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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While driving down Interstate 35 last night, I came up with a mental exercise that helped me pass the time and avoid bad talk-show hosts.
To start, let's jump in the pretend machine. I'm a young coach starting out my career with limitless dreams and unmatched ambition. I want to direct a team at the highest levels of my profession and I'm willing to try my hardest to make it happen.
But the question is, which Big 12 team would be my dream job? What would be the best scenario for me to aspire to make my mark?
Here's a list I came up with where I ranked the Big 12 head-coaching jobs, in terms of prestige, livability of its city, tradition, facilities and chance to succeed at the national level.
I understand my perception might be different than others. But I'd be curious to find out some reader's comments about what they think. This is my list.
1. Texas -- Unmatched facilities, tradition and fan support. And you get to live in Austin and make a lot of money to boot. It might be the best job in the country, although it does come with some steep expectations of success.
2. Oklahoma -- Unbelievable tradition, improved facilities. Bob Stoops has helped make this one of five or six best jobs in the country.
3. Nebraska -- Unrivaled fan support and tradition. If you want to go to a place where your team is the main sports story nearly every day, this is the place. But make sure to play defense, or you will be run out on a rail only a year removed from a division championship. Just ask Bill Callahan.
4. Texas A&M -- Tradition-rich program with fervent fans that remember and revel in the past. Situated in the middle of one of the nation's richest recruiting bases, smack dab between Dallas and Houston. And it comes with one old rival (Texas) and another one that is growing (Texas Tech) for inspiration.
5. Colorado -- For the right person, this might be one of the best jobs in the country. If you like picturesque views and mountains, this would be your place. But it's kind of expensive to live there and sometimes tough to keep assistant coaches if salaries are higher at other jobs. And the facilities here aren't as good as the conference's really primo jobs.
6. Missouri -- Gary Pinkel seems to have finally awakened the sleeping giant, making the program relevant in the state. Two strong recruiting bases in St. Louis and Kansas City to draw from, as well as proximity to nearby Big Ten area. The facilities aren't as strong as some of those in front of it, but it still a solid, solid job.
7. Texas Tech -- Lubbock's isolated location might be a negative to some, but the locals seem to love the place. Growing area, but still perceived by many as wind-swept and flat. And progressives might fear this fact: According to the Bay Area Center for Voting Research, Lubbock is the second most conservative city in the United States with a population of more than 100,000. But they love their Tech football.
8. Oklahoma State -- The best part about this job might be T. Boone Pickens, a megabuck booster who has supplied hundreds of millions of dollars to his old school. The worst part might be T. Boone Pickens, who assuredly is bigger than any individual in the program. Has operated in the shadow of its rivals in Norman, although new facilities will be as good as any in the country. Stillwater might be too small for some, but you can have all the cheese fries you'd ever imagine at Eskimo Joe's.
9. Kansas -- For the right person, this might be one of the most attractive jobs in the country. The football program will always be in the shadow of the basketball program, but that's not always bad. Think what Rick Barnes has done at Texas, in reverse. Lawrence has a nice college-town feel and is still close enough to Kansas City to have all of the big-city attractions. And the football complex is as good as any in the country, although it could use a few more tall trees around its practice field.
10. Baylor -- Receives a small boost over the other schools because of its proximity to the rich Texas recruiting base. The school faces some unique challenges as the smallest school in the conference, along with its private-school status. Some might believe it's an impossible job, although Wake Forest's Jim Grobe has been successful in similar situation in the ACC. They always will have the daunting challenge of sticking with the South Division superpowers. But the Bears will have a new state-of-the-art football facility that will open soon. And if you really like Dr. Pepper, this would be your the place.
11. Kansas State -- Bill Snyder turned this program into a national power, transforming it in the most remarkable turnaround in modern college football history. But Snyder started to change the culture when KSU was in the Big Eight and not the Big 12. Its remote location in the North Division makes it difficult to recruit. But it can be done -- it's just not very easy. You just better know your way around the junior colleges in Kansas.
12. Iowa State - The Cyclones have struggled longer than any team in the conference, sharing their last conference title in 1912, back when they were members of the Missouri Valley Conference. Its recruiting area is limited and its facilities -- although improving -- don't match most in the Big 12. But if I was a young coach with boundless determination and wanted a challenge, this would be my place. Because I love a good pork tenderloin when I can find it.
If I was putting these jobs in an Olympic listing, the Big 12's gold-medal opportunities would be found at Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Silver-medal jobs, in my opinion, are at Texas A&M, Colorado and Missouri. And the bronze jobs are Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas.