We have made it to the cream of the crop, the top head coaching jobs in the AAC. For the South Florida Bulls, success on the gridiron has come naturally since Jim Leavitt helped build the program from scratch. The Bulls have done just about everything except win a conference title since joining the FBS in 2001.
The next few years are crucial as the stench from the Holtz era is replaced by a return to glory and a possible American Athletic Conference title.
How does the South Florida head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?
- All they do is win. Despite a rough stretch during the end of the Skip Holtz and beginning of the Willie Taggart tenures, the Bulls have the fourth best overall record since 2000 among AAC teams (105-88).
- Recruiting is a breeze. Getting a recruiting class to rank in the 60s or above is incredibly easy with so many quality players in state. They even finished #41 nationally in 2014 with a class that included Quinton Flowers, Marlon Mack, and Jamie Byrd.
- Bowling is they do. A virtue of winning lots of games is earning bowl berths. The Bulls have been to seven bowl games in 15 years as a FBS program.
- Location, location, location. Tampa is a great city with lots of beach front property, an active music scene, and great food. Can you even attempt to compare Tampa to Storrs or Tulsa.
- Multiple huge wins over ACC foes. Taking away the wins from the Big East, South Florida has five wins over ACC teams. That includes wins over Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina (2x), and North Carolina State.
- Lack of on campus stadium. A stadium on campus with a better deal than Raymond James Stadium would help.
- Attendance issues. You can blame a poor product in other years, but the Bulls have seen attendance drop in each of the last four seasons. It went from a high of 44,550 in 2011 to a disappointing 26,578 in 2015.
Making the case for why South Florida should be higher: Nick Simon, South Florida writer for UDD.
When you have a program that in its twenty-year existence has already been a member of power conference, pulled off numerous upsets of major opponents, went as high as #2 in the nation in 2007, and STILL hasn’t tapped into its full potential as a G5 power, USF being a top three coaching job in the AAC shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
For any prospective head coach, the built-in advantage of being located in the middle of a recruiting gold mine gives you the advantage of not having to leave the state or even the Tampa Bay area to put together a dangerously skilled football team. USF under Willie Taggart has consistently pulled in top G5 recruiting rankings over the past three seasons and it finally started to translate on the field late last year when they were boat racing teams like Temple and Cincinnati as the hottest team in the AAC to close the season. If your name isn’t Skip Holtz and you actually know how to utilize the talent in front of you, you should produce a winner in Tampa.
This turnaround success has been the product of the foundation laid out by current AD Mark Harlan, who’s taken the dumpster left behind by the previous administration and re-instilled a winning attitude. Harlan and staff has made clear the vision for the program and is now actively looking to land an on-campus stadium for USF, the final frontier. As a result, we’re currently seeing a re-engagement of a fanbase who were driven off by the previous regime, so certainly attendance will see a major spike from 2015 as the team continues their success under Taggart.
A huge topic of debate here when we were ranking these was slotting USF and UCF. Even though our Citronaut neighbors to the east do boast multiple conference titles and a Fiesta Bowl (that they immediately threw in the garbage by going 0-12 last season, #UCFDonut), both programs share more similarities than differences that both fan bases care to admit, making it a virtual coin-flip for this spot in my opinion.
If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...
You love to run a truly balanced offense. You have athletes all over the field for your disposal that can allow you to run the entire playbook. Your playbook has a few more trick plays and you aren't afraid to run them.
Playing in an actual NFL stadium on the game is just an added bonus. Recruiting is much easier as nearly every player is in your "pipeline" state, allowing you to go after and get five-star players.
If you choose this job in real life...
You don't have to leave the state to recruit quality players. You have all of the resources needed to win at a high level. You are somewhat familiar with the oddities involving recruiting from certain areas. Getting in good with some of the highest talent producing schools takes some finesse.
While winning is a priority, occasional missteps are accepted as a part of life. Because they haven't experienced championship football yet, expectations are not as high as a Houston or even East Carolina. You know that you will get exposure and coaching well at USF can get you to the next level.
For a while it seemed that Leavitt was on the threshold of a dynasty. Skip Holtz was an abject failure. Willie Taggart looks to have finally turned the boat around and helped to show just why this job is so coveted. Just look at the talent all over his roster and what other coaches in the AAC would do to have just some of it on their rosters.
It is not quite on the level of a Houston just yet, but the ceiling is as high as any G5 program nationally for South Florida.
The list so far: