Power Ranking the College Football Head Coaching Vacancies for 2012
These days, it's like May in December.
The college football coaching carousel is running at full speed, slowing down just long enough for us to catch up with news of the Larry-Fedora-to-UNC and June-Jones-to-ASU stories, then merrily taking off again for another round of madness.
In the next round, Jones is out, and nobody knows who is in yet at ASU.
Yes, the madness has begun.
This list runs down the remaining FBS vacancies, ranking them from the worst possible position for a head coach, to the potential best.
14. Memphis Tigers
Memphis is barely a basketball school, much less a football powerhouse.
Forget trying to get recruits to come here—it's like a talent wasteland.
The program struggles, and only a coach who wants to see his career take a serious nosedive would consider this one.
13. Colorado State Rams
The Rams haven't won anything of significance in years.
They likely won't for some time to come.
The program has had time to make progress in the state, with rival Colorado on a down streak, but hasn't really succeeded in denting the recruiting scene.
Overall, it's just not high on the list of places you want to go, if you're a head coach.
12. Akron Zips
They're the fourth best college football team in Ohio, after the Buckeyes, Cincy and whoever wins the high school championship.
They play in the MAC, the program is a shambles, and the prospect of pulling recruits in is difficult, to say the least.
This job is no walk in the park.
11. UMass Minutemen
Yep, the Minutemen are going to make the jump from the FCS to the MAC in 2012.
The downside is that this program is brand new, and it takes a few years to transition to "big boy" football.
Also, Massachusetts is not exactly a hotbed for recruiting.
The good news?
For the coach, you get to start fresh and new, and have a hand in shaping a program.
10. Hawaii Warriors
It's Hawaii, for crying out loud! Have a few winning seasons in the WAC, and you might be considered for deity status.
The scenery is awesome, but recruiting has got to be a pain, especially since many of the best recruits are all the way out on the East Coast.
Sure, it might be a nice place to stop for a few years to gain experience, but is anybody really going to win a title game at Hawaii?
9. Arkansas State Red Wolves
This is not a bad gig.
The Red Wolves just won the Sun Belt Conference, and have some great momentum heading into bowl season and into 2012.
The Sun Belt isn't exactly a powerhouse, but for a guy trying to get his first head-coaching job, this is a good place to start.
8. Southern Miss
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In spite of some bad losses this season, Larry Fedora helped prove that this is a program that can win in C-USA.
The support is there, recruiting might be tough against some of the larger schools from more significant conferences, but it can be done.
7. Kansas Jayhawks
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So long to Turner Gill. It was an interesting two years.
Seriously, the Jayhawks are a basketball school.
Other than Todd Reesing's time at the school, Kansas has really never had a good team take the gridiron.
It's a tough draw, particularly trying to win recruiting battles with other Big 12 schools with more cachet.
Phil Fulmer may want this one, and if anyone can turn it around, he should be able to, but it won't be easy.
6. Fresno State Bulldogs
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Pat Hill was at Fresno State for a decade and a half, and he's taken the program to heights it's never reached before.
While the Bulldogs didn't win any huge bowl games under Hill, it's interesting to ponder what they might have done over the last decade, had Boise State not been so dominant.
He showed that it can be done in Fresno.
The fans are great, and recruits will come for the right guy.
5. Arizona State Sun Devils
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First June Jones was going to be the new head coach, now he's not.
ASU is a good option. But the recruiting might be difficult, especially trying to get talent from California to head south.
The facilities are nice, and the program has had moderate success in the past, so why couldn't somebody turn it around and do it again?
4. Texas A&M Aggies
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I'm sorry, this one would be tough for me to take.
The Aggies have a great fanbase and great support, but going into a new conference is going to be tough.
Of course, the new head man won't have the Texas rivalry to deal with, and he'll have to establish new rivalries.
There's a big opportunity here, but with the short time coaches are given to produce results these days, it's a gamble.
3. UCLA Bruins
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Neuheisel missed a huge opportunity, with a down USC, to make a move toward supremacy in L.A.
The program needs a guy to step in and make a splash, similar to what Lane Kiffin has done for the Trojans.
It's a Pac-12 program, in a great market, with tons of support and the potential to snag top recruits.
This job has got to be near the top of this list.
2. Illinois Fighting Illini
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Any Big Ten coaching job is a solid opportunity.
The Illini, in particular, have a central location to all the surrounding states for recruiting, and Ron Zook had a pipeline to Florida.
There is an opportunity here for this program, with the right coach, to make some noise in the conference over the next five years or so.
1. Penn State Nittany Lions
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This is, of course, dependent on how the whole controversy shapes out in State College, but Penn State is still one of the premier coaching jobs in the country.
Of course, trying to function in the shadow of Joe Paterno's decades of greatness is going to be difficult.
The right guy could get this program back on its feet and headed for Big Ten titles if the controversy shakes out.
The wrong guy would make an irreversible mess.