Is Florida a top 5 job in college football?
As Florida seeks its replacement for Will Muschamp, we consider whether the team’s head coach position remains one of the most attractive jobs in college football.
While it can be difficult to nail down a widely accepted ranking of the top jobs in college football, Alabama, Southern California, Texas, Oregon and Ohio State are typically mentioned among the top jobs in college football. The Florida job is firmly in the mix with these other programs.
In my opinion, the next tier includes programs such as Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Florida State, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Notre Dame.
The Florida Gators brand is one of the most recognizable in college football today. While its winning tradition doesn’t go back as far as programs such as Alabama and Michigan, few programs have been as dominant and as associated with winning as Florida has during the modern era.
While tradition and culture that spans back to the 1950s is something of which to be proud, it’s likely pretty low on the list of considerations for an incoming head coach. Can the program win in the current college football environment? Do athletes associate the program with winning? Are the resources on par with the other top programs around the country?
In the last 20 years, Florida is one of three programs to claim three national championships (the others being Nebraska and Alabama). Only Florida and Florida State can claim national championships during the 20 years under two different head coaches.
Much of the Florida brand awareness can be attributed to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. While high school recruits today do not remember the days of Spurrier’s SEC dominance, Spurrier’s run set the stage for a sustainable power football program in Gainesville.
Meyers’s multiple championships coupled with the uber celebrity of Tim Tebow remain present in the minds of many despite a lack of winning since 2008.
Florida’s winning culture and brand in the modern era of college football make it a top program nationally. Its membership in the Southeastern Conference propels the program status even higher. Why is Florida a better job than Florida State? The SEC is the simple answer.
Regardless of whether the SEC bias claims against the media are relevant, the truth is that SEC programs do get more exposure than any other conference. This exposure was earned over the seven straight national championships and countless NFL players drafted from the SEC. The best football in college football is played in the SEC — the debate ended years ago — and the top high school athletes want to play in the best conference.
Florida has the unique position of being the only SEC program located in the rich, fertile recruiting grounds of the state of Florida. 247Sports ranks 332 players in the 2015 class from the state of Florida (second behind Texas). While recruiting is a national pursuit today and many non-Florida schools poach the state’s talent, a winning Florida program and quality head coach have a recruiting advantage.
Backed by SEC TV revenues and strong alumni support, Florida’s athletic department is in excellent condition financially. The athletic budget at Florida ranks among the top programs around the country.
Data provided by USA Today Sports based on 2013
Athletic director Jeremy Foley just demonstrated what many consider to be generous patience in dealing with Will Muschamp. While fans have been calling for Muschamp’s head since the ugly 4-8 2013 season, Foley gave him every opportunity to be successful at Florida.
While the Florida fans can be tough like any major college football program, coaches will want to work with and under Foley in the future.
Lastly, it’s worth considering the current talent on the roster and the timing of a new incoming head coach. Urban Meyer was famously known for choosing Florida over what many considered his dream job at Notre Dame because he knew the talent on the Florida roster and knew winning championships was possible immediately.
Similarly, the next Florida coach will inherit a team with plenty of NFL talent. Moreover, like Meyer replacing Ron Zook, the next coach enters the program after a “failed” coach. Such an entry point is always more attractive than replacing a legendary, national championship winning regime.
The roster also is considered to be full of character guys. Will Muschamp succeeded in eliminating much of the disciplinary issues on the team that were present during the Meyer era.
Muschamp set the table for the next coach with a team full of talent and without off-field issues. With the SEC East open for the taking in the years ahead, Florida is a few tweaks away from competing for SEC championships. With Jameis Winston likely headed to the league after this season, Florida can begin to regain its status as the top program in the state.
Foley should have plenty of quality options to fill this top 5 head coaching job.