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Struggling G5 Programs Should Look at Their Peers for a Blueprint to Success

The AAC has a whopping 3 teams in the top 25, with the Sun Belt's Appalachian St. Mountaineers also receiving votes. This led me to trace the timelines of these teams to learn how they became G5 success stories.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With the North Texas Mean Green and UCF Knights in the market for a new head coach, they only have to look within their own Group of 5 peers to see overnight success stories

Memphis Tigers: Memphis flirted with bowl eligibility for decades before their sudden surge of success under 4th year Head Coach Justin Fuente.  Competing deep in SEC territory makes recruiting talent especially tough with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt all within a few hours drive of Memphis.  But Fuente has thrived after sputtering to a 7-17 start in his first two years at Memphis.  Memphis' athletic administration didn't panic and allowed him to develop his recruiting classes and mesh with the program.  Now, in years 3 and 4 with his recruiting classes starting to become Juniors and Seniors, Fuente is a combined 17-3 with the rest of the 2015 season to be decided.

Temple Owls: Owls Head Coach Matt Rhule had been in their system as a position coach for six years before a short stint with the New York Giants in 2012.  He struggled along with the team as they bounced between making bowl games and winning only 1 game against Bowling Green in 2006 under Al Golden (who, ironically was just fired from the head coaching job he left Temple for at Miami).  After starting with a 2-10 record in 2013, Rhule has the Owls hosting ESPN's College Gameday against Notre Lame Dame after going undefeated so far in 2015.  Hoot, hoot.

Appalachian St. Mountaineers: In only his third year, Scott Satterfield has the 'Neers on a tear.  Fresh off of a dominant win of their hated rival Geogia Southern, Satterfield has not only gained notice from Sun Belt opponents, but Top-25 voters as well.  After taking Jerry Moore's team to 4-8 in his first season while still in the Southern Conference, his upward trajectory has been very promising.  Since joining the Sun Belt, Satterfield's Mountaineers are 9-2 in conference play and 13-7 overall.

The Scuttlebutt:

North Texas

There may be no better example of a team that has built upon its success in the Group of 5 conferences than Texas Christian University.

The TCU Horned Frogs competed in the WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, and now the Big 12 in just the last 15 years culminating with a Big 12 Championship in just their third Big 12 season.  The reason for all this success? Gary Patterson.

Patterson was not a splashy hire, nor was he particularly sought after in 2000 when he took over head coaching duties for TCU.  But he was a brilliant football mind, that believed, almost foolishly at times, that he was the man to turn this program into a Big-12 Champion.

North Texas is in a similar situation as the Frogs were in 2000.  They hadn't had a ton of success recently and being on the doorstep of one of the best recruiting territories in the nation made their shortfalls inexcusable.  UNT has the opportunity to join Memphis as a team competing with football giants with the right hire.


Fortunately, UCF is in a much better position than UNT.  UCF is a gigantic school (over 60,000 according to UCF), in the second-best or the best (depending on who you're asking) recruiting state in the country.  The next coach should receive a great paycheck and the keys to a program that is just two years removed from taking down a red-hot Baylor Bears team in the Fiesta Bowl.

Sure, George O'Leary's retirement was sudden, especially after all of strides he had made with a previously unremarkable program.  But UCF has a ton of upside, and deep pockets to compete with the best of G5.