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Boise State, Houston, UCF lead the way in Group of 5

The ingredients that make a college football head coaching job appealing or alarming are even more pronounced at the Group of 5 level. There are undoubtedly challenging Power 5 gigs, but all come with a baseline level of resources and financial clout, from the TV money alone. The Group of 5 has massive variance in jobs. Some are better than lower-tier Power 5 gigs, while others rank below high-level FCS positions.

Being a head coach is different and often more difficult in the Group of 5. Crowds and staff sizes are smaller, and programs need to do more with the money and infrastructure at their disposal. Certain jobs also seem to rise or fall more rapidly in the Group of 5. Location and fan support are especially significant. Some Group of 5 programs become the big show in town, while others in larger markets get obscured by professional teams or larger college programs.

The first task here is to sort out the tiers. Like with the Power 5 rankings, I’ve separated the jobs into five tiers, defined below. The Group of 5’s top tiers are even more exclusive than the Power 5’s, while the middle tiers are more crowded. I examined these jobs in the current climate, but also with an eye toward performance during the past 25 years. Like with the Power 5 tiers, I’ve selected the program in Tiers 2-5 most likely to move up.

Tier 1 jobs: Financial backing for coaches’ salaries, support staff and facilities projects; no major barriers in access to top recruits; consistent league title contenders that regularly target New Year’s Six bowls; history of wins against Power 5 (recent or long term); strong local or regional fan support; Power 5 expansion candidates.

Tier 2 jobs: Solid footing with finances, facilities and support; access to good regional recruiting areas; competes often for league championships, regularly makes bowls and occasionally challenges for the New Year’s Six; some history of wins against the Power 5 (recent or long term); solid local or regional fan base.

Tier 3 jobs: Some resource or location limitations but enough to make bowl games consistently and challenge for conference titles; a restricted but decent recruiting pool of regional or national prospects; a rare New Year’s Six appearance is the ceiling; not a realistic candidate for Power 5 expansion.

Tier 4 jobs: Moderate challenges with finances, facilities or program support; requires a unique approach in recruiting to compete with upper-tier teams in their leagues; bowl eligibility is a realistic goal most seasons, with some 10-win seasons from time to time; not much sustained history of success.

Tier 5 jobs: Significant challenges with infrastructure, support, facilities and/or location; restricted recruiting and/or fan base (regional or national); a place where bowl eligibility is always celebrated; limited history of on-field success and little or no sustained history of winning.

Here are the Group of 5 job rankings. (Note: Teams are listed alphabetically, not by overall ranking.)


TIER 1: Boise State, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF

Boise State: Coaches know they can win at Boise State, which boasts 17 10-win seasons since 1999 and 13 Top 25 finishes. The school easily has the best facilities and support structure in the Mountain West. Despite a limited local recruiting pool, BSU pulls from California and other nearby states to fill its roster.

Cincinnati: There aren’t limitless resources, but Cincinnati has committed to football with salaries (coach Luke Fickell makes $2.4 million), stadium/facilities and other areas. Cincinnati has an urban location in a robust area for recruits. The team has seven 10-win seasons since 2007 and should remain a New Year’s Six contender for the foreseeable future.

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