Usually in all these preseason college football magazines, there's one or two really interesting ideas that are explored.
Athlon happens to have one of them this season.
The mag ranks the major college football coaching jobs from 1 to 120, factoring in geography and cash available to modern facilities and a past of excellence.
There's no need to draw the ire of a publishing company that just got $7.99 from me at the grocery store by dissecting the full list. Of course, there's no reason not to run through the ACC schools and wonder if said publishing company really got it right.
7. Florida State
All things being equal, is the gig in Tallahassee really better than Louisiana State. Or Michigan? Or Penn State? All of those schools are ranked lower than Florida State in this list.
That's iffy, Athlon.
But is it the best job in the ACC? Quite possibly. It has a huge stadium, access to fantastic recruiting areas, has the built-in appeal of a public school and has won a couple national championships in the last 20 years.
Assuming the league remains relatively the same after the looming Realignment War to End All Realignment Wars (a stretch, clearly), the Seminoles might be the best bet to wind up with the most ACC titles over the next 20 years.
It's fair to question the validity of any ranking of coaching jobs nationally that places Tennessee and (especially) Nebraska behind The U.
The Hurricanes have two fantastic things going for them --- access to talent and a 30-year history of exporting said local talent to the NFL. There's no doubt Miami belongs among the top three in the ACC based on that alone.
Some of the Canes' recent malaise has to do with an unimaginative hire after Butch Davis bolted for the Cleveland Browns. But is that everything? That can't be the only reason Miami is one of six ACC schools to not make it to the ACC title game in its six-year history. As long as you're keeping Maryland, Virginia and the Triangle schools company in football matters, your gig might have lost some of its luster.
19. Virginia Tech
Athlon asks the very thing that must come up in any assessment of the Hokies' program: What happens when Frank Beamer retires?
Truth is, no one really knows. Chances are, it won't get any easier to keep cranking out 10-win seasons once Beamer Ball exits stage left.
If everything is equalized, then Virginia Tech will maintain high marks for facilities and support, and while there isn't an extended tradition of greatness, the last 15 years or so compare quite well to all but the very elite in the sport.
So No. 19 looks about right, a fair way to hedge the bet. Chances are, Hokies fans really don't want to have to find out what that post-Beamer world looks like any time soon. It'll be tough to top the present and the fairly recent past.
If the Tigers could just shake off their eternal Clemsonliness --- surprising when they're supposed to be mediocre, disappointing when they're supposed to be good --- there would be an excellent case for a better ranking than this.
Clemson is a football school in a league littered with basketball schools, geographic footprint be damned. It has a fervent fan base cursed with more than a little irrationality thanks to a national title in the early 1980s.
But it's a really good gig, one where a coach should be able to win eight games just about every year and churn out a few 10-win seasons when things break right. No arguments with this ranking.
23. North Carolina
Not sure what to make of this. The Tar Heels should be better than they've been for much of the last decade, but is it a top-25 job?
Put another way: Is it better than Iowa and Michigan State and Wisconsin and Mississippi and Arkansas?
Probably yes to some of them. Quite possibly no to a few. But this much is certain: For setting and, uh, ambiance, there might not be a school in the conference with better selling points than Carolina. There's a lot for a 17-year-old guy to like in Chapel Hill, which truly is a great college town, and plenty of money for the athletic department to throw around for a coach. It's definitely a top-half-of-the-league gig.
39. Georgia Tech
This is a bit low given the Yellow Jackets' location, support and consistency. Are Arizona State, Colorado and California, in particular, really better jobs, as Athlon argues?
Atlanta is a huge plus. Easy access to everywhere in the South is a plus. Georgia's plenty big for two credible powers, at least for all but one week out of the year.
Granted, Chan "7-5" Gailey didn't provide the most appealing product for much of the Aughts. But while the Yellow Jackets have learned they could do better than boring, seven wins is a pretty solid floor for most programs. Georgia Tech is a program underrated in this ranking.
At this point, the list is diving into schools that should be winning seven games a year with the upside of a nine- or 10-win season sprinkled in every so often. That sort of sounds like Virginia, which certainly is part of a clump with N.C. State and Maryland with similar-sized stadiums, recruiting bases and likely results over a longer period of time.
The Cavaliers should benefit from an attractive setting almost as much as North Carolina, and the school's willingness to cut big checks to coaches (Al Groh and Dave Leitao come to mind) to be merrily on their way means money isn't a huge concern here, either.
Like Georgia Tech, Virginia has to deal with a superior in-state school. Unlike Georgia Tech, the Cavaliers must contend with that school all the time rather than in a single, season-ending game. Virginia is listed in the same neighborhood as Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky and Rutgers, and that sounds about right.
50. N.C. State
Ah, the Wuffies. Almost eternally doomed to be stuck around a 7-5 mark --- unless, like the last four years or so, half the roster gets injured.
The comedic figures of the last decade probably haven't helped, either. Chuck Amato proved to be a capable builder --- particularly in the literal sense, given the facilities upgrades --- but there might not have been a bigger loser with ACC expansion than his outsized personality. The presence of an athletic director so disdained by his fans that they would more likely believe he would wear big shoes and a red nose and spray seltzer water all over the place than think he had the capacity to make a good decision didn't help, either.
The good thing for N.C. State is it resides in the right division. Based on this ranking, three of the bottom four programs in the ACC are also in the Atlantic. This isn't a hopeless situation, but Wolfpack fans are not well-known for their patience. Alas, a spot in the same neighborhood as Virginia is about right.
The Terps are like periodical cicadas --- every now and then they emerge and make a bunch of noise, only to disappear almost as quickly.
Maryland had a good run in the 1950s, another in the mid-1970s, another in the mid-1980s and one more at the start of the last decade. There's a whole lot of mediocrity (and worse) wedged in between there.
The school does sit in a decent recruiting territory with easy access to a lot of other places, but it's not as if others (ahem, Penn State) don't notice the talent in the vicinity of D.C. There are few BCS conference programs that are as overlooked as Maryland in their own areas, particularly of the public school variety (maybe Rutgers?).
Athlon has Maryland just ahead of the likes of Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State and Purdue. That's probably the sort of uninspiring company the Terps should be keeping given the hand they've been dealt, at least in football.
59. Boston College
The Eagles have won too much to warrant a ranking right by the midpoint, and they sure as hell don't belong a spot behind Syracuse. Good coaching has gone a long way, but the fact remains Boston College keeps churning out solid seasons even when they're penciled in to struggle.
There's no question New England provides a minimal talent base to work with, but BC's status as a Catholic schools gives it automatic entry into a lot of private schools in New Jersey and the Rust Belt. It will never dislodge the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins from the top of the Beantown pecking order, but that also allows the possibility of a down year not drawing as much scrutiny.
Regardless of that top-five ranking deep into the 2007 season, Boston College probably won't win a national title any time soon. But it is a severely underrated job --- just like Texas Christian, which is unbelievably ranked a spot behind the Eagles at No. 60.
71. Wake Forest
This probably would have landed at least 10 spots lower a decade ago, which is a testament to the job Jim Grobe has done. It's hard to believe Demon Deacons fans would be irked after a 5-7 season ended a three-year run of bowl appearances, but hey, it happened.
For all the work done to pull Wake into the 21st century in terms of facilities, it is still a job where a coach must be very opportunistic and carve out his own niche. Grobe's reliance on maturing players via redshirting and an uncanny knack of unearthing gems in broad daylight (notably with his scouring of Florida) is precisely what a Demon Deacons coach must do.
But Grobe is above-average at what he does. In an all-things-being-equal scenario, Wake wouldn't have as good a coach and wouldn't have as good a set of results. There's no school in the conference --- not even Virginia Tech --- that risks as big a fall when it eventually has to replace its coach as Wake Forest.
Not the worst of the BCS jobs according to Athlon --- that would be Indiana at No. 73 --- but the Blue Devils seem to be getting more credit than they probably should.
Is Southern Miss a better job? How about East Carolina? There's a handful of other schools in Conference USA, the Mountain West and the WAC where the upside is much higher and the challenge far more muted than at Duke.
Perhaps that's a cynical outlook, one stemming from two decades of futility. David Cutcliffe has done a superb job of restoring some lost credibility to the Blue Devils' program, and few guys are worth giving the benefit of the doubt to than him. Duke's ability to rustle up money and make a greater commitment to its program is encouraging. But between the academic standards and the awful post-Spurrier era, this might be a steeper hill to climb than its being credit for.