College Football’s Top Five Head Coach Openings
5. NC State
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Some teams are gearing up for BCS bowl games and the national title. Others are searching for a head coach that can one day lead them there. In recognition of Head Coach Hunting Season, we rank the top five programs with vacancies.
All in all, NC State a solid program. The Wolfpack have a winning all-time record (544–530) and have been a thorn in the side of Florida State for many years. Also, North Carolina is underrated but rich when it comes to recruits.
The biggest challenge is getting NC State over the mediocrity hump. Only once since 2000 have the Wolfpack won 10 or more games. Tom O’Brien was dismissed despite leading the team to winning records in each of his last three seasons, but the team’s underperformance amid strong 2012 preseason expectations proved to be his undoing.
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It’s a wonder that Jeff Tedford, once the hottest QB guru in college football, couldn’t turn the Golden Bears into a West Coast power. After all, he could offer players an education at arguably the best public university in America and could go after in-state high school stars from fertile recruiting ground in both Northern and Southern California.
Whoever steps into Tedford’s place can still offer that in addition to a renovated Cal Memorial Stadium and a gleaming performance facility (the Simpson Center) that opened last fall. It’s a lot to work with. The flip side of all that is that it raises expectations to the point where the next head coach will be required to win almost immediately.
That’s no small task in a loaded Pac-12. Heck, before the Bears want to think about conference supremacy, they have to focus on Bay Area supremacy, as Stanford has morphed itself into a perennial power that’s the envy of Cal fans and administrators.
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Four SEC programs are looking for a new head coach. Unsurprisingly, three of them are atop this list.
Let’s start on The Plains. It’s scary to think that Gene Chizik went from coaching the BCS national champions to out of a job in two years. The joy of that win in Glendale in January 2011 aside, there was no way Chizik was going to stick around after a 3–9 season (including 0–8 in SEC play).
Auburn will always be second-fiddle to Alabama in the Yellowhammer State, but there are plenty of recruits at home (and elsewhere in the South) to go around. The stacked SEC West - featuring the likes of ‘Bama, LSU, Mississippi State and Texas A&M - is a welcome challenge for someone who isn’t afraid of failure.
Make no mistake, it is a challenge. One wrong move with the next hire and Auburn could tumble into irrelevancy.
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Arkansas is not the first school that comes to mind when you think “SEC power.” Yet both Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino led the Hogs into contention in college football’s toughest conference, combining for a 109–63 record from 1998–2011.
Plenty of talent on both sides of the ball has passed through Fayetteville in recent years. Attracting players is not an issue. Not allowing the job to consume you is, however. Petrino’s dalliance with Jessica Dorrell is well known at this point, and John L. Smith seemed like he was in over his head at several junctures this season.
Still, the entire state is wild about Razorback football and there are plenty of prominent former players and big-time boosters for support, such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
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What does Rocky Top offer that no other school on this list can? Well, a home stadium with a 100,000-plus seating capacity, for one.
But the perks of the Tennessee job go far beyond iconic Neyland Stadium. The fan base is a zealous one. Knoxville lies in close proximity to recruits in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. And the Vols can boast about the 1998 national title and the eighth-most wins in FBS history.
From a head coach’s perspective, Tennessee has everything you could possibly want in a job. But from Tennessee’s perspective, its next head coach has to have all the CEO-like qualities you want in the leader of a program. Otherwise it’ll end up settling for another Derek Dooley.
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