Destination jobs (cont.)
Paul Hackett obviously didn't consider this a destination job, and neither did Dennis Erickson, Mike Bellotti or Mike Riley, who either turned down or ignored overtures from the Trojans after they fired Hackett in 2000. USC settled on Pete Carroll, who proceeded to produce a blueprint for how to win at the school.
First, Carroll signed the best players in talent-rich southern California. Then, he went after the best players in the rest of the country. Meanwhile, he took advantage of the lack of an NFL team in Los Angeles and made the Trojans the new hotness. The celebrities pounced. Players loved hanging with Snoop Dogg and former USC sports information intern Will Ferrell. USC dominated the Pac-10 and the headlines, and it's a credit to Carroll that in a town where the hot new restaurant only stays hot until MTV's Lauren Conrad gets a hankering for Chinese, the Trojans have remained chic.
Because USC is a private school, we only learn Carroll's salary when the school releases its tax returns. According to a return obtained by The Los Angeles Times, Carroll earned $4.4 million in the 2006-07 school year, which would make him the highest paid coach in America. USC's decision-makers must realize theirs is a destination job.
The Gold Standard
These are fantastic jobs that, for one reason or another, are a little tougher than the ones listed above. It's no coincidence there are four SEC jobs in this section and none listed above. While Florida is the closest to ascending, the competitiveness of the conference tends to make success cyclical.
The pressure to win in Tuscaloosa has cooked some coaches (see: Franchione, Dennis) and gotten others fired (see: Shula, Mike), but the right guy can make a ton of money and become a living legend if he can simply compete for the national title every single season. Alabama's administration has the money and the motivation to give its coach everything he needs.
Nick Saban earns about $4 million a year, and he has the personality to handle the pressure in a place that builds a larger-than-life statue of every coach who wins a national title. And in an economic climate that has prevented most from building anything, Alabama's board of trustees just approved a plan to expand Bryant-Denny Stadium to 101,000 seats.
Another perk of coaching the Crimson Tide? Local elementary school teachers will ask their students to write letters to you instead of the president, Santa Claus, God or their parents.
Urban Meyer had two choices in 2004: Florida or Notre Dame. Both jobs appear on this list, but Meyer has proved with two BCS titles in four years why he considered Florida the better move.
Florida sits in a recruiter's paradise, and Meyer has taken advantage. Since he arrived, the school has completely renovated the football complex and built a "front door" that includes a museum dedicated to the program. Also, Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley rewards coaches who produce as quickly as he fires the ones who don't. After Meyer won the 2006 title, Foley raised Meyer's salary from $1.7 million to $3.25 million. Thanks to the 2008 title, another big payday will come soon.
Here's the only problem with all that winning. While Florida's longtime fans relish every win with equal gusto, the ones who think football was invented in 1990 when Steve Spurrier came back to his alma mater have developed unrealistic expectations. Remember, Spurrier quit in 2002 partially because 10-win seasons had become cause for complaint instead of celebration. Now, this demanding fan base has celebrated two basketball national titles and two football national titles since April 2006. Meyer -- with an assist from Billy Donovan -- may have spoiled Gator Nation beyond repair.
Ray Goff and Jim Donnan would probably disagree, but they just didn't win enough. Vince Dooley made this a destination gig, and Mark Richt has proven why by going 82-22 and earning a pair of SEC titles in eight seasons.
Georgia has the recruiting backyard, the fan base and the money to compete for a national title every year, and Richt has had the Bulldogs in the conversation several times. Athletic director Damon Evans understands he has a gem in Richt. He also understands Richt has a gem of a job.
Richt has recruited well enough that his team has remained in the race for the SEC title every season until at least Halloween weekend, which just so happens to be when the Bulldogs face Florida every year. He's equaled the success of his two predecessors -- he has two wins against the Gators (2004, 2007) in eight seasons compared to their two in 12 seasons -- but he'll need to get over the orange-and-blue hump and make The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party a real rivalry before he can take his place alongside Gator-killer Dooley.