There's an interesting story in this year's Athlon's SEC Preview that ranks the top coaching jobs in America. Based on tradition, facilities, location and money, the author tries to answer, where is the best place to coach? For the record, Auburn comes in at number twenty.
The top five are: Texas, USC, Florida, Alabama and Ohio State. USC and Alabama baffle me. Undoubtedly great jobs for sure; but it's hard to make a case for the Trojans and the Bammers as top five jobs. Four years ago, Alabama couldn't find any takers. Things have drastically changed in Tuscaloosa, but a top five destination? I think not.
How would you rank the top jobs in the SEC? I'll take a stab at it here. I'd like to hear your thoughts. To be objective, I'll leave Auburn off the list. Here are my top 11:
- Florida - A runaway number one in my opinion. Is this the same program that only started winning consistently twenty years ago? With tons of money, the best recruiting base in the SEC and solid leadership, the Gators are the class of the conference. With the exception of Texas, this is the best coaching gig in America.
- LSU - This program is a sleeping giant. I know, they've won two national championships in recent years, but you still get the feeling this program has underachieved. With great tradition and a fertile recruiting base in nearby Texas, this job should be mentioned in the same breath as Florida, Ohio State and Michigan. All the ingredients are in place for the Tigers to be a perennial top ten team. Look for it to become a destination job in the coming years.
- Alabama - I can hear the Bammers screaming now that I've rated their job lower than it deserves. You have to give huge kudos to the Alabama administration for finding the right coach and paying him enough to stay. That coupled with the improvements to Bryant-Denny Stadium, and Bammer is no longer the graveyard of college football coaches. The program is top notch in most every way - except one. Alabama has one of the most irrational, moronic fan bases in America. Nick Saban's success will only make its fans more delusional and demanding. For this reason, Alabama falls out of the national top five.
- Georgia - Speaking of underachieving, the Georgia program is the poster child of woulda, coulda, shoulda. Located in one of the great football towns in one of the great football states, the Georgia job is a hidden gem. The program has plenty of big name donors, the HOPE scholarship to assist with recruiting and a somewhat rational fan base. Combine these positives with a solid recruiting base and you have one of the top jobs in America.
- Tennessee - One of the great scenes for college football, Tennessee has almost everything a coach could want: great tradition, huge stadium, loyal fanbase and plenty of dough. The only thing missing is a recruiting base. The state of Tennessee rarely produces large quantities of blue chip high school athletes. This forces Tennessee to have to recruit nationally. That's not easy year in and year out. Still, Derek Dooley has one of the great jobs in football.
- South Carolina - Columbia is one of the great mysteries in all of football. They have arguably the most loyal fans in the SEC. Their people have filled Williams-Brice Stadium consistently each season dating back to their independent days. They have a first ballot hall of fame coach and still struggle to win. The reasons why remain a mystery. Whatever the answer, the Gamecock job is not a bad one because expectations are so low.
- Arkansas - Location wise, Fayetteville is one of the most underrated cities in the South. The program has great history and awesome facilities. The biggest problem with the Razorback job is the school has never been a natural fit in the SEC. The western most program in the conference, Arkansas gets little publicity and is regarded by many to be outside the mainstream SEC. Since leaving Atlanta, you'd think Bobby Petrino has been placed in the witness protection program.
- Ole Miss - All the talk about Ole Miss centers on the past. Spend a day in Oxford and you'll swear Archie Manning is still playing. The Rebels love to brag about their tailgating; but it loses some of its luster when you see half the stadium empty on most fall Saturday's. It has been proven time and again that the only way to win at Ole Miss is to cheat. Who wants a job like that?
- Kentucky - When you coach at the most tradition rich basketball program in America, you will never be top banana in Lexington. Rich Brooks made as good a go at it as anyone likely ever will in Blue Grass Country. It's not a bad job. If you can win seven games a year for ten years, you'll likely get your name on the stadium.
- Miss State - The Bulldogs have made great strides in recent years updating their athletic facilities and campus as a whole. But in the end, it's still Starkville. Dan Mullins may prove otherwise, but I doubt it. At best, Miss State is a stepping stone.
- Vanderbilt - One of the great schools in the South. One of the great graveyards in the SEC. If you are smart you take the job and shoot for back-to-back seven win seasons and then bolt. On the bright side, it's a great place to raise a family - if you can make it that long.