Athlon ranks every college football job from No. 1 to No. 125.
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? After ranking each conference, Athlon turns the page to the overall power rankings. Texas ranks as the best job in college football, with Florida, Alabama, USC and Ohio State rounding out the top five.
(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)
Ranking the Coaching Jobs in College Football for 2013
Pros: Texas offers the complete package: Great school in a great town with great tradition. Also, it’s located in a state that treats high school football like a religion.
Cons: Texas has a ton going for it (see above), but the Longhorns are only 22–16 in the last three seasons. The program is not immune to losing. And while Texas is a recruiting power, there are three other AQ conference schools in the state, and virtually every other national power dips into Texas to recruit as well.
Final Verdict: It’s easier said than done — just ask David McWilliams and John Mackovic — but everything is in place to win big on a consistent basis at Texas.
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 seven 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: The USC coaching staff has the ability to stock its roster with elite talent without ever having to jump on a plane. The program has a rich tradition, but it doesn’t live in the past; the Trojans were dominant in the 2000s, winning seven straight Pac-10 titles (2002-08) and two national championships.
Cons: USC is the top job in L.A., but the city does have another program with tremendous potential. It doesn’t take much of a dip to lose your status as the No. 1 program in your own town.
Final Verdict: If you’re a West Coast guy, coaching the Trojans is as good as it gets. It’s the best job in the Pac-12 and you are in the most fertile recruiting area in the country.
5. Ohio State
Pros: There are eight FBS schools in Ohio, but there is only one school named The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes have been a consistent force on the field and in recruiting since Woody Hayes took over in the early 1950s.
Cons: Expectations are extremely high in Columbus. Consider the case of John Cooper: In 13 seasons, Cooper went 111–43–4, winning 10 games or more five times. But he went 2–10–1 against Michigan and lost his job after the 2000 season.
Final Verdict: Everything is in place to win a national championship at Ohio State. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate, and the recruiting base is outstanding. Just don’t lose to Michigan.
Pros: Oklahoma has been a dominant force in college football dating back to the late 1930s. The program has consistently been able to dip into Texas and steal more than its share of elite players on an annual basis. The Big 12, with no Nebraska and no conference title game, offers an easier path to a national championship for OU.
Cons: The state does not produce enough talent to stock the Sooners’ roster with the type of players needed to compete for championship. Recruiting at a high level out of state is a must.
Final Verdict: Not every coach has won big at Oklahoma — John Blake went 8–16 in three seasons (1996-98) — but it is clearly one of the marquee jobs in the nation. Winning a national championship is well within your reach.
Pros: Michigan has as much tradition as any school in the country. The Wolverines have been a national power since the 1890s and they play in one of the largest venues in the country, 109,901-seat Michigan Stadium. The program’s success and the school’s academic reputation have allowed Michigan to be a major player in recruiting both in the Midwest and nationally.
Cons: Michigan is an old-school program that is very set in its ways. A coach who comes in with a new philosophy — for example, Rich Rodriguez — will have a tough time being accepted.
Final Verdict: Michigan is no doubt an elite job, but as we saw in the Rodriguez era — he won a total of 15 games in three years — you have to be the right fit to win big in Ann Arbor.
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.
10. Notre Dame
Pros: Notre Dame has three unique advantages compared to almost every school in the country — a national following, its own television contract and an unparalleled history that includes 11 consensus national titles.
Cons: Brian Kelly has returned Notre Dame to national prominence, but there was a long stretch in which the Fighting Irish struggled to compete at an elite level. From 1998-2011, ND went 99–72 with an unthinkable six non-winning seasons. The school’s relatively high academic standards can make recruiting more challenging. Also, Notre Dame lacks the home-state recruiting territory of other national powers. Indiana is not great state for high school football.
Final Verdict: Notre Dame might not be the same job it was 20 years ago, but this is still a great situation for the right coach. You can win a national title with the Fighting Irish.
11. Florida State
Pros: You can make the argument that Florida State offers all of the positives of Florida without the brutal competition of the SEC East. Would you rather battle Clemson, NC State and Boston College or Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina every year?
Cons: Florida State has a nice following, but its fans can be on the fickle side. Last season, when the Seminoles had legitimate national title ambitions, Doak Campbell was “only” filled to 92 percent capacity. Not bad, but not quite up to standards of most programs of similar stature. Also, the ACC has been relatively weak in recent seasons; an undefeated ACC champ might not automatically play for a national title.
Final Verdict: Florida State enjoyed an unbelievable run of success from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. But the Noles lost five games or more three times from 2006-10. Winning is no longer automatic.
Pros: As long as Phil Knight and the University of Oregon remain in good graces, this program will be blessed with tremendous financial resources. The Nike founder and former Oregon track athlete has donated over $100 million to the school’s athletic department. In addition, the Ducks have a tremendous home field advantage at 54,00-seat Autzen Stadium, regarded as the most raucous atmosphere in the Pac-12.
Cons: Right now, it’s difficult to find many good reasons why the head coaching position at Oregon would not be attractive. The school does lack tradition, but the Ducks have averaged nine wins per season since 1994.
Final Verdict: Ten or 15 years ago, Oregon wouldn’t be nearly as high on this list, but Knight’s money, Mike Bellotti’s recruiting and Chip Kelly’s offensive wizardry transformed this program. It is now clearly one of the most-desirable positions in the country.
13. 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.
14. Penn State (Note: These rankings do not take NCAA sanctions into consideration.)
Pros: Penn State is an enormous state university in an extremely fertile recruiting area. The Nittany Lions play in the second-largest facility in the country (Beaver Stadium, capacity 107,282), and they have won two national championships in the past 30 years
Cons: Penn State recovered nicely in the latter half of the 2000s, but it’s a bit disconcerting that a program with so much going for it was capable of having four losing seasons in a five-year span like Penn State did from 2000-04. Truly elite programs should not suffer through prolonged droughts.
Final Verdict: Penn State is difficult to evaluate at this point. Sanctions are not supposed to affect these rankings, but Penn State is a unique case. This is a great job, but the program will not compete at a high level until the sanctions are over.
Pros: Strong tradition. Amazing facilities. Passionate fans. Those three things don’t guarantee success, but they are a nice place to start. The Big Ten Legends Division has some good programs — Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State — but Nebraska should be in position to compete for a division title on an annual basis.
Cons: The Huskers won three national titles in the 1990s, but the program slipped a bit over the past decade. The state of Nebraska does not produce many high-end BCS conference players each year, and the program no longer has the sex-appeal to steal elite players from the East Coast like it did in the 1970s and 80s.
Final Verdict: Nebraska is a unique coaching position. You have everything in place to win big — except a local recruiting base. How big is that hurdle? Significant but not insurmountable. The Huskers are no longer a top-10 job but still very desirable.
Pros: UCLA shares the same built-in recruiting advantages as its cross-town rival USC. The 2000s were relatively lean, but UCLA won or shared three Pac-10 titles in the 1990s and four in the ‘80s.
Cons: Life can be tough when you are forced to share a city with one of the elite programs in the nation. And while the Rose Bowl is a beautiful place to play, the facility is 30 miles from campus.
Final Verdict: The Pac-12 is a very good league, but USC and Oregon are the only programs that have enjoyed sustained success in the past 15 years. The right coach can have this program in contention for conference titles on a consistent basis.
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.
Pros: Clemson is an SEC-like school that has the luxury of playing an ACC schedule. The fans are rabid, the stadium is huge (capacity 81,500), and unlike many its ACC brethren, Clemson is a football school.
Cons: Clemson seemingly has so much going for it, yet the program has only won two ACC titles in the past 24 seasons. If you are a coach interested in the job, you’d have ask yourself the following question: Why is this program a chronic underachiever?
Final Analysis: Clemson presents a great opportunity. The program is a major player in the recruiting game, and it has so many built-in advantages compared to almost every school in the league. The Tigers have the ability to compete for the ACC title on an annual basis.
20. 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.
21. Virginia Tech
Pros: Virginia Tech has a very strong (and underrated) recruiting base, most notably the Hampton Roads-Tidewater area — better known as the ‘757’ by recruiting gurus. The Hokies also have a passionate fan base that creates a tremendous environment at Lane Stadium.
Cons: The school has only been relevant on the national scene under Frank Beamer’s watch. Can another coach recreate the magic?
Final Verdict: Virginia Tech isn’t quite college football royalty, but it’s not far off. Before last season’s 7–6 hiccup, the Hokies had won at least 10 games in at least eight straight seasons. You can win a national title in Blacksburg.
Pros: With the possible exception of USC and UCLA, no school in the country has a better local recruiting base. And while the Canes have struggled in recent years, the program won a national championship as recently as 2001 and played for a title in ’02.
Cons: Miami has the smallest fan base of the top 25 teams on this list. Last season, the Canes ranked 44th in the nation in attendance, averaging 47,719 per game at Sun Life Stadium. The facility is 20 miles from campus and lacks the big-time college football atmosphere.
Final Verdict: Miami is an intriguing job. The recruiting base is outstanding — which gives you a great opportunity to win — but the position lacks many of the other qualities that make coaching at a big-time school so attractive.
23. Oklahoma State
Pros: T. Boone Pickens is a very wealthy man, and he’s a big fan of Oklahoma State football. As a result, the Cowboys boast some of the best facilities in the nation. And these facilities help the O-State coaches tap into a fertile recruiting ground in nearby Texas.
Cons: Since Oklahoma State joined the Big Eight in 1960, the Cowboys have finished ahead of Oklahoma five times. The school will always be the No. 2 program in the state.
Final Verdict: In a vacuum, Oklahoma State would be a wonderful place to coach, but if you have your sights set on competing for a national title on a regular basis, Stillwater might not be the place for you. There’s a reason the school has only won two conference titles since the mid-1950s.
Pros: This is a proud program with great tradition. The Huskies won a national title in 1991 and claimed at least a share of five Pac-10 titles from 1990-2000. UW is in a great city (Seattle) and has an SEC-like following when things are going well.
Cons: The school has addressed the program’s only significant weakness — facilities — with the $250 million renovation to Husky Stadium. Washington’s in-state recruiting base is solid but lags signficantly behind the four California teams in the Pac-12.
Final Verdict: The past decade has proven that it can be difficult to win at Washington. But this is still a very good job. Is it a great job? Not anymore. But it is still a prestigious program that can attract elite talent. You can win at UW.
25. West Virginia
Pros: West Virginia has an SEC feel to it. There are no pro sports to share the spotlight with in the Mountain State; the Mountaineers are the game in town.
Cons: West Virginia’s recruiting base isn’t as strong as many of its rivals in the Big 12. The state simply doesn’t produce many elite-level prospects.
Final Verdict: History tells us that West Virginia is a very good job. The school has won at least 10 games six times since 1988. But it’s not a job without its challenges. It’s a strange geographic fit in the Big 12, which presents some difficulties on the recruiting trail.
Pros: Wisconsin has been transformed into a football school over the past two decades. Badger faithful pack 80,321-seat Camp Randall Stadium each week and create one the best environments in the nation. Madison also is a great place to live.
Cons: The school’s local recruiting base isn’t strong; the state has not produced a national top-100 player in the past four seasons. Also, the Badgers have only been relevant on the national scene since the early 1990s. Wisconsin lacks the tradition of many of its Big Ten rivals.
Final Verdict: Barry Alvarez turned Wisconsin from a Big Ten afterthought to a significant player in college football. But the Badgers’ place as a top program is far from secure. Wisconsin, more than most of the other schools ranked in the top 25 on this list, needs the right coach in place to remain successful.
27. North Carolina
Pros: The school is an easy sell for a recruiter: It’s is one of the premier public institutions in the nation, and its location, in picturesque Chapel Hill, is ideal. UNC has also made a huge financial commitment to football in the past decade.
Cons: North Carolina is — and always will be — a basketball school. That is something that every football coach must accept. And while the school has enjoyed pockets of success, it’s been difficult to win consistently at UNC. Since Mack Brown bolted for Texas after the 1997 season, the Tar Heels have averaged 3.5 ACC wins.
Final Verdict: North Carolina’s lack of success over the years might surprise even a knowledgeable college football fan. The Tar Heels have not won an ACC Championship since 1980 and have not strung together back-to-back winning ACC seasons since the mid-1990s. Still, this is a desirable position for a coach. It’s a great school that has made a strong commitment to the football program.
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.
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. Also, the school “survived” the realignment wars, finding a home in the ACC beginning in 2014.
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 in 2009, 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. Charlie Strong has done well in his three seasons. With the right fit, Louisville competes for league titles.
30. Michigan State
Pros: Michigan State seemingly has everything in place to be a major player in the Big Ten — great fan support (averaged 75,382 per game in ’12), good facilities, strong recruiting base and decent tradition.
Cons: Despite all of the positives listed above, Michigan State has only won one Big Ten title — in 2009 — in two decades and has only averaged 6.0 wins in the 47 seasons since claiming a share of the 1966 national championship. Also, there’s the Michigan thing: No matter how much success the Spartans enjoy, they will always be the second school in the state behind Michigan.
Final Verdict: Michigan State has been an underachiever and will never be the No. 1 program in its own state. Still, it’s a good job. If you can change the culture in East Lansing —which Mark Dantonio has apparently done — there is no reason Michigan State can’t contend for Big Ten titles on a semi-regular basis.
Pros: Pittsburgh is located in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, which gives the Panthers a solid recruiting base. 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 consistently win seven or eight games per season, but can you win a national title? Not likely.
Pros: TCU is located in the heart of the most fertile recruiting area in the country. The Horned Frogs have vastly improved their facilities over the past five years and now are a member of one of the nation’s top conferences.
Cons: TCU is now back in a power conference, but it’s still a small private school (8,000-plus undergrads) in league comprised mostly of massive state schools. The fan base will never be as large as many of its rivals.
Final Verdict: Perhaps no school other than Boise State has improved its national profile in the past 5-10 years as much as TCU. The school is back in a power conference after bouncing around for 16 years in the mid-major ranks (WAC to C-USA to MWC). This is not an elite job — TCU will always take a back seat to Texas, Texas A&M and even Texas Tech in its own state — but it’s a much better opportunity for a coach than it was 10 years ago.
33. 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: Three key elements make Iowa an attractive job — it’s the top school in the state (sorry, Iowa State), it has a strong tradition of excellence (five Big Ten titles since 1981, two BCS bowls since ‘03) and it has great fan support (70,474 per game in ’12).
Cons: Iowa might be the top dog in the state, but the hunting grounds aren’t very fertile. To remain competitive, the Hawkeyes’ staff will always have to go into other teams’ home states to recruit.
Final Verdict: It’s difficult for a school that doesn’t have a strong local recruiting base to compete for national title. It can be done — Nebraska won three titles in the 1990s — but that is a very big hurdle to climb.
Pros: Cal is one of the premier public institutions in the nation located in a great area, giving the Bears a recruiting edge against most of the other schools in the Pac-12. The school is also located in the fertile recruiting area of Northern California. And the facilities, long time an issue at the school, have recently received a major upgrade.
Cons: Bears have had trouble winning consistently; they have two Pac-12 titles (none outright) since 1958.
Final Verdict: Cal is an intriguing job. There is a lot to like, but there are certain drawbacks. You can win in Berkeley, but the culture of the university will likely prevent the football program from ever reaching elite status.
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: BYU has been one of the most consistent winners in college football over the past four decades. Since 1973, the Cougars have only had three losing seasons — all in the 2000s under Gary Crowton — and they have a national title (1984) on their resume. The school’s LDS Church affiliation gives it an inside track to land the elite Mormon recruits from all over the country.
Cons: The recruiting pool, while national to some degree, is somewhat limited at BYU; the school has trouble attracting black players. BYU’s decision to bolt the Mountain West and become an Independent was a bit risky.
Final Verdict: BYU is a unique position. For the right coach, it’s a great job. You can win a bunch of games in Provo, but it remains to be seen if the Cougars can become a national player as one of only four FBS independent schools.
38. Boise State
Pros: Boise State has dominated its league like no other school in the nation over the past decade. The Broncos won at least a share of the WAC eight times in the their final 10 years in the league, and they are 13–2 in their first two seasons in the Mountain West. The school has also been able to crash the BCS party two times in the past seven seasons.
Cons: The move from the WAC to the Mountain West is a plus, but the Broncos’ schedule strength — or lack thereof — will continue to be an issue as it fights for respect in the polls.
Final Verdict: With its blue turf and its deep bag of trick plays, Boise State has created a brand for itself on the college football landscape. This is a cozy job for someone not interested in all of the perks that come with coaching at a school with an SEC-type fan base.
39. Arizona State
Pros: The Sun Devils have made a significant investment in their facilities in recent years, with an indoor practice bubble and new weight and locker rooms. And recently, plans were announced to upgrade Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State has won three Pac-12 titles in its 30-plus years in the league (1986, ’96 and ’07). Oh, we can’t forget about the weather.
Cons: While the school has experienced pockets of success (three league titles), the Devils have strung together back-to-back winning Pac-10 seasons only once since John Cooper bolted in 1987.
Final Verdict: Arizona State offers a pretty good situation for a school without a strong local recruiting base. The weather is great and the tradition is good enough. USC, Oregon and UCLA will always the top jobs in the league, but with the right coach in place, ASU can be a consistent force in the Pac-12.
Pros: Arizona has never been a Pac-10 power, but the school has more than held its own for much of its 32 years in the league. The Wildcats had 11 winning Pac-10 seasons in a 13-year stretch from 1982-94. Good coaches have shown the ability to attract talent to Tucson.
Cons: Since 1994, Arizona has only had a winning Pac-12 record twice — 1998 and 2009.
Final Verdict: Being a good recruiter is obviously important at every school, but it is of paramount importance at Arizona. The school is without many of the built-in advantages (tradition, top facilities, etc.) that exist at some of the Pac-12 programs, so you have to convince players to come to Arizona for reasons other than the weather.
41. Texas Tech
Pros: Texas Tech has proven it can win consistently. Prior to 2010, the Red Raiders had been .500 or better in league play — SWC and Big 12 — 22 times in the previous 25 seasons. The school has recently invested in the program with an $84 million renovation to Jones AT&T Stadium.
Cons: While the program has managed to remain competitive, winning titles has been very difficult in Lubbock. The school has not won an outright conference title since 1955, when it claimed its third straight Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. Also, recruiting to Lubbock — the outpost of the Big 12 — can be a bit difficult.
Final Verdict: Texas Tech might be the fourth most attractive job in its own state, but it’s still a very good program that has proven it can’t remain relevant in the Big 12.
42. North Carolina State
Pros: The facilities at NC State are among the finest in the ACC. The spectacular Murphy Center, a football-only building, houses coaches’ offices, the weight room and dining area for the players, among other things. The school’s recruiting base, the Carolinas and Virginia, is strong.
Cons: The school doesn’t have a strong record of success. NC State hasn’t won an ACC title since 1979 and has had only seven winning league seasons since 1990.
Final Verdict: This program has underachieved over the past decade. Everything is in place — facilities, fan support, recruiting base — to be a consistent winner in the ACC.
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.
Pros: Virginia is great school in a great college town, and the state consistently produces a high number of BCS level recruits.
Cons: The school has a surprisingly bad track record in football. George Welsh had a nice run in the 1980s and 90s, but other than that, the Cavaliers have had a tough time fielding a consistently competitive program. UVa has won a total of two championships (both shared) in its 56 years in the ACC. Recruiting can also be tough at Virginia, based on the school’s relatively tough academic standards.
Final Verdict: This school should be able to be consistently competitive in the ACC. Other than its lack of tradition, everything is seemingly in place to elevate the profile of this program.
45. Georgia Tech
Pros: Georgia is annually one of the top talent-producing states in the nation, giving the Yellow Jackets’ staff an opportunity to land quality recruiting classes despite the fact that the University of Georgia is the top Dawg in the state. Tech has also proven over time that it can win consistently in the ACC; the Jackets have been .500 or better in league play in 19 straight seasons.
Cons: Georgia Tech will always be the second most popular program in its own city, which is probably more of a problem for the school’s fans than its players and coaches. The male-to-female ratio (about 2-to-1) at the school can’t help recruiting, either.
Final Verdict: Georgia Tech might not come to mind when you think about some of the top programs in the nation, but this is a solid football school with underrated tradition. It’s been proven that you can win titles — both ACC (2009, 1998, 1990) and national (1990).
Pros: Maryland has enjoyed pockets of success over the last three decades. Bobby Ross won three straight ACC titles from 1983-85 and Ralph Friedgen went a combined 31–8 from 2001-03, and won eight-plus games in 2008 and 2010. And while it isn’t to the Oregon/Nike level, the school’s close ties with UnderArmour is a positive.
Cons: The impending move to the Big Ten will help the school in many ways, but it might have a negative impact on the football program’s recruiting. Maryland isn’t going to beat out many Big Ten schools for prospects from the Midwest, and the school won’t have the same appeal for many players in the Mid-Atlantic Region and Southeast now that the Terps won’t be playing an ACC schedule.
Final Verdict: Maryland is a lower-tier job in the ACC. And it will be a lower-tier job in the Big Ten. You can win games, but it will be very difficult for any coach to compete for championships in the current landscape.
Pros: Stanford offers the best combination of elite academics (top 5 in U.S. News & World Report) and big-time college football. The school’s outstanding reputation allows the staff to recruit nationally.
Cons: Until recently, sustained success had been tough to achieve on The Farm. From the late 1970s through the late 2000s, Stanford was unable to string together more than two straight wining seasons. The school’s strict academic standards — even for athletes — shrinks the recruiting pool considerably.
Final Verdict: Stanford is not for everybody, but it is a great job for a coach who embraces the school’s mission. The Cardinal struggled for much of the 2000s, but this is a program that has emerged as a national power in recent years.
48. 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 (for now). The Bulls proved they can be a consistent winner in the FBS ranks, averaging 8.4 wins from 2006-10.
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: Illinois’ local recruiting base — from Chicago down into St. Louis — is among the best in the Big Ten. The facilities (weight room, practice facility, locker rooms, etc.) are strong, and the stadium recently received a $200 million upgrade.
Cons: Basketball is — and will always be — the top sport at Illinois. Football, for whatever reason, has never been much of a threat to break into the upper echelon of the league. Also, the fan support at Illinois isn’t as strong as the top programs in the Big Ten. Last year, the Illini averaged only 45,564 fans per game.
Final Verdict: Despite being the fifth most populous state, Illinois checks in No. 8 in our list of the Big Ten’s most attractive coaching positions. There is a lot to like about the job, but there are also reasons why the school has only won three Big Ten titles (two outright) since the early 1960s.
Pros: Colorado lacks the tradition of some of the Pac-12 powers, but this program has enjoyed strong pockets of success over the past 25 years. The Buffs won three Big Eight championships in a row from 1989-91 (along with a national title in ’90), and they won four Big 12 North titles in the 2000s. With the right coach in place, this is a school that will attract quality players.
Cons: The facilities at Colorado lag behind most BCS conference schools, and the school’s commitment to athletics has been questioned in recent years. The Buffaloes recently announced a $170 million facility upgrade proposal, which is a step in the right direction. Also, the CU fans can be fickle; Folsom Field (53,750) has rarely been filled to capacity over the past few seasons.
Final Analysis: Three different coaches have won 10 games in a season since 1990, so it’s possible to win big at Colorado. But until the school makes a significant commitment to the program — which it claims to be doing now — CU cannot be considered an elite job.
Baylor’s recruiting base has always made it an intriguing job. There is more than enough talent in the state to stock a talented roster, even with Texas and Texas A&M grabbing most of the elite players. The school also will open a new, 45,000-seat Stadium on Brazos River in 2014. However, Baylor will always be down low on the food chain among the FBS schools in the state of Texas. As a small, private school, support will always be an issue. Art Briles is proving that Baylor can compete in the Big 12, as he has led the Bears to their best three-year stretch (25 wins) in program history. The new stadium and the university’s commitment to the program should allow Baylor to remain relevant if Briles ever bolts for greener pastures.
Kentucky has announced desperately needed facilities upgrades, while the pay scale for new head coach Mark Stoops' staff is significantly higher. So on the surface it appears the school is finally making a commitment to the football program. That said, pigskin will always take a backseat to basketball at UK and unilke other SEC members, the Bluegrass State doesn't boast near the quantity of elite high school prospects. Those two disadvantages alone make winning consistently difficult at Kentucky, especially considering it's in the nation's toughest and most cut-throat conference.
Purdue is a program that has experienced consistent success in the Big Ten during the BCS era. The Boilermakers went 48–32 in league play during the first 10 years of the Joe Tiller era. Support is solid when the program is winning. This is not easy, however, because the Boilermakers have to compete with two other BCS programs for the top talent within its own borders to begin with. Purdue also doesn't have much margin for error when it comes to sustained success, as evidenced by the difference between the tenure of Tiller and the man who succeeded him, Danny Hope (22-27, 13-19 in Big Ten from 2009-12).
Cincinnati is in a prime location when it comes to recruiting, being in Ohio and relativel close to Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. Despite the program's recent success, fan support has remained tepid at best and despite the school's best efforts, the Bearcats appear stuck in the Big East for the forseeable future. Still, this is a place where the right man can win, as four different coaches have won at least seven games twice since 2000.
55. Mississippi State
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. 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. Starkville, however, isn't necessarily viewed as a prime desination for the top prospects, especially with SEC West foes Alabama, Auburn and LSU, not to mention in-state rival Ole Miss, always lurking nearby. One could argue that this is the toughest job in the SEC West, if not the entire SEC.
The Gophers have a relatively new stadium that provided a significant upgrade from the outdated Metrodome. As the only Division I (FBS or FCS) program in the state, Minnesota should land its fare share of in-state recruits. On the other hand, the school's location and climate make it a tough sell for out-of-state prospects. The Gophers also don't have much of an established football tradition and seems to be one of the few Big Ten schools with a clearly defined ceiling when it comes to success. Think five-to-eight wins, and not division or conference championships.
57. Oregon State
Thanks in large part to Mike Riley, Oregon State has shown that it can compete and remain relvelant in the Pac-12 for an extended period of time. That does not change the fact, however, that it's a distant second within its own state, as Oregon holds every advantage, most notably attractiveness to highly rated recruits and facilities. The Beavers simply can't compete on these levels with the Nike-funded Ducks, which also puts them behind the pecking order in the Pac-12.
Prior to its move to the Pac-12, Utah had emerged as one of the few non-BCS conference teams that was able to compete on the national scene. Now, as a member of the Pac-12 South — along with USC and UCLA — the Utes should enjoy success recruiting in Southern California. Utah still has to compete with BYU for their state's top high school talent, and while the Utes changed their profile with the move to the Pac-12, it's tough to envision this program being a more desirable destination than USC, UCLA and both of the Arizona schools.
As recently as the early 2000s, Syracuse was a top-25 program. The Orangemen, as they were called then, won nine games or more eight times in a 15-year span from 1987-2001. Since that span, however, the program has gone the other direction, managing just two winning seasons in the past 11. Support has dwindled as well, and even though Syracuse will be moving into the ACC this fall, a new conference home doesn't "fix" the Orange's other primary disadvantages — location and its home recruiting base.
60. Kansas State
Kansas State has averaged 8.5 wins over the past 20 years and been ranked in the final AP poll 12 times over that span. Support for K-State football is very strong, especially when the team is winning. The only problem is that one man — Bill Snyder — has been able to win at Kansas State. Over two different tenures, Snyder has been able to overcome a bunch of hurdles — poor recruiting base, remote location, lack of tradition prior to the 1990s — to win at a high level on a consistent basis. Can another coach succeed in Manhattan? We’ll find out soon enough. Snyder turns 74 this fall.
While it’s difficult to win at Kansas, it can be done. The school has invested in facilities over the past decade. If only the fan base could get a little more behind the football team, as the crowd and atmosphere at Phog Allen Fieldhouse doesn't carry over to Memorial Stadium. That's the downside of being at a basketball school and i doesn't help that the Jayhawks usually come up second to in-state rival Kansas State when it comes to local high-level recruits. These are the main reasons why no coach since the 1950s has enjoyed sustained success in Lawrence.
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. Even though Vanderiblt is in the SEC, the pressure to win isn't near as great as elsewhere in the conference. Because of its academic reputation and the fact it is a private school, the Commodores will remain low on the totem pole in the SEC in terms of fan base and overall support. The good news is that 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.
As the only private school in the Big Ten, Northwestern can be an attractive option for a top-flight recruit from the Midwest who is looking for an elite academic institution. The university has recently approved a $225-250 million facilities overhaul for all of the athletic programs. Football will no doubt be a huge beneficiary. However, no matter how much money is pumped into the program, Northwestern will always struggle to keep up with the elite programs in the Big Ten, from a recruiting and facilities standpoint. You can win at Northwestern, but it will always be a challenge.
64. Iowa State
Cyclone fans sure love Iowa State football. Last season, the school averaged 55,274 fans per game (100.5 percent of capacity) at Jack Trice Stadium. Not bad for a school that has had one winning season since 2005. It still trails in-state rival Iowa when it comes to attracting the Hawkeye State's top recruits. Competing in the Big 12, both on the field and off of it, with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others, doesn't help matters. There’s a reason the school has not won more than seven games in consecutive seasons since the late 1970s.
65. Washington State
The fact that the Cougars won 10 games in three straight seasons (2001-03) and played in the Rose Bowl in 2002 proves that you can win games in Pullman. It does not change, however, the fact that Pullman is the most remote outpost in the Pac-12. It can be difficult to attract prospects from California to play collegiately in Eastern Washington. The school also has upgraded facilities in recent years, but it still lags behind most schools in the conference on this front.
Houston is an elite area for high school talent, as is the whole state of Texas, but there also are plenty of mouths to feed and the Cougars are near the back of the line.
UCF is located in the heart of the talent-rich Sunshine State and near the bottom of the pecking order after Florida, Florida State, Miami and South Florida.
68. Boston College
Boston College was one of the most consistent programs in the nation from the late 1990s through the late 2000s, but times have changed and the schoool's northern location hinders its chances of a turnaround.
69. Fresno State
Prime location makes it the second-best job in the Mountain West.
Whether it's basketball, the recruiting base or the conference, it's tough to win in Bloomington.
71. Wake Forest
Jim Grobe has been the only one to win consistently at the academic-minded, small private school since the early 1950s.
Basketball, academics and a lack of support are the main obstacles to sustained success on the gridiron in Durham, N.C.
Conference realignment has not helped the Huskies when it comes to attracting the Northeast's top recruits.
SMU's location and recruiting base are the only reasons why the Mustangs aren't lower as brand recognition, tradition and fan base support are basically non-existent.
75. San Diego State
Sleeping giant has shown signs of life in recent years.
76. Southern Miss
No member of the reconfigured C-USA has a stronger tradition of winning.
77. Northern Illinois
Recruiting base will ensure that you will always have a talented roster at NIU.
78. East Carolina
Solid program with good support, recruiting base and tradition.
Back in the Big East, but this program has a long ways to go in terms of tradition, fan support and national perception.
It’s the third best job in a decent state for high school talent.
Move to the Mountain West has made it harder to win in Reno.
Each of the last nine coaches have won at least eight games in a season at Toledo.
The Midshipmen have emerged as the best option of the Military Academies.
84. Utah State
Aggies are a distant third in their own state, but Gary Andersen proved you can win in Logan.
85. Colorado State
There is plenty of tradition, but the Rams have had one winning season since 2003.
86. Air Force
The Falcons are always good but never great.
87. New Mexico
Great location — unless you have to recruit.
Move the to the Big East should make Tigers even more attractive... to basketball recruits.
Pokes have few built-in advantages, which makes it hard to sustain success.
Herd should be able to stock roster with players from Ohio and Pennsylvania.
91. Louisiana Tech
Great talent base, but facilities are an issue.
92. Miami (Ohio)
The Cradle of Coaches has lost its luster.
It’s the top job in the Sun Belt — for whatever that’s worth.
Still in Texas, but El Paso is a long way from everything.
95. North Texas
There are plenty of players, but it’s the ninth-best job in the state.
96. San Jose State
Great location — if you a realtor.
It’s tougher to recruit at Hawaii than most would imagine.
Getting players never seems to be an issue. Winning is.
Kids would rather play for Navy and Air Force.
100. Central Michigan
Good coaches have proven they can win big at CMU.
Frank Solich is the first coach to win consistently since the 1930s.
Strong recruiting base and a new stadium have raised FAU’s profile.
103. Middle Tennessee
Decent location, but fan support has been low despite strong success.
104. Arkansas State
Red Wolves have been able to hire good coaches. Retaining them is next step.
105. Western Kentucky
Hilltoppers have made a steady climb since joining the FBS ranks.
Great location. Little tradition.
Have you seen Legion Field in the past 10 years?
108. Bowling Green
Urban Meyer isn’t walking through that door.
109. Western Michigan
It’s No. 4 in its own state and No. 4 in the MAC West.
Ragin’ Cajuns should be able to compete for Sun Belt titles.
Zips have one league title in school history.
112. Kent State
Only two winning seasons since 1987.
It’s one of the toughest jobs in an elite state for talent.
2012 was the school’s first with a winning record since joining FBS ranks.
115. Ball State
It’s the fifth-best job in its own division.
Move to Big East, new stadium will raise Tulane’s profile.
117. Georgia State
Panthers will move up the food chain if they can recruit well locally.
The Roadrunners are in a better league (C-USA) than Texas State (Sun Belt).
119. Texas State
It’s got the potential to be one of the best jobs in the Sun Belt.
Turner Gill proved winning is possible at Buffalo.
121. South Alabama
Jaguars will have to start stealing some recruits from in-state Sun Belt rival Troy.
122. New Mexico State
At least Las Cruces is a nice place to live.
Minutemen need to build on-campus stadium to become relevant in the MAC.
124. Eastern Michigan
The locals don’t exactly flock to watch the Eagles play on Saturday.
No league + Bad location = Very, very difficult job.
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