Athlon ranks every coaching job in Sun Belt
The Sun Belt has seen its membership change a lot over the last 10 years, but the league has settled into its current 10-team format. The top of the league features quality jobs like Arkansas State, Louisiana and Appalachian State, and there's potential to win consistently at programs like South Alabama, Texas State and Georgia State.
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 Sun Belt Conference Coaching Jobs
The state of Louisiana produces its share of talent, but ULM lags significantly behind its conference foes in athletic department expenses ($15.5 million). Additionally, the Warhawks have only one winning season and bowl trip since 1994.
9. Georgia State
Georgia State started its program in 2010 and joined the FBS ranks in ’13. The Panthers have experienced plenty of highs and lows in that span. The program has appeared in two bowl games but won three or fewer games in the other four years. Georgia State has its own stadium — Turner Field was transformed for football — and there’s plenty of talent to be found within the state borders. Competing for attention in a state that features the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and the University of Georgia isn’t easy.
8. Coastal Carolina
Coastal Carolina’s football program started in 2003 and has only two seasons as a full-time member of the FBS level. The Chanticleers are 8-16 since making the jump from FCS. Considering the limited sample size, it’s tough to gauge where this program stacks up among its Sun Belt foes.
7. South Alabama
There’s potential at South Alabama. The state of Alabama produces plenty of high school talent, and the program is building a new stadium set to open in 2020. However, department expenses ($27.9 million) are near the bottom of the Sun Belt. The Jaguars have played in two bowl games since joining the FBS level in 2012.
6. Texas State
The state of Texas produces more than enough talent for the Bobcats to be competitive in the Sun Belt. Bobcat Stadium was recently renovated in 2012, and the program also ranks second in the conference in department expenses ($35.9 million). Despite those advantages, Texas State is only 27-57 over the last seven years.
5. Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern was a powerhouse at the FCS level, winning six national championships from 1985-00. This program has continued to win at a high level since moving to the FBS in 2014. The Eagles have won at least nine games in three out of the last five years, including a 10-win campaign in 2018. This program also has strong tradition and an excellent recruiting area in the state of Georgia. Style of play is an important factor for consideration, as running the option is a staple for Georgia Southern and does limit the pool of available candidates.
Troy is still a relative newcomer to the FBS level, as this program was a Division II Independent in 1992 and jumped from the FCS ranks prior to the 2001 season. The Trojans have navigated the different levels of play without much of a struggle. Since coming to the FBS ranks, Troy has registered 12 seasons of at least six victories and posted an 11-2 mark in 2017. The state of Alabama provides a solid foundation for talent, and the program can tap into the junior college ranks for additional help. Larry Blakeney and Neal Brown have proven you can win a lot of games here.
3. Appalachian State
After finishing 7-5 in its first year in the Sun Belt, Appalachian State has reeled off four consecutive seasons of at least nine victories, including two 11-win campaigns (2015 and ’18). In addition to the on-field success, the Mountaineers have excellent fan support (21,953 per game in ’18) and had the third-highest expenses of any athletic department ($35.1 million) in the Sun Belt.
Louisiana’s athletic department expenses ($27.1 million) rank ninth among Sun Belt football programs, but there’s a lot to like about this job. Talent within the state borders and Texas provides a great foundation for building a roster. This program also has good fan support and an indoor practice facility to utilize throughout the year. Louisiana didn’t make a bowl from 1993-10 but has earned six postseason trips over the last eight years. In other words, with the right coach, this program has the potential to be an annual contender for the Sun Belt title.
1. Arkansas State
Arkansas State doesn’t have the in-state recruiting base of some of the other teams in the Sun Belt, but it’s easily the best job in the conference. In addition to good facilities and fan support, the Red Wolves also have the highest expenses ($39.5 million) of any athletic department in the Sun Belt. According to USA Today’s database, Blake Anderson's salary ranked second in the conference in 2018. As evidenced by the ability to navigate four coaching changes from 2011-14 to build a streak of eight consecutive bowl trips, there’s plenty of commitment and staying power for this program atop the Sun Belt.