The Top 50 Coaching Jobs in College Football
Tradition, pageantry and excellence.
Those three words describe what college football is all about.
Some schools, however, have more tradition, pageantry and excellence than others, which brings up one question: What is the best coaching job in college football?
Is it Texas? Alabama? Florida? Southern Cal? Oklahoma? Nebraska? Auburn? LSU? Ohio State? Michigan?
While all those schools will be high on the list, only one can be No. 1. Here are the top 50 coaching jobs in the greatest sport on Earth!
The University of Arizona has been on the upswing as of late under coach Mike Stoops, but the facilities and inability to win championships hold this program back. They are the only Pac-10 team that has never played in the Rose Bowl. It is, however, a solid job.
How far you could go: It would be tough, but with the right talent, you could win a Pac-10 championship with Arizona. A national championship, however, is doubtful.
Rutgers was irrelevant in college football until the mid-2000s. But the mid-2000s proved that Rutgers is a program that can succeed with the right staff.
It is located, however, in an area that loves professional sports, specifically NFL football, and even more specifically the New York Jets and New York Giants.
Still, New Jersey produces some of the best high school talent in the nation, and Rutgers is right in the middle of that hot recruiting bed.
How far you can go: You probably won't win any national titles at Rutgers, but you can consistently compete for the Big East title at Rutgers and frequently make bowl games.
The Cardinals have some things going for them. They did win the Orange Bowl a few short years ago, and they have recently expanded their stadium.
However, the school lacks football tradition and fan support at home games. Louisville is the second-best job in the Bluegrass State.
How far you could go: With the right talent and a little bit of luck, you could go to a BCS bowl once in a while. However, it's tough to keep consistency at the 'Ville. A national championship is just about out of the question.
UK is a respected athletics program in the SEC, but some key factors keep UK from being a great SEC job.
First of all, Kentucky is a "basketball school." The Wildcats have won many national championships in that sport, and the football program doesn't get as much attention.
Also, Kentucky just can't seem to recruit as well as other SEC schools. Kentucky can't get a 5-star athlete from the area because he's more likely to go to Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU or Tennessee.
How far you can go: You can't go very far. At Kentucky you should be able to make a bowl game almost every year, so it's a decent program, but if you want to win a conference and national championship, Kentucky isn't the place for you...unless your name is Nick Saban.
The Cardinal usually have the "Vandy factor." They are in a great conference and have more brains than brawn.
That has changed in recent years, however, and this year has been a breakthrough year for the Cardinal. They went 11-1 and will play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Stanford won't bring in the talent of other schools in the Pac-10, but it is a decent job.
How far you can go: At Stanford, you can actually compete for the Pac-10 on a regular basis and will usually be solid, but if you want to win a national championship, then Stanford might not be the place for you.
The University of Illinois is a strong athletic program overall, but football is not all that strong. The fanbase isn't as strong as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State or Wisconsin, and basketball is the top sport at this school anyway. The football program may never exceed the success the basketball program has achieved.
How far you can go: You can be a regular bowl team at Illinois, but Rose Bowls are few and far between, and a national championship is just about out of the question.
44. Texas Tech
TTU has struggled over the course of its history but found success under Mike Leach. Still, the Red Raiders never broke unto the BCS. It's a good job but has always been behind Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in the Midwest and Southwest.
How far you can go: It's a tough climb, but despite this ranking, if EVERYTHING goes right, you could actually win a national championship in Lubbock.
43. Boise State
The Broncos have done nothing but win since joining the FBS just over a decade ago. Some things keep this being from an elite job, though.
The fanbase isn't very large. The blue field is a major turn-off to a lot of people. Their current conference, the WAC, is one of the worst conferences in college football, and they are moving to the MWC, which isn't that much better considering it's losing Utah, BYU and TCU soon.
The Broncos have had four undefeated regular seasons in seven seasons and have not even been close to a berth in the national championship game.
How far you can go: If you recruit well and coach well, you could literally win the conference every year. Too bad that's barely an accomplishment. You can't win a national championship in Boise—you can only get close.
Virginia is a program that has been occasional but never consistent. The recruiting base is excellent, but the competition in the ACC has always been tough for the Cavaliers. They have won two conference titles in 57 years of ACC play.
How far you can go: If you recruit well and get the fans enthused, you could compete for the ACC every once in a while. Most of the time, though, you'll have to settle for being in average bowl games. Winning a national championship at UVA is doubtful.
Utah has been an elite program in the Mountain West Conference, going unbeaten twice, going to two BCS bowls and winning both in blowouts (35-7 over Pitt in 2004 and 31-17 over Alabama in 2008). The fanbase is strong, the TV market is one of the best in the nation and the recruiting base is decent.
How far you can go: Previously, the main issue was not being in a BCS conference, and the schedule was too weak. That's why Utah could never go to the national title game.
Now, they're in the Pac-10. If you continue to recruit well, you could go to some Rose Bowls and potentially compete for a national title. Can you handle the big schools week in and week out now?
40. NC State
NC State is possibly the most underachieving program in college football. They have fantastic facilities, a beautiful campus and a strong fanbase. Why haven't they won consistently? The answer could be coaching. Maybe it's just bad luck.
NC State is a better program than people realize. The potential is there.
How far you could go: If you recruit great players and coach them up, you can compete for the ACC crown on a regular basis. Heck, with some luck thrown in, you could even win a national championship at North Carolina State.
Mizzou has been snakebitten throughout its history. The "Fifth Down Game" is a good example. But in recent years their program has improved, and now they have one of the best programs in the Big 12 (10?).
How far you can go: As Gary Pinkel has proved, if you can be the right fit, you can win big at Mizzou. You can compete for the Big 12 (10?) on a regular basis. You can win a national championship at Missouri.
38. Arizona State
ASU has had off-and-on success throughout its history. The Sun Devils have a strong fanbase, a historic stadium, a decent recruiting base and a good TV market. It hasn't been in the national spotlight in some time now, proving you need to be the right fit to win at Arizona State.
How far you can go: Like most schools, if you recruit well you can win big. You can compete for the Pac-10 title on a regular basis, but USC and Oregon are hard to top. With luck, you can win a national championship at Arizona State.
BYU is a great job to have. They are now an independent like Notre Dame, meaning they can't be held back by the status of being in a weak conference.
They have a national championship from the '80s to boast about, and they have also put a lot of great players in the NFL. BYU has fine tradition and a big fanbase.
How far you can go: Don't expect to win a national championship at BYU, but you should be able to win 10-plus games more often than not. Frequent BCS bowl appearances aren't out of the question either.
36. Georgia Tech
GT has a good tradition, claiming five national championships and winning the ACC just a short year ago. They have a decent fanbase, but their main problem is that they are second in their own area. More people in Atlanta care about the Georgia Bulldogs.
You could also argue that the NFL's Atlanta Falcons are more beloved by the city. Third in your own backyard?
How far you can go: If your ego can handle being the third-most important football coach in the state, then GT can be a destination job. You can compete for the ACC on a regular basis, and it has been proven you can win a national championship in Atlanta.
Beautiful campus. Even better scenery. Excellent fan support. What's wrong with Colorado? Simply, it's coaching. That's why they haven't been winners the past few seasons.
They have a good history, highlighted by a national title in 1990 and the "Miracle at Michigan," a Hail Mary that will forever be remembered by college football fans.
How far you can go: You compete in the Pac-10 with powers like Oregon and USC. It's tough to win at Colorado, but it can be done. You can compete for the conference crown once, say, every three seasons. A national championship is within grasp at CU.
Pitt has a respectable tradition but a dwindling fanbase. What can you say? The city prefers the Steelers and the Penguins over the Panthers.
They play in a bad conference, the Big East. Still, the potential is there for this to be a good program.
How far you can go: The Panthers claim multiple national titles, but it's a lot tougher to do now. You can compete for the Big East regularly, but a national championship is a lot to ask of modern-day Pitt. Stick with the Terrible Towel if you want championships, Pittsburgh fans.
33. South Florida
USF was an afterthought in college football until that night in 2007—the night they went into Auburn, Alabama, and upset Tommy Tuberville's Tigers in OT.
The Bulls rose to No. 2 in the nation at one point before collapsing to end the season. Still, they have a growing fanbase, a great TV market in Tampa and lots of potential.
How far you can go: It's tough to recapture the first-half-of-2007 magic, but it's possible. You can compete for the Big East on a regular basis. It'll be tough, but if the stars align you can win a national championship in Tampa. It is doubtful, though.
Cal has been an off-and-on program in its history. It will be good for a few years, bad for a few years, etc. The stadium leaves a lot to be desired, the fanbase could be better and the production on the field is never as good as expected.
How far you can go: You can compete for a Pac-10 title every once in a while, but if you want to be at a Pac-10 school that can win a national title, go to USC or Oregon.
31. Ole Miss
Ole Miss used to be one of the best programs in the SEC, but then John F. Kennedy announced he was running for president. The Rebel Yell has become a Rebel Yelp. The school has great tailgating and passionate fans going for it, but not much else. Still, a good job if you're up for it.
How far you can go: You're in the same division as Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. You can win some games, but it would take a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, job to get Ole Miss to a national championship.
Iowa has solid tradition in football, cool uniforms, a great fanbase and consistently wins a good number of games. The problem, though, is that they are always just average. They're usually good for seven or eight wins. You need to be "the right fit" to win at Iowa.
How far you can go: You can regularly be a factor in the Big Ten race, but Rose Bowl berths are few and far between, and a national championship is going to be a hard thing to do with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska in the way.
29. South Carolina
South Carolina's history is excellent...if you're a Clemson fan. The Gamecocks have one conference title and one Heisman winner in their history. Yet the fanbase is always passionate, and Williams-Brice is an awesome venue.
How far you can go: This year proved South Carolina can indeed make some noise in college football. Steve Spurrier seems to have them headed the right way. With a lot of luck, you can win a national championship at South Carolina.
Arkansas has a solid history with one national title, a huge fanbase and a mildly confusing yet huge stadium. Arkansas has always had trouble being an elite program. They are good. Not great, not elite, but not average or bad. Simply good.
Good doesn't win national titles.
How far you can go: If the stars align properly and the commitment is there, you can compete for the SEC crown on a regular basis. You can win a national title here.
27. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is like Arkansas—good but not great. I know, Boone Pickens will be mad at me for saying that.
The Cowboys have lost to in-state rival Oklahoma 82 of the 105 times they have played. In the rare years OSU has been better, Texas was still in the way. OSU has won one conference title since the mid-1950s.
Still, the passionate fans fill one of the nicest stadiums in the country every Saturday hoping for a Pokes win.
How far you can go: You should always be in a bowl game at Oklahoma State, but a BCS bowl will be hard to do with Oklahoma and Texas always in the way. Even this year, Oklahoma State couldn't get it done despite 10 wins. Guess who cost them a trip to Arlington? Oklahoma.
You can compete in the Big 12 occasionally, but a national title is just about out of the question. Sorry, Boone.
26. Michigan State
MSU is, was and will always be a basketball school. However, unlike places like North Carolina and Duke, the football program still has a huge, passionate fanbase. The Spartans have always found it tough to break into the upper echelon of the Big Ten (12?).
How far you can go: You can go pretty far at MSU—maybe a Rose Bowl every once in a while. However, if you're thinking about winning a national championship at Michigan State, you should coach the basketball team.
25. North Carolina
UNC is a good program in football, but not great. They haven't had consistency in success. A big reason why is that UNC is a basketball school. The basketball program is more loved by fans than the football program.
How far you can go: You can win some games at Chapel Hill and contend for the ACC on occasion, but a national championship? Maybe on the basketball court—not on the gridiron.
24. Texas A&M
Texas A&M has a solid history of football but has a lack of actual championships. The stadium is gigantic, and the fan support is amazing, but the Aggies always seem to play second fiddle to Texas. Still, if your ego can handle that, Texas A&M can be a destination job.
How far you can go: If you can remain committed and not back down from OU and UT, you can win some big trophies at Texas A&M. One of those trophies could even be the AFCA Coaches' Trophy, awarded to the BCS champion.
UW has a fantastic tradition in football. The Huskies are common visitors to the Rose Bowl, have a big fanbase and have a historic stadium with a beautiful view. They have struggled in recent years, however.
How far you can go: With USC and Oregon ruling the Pac-10, the Huskies aren't usually considered one of the conference's best programs. You can compete for a Rose Bowl every now and then, but a national title isn't very realistic in Seattle these days.
Wisconsin fans have had the opportunity to "jump around" a lot recently. Wisconsin has a great campus, big fanbase and excellent talent. Wisconsin is usually one of the best teams in the Big Ten.
How far you can go: At Wisconsin, you can definitely compete for the conference crown every season. You can win a national title at Wisconsin—there is no doubt.
21. Virginia Tech
VT was an average program before Frank Beamer. Now, it is one of the elite jobs in college football. The fan support is there, the talent is there; now all you need to do is win all your games.
How far you can go: With the right pieces in place, you can compete for the ACC on a regular basis and maybe even win a national title in Blacksburg.
20. West Virginia
WVU has a nice stadium, one of the country's most passionate fanbases and a solid tradition. WVU is arguably the best program to not win a national title yet. It is clearly the best job in the Big East.
How far you can go: Rich Rodriguez proved that if you're the "right fit," you can win big at WVU. In 2007, an upset loss to Pitt was all that stopped WVU from going to the national championship game. You should compete for the Big East every year. You can win a national title in Morgantown.
UCLA was once among the best programs in the land. They haven't won a national title since the early 1950s, however. Also, their fanbase is beginning to dwindle, and they haven't been contenders in some time.
How far you can go: If your ego can handle being the second-most important coach in the city, UCLA can be a great job. You can compete for a Pac-10 title every now and then, but if you want to win a national title with a college team from L.A., you should go to USC.
Clemson is one of the most underrated programs in the country. Some people say to Auburn fans, "You beat CLEMSON by three points. Pathetic." Folks, Clemson is a sleeping GIANT in the ACC.
They have more ACC titles than any other school. They have a great fanbase, a great game-day atmosphere and an intimidating stadium. Clemson is a great college town as well, often being called "Auburn with a lake."
How far you can go: It's a tough hill to climb, but if you recruit well and can create the consistency that has long eluded Clemson, you should compete for the ACC every year. You can win a national title at Clemson.
17. Miami (FL)
The U has won five national titles in its history. They always have great talent. But the past few years have been awful for the Canes.
Remember the ESPN 30 for 30 film The U? A player said, "I could look into the stands and see my mom." Yes, and it's the same way 25 years later. The fan support is without a doubt the worst of any team in the top 25 of this list.
How far you can go: If you actually get the fanbase enthused enough to support you at home games, you have a better shot at competing for a national title. For now, don't hope to bring home a national title to Miami. For now.
Oregon wasn't a very good program prior to the 1990s but since then has become a college football giant. They have a beautiful campus, a passionate (and loud) fanbase, a very intimidating stadium and a huge deal with Nike. Nike is a big reason why the Ducks have become a force.
How far you can go: Prior to this year I would have said that you could win some Pac-10 titles but not the national title. As this year has proven with the Ducks' berth in the national title game, you can win a national title in Eugene. Did I mention the big boost by NIKE?
UT used to be one of the best jobs in the SEC, and it still is, but not to the same extent it was before. The stability has been nonexistent of late, as they have had three head coaches in three years.
Historically, the Vols have won six national championships. They have a gigantic stadium and a passionate fanbase. The campus is great.
How far you can go: It's very difficult to do with Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Florida all winning consistently. You can compete for the SEC frequently, but a national championship is very difficult right now.
UGA is an underachieving program. There may not be a better state for high school recruits than Georgia. The Dawgs have a solid tradition and a very passionate fanbase, but it takes the "right fit" to win big at Georgia.
How far you can go: If you can keep the high school talent from Georgia in-state and get them to come to UGA, you can compete for the SEC on a regular basis. You can win a national championship in Athens, but first you have to get by those annoying guys from Gainesville.
Auburn, over its entire history, has been successful. Auburn won a national championship in 1957 and has also won 11 conference titles.
One coach at Auburn (Shug Jordan) won 176 games, two other coaches (Pat Dye and Mike Donahue) each won 99, another coach (Tommy Tuberville) won 85 and the current coach, Gene Chizik, has won 21 games in two seasons. This is one of the most desirable jobs not only in the SEC, but in the entire nation.
How far you can go: As one of the best programs in the nation's best conference, the SEC, you have a great fanbase, great recruiting area and great tradition. You should compete for the SEC on a regular basis. You can win a national championship at Auburn.
12. Penn State
The face of Penn State football is obviously Joe Paterno. Two national titles, many chances for others when they went unbeaten and didn't win the title, great stadium and fanbase, etc.
But the main question is, how will the next coach fare? All we've ever known about Penn State is the JoePa era. The weight of the world would be on a new coach.
How far you can go: It's very difficult to follow up JoePa. Penn State isn't as well-built to win a BCS title with a new coach as other schools. You could win a lot of games, but winning a national title at Penn State might be just a little too difficult.
11. Florida State
FSU was nothing before Bobby Bowden came along, and now they are a national power. Bowden won two national titles in over 30 seasons at the helm at FSU. The Seminoles are in a recruiting hotbed in Florida, have one of the best helmets in college football and have a very passionate fanbase.
How far you can go: You have a decent chance of competing on a national level at Florida State. There's the "Bobby Bowden factor," but Jimbo Fisher fared pretty well in his first season. You can contend regularly for the ACC crown.
It's more difficult than it once was, but it's not impossible to win a national title at Florida State.
Michigan is the winningest program of all time. They have 42 conference titles and claim 10 national titles. They have the NCAA's largest stadium (known as the Big House), fill it with passionate fans and regularly compete for the Big Ten (12?) crown. Not to mention they have one of the best helmets in college football.
How far you can go: You can go all the way to the national title at UM. One big problem, though, is that it takes the "right fit" to succeed at Michigan. RichRod is not the right fit.
9. Notre Dame
Notre Dame's tradition and excellence are unrivaled. Not even Alabama or Oklahoma has been as successful as the Fighting Irish.
They have a historic stadium, a gigantic fanbase, a decent recruiting area and a plethora of national championships.
How far you can go: Something that should disturb you is that they expect to win immediately, and if you don't, you'll be gone before you know it. Also, the recruiting is not nearly as good as it used to be. It's much harder now than it used to be, but it is possible to win a national title at Note Dame.
Louisiana State University has been one of the best programs in the SEC over its history. It won its first national title in 1958 and went on a lengthy drought where they would come close but not finish it off.
In 2003, Nick Saban led them to the BCS title, and in 2007, Les Miles brought another national title to Baton Rouge. LSU has a strong fanbase, an intimidating stadium, an awesome recruiting base and solid tradition.
How far you can go: A sign of confidence for a new coach is that the Tigers have three national titles, and all of them were won with different coaches. You should contend in the SEC on a regular basis. You can definitely win a national title at LSU.
Nebraska is one of the premier programs in college football, gathering five national titles and 43 conference championships. They no longer live in the Texas Longhorns' shadow, moving from the Big 12 (10?) to the Big Ten (12?).
Nebraska is one of the most desirable jobs in the land. They have a passionate fanbase (they've sold out every home game since the early 1960s) and an intimidating stadium. The tradition is great.
How far you can go: At the University of Nebraska, the potential to win the Big Ten (12?) is always there. You can win a national title at Nebraska, but you might need a little bit of luck to do so.
6. Ohio State
Ohio State is one of the best programs in the nation. They have won multiple national titles, have the only two-time Heisman winner in Archie Griffin and commonly play in BCS bowls.
There is that SEC monkey that hurts their reputation, though, as they are 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games, including an 0-2 mark in the BCS National Championship Game.
How far you can go: At Ohio State, you can compete for the Big Ten (12?) title every season. You can win a national title with Ohio State...as long as you aren't playing an SEC team for it.
Oklahoma is one of the best football schools in the country: seven national titles, countless conference titles, countless All-Americans, etc. They have the most intimidating stadium in college football, explaining why they haven't lost a game there since the first week of 2005.
What's not to like about coaching at Oklahoma?
How far you can go: You can go all the way at Oklahoma. You should compete for the Big 12 (10?) title every season. You can certainly win a national championship in Norman.
4. Southern Cal
USC has a very good tradition. No team in the country has had more berths in the Rose Bowl. They win consistently and have a big TV market in Los Angeles.
A big problem, though, is fan support. They rarely sell out the LA Memorial Coliseum. Still, USC is a dream job. Even at its worst.
Ask Lane Kiffin.
How far you can go: This is the premier program in the Pac-10 by a country mile and a half. You should compete for the Pac-10 almost every year. You can win a national championship with THIS college L.A. team.
Bear Bryant once said, "When mama calls, you answer." Bama is more of a "mama" program than any other. The tradition at Alabama is arguably the best in the country. They have a very passionate fanbase, a gigantic stadium and a tradition of winning.
How far you can go: At Alabama, you can compete for the SEC on a regular basis. You can't lose your passion, however, and you have to be able to handle the pressure. It doesn't take much to have the Tide faithful calling for your head. You can win a national championship in Tuscaloosa.
Florida has everything: a great location, two BCS national championships, three national titles overall in school history, one of the most intimidating stadiums in college football and a passionate fanbase.
They were irrelevant for the most part until the 1980s, but since those days they have been among the elite programs in the land.
How far you can go: There's no doubt that you can compete for a national championship consistently at Florida. You can compete for the SEC on a regular basis. You can win a national championship in Gainesville.
Texas is the best coaching job in college football. They are not the best program, but it is the best job.
The state hails high school football as a religion. The talent out of high school in that state is simply outstanding. That huge state is basically "Longhorn Land." If you live in Texas and don't root for the Longhorns, you are frowned upon by Bevo-beloving fans.
How far you can go: It's fairly obvious that you could compete on a national level at Texas. You basically have the entire Big 12 (10?) in your hands, as proven by the conference realignment mess that transpired this offseason. You should compete for the conference title every year. You can win a national championship at Texas.