We continue to take a look at the head coaching positions in each of the major conferences. This year the Big Ten will welcome a few new names to the party, with Urban Meyer joining Ohio State, Penn State going with Bill O’Brien, and Illinois hiring Tim Beckman. Each will walk in to a different situation with different facilities, support, and expectations. Which one has the best gig?
Remember, we are not necessarily grading the individual coaches. Nobody would make the argument that Penn State’s Bill O’Brien should be ranked higher than Wisconsin’s Brett Bielema, but you could make an easy case for suggesting the Penn State head coaching position is more lucrative than the same title in Madison. Before we continue, be sure to get caught up on what we have to say about the coaching positions in some of the other conferences…
1. Ohio State
NCAA sanctions aside, the Ohio State job is still pretty darn good. In fact, it is the best coaching position in the Big Ten. No athletic department in the Big Ten generates more revenue than Ohio State, and no Big Ten member spends more to support their athletics program as well. Sure, the administration may be a bit kooky, but there is no questioning the level of support that will be thrown behind the head coach of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is also the crown jewel program in the state of Ohio, which is flooded with FBS schools from the MAC as well as Cincinnati in the Big East. Recruits go out of their way to go to Ohio State, which certainly helps with the pressure level on the head coach. Of course, with those high expectations come high standards. Wins are not only expected, but demanded. The position is only for those strong enough to handle the level of competitiveness that comes with being at Ohio State.
Woody Hayes had it. So did Jim Tressel and so will Urban Meyer.
So what is there not to like about coaching the Buckeyes?
While the Buckeyes are the leader, they are just a notch ahead of our next two programs. And you could probably flip-flop these two schools on any other day. What puts Michiagn slightly ahead of Penn State right now is the fact that the Wolverines generate more revenue and spend more to support the program. And who could argue that Michigan is one of the top football programs in college football history (they do own the most wins in college football history after all)? Michigan, of course, is also home to The Big House, the largest college football stadium in the nation, which just underwent some renovations in the last couple of years to give the traditional stadium some much-needed upgrades.
Like Ohio State, the pressure is high for the head coach so it is certainly not for the faint of heart. Lloyd Carr won a national championship in Ann Arbor and was still eventually pushed out the door once it became routine for the Wolverines to drop decisions to the rival Buckeyes. Recruiting is rarely a problem for Michigan despite playing in the cold north, so you would think that it should be easy to produce wins with Michigan.
3. Penn State
The reason Penn State is a hair behind Michigan in this ranking is because the athletic department pockets most of their generated revenue, rather than pump back in to supporting the program (and other sports). Granted, that could be due to change with a new head-coaching regime taking over. Penn State is in the process of completely updating their weight room.
The impact of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, as far as football itself is concerned, seems to have been diminished with a strong recruiting class being put together for the Class of 2013. If nothing else, recruits and O’Brien are proving that Penn State is still a highly desirable program, and that should reflect on the head-coaching position as well.
For a long time the status quo seemed to be accepted by administration with Joe Paterno in charge. This explains the relative weak non-conference schedules from the 1990’s to 2010’s, as well as a number of empty seats in Beaver Stadium. Despite all of the negativity, Penn State still has plenty to offer to make it one fo the top coaching jobs in the Big Ten, and the nation.
Nebraska has a little bit of everything to offer with a rich football history, top-notch facilities, and a loyal fanbase that will travel just about anywhere the team goes. What ultimately holds Nebraska back is the fact they are right in the middle of the conference in terms of revenue generated, and most of that covers athletics costs for football and other sports. This is not necessarily a bad thing of course. Nebraska does expect a lot out of their football program though. Remember, Frank Solich was once let go after winning eight games.
Recruiting talent to come to Lincoln, Nebraska can be a challenge, but so is convincing student-athletes to attend State College, PA. Somehow, these programs get it done on a somewhat regular basis. Nebraska use to be a bit higher in terms of prestige when they were winning and competing for national titles. Despite taking a step or two back form that perch, Nebraska remains one of the more high-end jobs in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin has clearly enjoyed some great success the past couple of seasons, but they remain a step below the top of the Big Ten when ranking coaching positions. Funding is rarely an issue, with Wisocnsin ranking third in the Big Ten in generated revenue but the Badgers spend almost every dollar they raise to support the entire athletics department. This can leave to some restraint when it comes to financing contracts when needed. Still, Wisconsin offers one of the better college football environments in the conference and the Madison lifestyle is one that allows for a peaceful atmosphere without some of the heavy media coverage other jobs in the Big Ten and nation tend to demand year-round.
Recruiting in-state can be a challenge for Wisconsin though because the recruiting grounds in the state are not usually full of talent, leaving Wisconsin to often look elsewhere for recruits. But if that is the biggest negative about the job, that’s not really all that bad.
The Iowa coaching job is similar in may ways to Nebraska, but lacks the cache that comes with the Huskers’ coaching job. The funding is generally not a concern for the program with the fourth highest revenue in the conference and the facilities at Iowa are generally considered to be above average. But what Iowa lacks is a strong recruiting base in the state. Unlike Nebraska, Iowa has not been able to put together a formula for BCS success in a state as barren as it is with talent. Iowa’s major in-state threat, Iowa State, is rarely a problem but does present an extra obstacle that Nebraska does not have to deal with. Like Wisconsin, Iowa must resort to recruiting talent form out of the state, which leads to a lot of extra traveling.
7. Michigan State
Michigan State has a lot going for it as a football program, but they generally are always a step below where in-state rival Michigan is. The Spartans had a revenue of nearly $42 million less than the Wolverines last year. In fact, Michigan spent about $17 million more on their athletics department than Michigan State generated in revenue. Sure, the program plays in a smaller stadium and lacks as strong a fan base as the Wolverines, but the program manages to hold their own for the most part.
Michigan State is a program that will pop up with strong seasons in bursts, but generally will be in the conference’s second tier of teams.
There is no questioning Illinois when it comes to facilities. Recent upgrades to the stadium and high-quality training facilities, along with a strong in-state and local recruiting base make Illinois one of the sleepers when it comes to Big Ten coaching positions. But for whatever reason, success is difficult to come by in Champaign, Illinois. Why is that? Look at the funding, once again. The Illini generated just over $57 million last year, the second lowest in the conference (Northwestern). Nearly all of that was pumped back in to the program as well. Illinois is capable of making a run in the Big Ten every so often, but realistic expectations tend to be lower for the program.
It may take some time to improve the overall Minnesota coaching position, but having a true home stadium is thought to have some advantages for the program moving forward. The athletic program at Minnesota is capable of raising funds, but they are still well below the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. Recruiting at Minnesota is also difficult given their location and their relative proximity to programs like Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State.
Purdue and Indiana suffer form hosting BCS-AQ programs in the same state as one of college football’s most known brands and one of the top historical programs in the history of the game, Notre Dame. This makes recruiting a difficult task normally, with the extra influence that coems from other Big Ten programs that may be looking for top Indiana talent. That is the other problem. There is not a whole lot of great in-state talent coming out of Indiana (it’s a basketball state of course). Purdue is also among the bottom feeders in the Big Ten when it comes to generated revenue ($66 million last year). There is not a whole lot of great history at Purdue, and it seems that the Boilermakers are always in search of creating the winning foundation.
It takes a loyal and dedicated man to coach a program Northwestern with a ton of enthusiasm. Consider that a compliment to Pat Fitzgerald, who is a rare breed who bleeds Northwestern purple. Fitzgerald makes the Northwestern job look like a dream job, but you would expect that from a former standout Wildcat linebacker. The reality is Northwestern pales in comparison to their Big Ten rivals, with the lowest generated revenue, small fan base and extra recruiting hurdles based off of academics. Hey we’re not bashing Northwestern for holding a higher bar for their student-athletes, but if you are a head coach and Northwestern is an option, how much would you be jumping to take the job with other options on the table?
Indiana has the same problems Purdue has, and then some. Indiana has never been able to build a winning program. This is a program with an all-time winning percentage of .415% for a reason. The last time Indiana was ranked in the AP top 25 was 1994, when they peaked at No. 25 after a 3-0 start and a 59-29 win over Kentucky. The next week they were flattened by No. 16 Wisconsin 62-13 and the Hoosiers haven’t sniffed the rankings since.
Financial data provided by Business of College Sports.