Pete Carroll has had a busy few weeks at USC.When he hasn’t been busy locking in another stellar recruiting class for the Trojans, or getting castigated for speaking his mind about outgoing quarterback Mark Sanchez, he’s been filling massive voids on his coaching staff, which look to be finally complete, after new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates replaced coach Carl Smith, who left the job he took with the Trojans for the Cleveland Browns, less than two weeks after agreeing with the Trojans.Replacing both coordinators (your offensive coordinator twice), finding a new defensive line coach, promoting your linebackers coach, cutting your Hawaiian vacation short to watch your starting quarterback leave school early, all before jetting out to the presidential inauguration?It’s no wonder that many consider Carroll the hardest working coach in America.He’s even found time to twitter about it.
Two more coaching jobs went on the market on Sunday with UCF head coach George O’Leary resigning effective immediately and Miami cutting ties with Al Golden following the worst loss in school history. To date we have seven coaching changes, including five from the power conferences. So, which one is the most attractive coaching job, and how do the jobs rank?
The location, the history and the relatively easier sales pitches in recruiting make USC the crown jewel of this year’s coaching carousel so far, and it is not likely to be topped. Dealing with boosters may be a concern for some coaches, and the expectations to turn USC around quickly will add some pressure, but the Trojans can give the right coach a strong legacy. Turning USC into a national title contender should not take long with NCAA sanctions now a thing of the past. The concern for USC is staying too close to the USC family to know what’s best for the program’s long-term stability and future.
It takes a certain personality to succeed at Miami, but when the right person is leading the program, great things can happen. Recreating “The U” of old may not be possible, despite the demands of former Hurricanes on social media. Miami is not what it used to be, and until it can bring the program back closer to campus it may never be close to that again. That said, there are still plenty of reasons why Miami should be considered a good job. Recruiting in Florida may be a bit more challenging than it used to be, but it is still recruiting in Florida. Miami lacks the swagger it once claimed, but it can still manage to bring in good talent that should rise to the level of competing for an ACC title, something Miami has yet to do in its 12 years in the ACC. The facilities may not be as high-end as you might expect, but the Miami job still should manage to attract some good names.
3 South Carolina
After the first two jobs, the next couple of jobs tend to fall closely together. South Carolina gets a slight nod over Maryland based on the recruiting grounds within the SEC region and the recent improvements made to the program under Steve Spurrier. Spurrier leaves the program in a better condition than when he continued to mission set forth under Lou Holtz. Holtz and Spurrier;s efforts helped build a South Carolina program that, although having gone through a few down years now, has shown potential to be a lively product. there is life in Columbia, South Carolina. Winning national titles and SEC championships may be a reach, but success can be had with the Gamecocks.
Simply moving from the ACC to the Big Ten put Maryland in a better position for the long-term. After digging out of a budget crisis, Maryland is now in position to improve its athletics facilities and grow to become a program capable of playing at a higher level than it has in Big Ten play. The Terrapins lay right in the middle of some good recruiting grounds that for years have been picked by regional recruiting rivals. There may not be enough in the state of Maryland alone, but there is enough to build a foundation. A healthy relationship with Under Armour helps Maryland follow the business plan that has thrived at Oregon with Nike, and that can help in recruiting. As long as Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, a Maryland grad, is happy, so to can the head coach of Maryland.
You can make a fair argument the UCF opening should be even higher on this list, and you may not get much of an argument. For many fo the reasons Miami is an attractive job, UCF is as well. Recruiting in Florida should feed the program with ample talent to compete at a high level. We may not be talking about national title contention, but UCF has the great potential to regularly be in the mix for the Group of Five’s New Years Six bowl spot. Do not let an 0-8 season this fall fool you into thinking otherwise. UCF has great potential and has shown great growth. As the program continues to build, UCF can achieve some really good things with the right coach in charge.
The Illinois job may still have some potential to be a good job, but it lacks many of the benefits and features the above programs seem to carry. The location is not great, although Chicago isn’t too far away. The Illini are lacking in athletics facilities the others have to offer, or will soon have to offer. The bar is not set very high for the Illini on the football field, and there may not be enough good candidates to change that. Illinois can string together some wins and make a run in the Big Ten West from time to time, but Illinois will rarely be considered among the top handful of teams in a division consisting of Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa.
7 North Texas
Of all the jobs open right now, the North Texas vacancy is clearly on the bottom looking up. The Conference USA program sits in a state rich with football talent of course, but North Texas falls well under the radar when it comes to college football in the state of Texas behind Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Baylor, Houston and perhaps even SMU.
That’s how I’m ranking the jobs right now. Feel free to share your own power ranking.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has been in charge of the Utes program for over a decade since Urban Meyer left Salt Lake City for Gainesville. With Utah continuing to rise in the polls and look more and more like a solid playoff contender, could Whittingham now be seen as a possible leading candidate for some more high-profile jobs in this upcoming round of the coaching carousel, say at USC for example?
USC placed current head coach Steve Sarkisian on an indefinite leave of absence on Sunday and it seems there could be some drastic changes forthcoming for the Trojans in Los Angeles. If USC needs to find a new head coach, the program should be capable of attracting some very good candidates for the job, and some have already suggested the school will or should make a push for former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, currently the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. There is little doubt Kelly would do some terrific things with USC, but it remains an unrealistic combination right now (Kelly has won 20 games his first two seasons in the NFL and still has the Eagles in striking distance of first place in the NFC East despite early struggles, and he just took on the role of general manager; he has some good power going for him in the NFL). Whittingham, though, appears to be a much more likely target for USC if a coaching search is to begin.
It is important to remember the differences between Meyer’s departure from Utah and Whittingham’s current standing with the program. When Meyer left Utah for Florida, the Utes were still a Mountain West Conference program that did not compare or compete with the amenities of power conference programs. While success could certainly be attained at Utah, the chances of taking the next step as a program and competing for a national title were minimal at best at Utah a decade ago. The times have changed though.
Today Utah is a member of the Pac-12 and as of now is the only undefeated team left in the conference. Utah’s high ranking in the polls now is perceived in a different way it may have been when Utah was in the Mountain West Conference. Fair or not, that is just the reality of the situation. You can make the argument Whittingham has anything and everything he needs to have a shot at winning big at Utah. The performance to date certainly helps back that up.
While facilities and conference allegiance have been improved, does Utah have staying power to be a perennial national title contender? Does Utah have the resources to pay Whittingham and his staff top dollar? Compared to some programs that could be in need of a new head coach elsewhere, Utah may still have some work to do.
Just within the last year Whittingham has been connected to one coaching rumor or another (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh to name a few), and some even went so far to try and connect Whittingham to BYU, of all schools. This was nothing new. Whittingham had also been thought of as a potential coaching candidate at schools like Arizona and Penn State in recent years as well. Again though, those earlier coaching rumors occurred when Whittingham was in the Mountain West. Now, with Utah in the Pac-12, the playing field has been leveled a bit as he has adapted and grown the program to compete in his new conference.
A similar path has been taken by Gary Patterson at TCU. Patterson has guided TCU through multiple conference changes and finally has the Horned Frogs playing at a high level in the Big 12 as a conference and playoff contender. Patterson could have had almost any job he wanted as he continued to build TCU’s football program to this point, but he has opted to stay put and see to it TCU reaches the ultimate goals ahead of them. Perhaps the same will hold true for Whittingham as well.
There is nothing wrong with looking around and hearing what others have to offer. In fact, now might be a good time for Whittingham to entertain the possibility, because if Utah continues winning games he will have some leverage in his future whether he stays at Utah or not.
You probably do not pay much attention to the Ivy League, and that is probably understandable. However, on what is an otherwise slow day perhaps you might be intrigued by what is a very interesting coaching change within the Ivy League.
Columbia has officially introduced Al Bagnoli as head coach. Why is this significant, at least to the Ivy League faithful? Bagnoli is the long-time head coach of the Penn Quakers. Bagnoli announced his retirement from Penn before the start of the 2014 season and seemed to be calling it a career. But now he is jumping right back into the fray of the Ivy League by taking on what can probably best be described as the Wake Forest of the Ivy League.
Columbia has an all-time record of 373-633-43, although it should be noted one of those wins is a Rose Bowl victory in 1934 (take THAT Nebraska). If the program is aiming to improve its competitiveness in football, then Bagnoli may be the best possible hire it could land. Bagnoli knows the Ivy League like few other coaches can and he brings a winning pedigree with him. At Penn, Bagnoli led the Quakers to a 112-49 record in Ivy League play and nine Ivy League titles. Simply hiring Bagnoli is not going to change Columbia into a program that will rival Harvard for conference bragging rights, but it may help build something depending on how long Bagnoli puts up with the job.
So why did he leave Penn anyway?
As Mike Jensen of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes, Bagnoli appeared to be on good terms with the personnel at Penn and there did not seem to be a bitter taste as he left the program. If anything, the lack of a guarantee Bagnoli would be able to continue working with the athletic administration, but he did end up taking on some of those responsibilities. Jensen suggests Bagnoli likely realized he still wanted to coach. With the job in Philadelphia filled by his successor, Ray Priore, Bagnoli took advantage of an opportunity floated his way without much warning. Of course, at this stage in the football calendar, the coaching carousel has mostly come to a stop, at least among head coaching positions.
Not Columbia though.
As the coaching carousel continues to spin, most coaches want to become a part of the Alabama Crimson Tide staff, not leave it.
However, three different assistant coaches have left Nick Saban‘s purview since the team’s 42-35 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.
Tyler Siskey, who served as Alabama’s director of player personnel this past year, was the latest departure.
After linebackers coaches Kevin Steele and Lance Thompson also left for other positions with the LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers, respectively, questions began to surface whether or not a mass exodus was starting among Alabama’s coaching staff.
Siskey was asked about the possibility after accepting a position as South Alabama’s wide receivers coach under Joey Jones.
“There’s absolutely zero truth to whatever speculation about something like that,” Siskey told Al.com’s Mike Herndon. “It happens every year in this business and in this league. It’s just part of it.
“I’ve been hit with that question about five times today. It’s the first I’ve heard it. You can’t control what people put out there. … You hear stories and it’s just complete speculation because they don’t know the truth.”
Siskey was merely looking for an opportunity to become a position coach, which he found with the Jaguars.
Otherwise, Alabama has yet to lose one of its key coordinators. Kirby Smart returns for his eighth season as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. Despite overtures from the NFL, Saban said that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is “committed” to Alabama “right now.”
If either of those two coaches decide to leave, legitimate concern can set in. Until then, Saban will put together the best possible staff to keep Alabama near the top of college football.
(Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletic department)