Somebody at Sports Illustrated just came up with their list of the 20 best college football coaching jobs in the nation. Not surprisingly, Georgia made the list. Given its history, stature, conference, recruiting base and overflowing cash drawer, I’ve always considered it a top 10 job.
But No. 5 overall? Ahead of Alabama? As well as Penn State, USC and Notre Dame?
That’s the opinion of Andy Staples, who tackled this subject because of the current state of affairs at Ohio State (which is No. 2 on the list). I’m not going to copy-paste the entire article here, but here’s what Staples had to write about Georgia, as well as excerpts on the other SEC and ACC teams on the top 20 list of “most desirable jobs.” His reasons for having the Dogs so high are worthy, and also reaffirms why there is focus on coach Mark Richt this season.
Staples on the Dogs:
Want to know why Mark Richt is on the hot seat despite six seasons with at least 10 wins since 2001? Because Georgia has the resources to be in the national title hunt every season. The Bulldogs just finished a major football facility upgrade, and they play in one of the nation’s iconic stadiums. They have plenty of money. In terms of recruit preference, the Bulldogs rule a state that cranks out 90-100 BCS AQ-conference signees each year. Theoretically, Georgia should have its pick of those players, but Bulldogs coaches can’t always stop Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Florida State from cherry-picking some of the state’s top recruits. Unlike Florida or Alabama, which must fight off in-state rivals, Georgia recruits on a different level than Georgia Tech. The situation is more comparable to Texas and Texas A&M, which is why Georgia fans had a right to be dismayed that the Bulldogs had to win last year’s installment of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate just to pull even with the Yellow Jackets at 6-6 on the regular season. (Never mind the Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida.) Put simply, this is a great job for Richt if he can return to his early 2000s dominance. If Richt can’t, the right choice can come in and win big in Athens.
It seems like a fair assessment. Here’s the list. We can debate the order but I think all of the right schools made the list:
2. Ohio State.
The forthcoming cavalcade of SEC schools probably should be listed as 4a-4d, but my bosses won’t let me have a four-way tie. So the SEC East’s best jobs get a slight nod over the SEC West’s best jobs only because the competition doesn’t seem so cutthroat in the East. You’re only supposed to win the national title every other year at Florida or Georgia; at LSU and Alabama, you’re supposed to win the national title every year. Sure, Florida has to compete with Florida State and Miami for recruits, but there is plenty of talent in the Sunshine State to go around. The state of Florida produces more talent than any other, and the University of Florida is the flagship university and the only SEC member within a 10-hour drive of the extremely fertile grounds on the southern end of the state.
LSU edges Alabama because of only one factor. Alabama must fight Auburn for the best recruits in the state of Alabama. LSU has to fight no one for the best recruits in talent-rich Louisiana. Sure, out-of-state schools occasionally try to swoop in, but just as Ohio children grow up wanting to be Buckeyes and Georgia children grow up wanting to be Bulldogs, Louisiana children grow up wanting to be Tigers. Other than that, LSU and Alabama are about the same. Both programs rake in the cash and play in massive stadiums before deafening crowds. And in both places, if the coach can’t keep his team in the hunt for the national title every year, people will start clamoring for a coach who will.
In the 2009-10 school year, Alabama finished second to Texas in total revenue ($129.3 million), and the school opened an addition to Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2010 that raised capacity above 100,000. No fan base in America cares more about its football team, which can cut both ways for a coach. Win a national title and get a statue. Don’t win a national title and get run out of town.
8. Penn State.
Auburn falls below the dead-heat SEC quartet above for one reason. Because the Tigers historically are the Red Sox to Alabama’s Yankees, the Crimson Tide have the initial edge in most in-state recruiting fights. This edge isn’t insurmountable, though. Auburn also is only a short drive from talent-rich Atlanta, but those players have to be wrestled away from Georgia and Tennessee. Auburn doesn’t bring in quite as much money as Alabama, but the Tigers still have cash to burn. They can pay a handsome salary and have plenty left over to pay offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn $1.3 million a year to turn down the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. This is critical, and it is a common factor among all the schools listed so far. Any school willing to shell out for quality assistants is serious about winning.
13. Notre Dame.
14. Florida State.
Jimbo Fisher may just turn this into a destination job again. It sits this low because the fan/booster base was lulled to sleep at the end of the Bobby Bowden era. Upon his ascension to the big chair, Fisher immediately went into fundraising mode. He convinced boosters to chip in, and he quickly bulked up Florida State’s academic support, strength and nutrition programs. The recruits have flocked as well. Because of the school’s location, FSU’s coach has to work a little harder than Florida’s coach. Tallahassee is at the northern edge of the state, so players from Central and South Florida have to drive right through Gainesville on the way to FSU’s campus. The Seminoles are closer to many players in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, but they have to fight to get those players out of their home states. That said, coaches at most schools would volunteer a limb to have as many quality players within 300 miles of campus.
In 2009-10, nine athletic departments broke the $100 million revenue barrier. You’ve already read about eight of them. Why would an SEC program with 10-figure department revenue and a 100,000-plus stadium slip this low? Because Tennessee coach Derek Dooley has to work so much harder than his rivals to get recruits. The state of Tennessee produces some players, but its geography tends to breed mixed loyalties. Most of the best players are in Memphis, which is a six-hour drive from Knoxville. Players there grow up hearing as much or more about Ole Miss and Arkansas. Nashville is more of a Big Orange stronghold, but out-of-state schools have been known to slip in and pluck players. Tennessee is at its best when it can dip into Atlanta (three hours away) and pull players, but when good coaches sit at Georgia and Auburn, that’s a tough assignment.
17. Virginia Tech.
In terms of proximity to players, Virginia might be a better job than Virginia Tech. But Coach Frank Beamer has done such a good job convincing players from the stocked Tidewater area to come to Blacksburg that he has effectively negated any geographic disadvantage. Virginia Tech also can dip down into North Carolina, which has an underrated high school football culture that routinely produces great players. Virginia Tech would be higher on this list but for its revenue. The fan base is excellent, and Lane Stadium offers an intimidating home-field advantage, but Virginia Tech consistently ranks in the bottom half of BCS AQ-conference schools in revenue. The Hokies are quite competitive on the field, but Texas, Ohio State and the SEC powers are playing an entirely different game on the balance sheet.
18. Arizona State.
20. Oklahoma State.
So what are you thoughts on the list?
By Jeff Schultz