Josh Kendall

Ranking the 10 college football coaching vacancies

Where does the South Carolina job Steve Spurrier left open stack up on the national scene?
Where does the South Carolina job Steve Spurrier left open stack up on the national scene? tdominick@thestate.com

It seems like every day another college football job opens up, and Ray Tanner gets more and more competition in his search for South Carolina’s next football coach.

The pace of retirements, resignations, firings, etc., is only going to increase now that November is upon us, but let’s press the pause button and take a look at the open jobs and how attractive each is to a potential hire. (See adjoining list of criteria for this ranking.)

1. Southern Cal

The Trojans can offer it all. The private school reportedly paid ex-coach Steve Sarkisian $4.25 million, and Sarkisian won nothing of note. Southern Cal can roll recruits through rooms full of national title and Heisman trophies (albeit most of them are dusty), and it is sitting in California, where football players are abundant.

2. Virginia Tech

The Hokies are high on the list mostly because of ‘Ability to Win.’ Virginia Tech is a football-obsessed school with plenty of resources and the path to the ACC title game goes through Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia and Georgia Tech, hardly Murderer’s Row.

3. South Carolina

There’s plenty of money in the SEC, and the Gamecocks are on the right side of the conference to sell a coach on the ability to win. The tradition is thin, but the facilities no longer reflect that. The knock, and it’s no small one, is that talent needs to be imported to compete consistently. The good news is Atlanta, Charlotte, Florida, etc., aren’t far away.

4. Miami

The Hurricanes job has a lot of red flags. The tradition is mustier and mustier by the day; the private school’s low enrollment means a smaller fan and donor base, and the way-off-campus stadium is far from ideal. All of this is trumped by the fact that the Hurricanes sit in South Florida, where freakishly talented football players seem to just keep coming out of the glades.

5. Maryland

The Terps are a wildcard because of Under Amour and its Maryland grad founder Kevin Plank, who has poured money into the program in hopes of making an Oregon of the East. That potential might speak to the right candidate.

6. Central Florida

The Knights ahead of two Big Ten jobs? Yep. The American Athletic Conference plays good football. The Orlando area produces plenty of talent, and the size of the school makes it an attractive expansion target whenever the next round of that rolls around.

7. Illinois

The Illini tradition (Red Grange, Dick Butkus, George Halas, Ray Nitschke) is rich but ancient. Being near Chicago has got to be worth something, though.

8. Minnesota

Jerry Kill, a dedicated football lifer, seemed like a perfect fit for the Gophers. It’s a shame he had to give up the job for health reasons.

9. North Texas

Being 10th (or whatever) in the feed line for Texas talent isn’t all that bad. It’s not good either.

10. Hawaii

On the quality of life criteria, the Warriors are big winners, but with questions about how long the university can commit to playing football, it’s going to be tough to find a quality head coach.

That only leaves the question of the Georgia job. Or I should say the GEORGIA JOB. Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt didn’t talk Tuesday during his weekly news conference like a man planning on going anywhere but it may not be his choice if things get any uglier in Athens. You can be certain every athletics director with a job opening, especially next-door neighbor Tanner, is hoping Richt holds on at least one more year.

An opening at Georgia, with its fat wallets and fertile recruiting ground, would knock every job in the region and maybe the country down a notch in the pecking order.

The advantage Tanner has on most of the other bosses with a job to fill is time. Thanks to Steve Spurrier’s three-week old decision to resign, Tanner has been able to make known his interest in his primary targets and start to build a relationship before the line of suitors gets any longer.

Ranking criteria for coaching jobs

1. Money – The next time a coach says, ‘It’s not about the money,’ think to yourself, ‘Do I like more money or less money?’

2. Recruiting Footprint – Recruiting matters. Recruiting rankings matter. Schemes, player development, etc., matter, too, but not as much as talent.

3. Tradition – This would be No. 2 if it weren’t for the fact that the age of recruits means that for most of them anything before the launch of the SEC Network might as well be in black and white.

4. Ability to Win –The path to a championship is part of it. It’s much easier to find your way to the SEC Championship game from the East than the West.

5. Quality of Life – This is a distant fifth because with what these guys are making, you can make a pretty good quality of life just about anywhere.

Then and now

Former head coaches and interims for the openings. (Frank Beamer will retire at Virginia Tech at the end of the season.)

SOUTHERN CAL

Steve Sarkisian, fired

Clay Helton, offensive coordinator

SOUTH CAROLINA

Steve Spurrier, resigned

Shawn Elliott, co-offensive coordinator

MIAMI

Al Golden, fired

Larry Scott, tight ends coach

MARYLAND

Randy Edsall, fired

Mike Locksley, offensive coordinator

UCF

George O’Leary, retired

Danny Barrett, quarterbacks coach

ILLINOIS

Tim Beckman, fired

Bill Cubit, defensive coordinator

MINNESOTA

Jerry Kill, retired

Tracy Claeys, defensive coordinator

NORTH TEXAS

Dan McCarney, fired

Mike Canales, offensive coordinator

HAWAII

Norm Chow, fired

Chris Naeole, offensive line coach

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