesn’t produce many SEC-level players, Kentucky should be able to recruit nearby Ohio and still can dip into Georgia and Florida because of the school’s membership in the SEC.
Cons: Football, while important, will always be the No. 2 sport at Kentucky. And even though the school has some recruiting advantages — see above — it’s tough to win at a high level in the SEC when you can’t depend on stocking your roster with in-state talent.
Final Verdict: The level of competition in the SEC is better than ever. For example, Vanderbilt has climbed ahead of UK — for now — on the food chain. Mark Stoops is off to a great start, but it will difficult to win consistently at Kentucky.
13. Mississippi State
Pros: Mississippi State has shown an ability to field a competitive team on a semi-regular basis in the past two decades. The Bulldogs have had a winning overall record in 11 of the 22 seasons since the first wave of SEC expansion in 1991. That’s not great, but it’s better than most college football fans might expect. Support for Mississippi State football is at an all-time high; the Bulldogs averaged 55,648 (100.99 percent of capacity) at Davis Wade Stadium last season.
Cons: Recruiting top players to Starkville can be difficult. Not only does MSU have to battle Ole Miss for the best of the best in the state, but Alabama, Auburn and LSU are almost always in play for Mississippi’s top players.
Final Verdict: This is the toughest job in the SEC West — and maybe the entire league. Good coaches have shown the ability to remain relevant in the league, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Mississippi State can win a division that includes Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn.
Pros: Vanderbilt is an elite academic institution located in a great city. The school is spending more money than ever on athletics, from salaries for the coaching staff to the new indoor practice facility. While there is pressure to win at every school, expectations — even now after a nine-win season — will never be as great as other programs in the league. You aren’t going to get fired at Vanderbilt after one bad season.
Cons: Even with the recent upgrades, Vanderbilt trails the rest of the SEC in the facilities arms race. As the only private school in the SEC, the Commodores have the smallest fan base in the league — by far. Also, the academic requirements make recruiting that much more difficult for a staff that already has to overcome many hurdles. There is a reason that Vanderbilt went 29 years (from 1983 through 2011) without enjoying a single winning record in the SEC.
Final Verdict: James Franklin is proving that a recruit can have the best of both worlds — get a Vanderbilt education and win games in the nation’s best conference. Still, this is a very difficult job, maybe the toughest of any school in an AQ conference.
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