1) Penn State - I know they are going through some tough times. Legal battles will engulf this university for years and the reputation in Happy Valley is at an all-time low. However, Penn State is still a top football job. Do you want to be the guy that succeeds Joe Paterno? That's a great question. Personally, I would want to be the guy-after-the-guy but let's face it, most of these coaches get to the top because they are confident, cocky, and love a challenge. Penn State is that job. Extra campus and program surveillance will mirror the Pentagon and this coach will constantly face scrutiny about the post-Paterno era and the pending investigations. But this is still a program with a great fanbase, a gi-normous stadium, a pretty fertile recruiting ground, and a lot of money. If you're a top coach with a little attitude, take this job. It's the best!
2) Texas A&M - I can't remember the last time this team competed for anything but if you ask the fanbase, they'll say they've never lost a game: "We didn't lose, we just ran out of time." Tough act to follow? I would say so but the point is, A&M is in Texas where future NFL prospects are so deep that many of them end up at TCU, Houston, and the like because Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and A&M can only take so many. Plus, this job is a fresh start in the SEC where college football reigns supreme. Take the 80K+ stadium, the passionate fans called the 12th man, the endless high school talent, and hopefully some of Bear Bryant's magic Aggie Dust. This is a great program that has been down for way too long.
3) UNC - Yes, Chapel Hill. But it's a basketball school! Exactly, which means expectations are a little lower and you have all of the facilities and money to win 8 or more games a year. North Carolina has a pretty decent talent pool to pluck kids from as well as an academic reputation that is second to none on this list. If you want a steady job making 2-3 million a year with no pressure to win the national title and only compete for an ACC Title every few years, this is your next coaching stop.
4) Arizona State - There is enough talent in this state to elevate this program to compete for the Pac-12 title every year. Throw in its California neighbor and you've got a rich recruiting ground with a chance to do even more. The hottest co-eds are said to exist here and your only real competition in the South Division is USC. It's always warm, the town loves a good party, and the stadium is big enough to make the visiting team nervous.
5) Illinois - How does this program struggle? With Chicago just down the road and no other instate football program to compete with other than the highly selective Northwestern, they should be locking the state down with top talent and competing with Wisconsin and Iowa every year. They have a newly renovated stadium that kept the historical mystique of one of the oldest college football stadiums in the country and it's obvious the Fighting Illini are patient. They held on to Ron Zook way too long. All Champagne is asking for is 7 wins a year and a chance to compete for a BCS game every once in a while. With those expectations, a good coach can live a full, easy life in this town.
6) UCLA - It doesn't have any recent success and every big named coach that goes there seems to pull the program down a little further rather push it toward the top. But, it's in Los Angeles and USC can't get every good recruit. Does it have great facilities? No. It plays in the Rose Bowl, which means the fanbase looks more like empty seats even if they do get a decent crowd to the game. And I think I already answered my second question about the fanbase but the point is, it's in a big city where many kids dream of living one day. It also has pretty cool uniforms, which go a long way with 18-years old. The team's football history isn't so bad that talent would shy away from it. This program has always had a ton of potential. They just need to get the right coach using the right system with the proper amount of expectations to get them up the ladder. Rich Neuheisel's billboard claiming he will topple USC in only his first year was a death wish. Build the program up slowly (believe me, the university is patient) and you could start filling up Pasadena.
7) Ole Miss - The Grove, hot co-eds, rich fanbase, a town with culture and history, nice stadium, cool uniforms, and it's a coaching job in the SEC. Sounds like it should be no. 1 on my list, right? Well, there's a catch! It's in the SEC West where LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and even Arkansas, of late, play consistently good football. Plus, you've got an AD that believes Oxford can compete with the big boys in this conference even though the state isn't littered with talent and they haven't won a conference title since 1963. So, in essence, it's not gonna happen. This is a great job if the expectations were lower and you don't mind just trying to scratch out enough wins to become bowl eligible. And let's face it, they've only had decent years when the top programs are down. Does that make you successful? Great place but too many obstacles to climb. Beware...
8) Arizona - As the little brother in the state, the Wildcats can't seem to get it together. I thought Stoops would make them more competitive but the talent pool is hard to squeeze out and the facilities are good but not excellent. I can't say much more about this job other than to take it if no other big jobs are available. It's a good job for upcoming coaches who want to get their feet wet and gain some consideration for a bigger job down the road, but this isn't a "lifer" job. Do what you can, try to win 6 games, and every 3-4 years win 8+. Then, put your resume out there because the success doesn't last long enough in Tucson when most students are saying, "Do you think we'll win it all this year?" - and they are talking about the basketball team.
9) Kansas - It's a basketball school. What more to say? Sure, they had some success a few years ago with Mangino but just like Arizona, it just doesn't have the talent, facilities, and it competes for national titles...in another sport. This is the perfect job for someone like Turner Gil, who took a promotion from Buffalo in hopes of making Kansas bowl eligible and competitive. If you are looking for rabid fans and endless resources, look elsewhere.
10) Washington State - Take this job if it's the only one offered. It's in the middle of nowhere. And I mean nowhere! It really should be Idaho and the nearest town outside of it is Moscow. The state loves the University of Washington but even they can't get enough talent to do much. This is a job where failure is almost certain. And if you can find another Mike Price? Good luck. Enjoy your 8 wins for consecutive years then watch him leave town for another Alabama in zero seconds flat and hear about him celebrating his departure by going "clubbin'."
Well, there you have it. I'm sure many of you will disagree but that is my elementary view on the latest coaching carousel. So glad Georgia isn't on this list because at one point during the season it was looking like it was headed there. Great job Richt!
Let the ride begin!