Destination jobs (cont.)
What Carroll did at USC, Saban -- in his own way -- did at LSU. Saban arrived in Baton Rouge prior to the 2000 season to find a state teeming with talent. He didn't understand why the lone BCS-conference school in Louisiana allowed so many of the best players to leave, and he set about rectifying the situation. Saban, who won the 2003 BCS title at LSU, built a machine.
Les Miles came from Oklahoma State and picked up where Saban left off. The Hat won the 2007 BCS title with a team loaded with Louisiana-born talent. LSU has America's most expressive fan base, so don't use talk radio to judge the job Miles has done. As long as the 2009 recruiting class is as good as advertised, Miles should be fine.
To understand how attractive LSU's job is, just remember what Miles did in 2007. The former Michigan player could have left for his alma mater, the nation's winningest program. But when mama called, Miles hung up and stayed at the school where they laissez les bon temps roulez.
After Joe Paterno staved off the attempts to fire him earlier this decade, he returned Penn State to its rightful place in the college football universe. Whoever eventually replaces the 82-year-old Paterno must ignore the pressure to live up to Paterno's legend and realize that, even without the icon at the helm, the Nittany Lions job is one of the best in America.
Penn State is the dominant college program in the northeast, and, more important, it's the dominant program in a talent-rich state that truly appreciates quality football. Talent never should be an issue. Neither should titles. Even after Rich Rodriguez gets Michigan back on its feet, the Big Ten still should remain a three-team race every season. Win a Big Ten title every three years, and you'll compete for the national title every once in a while.
Though Paterno doesn't demand a huge salary, Penn State can afford to pay a coach elite-level money. Hopefully, after Paterno retires, Penn State's administration won't try to get the same discount and miss out on the best candidate. Besides, with the amount the school saves on uniform decals, paying a quality coach shouldn't be a problem.
Still Destinations, But Barely
The sheer mediocrity of Florida State's program the past few seasons makes it easy to forget the Seminoles ran off a string of 14 consecutive top-five finishes from 1987-2000. Given the proper infusion of talent and coaching, this program could be a monster.
Unlike ACC rival Miami, which dominated in the same era, FSU has the resources to sustain football success. At Miami, a small private school with a tiny donor base, the coach always must work harder to succeed. Bobby Bowden should not have let FSU slip, but he and his offensive staff grew complacent, and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews couldn't cover that up forever. It's no coincidence the Seminoles' recent improvement has coincided with the hiring of offensive coordinator -- and coach-in-waiting -- Jimbo Fisher and offensive line coach Rick Trickett, a tenacious recruiter who deserves a share of credit for Rodriguez's success at West Virginia.
Fisher had a chance to take the head-coaching job at West Virginia last year, and was rumored to be a candidate at Auburn this year, but he would be wise to remain in Tallahassee.
If Rodriguez follows the path he took at West Virginia, this job should climb this list quickly. Rodriguez went 3-8 his first year in Morgantown and 9-4 in his second. It should be far easier to turn around Michigan, which has more money, much more tradition, a better recruiting footprint and better players.
As discussed in the Penn State section, Michigan should be in the hunt for a Big Ten title every season. The key difference is the Ohio State factor. Much like Richt's situation with Florida, Rodriguez's success won't mean much if he can't find a way to beat Tressel and the Buckeyes.
Still, the program will give Rodriguez everything he needs to succeed. It's up to him to make it happen.
In spite of two ugly recent seasons, Notre Dame remains the biggest brand name in college football. It has a huge donor base and powerful supporters. The Fighting Irish pay coach Charlie Weis well -- maybe so well that they couldn't fire him if they wanted.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame's tough academic standards make recruiting more difficult than at the other schools on this list. Still, given the administrative support -- which, like at every school on this list, you get as long as you win -- the facilities, the quality of education the school offers and the NBC contract, Notre Dame should be an attractive gig whenever it opens. Yet, for some reason, it gets less attractive every time it does.