Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Ranking the SEC coaching jobs
By Edward Aschoff
The SEC has the reputation of being the toughest conference to play/coach in. But what is it like to be in charge of one of these high-profile programs?
That's where we come in. As we take a deeper look into programs around the country this week, we're looking at how each program stacks up in every conference. In the SEC, there's always a fierce arms race going on, and getting left behind can be dangerous.
Today, we're ranking each coaching job in the SEC. We considered a lot of factors, including location, tradition, support, fan bases, facilities and recruiting access.
Here's how we ranked all 14 SEC jobs.
1. Florida: For starters, Florida is all about location, location, location. It's in a state that produces some of the country's top talent and it's a state that players around the country will flock to. Thanks to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, Florida has become a national brand like Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame and Texas. Recent significant facility upgrades and a tremendous fan base have only helped this be the top job in the SEC.
2. LSU: It's one of just a handful of schools around the country that's considered the school in the state. Every football player in Louisiana grows up wanting to play in Tiger Stadium. Louisiana is also extremely bountiful when it comes to producing football players, and Texas is right around the corner. The facilities are top notch and the program has great tradition and a tremendous fan base.
3. Alabama: Talk about extraordinary tradition. Though there were some down years before Nick Saban took over, there's no escaping the success this program has had. Prospects from all over are drawn to Alabama. There's tremendous support inside and outside for the program, and the facilities are some of the best in the nation. This is also a school that didn't hesitate to pay Saban the big bucks when the opportunity arose.
4. UGA: There is so much talent around Athens that it's hard for Georgia not to have a top recruiting class year in and year out. Georgia's facilities are near the top of the conference, and the campus is gorgeous. The tradition and game-day atmosphere would draw anyone in.
5. Auburn: While it's constantly knocking heads with Alabama, Auburn has plenty going for it. The campus is gorgeous, the stadium is one of the best game-day venues in the league and the fan base is extremely passionate. Auburn is in the heart of recruiting central in the Southeast, and the recently updated facilities are a major plus.
6. Tennessee: While the Vols have struggled with consistency on the field lately, this is still an attractive job. Nearly $50 million was spent to build a brand-new football complex, Neyland Stadium has been spruced up over the years and the program does have a rich tradition. Though with the state not being so talent-rich, coaches are forced to target other areas in the Southeast to recruit.
7. Texas A&M: The Aggies' tradition is well-known in college football. The game-day atmosphere is one of the best in the country, there is a great alumni base, their home state is filled with elite talent and the school is huge. Now Texas A&M can sell playing in the SEC to Texas athletes. But one thing that does hang over the program is that it's still playing second to the Longhorns.
8. South Carolina: Spurrier has completely transformed South Carolina and proved he can win there. The state has an underrated talent pool, and Spurrier has made it a priority to get the best talent to come his way. The fan base is one of the most loyal ones in the country, standing by the Gamecocks even during the rougher years.
9. Arkansas: The Razorbacks are basically the pro team of the state, and Bobby Petrino's success made it a very attractive job nationally. The fan base takes great pride in its program, and recent facility upgrades have really helped draw more attention to Arkansas. However, the state isn't as rich with talent as other southeastern states, meaning the Razorbacks have to turn to other states, such as Texas and Oklahoma, for more prospects.
10. Missouri: New to the SEC, Missouri is making sure it keeps up in the arms race by upgrading and expanding Memorial Stadium. There's good tradition at Mizzou, but Gary Pinkel really turned things around and made the Tigers more relevant when he arrived in 2001. Location could be an issue for some southeastern prospects, but Pinkel and his staff are making a conscious effort to expand recruiting efforts into Georgia and Florida.
11. Ole Miss: Oxford is the quintessential college town, rich with history and a game-day atmosphere envied by many, thanks to the Grove. The campus is beautiful, and the football facilities are pretty impressive. However, consistently recruiting top talent to Ole Miss has been a major issue for coaches, as the Rebels have won nine games or more just five times since 1971 and have had 11 head coaches during that time.
12. Mississippi State: Starkville can be a little out of the way for people, and like Ole Miss Mississippi State is having to try to keep top Mississippi talent away from the likes of Alabama and LSU. The fan base is very loyal, and the program has seen a bit of resurgence since Dan Mullen's arrival. The school is also breaking ground on a new $25 million football facility.
13. Kentucky: The football program will always be in the shadow of the basketball program. Even though Rich Brooks turned things around, it's hard to sustain that when Kentucky has to go out of state so much for recruiting and has to do a lot of projecting with prospects. Before last season, the Wildcats went to five straight bowl games, and recent upgrades to the Nutter Training Facility have players excited.
14. Vanderbilt: The high academic standards leave coaches without the opportunity to recruit some of the top prospects, and Vandy only has been bowl eligible five times in school history. While the administration drug its feet on facilities for so long, the school agreed to upgrade facilities, including adding a new multipurpose practice facility, when James Franklin received a new contract last fall.