Yesterday, my colleague Aaron Torres took a stab at ranking the coaching jobs in the SEC, a conference where glistening football facilities and NFL-caliber recruits flow like wine. Or maybe bourbon.
Try putting together a similar list for the Big 12. Whereas differentiating between SEC gigs is an exercise in “wow,” the Big 12 is a whole lotta “meh.”
I wish I could tell you that I used some overarching scientific system to put this list together. I tend to emphasize recruiting base above all. After that, it’s a stew of fan support, resources and history.
Feel free to blast away in the comments section.
Well, let’s see here…
- An essentially uncapped budget.
- The elite university in one of the most talent-rich, football-crazy states in the country.
- If not the best facilities in the country, easily in the top two or three.
- Strong tradition.
- Fanatical state pride.
- Arguably the best college town in the country.
- And to top it all off, your own television network being run by the premier sports media company in the world.
Yeah, that’s not just the best job in the Big 12. Mack Brown has the best gig in the country.
OU is one of college football’s bigger overachievers. It’s in a poor, small state, and the native talent pool is limited, forcing Bob Stoops to take his recruiting show nationally and also compete with the Longhorns for prospects south of his border.
Even so, Oklahoma stands as one of the best jobs in the country thanks to great tradition and devout fan support. The Sooners have no problem selling tickets and raising money to feed their football monster. OU athletic director Joe Castiglione is widely considered one of the best in the business and has shown he’ll go to great lengths to keep Stoops happy.
Aside from the lack of in-state talent, demanding fans can make OU a pressure cooker. Still, if Bob Stoops stepped down tomorrow, the list of candidates to replace him would be just about as impressive as anywhere in the country.
(The ranks start to thin out pretty quickly in this league once you get past Texas and Oklahoma.)
3. Oklahoma State
Here’s an up-and-comer. Sugar daddy T. Boone Pickens’ investment in his alma mater’s football program is finally starting to pay off, as evidenced by last season’s conference title.
OSU suffers from all the same constraints as their Bedlam rivals, most notably a lack of top-notch local players. The Cowboys, however, are now benefitting from a substantial upgrade in facilities and resources. Mike Gundy’s lucrative new deal and his well-paid assistants illustrate that the school will shell out for coaching talent, too.
4. West Virginia
Raise your hand if you’ve won three BCS games in the last decade… That’s damn near case closed over the rest of the Big 12.
WVU doesn’t exactly have a natural recruiting base, but the ‘Eers have been making due by attracting players from the Mid-Atlantic region down through Florida. They also enjoy the undying devotion of one of the most well-lubricated fan bases in the country, whose love for their squad lights up the Morgantown night sky with every flaming couch.
WVU’s Big East pedigree doesn’t help its case. On balance, though, history and fan support raise the job into the upper tier of the league.
5. Texas Tech
Major plus: The Red Raiders call Texas home. That means Texas recruits.
Major minus: The Red Raiders call Lubbock, Texas, home. Not quite Shangri-La.
The isolation of Lubbock certainly detracts from the attractiveness of the Tech job. On the other hand, it’s still in the middle of all that talent.
So why is Tech better than all of the other (non-Bevo) jobs in Texas? Resources. The Red Raiders benefit from the third-largest budget in the league.
6. Texas Christian
I’m trying to take the long view here and not get swept up in the Horned Frogs’ recent run of success. Still, TCU has grown from a sideshow of a program to a legitimate player on the national scene. Two BCS appearances, including a Rose Bowl win, will do that for you.
Now, Gary Patterson can sell Dallas-area recruits on the opportunity to stay close to home and play in a sparkling new stadium in a big time conference. Plus, these guys definitely like to party.
An ambivalent fan base doesn’t help, and we’ll find out if TCU can sustain its momentum with a step up in competition. At the moment, though, this is No. 6 with a bullet.
Much like TCU, the danger here is getting caught up in all the hype that the Bears have been privy to in the last year or so. We’re talking about a program that has long been a laughingstock of the league. Part of that lousy history probably has something to do with Waco.
On the positive side, Baylor has made a substantial commitment to building its brand into the “Baptist Notre Dame.” Part and parcel of that is a new stadium. The administration’s willingness to bump coach Art Briles’ pay this year also reflects the school’s desire to stay on the offensive when it comes to improving the program.
8. Kansas State
Let me tell you about the Kansas State Wildcats I grew up with.
They were the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked. The Wildcats might as well have been nicknamed the Lambs, because week after week, they were led to the slaughter – usually for someone’s homecoming. From 1979 to 1988, my first 10 years of life, KSU had a combined record of 23-85-3. That included one season with a winning record and two straight years without a win.
Miracle worker Bill Snyder took over in 1989 and changed all that. But even his success can’t negate the inherent disadvantages embedded in Purple Kansas’ DNA.
The campus is located in an outpost far removed from any talent hotbeds, where a hot night on the town is a trip to Applebee’s for some novelty cocktails. (Oreo martini anyone?) The administration doesn’t spend much coin, either.
Snyder has helped establish some tradition at KSU, and the fans have proved more than willing to don the purple and gray to come out to watch their boys play. Ultimately, though, we’re talking about a job that doesn’t have a ton to offer in the way of institutional advantages.
The best thing that can be said for the Jayhawks is that they don’t mind throwing money around for coaches. Consider that Turner Gill made more than Mike Gundy last season. Charlie Weis’ new deal there will pay for plenty of pizza buffet lunches, too.
But this is a basketball school, through and through. That’s where the fans’ hearts lie. Recruits know that, so attracting elite talent on the regular to Lawrence just isn’t going to happen. Ergo, winning consistently here just isn’t going to happen, either.
10. Iowa State
Damn if Paul Rhoads isn’t making a great go of it in Ames, but he doesn’t have much to work with.
ISU’s in Big Ten country, and the program doesn’t really have any natural recruiting base to speak of. The Cyclones can’t fall back on their longtime winning tradition, either.
Really, there’s barely a gap between Iowa State and Kansas. The Jayhawks’ proximity to Texas and strong junior college system elevate them over the Cyclones.