Skip to main content

The best job in the entire Group of 5 is open. Now what?

It wasn't his intention, but Danny White did a whole lot of coaches a favor today. In bringing Josh Heupel with him to Tennessee, White opened the best job in the entire Group of 5.

UCF is the total package for ambitious coaches, checking every box with a gold-flecked Sharpie. Let us count the ways.

Ability to win: In the past six seasons, three separate coaches led UCF to an American title and a New Year's Six game. Granted, that comes with a bit of an asterisk since Josh Heupel's 2018 success was a continuation of Scott Frost's 2017 season, but the point remains. No other Group of 5 school has appeared in a marquee bowl game more than once over that span; UCF has done it thrice.

No point illustrates UCF's status as a ready-made winner better than this: UCF went 12-1 in 2013, 0-12 in 2015 and 13-0 in 2017. Get the right pieces in place, and you can win big and do it quickly.

Recruiting base: This is as obvious as it gets. UCF is in a major metro in, arguably, the most target-rich hunting grounds in the nation. Florida, FSU, and the Bucs will always have presences in Orlando, but UCF is the only football team playing its games in the nation's No. 17 metro area.

Cincinnati, Houston, FAU, SMU and (shudders) USF can all reasonably argue they're quite happy with the talent in their respective areas, but all have to deal with in-market NFL teams. In this respect, UCF is on a plane occupied only by Boise State, San Diego State and Memphis, but Boise is a plane ride away from its recruits and, well, Orlando is a better recruiting territory than San Diego and Memphis.

Springboard ability: The last two coaches left for Nebraska and Tennessee. Enough said.

Money: Heupel made $2.3 million in 2020. That is significantly less than what Houston paid Dana Holgorsen and what Cincinnati paid Luke Fickell. (It's also slightly below Navy's Ken Niumatalolo, but that's a separate conversation.) It's also more than what every other Group of 5 head coach made.

UCF is a young university, so it's up for debate whether its young-ish alumni base can compete with Houston and Cincinnati. It's also up for debate whether they should even bother.

UCF, right now, can double what Louisiana paid Billy Napier in 2020. Think he's picky now? Imagine how high his stock would be after, say, a 35-5 run in three seasons in Orlando. Think Blake Anderson wishes he might've waited a little while longer to leave Arkansas State?

The point here is that UCF will have plenty of options and no shortage of suitors for this job. The school's last two hires were Oregon's and Missouri's offensive coordinators. The success Frost and Heupel brought to and sustained in Orlando will broaden their options to sitting G5 head coaches and elite-of-the-elite Power 5 coordinators.

Final point on this front: UCF will start its search with some help from its former AD and head coach.

Facilities: The Bounce House opened in 2007. You'd have to try hard to find anything on campus more than 20 years old. The school enrolls more than 72,000 students across all its campuses. The entire place drips of new money.

Simply put, this job is good. In fact, it might even be too good. Seriously: the one drawback here is that if Heupel doesn't succeed at Tennessee and Frost doesn't turn it around at Nebraska (never mind how difficult those jobs are), one can already see the narrative forming, "Did they make UCF, or did UCF make them?" "Are you sure you want [next UCF coach]? Everyone wins there."

The irony here is UCF's job opens at a time when its AD chair is also open, because their former AD hired their now-former head coach at his new gig. And the irony to that irony is the football opening will, in turn, make the AD job even more attractive than it already was, since the new AD should get to hand-pick his new head coach. The cycle builds upon itself.

This search can go in any number of ways, but one thing is certain no matter where it ends. Whoever lands this job will have won one of the greatest job lotteries in all of college football.