Advertisement

How USF football compares against Colorado, Liberty and Cincinnati

The Bulls will be competing with several other open jobs for candidates like Deion Sanders or Jamey Chadwell.
USF might be competing against Colorado, Cincinnati and Liberty for some of the same candidates as the Bulls search for Jeff Scott's replacement.
USF might be competing against Colorado, Cincinnati and Liberty for some of the same candidates as the Bulls search for Jeff Scott's replacement. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Dec. 1, 2022

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.

Related: 3 thoughts on the USF football coach search, coaching carousel

Salary

Hugh Freeze had received a raise to pay him almost $5 million annually at Liberty before he left for Auburn.
Hugh Freeze had received a raise to pay him almost $5 million annually at Liberty before he left for Auburn. [ MIKE KITTRELL | al.com ]

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

Football budget

Colorado has the largest football budget of the four schools we're looking at.
Colorado has the largest football budget of the four schools we're looking at. [ DAVID ZALUBOWSKI | AP (2019) ]

According to 2020 figures (the most recent available) submitted to the U.S. Department of Education:

USF

Operating expenses: $3.9 million

Total expenses: $15.5 million

Total revenue: $15.5 million

Colorado

Operating expenses: $1.5 million

Total expenses: $17.5 million

Total revenue: $19.5 million

Cincinnati

Operating expenses: $2.4 million

Total expenses: $16.0 million

Total revenue: $16.0 million

Liberty

Operating expenses: $4.8 million

Total expenses: $17.9 million

Total revenue: $17.9 million

Related: What if the next USF football coach wins big, then bolts? ‘You made a great hire’

Recruiting footprint

USF's local recruiting footprint includes players like Aamaris Brown, an Armwood High alumnus.
USF's local recruiting footprint includes players like Aamaris Brown, an Armwood High alumnus. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

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

Cincinnati made the College Football Playoff last season and is moving up to the Big 12 next year.
Cincinnati made the College Football Playoff last season and is moving up to the Big 12 next year. [ MICHAEL AINSWORTH | AP ]
Follow the state’s college football teams

Follow the state’s college football teams

Subscribe to our free Florida Football Fix newsletter (coming soon)

We’ll bring college football analysis and insights — with a statewide focus — to your inbox weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

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.

Related: Let’s talk about Deion Sanders and the USF football coaching search

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.

Facilities

This 2022 rendering by OSPORTS shows what USF's athletics district might look like with the addition of an on-campus stadium.
This 2022 rendering by OSPORTS shows what USF's athletics district might look like with the addition of an on-campus stadium. [ Courtesy of USF ]

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.

Related: How good is the USF football job? Better than it was in Bulls’ last coaching search

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.

Other factors

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.

• • •

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.