During our countdown of the best head coaching jobs in the Sun Belt, you've likely noticed a transition from jobs that are all but hopeless to those that have potential but have never quite gotten it together to, most recently, a historical power that's been on a down spell.
Now we're really getting to the cream of the crop in the Sun Belt. Each of these next four jobs have more positives than negatives, and either are or recently have been conference title contenders.
The smash success of the Appalachian State Mountaineers at the FCS level might already be transferring to the FBS level. Last season, they were one shocking home loss to Arkansas State away from following Georgia Southern as the second straight Southern Conference FCS-to-FBS move-up to win a Sun Belt title, and they still finished the season 11-2 with a thrilling bowl win to boot. What's scary is that they return most of their team and a 10-2 record next season doesn't seem overly farfetched.
Right now, ASU as a coaching job does have a few minor details working against it, but those concerns could be easily swept away with a run of conference titles and New Orleans Bowl wins. After last season, those dreams don't seem quite so farfetched anymore.
- An insanely successful history has already translated into relatively quick FBS competence. They were the NDSU before NDSU in the FCS world.
- Boone is an incredibly underrated college town. Nestled in a very gorgeous part of Appalachia, you've got plenty of options--you can take in the laid back hippie vibe, get out in nature, or enjoy one hell of a party scene, if that's your thing.
- Opponents don't win at The Rock, and for good reason: Mountaineer fans fill the place up consistently and provide one of the best home field advantages in the Sun Belt. Not to mention it's in one of the most gorgeous settings not located in Boulder, Colorado.
- Everyone--EVERYONE--in college football knows who App State is. You know why.
- All those years of massive upsets and conference/national titles and 10+ win seasons mean some of the highest fan expectations in the Sun Belt. Don't slip up.
- ASU's recruiting base isn't quite as robust as those available to their counterparts in Georgia and Alabama. Boone isn't the easiest place to get to, not that it's really mattered that much historically.
- Snow? In the #FunBelt? Didn't we ban that stuff forever?
Making the case for why Appalachian State should be ranked higher than 4th: TK Sherrill, Senior Editor & Appalachian State Beat Writer
No job in the south can offer the uniqueness of Appalachian State. When you coach at home, you literally have 10,000 students right behind you ready to go. Look to your left and you see Howard's Knob. To your right, there's trees that, for a good portion of the season, are changing colors. Hard to beat that.
Being in a small college town tucked into the mountains is an acquired taste, especially since most of the App State players come from flat lands. The frigid winters and howling winds are not for everyone.When I went to App State for college, my dad, an alum, told me "Boone is the windiest, rainiest, snowiest place I've ever lived."
Even though you're three hours from Virginia Tech, two hours from Tobacco Road, two and a half hours from Tennessee and three hours from Clemson, App State Football claims their section of North Carolina and have a significant presence in Charlotte. There's no confusion, once you reach the mountains, you're in Mountaineer Country.
Despite the small, mountain town disadvantages. Despite the need for recruiting several hours from home in South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, Jerry Moore and Scott Satterfield have written the blueprint on recruiting to App State. It has worked so well as such that Satterfield has plucked assistants from Conference USA, the MAC and the American Athletic in his last three searches.
A few more years of success at the FBS level and App State could probably be the best job in the Sun Belt.
If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...
You would choose Appalachian State, smirk to yourself and think "Heh. I'm gonna schedule Michigan for my out of conference every single season and there's not a damn thing they can do about it."
If you choose this job in real life:
You're hoping to build off of years and years and winning and ride the gravy train to an eventual ACC bid. You also have to be patient and accepting of an impatient fanbase that does not tolerate losing for long. In spite of all this you have to get creative in finding FBS-caliber recruits to come to a gorgeous but remote part of North Carolina, and embrace being the perpetual underdog to schools like UNC, NCSU, and even ECU.
App State is a high risk/high reward job. You'll have to work more than you'd probably expect to keep years and years of sustained momentum going, but the payoff is one of the best fan atmospheres in the conference as well as working with an athletic department that's highly competent in fostering success in football.
The flip side is, if you stumble you also risk running afoul of a fan culture that forced out Jerry Moore after two straight seasons of *gasp* 8-4 records. If there's anybody that might pull a Nebraska and run off somebody who probably should've kept his job, it might be ASU (or Georgia Southern) fans. It's a nerve-wracking tightrope to walk, but right now the thrills and adrenaline couldn't be much higher.
Best jobs in the Sun Belt countdown:
4. Appalachian State