B1G Coaching Vacancy Power Rankings
What a year its been for coaching vacancies in college football, specifically the B1G. It probably wasn’t a good sign when Tim Beckman was fired a week before the season.
With the news of Jerry Kill’s retirement, there are three head coaching vacancies — for now — in the B1G. Which one of them is the best?
There are plenty of reasons that make Illinois a decent Power-Five job. You get easy access to recruit in a big market like Chicago. Memorial Stadium completed a $121 million renovation project in 2008 and got a new state-of-the-art 36×96 foot scoreboard installed two years ago. There would be plenty of patience at a place like Illinois following in the footsteps of a guy that was fired because of alleged player abuse. But that’s also what makes Illinois’ situation a sticky one. There’s no guarantee that Mike Thomas will retain his position as athletic director. Honestly, he shouldn’t. Even if Illinois hires a new AD, he’ll have a lot of work to do to break through Illinois’ mediocre ceiling. Only 10 Power-Five teams have a worse average attendance than Illinois. A big part of that is because Illinois hasn’t had sustained success since the turn of the century. Not many teams can make the Rose Bowl and then miss a bowl the next two seasons. There’s talent in Champaign but there’s no foundation to build a culture there.
If this were three weeks ago, you could probably make the argument that the Gophers would be last on this list. The location isn’t great. Not everybody can recruit southern talent to spend four years in what is basically Canada to them. But unlike Illinois, the Gophers have already taken the next step by washing their hands clean of their troubled AD. They also have a $166 million facilities renovation that will be huge for recruiting. Getting to play in a new stadium like TCF Bank makes Minnesota more attractive than either Illinois or Maryland. The fan base is also a patient one, as shown by its sympathy when Kill’s health became a concern. Glen Mason and Kill both found success at Minnesota and even churned out some top-level NFL talent. The struggle with Minnesota is that it isn’t a brand yet. You don’t find the Gophers on during prime time, nor are they like a Michigan or a Wisconsin that just locked down some massive apparel deal. In today’s college football world, branding is key.
Speaking of which, there’s a certain school that sits on the East Coast that has the foundation in place to become that brand. Under Armour founder Kevin Plank has every intention of trying to turn Maryland into the B1G version of Oregon. That might sound a bit ambitious, but it makes sense. No opening in the country has the apparel potential the Terps do with Plank’s backing. Maryland AD Kevin Anderson wants to bring in a coach to run a high-powered offense that will be more attractive to recruits. The new $155 Cole Field House — $25 million from Plank — won’t hurt, either. College football writers are saying the upside is limited at Maryland because it has to play in the B1G East. But the reality is, nobody is expecting a new coach to come in and start knocking off Michigan State and Ohio State. It has the chance to pull off a marquee upset — potentially on national TV — three times a year. Maryland can back into the national spotlight and turn into a consistent eight or nine-win team with the right coach at the helm.