Monday, April 14, 2014

ACC Football: Ranking Coaching Jobs From Worst To Best

A league that has taken its lumps over the last decade may be on the rise again led by BCS winner Florida State, supported by a consistent Clemson program, and elevated by the addition of Louisville.  Those three schools are at or near the top of my best jobs ranking for the ACC. 

14. Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons just had arguably their best coach in the modern era retire - Jim Grobe. Even after winning the ACC in 2006 he found it very hard to sustain that anywhere near that level of success mostly in part to the small size of the school - 2nd smallest in FBS - and therefore lack of recruiting or fan footprint.  Dave Clawson takes over this season and will have his work cut out to get Wake back to bowl games.

13. Duke

A lot like their NC private school brethren, Duke suffers from a small student body and fan support for the football program.  What David Cutcliffe did this past season was remarkable when you look at Duke's history in modern college football.  The national name recognition from basketball does help some though.

12. Syracuse 

The Orange were once a relative power in the Northeast going to bowl games nearly every year.  Many top New York kids are now looking South to play their college football which has hurt their recruiting territory, but the 'Cuse can be a viable program in the ACC and their top notch Communications school helps much more than you realize. 

11. Boston College

BC is another private school - in fact the bottom 4 on this list are all private - limited by alumni size and fan footprint.  The Eagles are in probably the biggest pro sports town in the country too which hurts with gaining attention from sidewalk fans.  But BC has had more success as of late than most of the former Big East and more national recognition in part because of its success versus Notre Dame.

10.  Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia is a good, but not a great state for recruiting.  Despite being the flagship university they are overshadowed in football by rival Virginia Tech. Since George Welsh left the program has struggled to achieve sustained success.  The necessary elements are in place to be a bowl team more years than not.

9. NC State

The Wolfpack are usually in their neighbors shadows on the athletic fields despite a large alumni footprint.  NC State has won seven ACC Championships, but most of those came in the 60s.  I think the Athletic Department can't decide if it wants to go full bore into football to gain a leg up in the Triangle or hold onto its basketball roots and that in-decision hurts football which could be strong.

8. Pitt

The Panthers programs was one of the best in the nation during the 70s and 80s, but bad coaching hires and population shift away from Western Pa. and NE Ohio have severely impacted their recruiting efforts. Like BC, Pitt is overshadowed by their  hometown pro team.  Still, recruits and coaches will take a second look because of their history and playing in a pro stadium could turn some recruits and coaches on to them.

7. North Carolina

The state is very underrated in high quality football talent -so much attention is placed on basketball, but football players are very abundant. The right coach can be very successful due to that talent base - see Mack Brown.  Basketball success helps the name recognition, but it also hurts sustained popularity as once November starts the majority of the fan attention moves towards the hardwood. 

6.  Georgia Tech

The school is located in a hotbed of talent, but academic restrictions and limited curriculum make it impossible to keep up with the surrounding SEC schools.  The campus setting in Atlanta can be a blessing, while also being a curse.  College and pro athletes love the city, but like BC and Pitt the athletic programs are overshadowed sometimes by their pro neighbors.

5. Louisville

The buying power of their athletic department puts Louisville higher than their historical success would.  Charlie Strong did not immediately accept the Texas job.  That should tell you what Louisville is able to accomplish for its coaches and programs. 

4. Virginia Tech

Like their in-state brethren they are in a good, not great state for recruiting. The distance from the SEC actually helps keep most of the top talent home.  Up until a few years ago, the Hokies had the longest streak of 10+ wins in the nation.  When Frank Beamer steps away it will be interesting to see which direction the program goes as the location is not a natural for a top 20 program as they have been under Beamer. 

3. Miami

The Hurricanes have my second highest ceiling as a program in college football, but the program is going on nine years without a MNC run and the fan support can be dismal when a non-power is the opponent.  You won't find a better local area for recruiting in the country though and the fans will come when the 'Canes are winning.

2. Clemson

The Tigers have very strong fan support from one of the smaller Top 20 programs in terms of alumni base.  South Carolina, while small on numbers, is packed with top level talent on a per-capita basis.  Clemson can also reach into neighboring Georgia and North Carolina to pick talent off.  Fan expectations are high though and many coaches in the past have not met them. 

1. FSU

The Seminoles also rank near the top for programs with the highest ceilings.  FSU has just about everything going for it that a top high school athlete would want - homegrown talent, history of winning, large fan base - and those advantages are very big over just about every ACC school.  Any shortcomings the Seminoles have are only against programs outside the ACC.

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