You know who likes to gossip? Football coaches and administrators, that's who. They're as gabby as a sewing circle but not nearly as polite, and you don't get a quilt for your guest bedroom when they're done.
Potential coaching job openings dominate the chatter, and coaches and athletic directors all like to gab about one or two top jobs that might "pop" and start a butterfly effect. One firing at a top gig causes ripples across the entire sport. Ostensibly, you couldn't get that linebackers coach gig at Delaware if that recent BCS powerhouse didn't clean house four weeks prior. That's why everyone talks about the jobs at the top.
By our logic, the two top coaching jobs most likely to pop during or immediately following the 2013 college football season would be Texas' and USC's. The Trojans' struggles under scholarship sanctions and the second-guessing of Lane Kiffin's ... management style have been well-documented. Not quite as much for Texas, but the 'Horns could replace Mack Brown if UT stumbles in what's being shaped as a bounce-back year (10 wins and a Big 12 championship) for the program.
There's been no Sun Bowl-style implosion or NCAA woes, but a healthy portion of the Texas fan base is angered by Mack's recent 0-3 run vs. rival Oklahoma (outscored 146-58 in the three most recent losses, 6-9 vs. OU since 1998) and embarrassed by in-state Heisman quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel.
Hypothetically, let's say two powerhouse jobs are open simultaneously. We unofficially, informally and anonymously polled a group of administrators and coaches at the FBS level as to which gig, Texas or USC, is the better job to take.
The majority sentiment was that it wasn't even close, and that the debate wouldn't be one among coaches vying for jobs at that level. Here's a breakdown of their endorsements:
The push categories
First off, the ties: when you're a top program, our panel agreed there's little room for debating another top program's recruiting, facilities and funding resources. Both the Trojans and 'Horns have stupid amounts of money available when needed, both boast impressive football facilities and both sit as the flagship programs for two of the three richest states in the nation for recruiting.
"Normally either one would be the choice for the recruiting," one assistant coach said, "But for this, either school can be considered a top destination in terms of being able to land the top kids. Some coaches might pick California over Texas or the other way around, but that's relative to their connections."
The first item mentioned, and most-discussed. Whatever Texas might lack at certain positions, there's no comparing USC's continued reduction in scholarships carrying through the 2014 signing class. That's a twofold problem for a new coach. Not only will the hypothetical successor be short 10 scholarships for his first class, the compound interest of losing 30 total scholarships over three years will leave the Trojans at their thinnest in years.
One coach polled pointed out that in the "three-years-and-out" cycle of impatience, USC's talent anemia could mean that national glory might return to L.A. two coaches from now.
"Sure, you're always told that you'll get enough time to turn it around," he said, "But how often does that really happen nowadays if the process really does take more than a few years? Whatever the situation in Austin, whatever style the next coach would use, there's still a greater advantage than a short roster."
Another coach: "Let's say, just for the conversation, a new staff comes in and wants to flip the offensive or defensive scheme. Pro-style to a hurry-up no-huddle, or maybe go to a 3-4 or whatever. You've got to do that signing 10 less bodies and with a shorter roster overall. It's bad enough for what Lane's trying to manage. I can't imagine changing the scheme and not being an injury away from a disaster."
One administrator was hesitant to claim that the Pac-12 was superior to the Big 12 in depth and competition, but did admit that as of the 2013 season, the west coast would be a tougher go:
"There's not as easy a path to the Rose Bowl for USC as there once was. It's impossible to make predictions for long stretches, but I'd look right now at the transition at Oregon definitely. If they're able to maintain success the way Stanford did after losing a coach, those two teams plus a stronger UCLA makes it a tougher run, at least for right now. And don't forget, USC plays Notre Dame."
Even though our informal group all chose Texas, the name Kevin Sumlin came up often. Both Texas and Texas A&M are obviously considered brand-name enough to defend their equally rich home recruiting ground against a variety of rivals, but the ascension of Sumlin in Texas recruiting circles combined with A&M's move to the SEC is notable.
"It's not a major shift in power, and it could possibly be a cycle, but you can't ignore what's Sumlin's doing," one assistant coach said. "And it's the SEC membership, too. That creates a chance to draw the top in-state kids away from [Texas]... [UCLA's Jim] Mora and his staff have done a great job, but that doesn't compare."
"Sure, everyone recruits L.A.," one coach said, "But no one can do it like USC can when they've got that thing going right."
Official unofficial anonymous endorsement
The unanimous answer was Texas.
Even with USC's advantages relative to the rest of the Pac-12 in recruiting and the Trojans' name recognition and prestige in the country's second-biggest media market, our panel all agreed that none of what the Trojans can offer in 2014 compares to "what could be at Texas," according to one A.D.
The Trojans' scholarship woes are paramount, so much so that the situation after three years of handicapped signing classes could deter top coaching candidates from replacing Kiffin, given the thin ranks and short patience for winning in Los Angeles.