USF’s ongoing search for the Bulls’ next football coach does not occur in a vacuum. There are moving parts, including competition from other schools with open jobs.
As we await USF’s next move — which is expected before Monday and could be affected by this weekend’s conference championships — let’s look at how the Bulls job compares to some other vacancies. Rather than include every option, we’ll focus on the ones that could have overlapping candidates (chiefly Jackson State’s Deion Sanders and Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell): Liberty, Colorado and Cincinnati.
The last coach’s 2022 salary (as listed in USA Today’s database) gives us this starting point:
USF: $2.4 million
Colorado: $3.6 million
Cincinnati: $5.1 million
Liberty: $2.1 million, but then-coach Hugh Freeze agreed to a deal that would have paid him almost $5 million annually in October
According to 2020 figures (the most recent available) submitted to the U.S. Department of Education:
Operating expenses: $3.9 million
Total expenses: $15.5 million
Total revenue: $15.5 million
Operating expenses: $1.5 million
Total expenses: $17.5 million
Total revenue: $19.5 million
Operating expenses: $2.4 million
Total expenses: $16.0 million
Total revenue: $16.0 million
Operating expenses: $4.8 million
Total expenses: $17.9 million
Total revenue: $17.9 million
The Bulls have the clear edge by sitting in one of the most fertile spots of one of the four top states. It’s also an attractive destination in the transfer portal. Cincinnati has lots of nearby talent, too.
Colorado, however, typically only has a handful of top-500 recruits in the state each class. Liberty recruits nationally; 10 states were represented in the Flames’ 2022 recruiting class.
Five-year average talent ranking, according to the 247Sports composite:
USF: 67.8 nationally (4.8 AAC)
Colorado: 51.4 nationally (9.2 Pac-12)
Cincinnati: 57.6 nationally (2.8 AAC)
Liberty: 132.8 nationally (independent)
Conference affiliation/recent success
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Colorado is the only current Power Five school (it’s in the Pac-12). However, the Buffaloes typically rank near the bottom of the league in recruiting rankings and budget size. They haven’t won a conference title since 2001 and have only won their division once since 2005. The league will get easier when UCLA and USC join the Big Ten, and a Pac-12 champion will almost always make an expanded College Football Playoff.
Cincinnati was a perennial AAC contender and made the playoff last year. The Bearcats are moving to the Big 12 this summer, which should give them a recruiting boost. It will also make winning a conference title tougher, as they’re joining a parity-filled league with programs like TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Though the Bulls aren’t in a Power Five league, they can make an interesting pitch. USF should be one of the top programs in the new-look AAC, after Cincinnati, Houston and UCF leave. And the new-look AAC will still be one of the top six or seven conferences most years, giving its champion a realistic shot at making the expanded playoff.
Liberty is an independent but is joining Conference USA next year. The league will likely remain at the bottom of Division I-A, but the Flames should be among its top programs.
Colorado opened its 212,000-square-foot athletics center in 2015. It’s attached to Folsom Field and adjacent to the indoor practice facility that opened a year later.
Cincinnati has a bubble for its fields and is designing an indoor practice facility. The Bearcats unveiled a new locker room in August and spent $86 million renovating Nippert Stadium in 2015.
The Athletic called Liberty perhaps “the best-resourced program in the Group of 5.” The Flames moved into their renovated 65,000-square-foot football facility in 2020, opened their $29 million indoor practice facility in 2017 and expanded their stadium a year later.
USF is catching up in this area. The Bulls renovated their locker rooms last year, and their $22 million indoor practice facility is expected to have its formal opening next month. The program is also working toward building an on-campus stadium to have ready for the 2026 season.
Liberty is an evangelical school, and athletic director Ian McCaw said he’s looking for someone willing to “train champions for Christ.” Not every coach will be a match, but Chadwell has worked at Christian schools in the past; the introductory news conference at his first head coaching job began with a prayer.
Chadwell has only worked in the Southeast. Sanders has strong Florida ties (he’s a Fort Myers native who starred at Florida State), but he also played in 226 games for the Cincinnati Reds.
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