Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The 100 Best Coaching Jobs in Football: Who Missed the Cut?

George O'Leary has done a nice job at UCF, but would probably rather still have that Notre Dame job.

By Joe Parello

Just days after leading Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship Game and returning the Irish to glory, head coach Brian Kelly was already flirting with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. The first thought that went through my head was, "Kelly would be an idiot to leave Notre Dame for Philly."

Of course, there are only 32 NFL head coaches, and they are generally better compensated than their college counterparts. But, I would contend, the ability to recruit your own players, especially with the extreme competitive advantages that come with being the head man at a school like Notre Dame, far outweighs the added prestige of being an NFL coach.

So, with the relaunch of SuiteSports, I asked myself the question- What is the best head coaching job in football? "Best" is, obviously, a subjective term, but I have decided to define it by the following criteria:

1. General Prestige- The guy who coaches this team is a big deal.

2. Chances of Being Successful- In college this amounts to how well a coach can expect to recruit and level of competition. In the pros, it is determined by the competency of the ownership group and front office. Pro teams are generally lower in this category because a. the NFL is a league of parity (sorta) and b. you have to rely on other people to pick your players (most of the time). Not to mention, there is a draft.

3. Length of Leash- Can one bad season get you canned at this job? Or, is the administration/ownership group understanding of the team building process? A job where you can actually work through that process is obviously more desirable.

Two factors not used in coming up with these rankings were a team's current roster and compensation. Personnel and pay-wise, this is an "all things being equal" kind of thing. Think of it as the best places to build a team from scratch.

The rankings take college conference realignment into consideration, and include 111 possible teams from the NFL, ACC, Big East (though it will not be a BCS conference much longer), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC and Div. I independents.

So, without further ado, here is the first section of our list… Those sad 11 programs that didn't even crack the Top-100. The Big East is very well represented here because, well, it may not exist much longer, and it sure won't be a "BCS" conference once the national playoff begins in 2014.

111. Army: Div. 1 Independent

Getting to coach the kids at West Point is a tremendous honor, but it's not easy to win there, nor is the job particularly prestigious outside of military circles.

110. Navy: Big East

Ditto for Annapolis, but the Midshipmen have had more recent success, and have the benefit of conference affiliation.

109. East Carolina: Big East

East Carolina is one of the many schools making the move from Conference-USA into the Big East, but conference security may not be getting any better for the Purple Pirates. Skip Holtz had success there before fizzling in Tampa, but you have to compete with six major conference teams for recruits in the Carolinas.

108. Memphis: Big East

The Memphis area actually produces a good amount of football talent, but in-state schools Tennessee and Vanderbilt, along with lower-level SEC schools like Ole Miss snag most of those players. Also, most of the buzz on campus comes from the basketball program.

107. Tulane: Big East

Tulane is an interesting addition to the Big East, and will look to use its new conference affiliation and access to bowl games to rake in more recruits in talent-rich Louisiana. Now, can they win recruiting battles with LSU? Of course not, but there is plenty of talent in the New Orleans area to make Tulane a threat in the reworked Big East.

106. Temple: Big East

Temple, when it has been successful, has recruited its backyard in the Philadelphia area very well. The fact that the Owls were able to do that as members of the MAC is pretty astonishing, and gives you reason to believe they can be one of the better programs in the Big East.

105. South Florida: Big East

South Florida comes in as the lowest-rated job on our list in the Sunshine State. Yes, you do have talent in your backyard, but after in-state and national powers take all the top prospects, you then have to compete with mid-level Big Ten schools like Wisconsin and Iowa, along with the heart of the ACC, coming in and poaching mid-level talent. And, while Tampa does have some great high school football programs, the talent level there is nowhere near that of Broward and Miami Dade County, or the middle portion of the state where UCF has recruiting inroads.

104. Iowa St.: Big 12

And we have a winner for the lowest rated (true) major conference program! It's not that you can't be successful at Iowa State, but there isn't much talent in the Hawkeye State, and most of that talent goes to play for the Hawkeyes. Add in the fact that Big 12 is one of America's tougher conferences, and this is no easy job.

103. Indiana: Big Ten

The Hoosiers have an outstanding basketball program, but buzz around their football team has been minimal over the past 20 years (1 bowl appearance since 1993, and no bowl wins since 1991). The administration is investing more in its coaching staff lately, and it has shown up a bit on the recruiting trail, albeit it not so much on the field. Indiana is an underrated high school football state, but Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan tend to get first pick, leaving the Hoosiers to battle the rest of the Big Ten for second-tier players.

102. Wake Forest: ACC

Wake Forest has the smallest enrollment of any major conference team, and only Rice and Tulsa have smaller student bodies in Division 1. This had led to some lean years for the Demon Deacons, and the university has the dreaded "basketball school" label. Still, success is not impossible, and with great academics to offer, there is no reason Wake Forest couldn't at least compete for recruits in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

101. Central Florida: Big East

UCF gets the nod over the rest of these Big East schools because it has been able to recruit Florida at a higher level than USF, and did so in Conference USA. Now with Big East affiliation, however long it lasts, the Knights should be able to keep more regional recruits at home with the promise of better bowl games and (somewhat) nationally relevant match ups.

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