Rob Oller | Best college football job in America? Alabama beats out Ohio State
Few things in college football grab attention like a sudden coaching vacancy at a powerhouse program. A big-time job opens and potential replacements pop up and get shot down like Whac-A-Mole.
Right on cue, a dozen names already have surfaced in the search for a new coach at Southern California, which on Monday fired Clay Helton. Names like Urban Meyer, Luke Fickell and Ryan Day.
Yep, that Ryan Day.
Most of the “inside” information is pure speculation and wishful thinking with misinformation tossed in, typically along the lines of “I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a realtor who says Luke Fickell is looking for a house in Los Angeles.”
News flash: Fick isn’t going anywhere just yet, especially with Cincinnati’s entry into the Big 12 creating an easier path to the playoff.
Meyer hasn’t scratched his NFL itch long enough to return to college coaching (although if USC waits until after the season to fill the opening? Finishing 2-15 in Jacksonville might flip Urb’s switch). Day’s next job probably will be in the NFL.
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That leaves guys like Penn State coach James Franklin, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and Kansas City Chiefs assistant Eric Bieniemy to consider, as well as Boston College’s Jeff Hafley and former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
We could go on, but better than guessing the right man for the job, why not consider the right job for the man?
And Southern Cal, as older fans refer to it, lines up as the right job for many men. A few years ago, or maybe a decade ago — COVID-19 + aging = skewed time — a survey of FBS coaches revealed that USC topped a list of best college jobs.
Is it still? I ranked the five best jobs based on a set of five criteria: Winning/tradition; recruiting base; quality of life; administrative synergy; and national championship potential.
1. Alabama, 22 points. What happens when Nick Saban retires? Does Dabo take over? And can he keep the Tide rolling? Who needs that pressure?
Winning/tradition: Really? (5)
Recruiting: Bama gets the pick of the litter, both in the south and elsewhere. (5)
Quality of life: Oppressive heat and southern living aren’t for everybody. Points: (2)
Administrative synergy: Football rules and Saban gets whatever he wants. Assume the next guy will, too. (5)
Championship potential: Really? Part II. (5)
2. Ohio State, 20 points. The Big 1 and Little 13 make the Horseshoe a nice place to call home.
Winning/Tradition: Second in NCAA history with 932 wins to go with 85 first-round NFL draft picks. That will preach. (5)
Recruiting base: Ohio’s elite high school talent pool is barely top 10, but Day excels in signing national players. (4)
Administrative synergy: President Kristina M. Johnson is pro-football. Athletic director Gene Smith bends over backward for football. But the Big Ten has standards. (4)
Quality of life: Columbus is no longer a cow town, but an occasional blue sky would be nice. (3)
Championship potential: Four playoff appearances. But only one title? (4)
3 (tie). Texas, 18 points. So much money but so much drama.
Winning/tradition. The ultimate underachievers, given the massive potential. (3)
Recruiting base: Unlimited. (5)
Quality of life: Austin’s culturally chill vibe is music to a lot of coaches' ears. (5)
Administrative synergy: It’s great, as long as you do exactly what the 10-gallon hats tell you. (2)
Championship potential: Great, as long as you have Vince Young. (3)
3. (tie). Florida, 18 points. Urban osmosis? Hey, he’s right next door. For now.
Winning/tradition: The Southeastern Conference is a meat grinder, but Meyer proved Alabama doesn’t have to be the only game in town. (4)
Recruiting base: Much better with Miami and Florida State flopping. (5)
Quality of life: Is the Swamp the stadium or the area? (2)
Administrative synergy: Gators lost a lot when AD Jeremy Foley retired in 2016. But things aren’t terrible. (3)
Championship potential: Florida was Clemson before Clemson became Clemson. No reason the Gators can’t get back to the top. (4)
5. Southern California, 17 points. Many from outside SoCal will shake their heads, arguing that the Trojans have lost their luster, having gone 91-47 (.659) since Pete Carroll departed after 2009. Fair enough, but I contend the luster remains under the surface; it just needs polishing back into shine.
Winning/tradition: Seven national titles and seven Heisman winners (I count Reggie Bush) plus the Coliseum and “Fight On.” (3)
Recruiting base: California’s population is 40 million, of which 18 million live within 120 miles of Los Angeles. (5)
Quality of life: Subjective, of course, but perfect weather (except for the fires) plus ocean and mountains. Traffic is bad, but Hollywood marketing opportunities abound, although not like when L.A. was without an NFL team. (4)
Administrative synergy: The school has been a mess for a long time, and the past three coaches were fired in September or October. (1)
Championship potential: Don’t be fooled by recent performance. The Trojans can win it all, and the College Football Playoff wants them back in the title hunt. (5)
Next five: Oklahoma; Oregon; Penn State; Notre Dame; Georgia.
How do you see it?