We are finally breaking into the top three football head coaching jobs in the American Athletic Conference. Gone are the programs that have to hide significant flaws, leaving South Florida, Houston, and the UCF Knights. While one of the best jobs in the AAC, our panel of voters decided that leading UCF is not quite the best job in the conference.
Former Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost agreed that an 0-12 season is nothing to worry about in leaving a great spot in the northwest to take over the Knights.
How does the Central Florida head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?
- Lots of recent success. Since 2005, the Knights have six division titles and four conference titles (C-USA 2x, AAC 2x). They have been to seven bowls during that time with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl during the 2013 season. Two top 25 finishes include a #10 AP poll finish in 2013.
- Orlando. There are many worse places to end up in than Orlando. It is one of the highest ranked cities in the AAC.
- Recruiting. According to 247 Sports, the state of Florida has seven 5-star and 39 four-star recruits in the 2017 class. There are so many quality players in-state for UCF to go after. They can pull an entire recruiting class without leaving the state.
- An administration willing to make changes. From upgraded video boards to a much needed uniform makeover, those in charge have made it clear that they will make changes as needed to get the program to the next level.
- Spending and making money. Working along with the previous Pro, the Knights have went from spending just over $20 million in 2005 on athletics to $47,647,475 last year. Athletic revenues also broke $50 million for the first time in school history in 2015.
- On campus stadium. The Knights have an impressive on-campus stadium that holds just over 44,000.
- Come visit Orlando. In school history, UCF has only hosted 12 power five conference teams. Of those, seven came from the Big East. Things may be changing as Maryland comes to town in 2016, Georgia Tech in 2017, and Stanford in 2019.
- No consistency. Every 10-4 season seems to be offset by a 4-8 season. Despite leading UCF to 10 wins on four occasions, George O'Leary also had five losing seasons, including a 4-8 after a 10-4 season and a 5-7 after an 11-3 season. I am counting the 0-12 season as one of his failures as well.
Making the case for why Central Florida should be higher: Chas Short, Central Florida writer and Senior Editor for UDD.
If you were feeling uncharitable, the fact that we collectively rated UCF as the third best coaching job in the American Athletic Conference could cause you to question where you go for your AAC analysis. If you’re more fair-minded than that, you can look at this rating as a profound example of the recency bias.
I get that the Knights went winless last year, I do. But we are supposed to be ranking based on desirability of the coaching job. And there’s no way USF should be above UCF here.
A coach at UCF knows there’s an ability to compete and win at a high level. The Knights have won more AAC titles than anyone else (outright in 2013, sharing the title with Memphis and Cincinnati in 2014). The Knights won the Fiesta Bowl in the last year of the BCS era. USF, whom we have ranked above the Knights, has never won a conference title (in any conference) or a BCS/Access Bowl.
UCF has the same "Florida advantages" that USF does. Oh, and an on campus stadium.
Job security should factor in highly here. As the head coach of the Knights, you have a lot of leeway. UCF stood by George O’Leary through up and down years and through litigation arising from a football player’s tragic death on the practice field. Heck, GOL got to be the athletic director and the head football coach until the 2015 season cratered. So while a lot can be said for Houston pulling in great head coaches (who have gone on elsewhere), I’m still thinking that Tony Levine got the hook pretty fast . . .
We’re not irrational to have rated the UCF job below Houston (which won the access bowl last year and has been a coaching cradle), but it’s just plain wrong to have the Knights at #3.
If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...
You like the fact that you have a roster that is able to adapt to virtually any offense, save the triple option. You have lots of game breakers all over the field and can put up points even versus the top P5 teams on the schedule.
Plus, Bright House Networks stadium looks pretty cool on the game. Imagine how nice those new uniforms will look in action on the game.
If you choose this job in real life...
You understand just how enticing this job really is. You get a fanbase that will not run you off after one losing season. They expect excellence, but also understand that not every year can be 11-2. You love the ability to have full control of the program with very little fighting from administration.
You know that talent is all over the area and you can reload much quicker than Connecticut, Memphis, or Tulsa. A coach that accepts this job understands just how high profile of a job it can be with a couple of big wins.
It is a bit of a surprise that UCF was ranked below neighbor South Florida. Some of that may be due to last season, but many mentioned that the trajectories of the programs are in different directions.
While the USF/UCF debate can go on for ages, there is no doubt that the Knights deserve to be a top three AAC job every year.
The list so far: