East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill
Coaches from non-AQ programs jump to major programs on an annual basis, most of which seemingly come out of nowhere to become the hot name on the coaching block.
East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill isn't one of those coaches.
The 55-year-old East Carolina alum took over the program before the 2010 season, after a successful career as a defensive assistant with Mike Leach at Texas Tech.
During his four years at his alma mater, he's led the Pirates through two rebuilding years and back into Conference USA prominence.
The Pirates topped Ohio 37-20 on Monday afternoon in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, marking their first bowl win since a 41-38 victory over Boise State in the 2007 Hawai'i Bowl. Vintavious Cooper rushed 25 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns; quarterback Shane Carden completed 29 of 45 passes for 273 yards and one touchdown in the victory.
CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman shared his thoughts on McNeill leading his team to a bowl win.
Good for Ruffin McNeill ... one of the nicest ppl in coaching about to get #ECU a 10-win season.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) December 23, 2013
The Pirates have won 18 games over the last two seasons, shared the East division title in 2012 and just posted their second double-digit win season in program history.
That sounds a lot like a coach on the rise.
He certainly has earned consideration for bigger jobs. So why isn't McNeill getting them?
He seems content in Greenville, N.C., and certainly has ties to the community. Plus, at 55 years old, his age could be a hindrance to an athletic director whose eyes are wide for a long-term solution.
That's a shame too, because once he finally nailed down that head coaching job at ECU, he proved that he had what it took to be successful. If he was 10 years younger, would he be a hot commodity on the coaching circuit?
He'd be one of the hottest.
But building a legacy as a player and a coach at your alma mater isn't a bad consolation. He has the momentum for the program heading in the right direction as it enters a new era in 2014—its first in the American Athletic Conference.
Will East Carolina be AAC favorites? With McNeill at the helm and Louisville on to greener pastures in the ACC, don't be surprised to see momentum stay on McNeill's side.