Tuesday, December 1, 2015

College Football: Good News for Houston

The news that recently came out that University of Houston and Tom Herman have reached "a deal in principal" to keep the coach at the school for, at least, another year is great news. Provided they ink the deal and no big-name, blue-blooded school comes along and snatches him away that is.

Even if they don't sign the deal however, I think UH might be in OK shape to keep Herman given a couple of recent developments.

 - Georgia, it appears, is going all-in on Smart.
 - LSU decided, rightly, to keep Miles.
 - South Carolina and Herman have stopped talking.
 - Miami seems to be making eyes at Butch Davis.

Outside of those four schools I don't think any of the other available jobs, even the ones at Power 5 Conference schools, represent a marked increase from the job at Houston.  So, ignoring the 4 above, let's take a look at the remaining Power 5 openings and see what they bring to the table, and why Herman would be better off choosing Houston.

1. Missouri.
Plus: It is, technically, a SEC school. It has a winning history in the East and Pinkel, while revered, was not a legendary coach that would be difficult to replace in the hearts and minds of fans. Provided you win of course.

Minus: The talent cupboard is bare, and the atmosphere inside the university is toxic right now. Whoever the next coach is will need to navigate a racial minefield so strewn with potential blow-ups that it will make the DMZ in Korea look like Central Park.

2. Maryland.
Plus: Again, it's Power 5 with some recruiting opportunities and a much more stable athletic department than Missouri or Rutgers (more on them in a minute).  I think the right coach can win the division at Maryland, but not the conference. Still, doing the former might open doors to a better job in the future.

Minus: Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State.  Those 4 schools will always be better than you. Plus, you are saddled with horrific uniforms, and you could fail massively, which would close the door on those bigger opportunities mentioned above.

3. Virginia.
Plus: They have tons of money, and they're on the easier side of the ACC.  Given that and the fact that they have top notch facilities, winning the Division can be done within a couple of years.

Minus: They've been historically awful. There's little winning tradition and you're going to be recruiting against both the ACC and the SEC.

4. Syracuse
Plus: You're in New York, which is a pretty good base of operations for recruiting and you really don't have that much top-tier in-state competition. Again, you're on the clean side of the ACC which means that division titles are doable.

Minus: You have an awful stadium, and the fan-base will stop paying attention to you once Midnight Madness rolls around.

5. Rutgers
Plus:  Other than conference affiliation, not all that much.

Minus: The athletic department is a mess. The school has a bigger presence on the police blotter than on the football field it seems and there's almost no money in the till.

For comparison sake: Let's take a look at Houston:

Plus: Big fish in a Group of 5 pond. Great recruiting base, improving facilities, prime geographic location and an administration that is on-board with moving the program to the big time.

Minus: The American Athletic Conference.

Now, the good news.  Houston's administrative leadership is bound and determined to put their best-foot forward in order to snag a Power conference assignment. Once the rebuild of Hofheinz Arena is done Houston will have facilities on par with some of the mid-to-lower level Power 5 schools and will be in a television market that certainly doesn't hurt, but doesn't help to the level boosters, and local media, suggest it does.

Even IF Houston doesn't gain entry into the Big XII (and I've long been on record as saying they won't [and really shouldn't, were the Big XII smart]) the fact is Houston is pumping big-time money into a mid-tier program which means that you will have the resources to win, and win often, in what many consider to be the best Group of 5 Conference right now.  That means that your name is going to be on the list for every top-tier coaching job that emerges next year, and for a few years afterwards.

If you keep winning at Houston, which is an easier thing than at the schools listed above, you could find your self coaching at one of College Football's blue-blood programs before you know it.

Most likely candidate:  LSU, who barely performed a cranial-rectal extraction on themselves and kept Les Miles as coach this year. Given the abject stupidity of the AD and other school officials that job might be available soon.  Other candidates include USC, who hired Helton but might not like that decision next year, and even Alabama or OU, who's coaches some think may be considering retirement in the next year or two.

One more school to consider:  Texas aTm, who is starting to question whether or not they made the correct hire in Sumlin, who has never won a conference title, and who has never proven the ability to either field a quality defense or win with his own recruits.

Regardless of which jobs open up I think Herman has a better chance at UH winning often and keeping his name out there than he does at any of the other open positions.

A side-benefit for UH: This allows Major Applewhite a year (or two) more to gain experience from Herman so that he can take over upon latter's departure. If UH is smart they'd already be in discussions with both Herman and Applewhite to ensure this is so.  Given that we know Herman is looking, it would be a major surprise if he took that the wrong way.

Of course, should UH get accepted into the Big XII (as the 11th or 12th member of the conference once the NCAA denies an exemption for a championship game) all bets are off.  Because Herman might think that he can win big where he is.  History has not proven that to be entirely wrong.

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