The two coaching jobs that could shape college football for years to come have been decided. The University of Miami and the University of Tennessee, two programs that have both been at the top of the college football world for many years, will each have a new coach starting in 2016. UNC head coach Larry Fedora will now lead the Miami Hurricanes, while Jimbo Fisher will be leading the Tennessee Volunteers. These two jobs have drawn a lot of attention, and are the cream of the crop in college football.
With coaching searches coming to an end, the college football coaching job market has been heating up in the past few weeks. It’s looking like a pretty cut-and-dry race between Louisville, Tennessee, and Memphis. But we’ve got one other contender that might make some people raise an eyebrow.
As the NCAA football season begins to ramp up, it’s time for the annual coaching carousel to come into full swing.. Read more about football coaching jobs and let us know what you think.The work of a college football coach is usually evaluated on a macro scale.
Here on ESPN+, all FBS posts and, more recently, Power-5 and Group-of-5 posts are ranked. Rather than repeat these exercises, I thought it would be more interesting to take two similar jobs, ideally in the same league and/or region, and dissect them to explore the details that appeal to coaches and ultimately prefer one job over the other.
We call it the ESPN college coaching job breakdown. Oklahoma and Texas are the first opponents to step into the ring.
The games are divided into four categories: Background, current (10 years) and long-term (50 years); administrative support and resources (including equipment); access to talent and general location; expectations and climate around the program.
While most of these professions excel in most or all of these areas, there are important differences that give one profession an advantage over another. I spoke with coaches and other sources familiar with each program analyzed to get inside information.
Let’s start with the Sooners and the Longhorns, who meet every year at the State Fair of Texas. I can already smell Fletcher’s nerdy dogs.
In the past 10 years : Oklahoma 106-25; Texas 73-53
Oklahoma has the fourth-best record in the FBS since 2011, behind Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. In that time, Suners has won the last six Big 12 championships and seven overall (he shared the title in 2012). They played in the College Football Playoff every year from 2015-2019, though they never advanced beyond the semifinals. Over the course of this decade, they have been in the top seven seven times, in the top sixteen nine times and have only dropped out of the rankings once.
Texas ranks 46th in winning percentage (.579) since 2011, behind Northwestern, West Virginia, Memphis, Navy and Western Kentucky. The Longhorns have yet to win a single Big 12 title in all that time and have only been to one league championship game (2018), losing to Oklahoma. They have yet to play in the CFP, had back-to-back losing seasons in 2015 and 2016, and have been in the AP Top 25 four times, including a 9th place finish. Place in 2018 after winning the Sugar Bowl.
In the past 50 years : Oklahoma 475-137-7; Texas 413-190-5
The programs are a little closer in this area. Texas holds the final national championship (2005 vs. 2000) and has had periods of excellence under coaches Mac Brown (seven top-10 finishes from 2001-09) and Fred Akers (five top-12 finishes from 1977-83). Texas struggled in the mid to late 1980s and early 1990s, and Oklahoma was 44-45-3 from 1992-99. The difference is that the best Oklahoma chapters – under Barry Switzer, Bob Stoops and now Lincoln Riley – are better than the best Texas chapters. Texas has also experienced two sustained periods of decline (1986-93, 2010-17), while OU has only experienced one.
At the University of Oklahoma, four coaches have more than 100 wins, one coach said. I don’t know if other schools have this.
Oklahoma beat Texas on the field in 2020, but where does each team stand in the coaches’ showdown on ESPN? AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth
Resources / administrative support
Resources have to be Texas’ biggest advantage over Oklahoma. Longhorns is a national brand, is affiliated with one of the largest and best public universities in the country, and is located in the growing market of Austin. The Longhorn Network, which launched in 2012, offers its own advertising platform.
If Texas wants to do something, money is no object, as confirmed by coach Tom Herman’s recent move to Steve Sarkisian. Texas is also completing the $175 million South End Zone project at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium, which will be ready for the 2021 season.
Money, they have their own network, Texas is its own country, said a source in the industry. The network, the alumni, the benefits it brings are incredible.
Oklahoma has a strong resource base, especially after the overhaul of the Switzer Center (football operations) completed in 2017 and the ongoing upgrade of Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Riley has been able to attract and retain the best assistants, and Oklahoma’s recruiting is one of the best in college football.
Administrative continuity has long been one of OU’s greatest advantages. Athletic Director Joe Castiglione is the longest-serving administrator at an FBS school and is in his 23rd year with the school. Castiglione, who hired Stoops and promoted Riley, is considered the best sports administrator in the country. Stoops’ entire coaching career from 1999 to 2016 was under the same assistant principal and school president (David Boren, who stepped down in 2018).
While the Texas athletics department had stable leadership from 1981 to 2013 with director DeLoss Dodds, it went downhill under Steve Patterson, who was fired after 22 months. Mike Perrin, who became interim assistant general manager, took a permanent position in December 2015 and led the department for two years until Texas hired Chris Del Conte.
Texas needs Del Conte, who was previously AD at TCU and Rice, to provide long-term stability, resolve political issues surrounding the program and improve football.
Oklahoma has had incredible continuity in leadership, one coach said. Texas just hasn’t had that kind of consistent leadership at all three levels. It really makes a big difference when the president, athletic director and head coach are on the same page and work together so consistently.
There’s also the theory that Texas has so many, with so many competing interests, that it’s getting harder and harder to implement the right approach to winning in football.
Texas is one of those places, what a great city, what a great school, the coach said. You have more money than you can ever, ever, ever spend. Look at all those players in this great state. They check the boxes, the boxes, the boxes. But it does raise the question of whether Texas hasn’t lost some of its edge.
Recruitment/Access to talent
Which is better: Be the flagship school in the state with the most talent but under the pressure of constant attention, or be the flagship school in a neighboring state that requires you to travel to fill most of your enrollment?
Coaches who recruit at Texas, even without the Sooners or Longhorns logo on their jersey, say it’s different than other places. The Texans’ recruitment to the University of Texas adds another layer.
I’ve never been to a state where so much attention is paid to the high school coaching program, the former Texas assistant said. Every episode of every game is analyzed by every high school coach in the state. You’re an incredible influence. Plus, there are an incredible number of people watching what you do, and they are also very knowledgeable trainers.
It’s a different place than anything I’ve ever known, but at the same time it’s very special.
Texas coaches have to navigate an environment where they can’t please everyone, and they have to make the right choice from the state’s huge recruiting pool.
Mack [Brown] was very aggressive early in the recruiting process, and he’s a great recruiter, the coach said. But the fact is that they were wrong in their speculations. They didn’t go any further. Over the years, Oklahoma has had some good players, sometimes great players, but it was a great developmental program.
Oklahoma doesn’t have the same prospect base in the state as Texas and focuses most of its recruiting on the state to the south. The 2021 Suners team consists of 42 players from Texas and 33 from Oklahoma. Some of Oklahoma’s greatest players come from Texas, such as Adrian Peterson and Brian Bosworth, as well as Heisman Trophy winners Billy Sims, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray (Mayfield and Murray have transferred).
Travel time from the campus in Norman, Oklahoma to Dallas-Fort Worth is about three hours, and OU coaches have easy access to other parts of Texas.
When kids live in Dallas, it’s 50-50 [between Oklahoma and Texas], one coach said. Texas] A&M had its own niche in Houston and East Texas. Oklahoma had a very good lock in Dallas, not bad east of Texas.
Both Oklahoma and Texas have large and passionate fans who crave championships and fill stadiums. But a coach familiar with both programs points out that the difference in expectations has to do with the location of each school.
Austin, Texas, has much more to offer, the coach said. They have their own music, all kinds of entertainment, people come here for all kinds of reasons. They won’t care if the Longhorns win, and they’ll still have fun. This is not the case in Oklahoma. If you don’t win, no one in the state is happy, and the players don’t come out to celebrate.
Despite the success of Barry Switzer, Bob Stoops and now Lincoln Riley, people are not happy as long as you are better than average.
Oklahoma’s best chapters – under Barry Switzer, Bob Stoops and now Lincoln Riley (pictured) – are better than Texas’ best chapters. Mark Brown/Getty Images
Another distinction mentioned in the sources is alignment, an increasingly popular term used by coaches and other professionals to evaluate performance. Alabama, Ohio State, and now Clemson boast consistency at every level of their programs, allowing them to achieve big wins and limit the impact of problems that hinder others.
Like all major programs, Oklahoma and Texas are coming off negative news. Oklahoma City’s Joe Mixon punched a student in 2014, and a racist student video in 2015 led to backlash from players like Eric Stryker.
But the Oklahoma controversy doesn’t seem to drag on as long or require as many maneuvers as in Texas, including the recent storm on the Texas Eye.
It’s like a reality show for the state, the coach said of Texas. There is a very different dynamic in this work than elsewhere.
An industry source summed up this showdown between coaches and jobs: Texas should be better, but Oklahoma is better.
Texas is considered a beautiful profession, but also very demanding. The unlimited benefits offered by the program are offset by the number of participants who impact the program at various levels. If Texas has the right people at the helm, as Brown and Dodds did during their very successful run in the 2000s, the program can thrive.
Sarkisian and Del Conte can achieve similar results. Sarkisian won at the highest level as an assistant at Alabama and UCLA and got his second chance as a head coach at a major program after struggling with alcoholism.
Sark has a chance, the coach said. If he can keep the demons of his past off him, he’s smart enough to do them a favor, and he’s smart and resilient enough to do them good.
The Texas Longhorns invite Steve Sarkisian – this is the latest high-paying recruit in Austin. Scott Wachter/USA TODAY Sports
The Texans also need to be patient. Brown didn’t really break through until his fourth season. Even the great Darrell C. Royal won seven or fewer games in three of his first four seasons as coach of the Longhorns before finishing in the top five four times in a row from 1961-64.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, is in victory lane and ready for the next step in the CFP. The program has a clear identity and strong, consistent leadership. Few programs can match Oklahoma’s history, especially when there are no prolonged slumps. OU faces some challenges, especially after more than 20 years since the last national title, but this program is now much closer to the top than Texas.
Best work: Oklahoma
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