Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Ranking the Big Ten coaching jobs
By Adam Rittenberg
Our week-long series on college football coaches continues with a look at the best jobs in the country.
What makes a job great? Tradition, administrative/fan support, facilities, recruiting location, championship expectations, recent track record, college town and brand name all play key parts. Most Big Ten schools can be viewed as destination jobs for certain coaches, but only a select few are destination jobs for most coaches around the country.
In ranking the Big Ten's coaching jobs, I placed the most emphasis on the following four factors: tradition, facilities, recruiting location and recent track record. As a reminder, this isn't a ranking of Big Ten coaches, but of the jobs they occupy.
Here's the rundown ...
1. Ohio State: There's a reason Ohio State can go through a year like 2011 and then hire a coach like Urban Meyer. Most programs would have been in big trouble. From winning tradition to tremendous facilities to a location in the Big Ten's most fertile recruiting state, Ohio State has it all. It is one of the sport's best brands.
2. Michigan: No Big Ten program has greater long-term tradition than Michigan, and Brady Hoke and his assistants are showing just how dangerous the Wolverines can be on the recruiting trail. Recent facilities upgrades -- stadium, indoor practice facility -- have made Michigan an even better position and certainly a destination job for many coaches.
3. Penn State: Football is king at Penn State, and despite the recent scandal, this remains a very appealing job. Penn State has the facilities, the administrative support and good tradition on the field. While the school's location isn't ideal, Bill O'Brien's success on the recruiting trail amid the turmoil proves Penn State can still attract top talent.
4. Nebraska: The job isn't as attractive as it was during the glory years, but Nebraska still has first-class facilities, incredible administrative/fan support and a tradition of winning at the highest levels. The drawback is recruiting location, making Nebraska a tougher sell when the program isn't among the nation's elite.
5. Wisconsin: There's no way Wisconsin would be anywhere close to the top five before Barry Alvarez arrived in 1990. But Alvarez made Wisconsin relevant, and Bret Bielema has continued the success. Although Wisconsin is lacking in facilities (soon to be improved) and recruiting location, its recent track record has been exceptional, and Madison is an easy sell to prospects. The Wisconsin brand is very strong these days.
6. Michigan State: Mark Dantonio is showing just how good this job can be if occupied by the right man. The Michigan State job always has had appeal because of the program's tradition and recruiting location. The recent facilities upgrades (completed and ongoing) and stability in the athletic department (AD Mark Hollis) bump the job up a few notches.
7. Iowa: There are inherent challenges at Iowa, mainly a less than favorable recruiting location in a state that doesn't produce many high-level FBS prospects. The fan support is tremendous and Iowa has some tradition and a solid recent track record under Kirk Ferentz. Long overdue facilities upgrades enhance the appeal of the job.
8. Illinois: There are definite pluses, namely upgraded facilities and a location in a good state for football recruits. But Illinois still is known as a basketball school, and the program's most successful period came before World War II. Although the Illini have made some questionable coaching hires, the program's inconsistency raises questions about the quality of the job itself.
9. Purdue: It's a very close call between Purdue and Minnesota, but the Boilers get the nod. Purdue has a stronger recent track record, and while both programs face recruiting challenges, Purdue is more centrally located. Like Illinois, Purdue fights the "basketball school" stigma, although Joe Tiller made this a more appealing job with his successful tenure.
10. Minnesota: TCF Bank Stadium makes this a much more attractive job, as a head coach can sell on-campus football in a terrific facility. But Minnesota has some significant recruiting challenges, administrative support is so-so and the program's inability to win a Big Ten title since 1967 would give some coaching candidates some pause.
11. Northwestern: What used to be the worst job in major college sports is much better these days, and the team's historic run of success since 1995 boosts the job's appeal. But Northwestern still faces challenges with its lofty academic standards. It has the worst facilities and smallest crowds in the Big Ten, and the delay in announcing a major facilities upgrade raises questions about administrative support.
12. Indiana: The Hoosiers lack tradition and have very little recent success to boast about. IU's facilities are improved but not near the top of the Big Ten, and it isn't located in a great state for recruiting. The "basketball school" perception never looks more accurate than with Indiana, although the program lured one of the nation's top assistants, Kevin Wilson, to be its head coach in 2010.