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Coaching Cincinnati Is The Last Stop On The Way To Something Bigger

From Mike Gottfried to Butch Jones, the head coach at Cincinnati has been able to turn that job into something bigger and better (in their eyes).

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There are so many head coaching jobs in the AAC that are among the top G5 jobs available. We have now hit the cream of the crop. These are jobs that not only catch the eye of coordinators looking for that first shot, but also good enough for coaches to leave their current program to accept.

Cincinnati is an old position that has become one of the hottest in the last ten years. Is the excellent recent history enough to vault it over so many other worthy competition?

How does the Cincinnati head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?


  • Since the 1970s, several coaches have used Cincinnati as a springboard to some of the best jobs in the nation. Mike Gottfried went to Kansas, Tony Mason went to Arizona, Tim Murphy left for his dream job at Harvard, Mark Dantonio went to Michigan State, Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame, and Butch Jones left for Tennessee.
  • Recent history. Since the 2007 season, Cincinnati has ended the season ranked in the top 25 five times. In 2009, they ended the season as a top 10 team in both the AP and Coaches Polls. That was the culmination of back to back BCS Bowls (Orange and Sugar). In the last five seasons, they have 13 more wins than any other AAC program.
  • Expansion and realignment. Many of the top authorities on conferences expansion believe that Cincinnati is going to end up in the Big 12.
  • They are sitting in a recruiting hotbed, but it doesn't keep them from recruiting nationwide. As recently as the 2015 class, Cincinnati pulled in signees from 12 different states.


  • For a team that dates back to 1885, rivalries versus P5 programs just aren't there. They have played Kentucky 34 times, but not since 1996. They have played Louisville 53 times, but that ended when Louisville left for the ACC. Take away former conference mates and the only P5 conference they have played more than 50 times is the Big Ten.
  • Was it just a hot streak? The program has been decent in the past, but only had one 10-win season before 2007. Since then, they have railed off double digit wins in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012. After back to back nine-win seasons in 2013 and 2014, they fell off to seven wins in 2015.
  • No matter the success, Cincinnati loves its basketball team and they have the ability to overpower everything else. Unless you are earning NYD Six bowl berths, the football program can be forgotten.

Making the case for why Cincinnati should be higher: Phil Neuffer, Site Manager at Down The Drive:

For one thing, there’s a history of success and a fan base and program that expects to win. The Bearcats have had seven nine-win seasons in the last decade and have been to a bowl game 14 times in the last 20 years, including the last five years straight. Last season, although the best laid plans kind of blew up in everyone’s face, expectations were high, especially with a newly renovated Nippert Stadium, and those expectations are built by the loyalty of the UC fan base.

Jumping off the Nippert Stadium renovation, UC has shown a willingness to commit to its athletic programs, especially football.  Plus there’s the fact that in just a few years the Bearcats could very well be playing in the Big 12.

Then there’s the pipeline to Ohio for recruiting. While it may not be the big three of Texas, California or Florida, Ohio is one of the more fertile recruiting grounds in the country and, although Ohio State largely gets first dibs, UC is the next biggest dog in the yard.

Another point in UC’s favor is one that isn’t as much fun to admit out but needs to be. It has been an excellent launching pad to bigger and more highly-paying jobs. Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly and Butch Jones all went on to gigs of fame and fortune in the realms of the Big Ten, SEC and South Bend after coaching with the Bearcats. Really, coaching at UC is a value proposition and an investment in your future if you’re a coach.

If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...

You know that you will always have good talent on the roster. Maybe it is not quite what Florida schools can pull, but the Bearcats are rarely lacking in the talent category. You know that you can play a bit wide open on offense and score lots of points. Similar to many jobs in the AAC, scoring often mean giving up a lot of points as well. You are fine with a shootout.

You like the idea of Cincinnati taking over a spot in any of the top conferences on the game. You want to get them in the ACC, SEC, or Big 12 and eventually win a national title. You are also okay with not playing the flashy P5 teams at home very often.

If you choose this job in real life...

Simply, you look at what Dantonio, Kelly, and Jones have gone on to do and you see your name in bright lights. Winning at Cincinnati gets your name out to the big programs. You aren't taking the Boston College type of job. You are expecting to go to a top tier team like a Michigan, Florida, or Texas when they come open.


Just for the ability to step up into a top tier job as well as the rumors of a move to the Big 12, this is a great job opportunity. Expectations have increased through the years, but are not at the insane level of an East Carolina fanbase. Keeping the run of success alive and basically keeping the train running on time is all the fans ask out of you.

While it is a coveted job, it would be hard to ever put Cincinnati above fourth in head coaching job rankings.

The list so far:

6. East Carolina

7. Navy

8. Southern Methodist

9. Connecticut

10. Temple

11. Tulsa

12. Tulane