It's clear Washington is in the top tier, but is Chris Petersen's job the most coveted in the conference? Pac-12 Hotline's Jon Wilner asked the coaches. How do they view UW compared to USC, Stanford and Oregon? How about Washington State?
This might come as a surprise to anyone outside the USC fandom bubble, but frustration with Clay Helton is not universal.
He has supporters, who view the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2016 season and the conference title in 2017 as evidence of Helton’s fitness for the job; who point to his maturity as “the adult in the room”; and who attribute the ’18 stumbles to playing a rookie quarterback.
They also have little use for history: The landscape has changed, Helton’s advocates argue. The Trojans won’t ever replicate the success they experienced in the 2000s under Pete Carroll, or in the 1960-70s under John McKay and John Robinson.
Which got the Hotline thinking (always dangerous):
Is USC no longer the unquestioned coaching jewel of the Pac-12?
Have I somehow missed an undercurrent that has permanently undermined a program that owns 39 conference titles, seven national titles and seven Heisman Trophies?
Which got the Hotline thinking a bit more (run!): What are the best coaching jobs in the Pac-12? The order seems fairly obvious from the outside, but how do the coaches view the hierarchy?
So I asked.
I conducted an informal survey of current and former Pac-12 coaches to rank the jobs in the conference.
Participants covered all geographic regions, both sides of the ball and each level of experience (assistants, coordinators and head coaches).
I guaranteed anonymity but gave no criteria, although the coaches naturally prioritized access to recruits, tradition and facilities.
The results made sense, but I was a bit surprised by the limited range for most schools: The pecking order, even for coaches, is abundantly clear.
As one coach said: “The top five are head and shoulders above the rest.”
The results also lend context to our assessment of coaching performance past and present.
Points were allotted in reverse order: 12 for first, 11 for second, etc.
1. USC – 106 (8 first-place votes)
Highest ranking: 1st
Lowest ranking: 3rd
Comment: “The L.A. schools are 1-2 for me because of where they’re located with all those players. And if you’re from out of town, it’s easy to get to for parents, and the flights are cheap.”
2. Washington – 96 (1)
Comment: “Oregon and Washington are close, but it’s slightly easier to get kids to go to Washington because of the tradition and being in the city.”
3. Stanford – 83
Comment: “It’s great because it has a niche unto itself. It has a great location and appeal with the brand.”
4. Oregon – 81
Comment: “The facilities, sure. But Eugene is hard to get to.”
5. UCLA – 80
Comment: “The new (football operations building) is amazing. It’s like Oregon-B.”
6. Arizona State – 63
Comment: “I can’t tell you the reason they haven’t been consistently better. I’m shocked Dennis (Erickson) didn’t kill it there. But there are a lot of distractions that keep kids from focusing on school and football. USC and UCLA have the same issue.”
7. Colorado – 45
Comment: “It’s a romantic destination if you can get the kid with the right profile.”
8. Utah – 43
Comment: “It’s not going to have any appeal at all to some kids.”
9. Cal – 39
Comment: “The football program gets no help and look at what you’re dealing with from an admissions standpoint.”
10. Arizona – 32
Comment: “Not a big city and doesn’t have a big recruiting base around it.”
11. Washington State – 25
Comment: “It’s clear who does the best job with what they have and where they are.”
12. Oregon State – 9
Comment: “It’s so tough to even have a winning year.”