There are No Premier Coaching Jobs in the Big East

The Big East’s BCS invitation has meant only one thing to the coaches who have accepted it in recent years: See you later!

When Connecticut coach Randy Edsall took the job at Maryland on Sunday, he became the latest in a line of coaches who have used the Big East’s Big Ticket for a one-way trip outta here.

It began with Louisville’s Bobby Petrino (though Pitt’s Walt Harris was pushed out after a 2004 BCS bowl appearance and resurfaced soon thereafter at Stanford), then West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez, Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly, and now Edsall.

That’s four jobs four coaches didn’t want (and one job that didn’t want the coach) in the last seven seasons. It says there is no premier coaching job in the Big East. As we’ve long suspected, and Edsall confirmed Sunday, it’s a stepping stone.

Even if that step isn’t always very high.

Petrino left U of L for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, where he bailed before even finishing one season. Kelly left Cincy, where he had a two-year conference unbeaten streak, for a place that fancies itself as relevant, even as the numbers continue to suggest it’s not.

Rodriguez thought he was fulfilling a dream in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was an outsider who never became an insider, and became the losingest coach in the history of college football’s winningest program. It was more of a nightmare that will likely end any day now.

Edsall is going to a school that just fired a guy whose winning percentage was overwhelmingly better than his own in Connecticut.

Despite the look of a lateral move, Edsall’s case seems to be easy to explain, particularly as he’s continued to call ACC-based Maryland his ”dream job.” He built the Huskies’ program from the ground up and realized it had probably peaked with an 8-5 season and a 28-point loss in a BCS game. And let’s not forget, after losses to Temple and Louisville this season, where they were shut out in the latter game, there were those who were calling for the coach to be fired. That he was able to right the ship after all of that and earn the league’s BCS bid was his own way of sticking it to those people. If that didn’t work, the fact that he left for a place like Maryland has to have.

Anyway, the coaching situation in the league is a mess. West Virginia’s coach-in-waiting situation looks good mostly in the eyes of Athletics Director Oliver Luck, who conveniently studied programs that did this with success while simultaneously ignoring the failures of so many others. (Anyone else notice Texas coach Mack Brown was paid $5 million this year for a 5-7 season and a last-place finish in the Big 12 South, only to see coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp figure the wait was too long and leave for Florida?) He was making $900,000 as an assistant in Texas.

It wasn’t enough.

If Dana Holgorsen turns around this WVU offense, he could be in negotiations with his “dream job” – wherever that is – by November. Never mind that he’s got a set timetable.

Then again, the folks at Pitt have to be looking at West Virginia and saying, ‘Hmm, it has two head coaches; we have none.’ That disaster with Mike Haywood being hired and fired within three weeks is going to set that program back in a lot of ways.

Who are the Panthers going to bring in? If there’s one thing we’ve learned here, it’s that hot coaches don’t enter the Big East; they leave it. Same with the Huskies, good luck with that. Edsall knew the lay of the land in New England. He did a great job of getting linemen, linebackers, and running backs to UConn and winning that way. That means he understood his recruiting limitations and got as much as he could out of them. Will the next guy – and the Hartford Courant points out there are way more candidates from the New England area than you’d ever have dreamed – be able to do that?

Because Big East schools are generally unable to get top recruits, it’s become a gimmick conference. Do something few others are doing, like the spread Rodriguez had at West Virginia and Kelly had at Cincinnati, and you win, all the while hoping other athletics directors are paying attention to how you’ve outsmarted more than 100 years of college football and revolutionized the game.

All of this brings us to Texas Christian University coach Gary Patterson, who just finished a rather hollow unbeaten season in which his team will likely end up at No. 2 in the final polls, which is exactly where it would have ended up as a member of the Big East this season – on the outside looking in.

He’s coming to the Big East in a year, which is scary in any number of ways because the existing players and coaches in the league have no chance from the start against that resume. But it’s probably more scary for TCU fans, who have to have noticed this pattern of coaches winning, then leaving.

If just one of these guys had stayed, with the exception of Edsall, who, again, got probably as much as he could out of his Huskies, can you imagine the run of dominance they might have had?

Everybody wants to be the next Bear Bryant. Nobody wants to stay at the same place for 25 years to do it, though.

In the Big East, they win a few games, then turn it over to their own egos because hot coaches generally want one of the Top-20 coaching jobs in the country. Whether it’s perception or reality, none of those jobs are in the Big East.

The coaches won’t let it happen.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: