Boy, last week was quite the week for the world of football, both collegiate and pro, with some of the sport’s biggest coaching names moving on from teams that they’d become synonymous with over the years.
While iconic examples like Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick turned heads in the NFL, the one that hit me and many others the hardest was Nick Saban, as the news of him retiring from the University of Alabama felt almost surreal due to how reliably dominant the Crimson Tide were as recently as New Year’s Day.
While his job was swiftly scooped up by Washington’s Kalen DeBoer, the rumors that took social media by storm threw all kinds of names into the candidacy pool, ranging from some of college football’s most decorated coaches (Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Georgia’s Kirby Smart) to guys that failed to fit even remotely and felt like nothing more than conversation-starters (Florida State’s Mike Norvell and Colorado’s Deion Sanders).
But while the biggest question mark has been tended to, there are sure to be more noteworthy coaching changes to take place in the near future, and when looking for fellas to answer those calls, it’s important to remember that they don’t always have to be the most universally successful, nor do they have to currently reside at a top-dog college football school.
In fact, it’s the building of a lower-level college football program that helps a coach’s résumé look all the more impressive when he’s aiming to climb the ladder, as him succeeding at a worse-off school will always beg the question of what all he could achieve at a more “accommodating” destination.
With all that in mind, I’ve gathered a handful of coaches that I think have done more than enough to prove that they’re ready to move on to greener pastures sooner rather than later, and they’ve each done so at lesser-renowned football brands.
So without further ado, here are five college football head coaches (ranked in order of their cases for new jobs) that I firmly believe could be next up in the rumor mill once some more high-profile vacancies reach the public.
Honorable Mention: Rich Rodriguez, Jacksonville State
Coming in as someone worthy of a mention while not being on the same level as the names to follow, we have Rich Rodriguez.
Rich Rod is currently the head coach at Jacksonville State University, and anyone who is aware of what the Gamecocks achieved this season should have no trouble understanding why he’s deserving of some love.
The 2023-24 season marked JSU’s first in not just Conference USA, but also the FBS level as a whole. To be forced to endure such a hefty leap in competition yet still finish the year with nine wins (one of which was a bowl game) will always leave grounds for remarkable praise.
However, we can not dissociate the latest accomplishments from Rich’s entire coaching career. While his performance at Jax State has been nothing short of spectacular, it would be unethical to ignore his failures at bigger schools like Michigan and Arizona.
When addressing said failures, it sets his ceiling all the lower, which likely leaves the list of mightier powers looking his way all the shorter. We’re not here to gauge how much bigger of a job each coach can/will get, though, just their argument for getting a bigger job period—and Rich clearly has a good one. Now, on to the official five.