Does USC football still count as one of college football’s best jobs? The Trojans are a five-star stud on the surface, but success at the highest level requires more than measurables.
On Monday, Athlon Sports released their ranking of every college football coaching job, with USC football appearing at No. 6, behind only Florida, Texas, Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia.
USC being the No. 1 job in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the country is no surprise. But it begs a difficult question: Is it really such an attractive job in 2019?
Athlon makes all the right points in favor of the Trojans at No. 6:
"How’s this for a selling point: The USC coaching staff has the ability to stock its roster with elite talent without ever having to jump on a plane. No job is perfect — USC’s administration has been a mess of late — but this is an ideal position for someone who wants to coach on the West Coast. It’s hard not to win at USC."
All true, but does it tell the whole story?
USC in 2019 is the equivalent of a stud five-star recruit coming out of high school who looks like the best football player you’ve ever seen. They’ve got all the measurables, the athleticism, the high school production…but without the football IQ or drive to truly succeed at the next level.
Winning at the highest level consistently requires everything to go right. Yes, having the strong recruiting base, the tradition, the facilities and the weather makes it that much easier. But you also need to attract a quality head coach. That means being willing to pay a quality head coach what he’s worth, maybe even over pay him to convince him to leave a successful situation elsewhere.
You also have to show a willingness to back that head coach by paying his chosen assistant coaches what they are worth.
And guess what, even more money has to be involved as the college football support staff arms race rages on. Programs that are truly invested in winning prove it by bulking up their support staff.
USC hasn’t shown a willingness to follow that equation.
Just this year, former support staffers related how overworked and understaffed the Trojans are.
While USC has shelled out to renovate the Coliseum, there is little evidence to suggest the school is interested in competing financially when it comes to salaries. The Trojans haven’t been able to attract top-level assistants, let alone a top-level head coach. In fact, they haven’t even figured out how to hire a qualified athletic director.
Maybe the recruitment of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury was a positive sign on that front. But that situation obviously backfired and left the program with major egg on their face.
The perception of USC’s administration is a problem in and of itself. How many successful head coaches in comfortable situations will look at the Trojans scandal-plagued athletic department and decide it’s simply not worth the trouble?
Fortunately for USC, the factors that make the program an unattractive proposition are completely under they’re own control.
Schools in less desirable locations can’t up and move to Los Angeles. Schools without tradition can’t fabricate a history as legendary as the Trojans. Schools on the bottom rung can’t snap their fingers and produce 11 national title banners and seven Heisman Trophies.
But USC can wake up and get serious about the football program. They can commit financially and philosophically to winning. Then the Trojans could make their case for being the best job in college football.