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A smart college football team could use this slow coaching carousel to hire a big upgrade

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With so few elite jobs open, decent schools could land the kinds of coaches they normally couldn’t get.

Miami Beach Bowl - South Florida v Western Kentucky
WKU’s Jeff Brohm and USF’s Willie Taggart, two coaches who’d be receiving a lot of buzz in a normal year
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The coaching carousel is spinning more slowly than normal this year, as SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey recently explained. In the Power 5, only Baylor, Oregon, and Purdue are open for next year.

LSU and Texas have come open, and have been filled by an in-house candidate and an obvious Group of 5 coach, respectively. Neither Tom Herman, nor Ed Orgeron were really candidates at many other likely opening jobs.

But coaches who began the year on the warm seat at good jobs like Penn State, Auburn, USC, West Virginia, and Tennessee now seem to be safe, either due to winning enough games, or because of prohibitive buyouts.

Schools like Notre Dame and UCLA, who are having awful years, have coaches who’ve won a lot recently and don’t seem to be going anywhere.

The coaching carousel dominoes always begin from the top down. If the top moves as little as projected, so too will the middle and bottom.

And with a lot of talented, young coaches available, like USF’s Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm, and Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck, there is a glut of coaches and a dearth of jobs.

Some schools should leverage the buyer’s market.

If you’re an AD who has a coach likely to enter 2017 on the hot seat, consider making the move this season.

Schools willing to pull the trigger now have all the leverage. Coaching stars burn hot, but fast. Great success at a mid-major job can be fleeting. Many coaches in this cycle cannot afford to be picky as they try to cash in their stock when it is hottest.

For a coach having success at a lesser school on the backs of a senior-laden roster, it’s time to go.

And for that reason, an average job could be filled in 2016 by a much stronger coach than might be available come 2017, when the market could again go crazy.

Take the ACC, for example.

Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, and Virginia made inspired hires in 2015. Unless the schools who did not make those are very confident in who they have running the show, they should consider making changes now, especially if they are likely to drop the pink slip in 2017 anyway.

Some jobs in the ACC are not top-25 jobs, but are certainly top-45 jobs. And in this market, it’s possible that those teams could land coaches like those typically signed only by top-25 programs. It’s taking advantage of the market to make an upgrade.

If you’re Georgia Tech, and you’re watching Kirby Smart shift Georgia’s recruiting machine into overdrive with the No. 3 class nationally, are you confident Paul Johnson is still the right coach? Or could you swing for the fences with a Chad Morris type? After beating the Bulldogs, maybe the Yellow Jackets should stay with Johnson.

Imagine being Boston College and trying to fill a position in the likely seller’s market of 2017, having failed to make a move in 2016. Could the Eagles get someone like Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead or Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop this year more easily than they could next?

In the SEC, there are even tougher questions.

Butch Jones has improved Tennessee from five wins, to seven, to nine, but has now backslid to 8-4, and the Volunteers were outscored in conference play in one of the worst years the SEC East has ever had. As excitement wanes, recruiting does as well, with recruiting in a downward spiral.

If Tennessee decides Jones has peaked, it could make the shrewd move of filling a top-25 job with a coach who normally might hold out for a top-15 position.

Texas A&M was having a nice year before QB Trevor Knight went down with injury. But now Kevin Sumlin has losing SEC record over his last four seasons. Plus, Texas just hired an elite recruiter in Tom Herman who should be able to do real damage in Houston, which is a primary feeder city for the Aggies.

Plenty of other schools have things to consider.

Arizona, Arizona State, Minnesota, NC State, and Texas Tech are a few others who should think about their options.

While schools win in this buyer’s market, coaches lose.

Even though mid-majors are paying better money now than ever before, with hot names like Herman making $2.8M, and Taggart $1.7M, the gap between the Group of 5 and good Power 5 jobs is still big.

It’s an even worse market for hot coordinators.

Take Florida’s Geoff Collins. The Gators have the No. 4 defense nationally according to S&P+. Collins is a rising star, but Florida is likely to lose the vast majority of its elite defenders to graduation or early NFL entry. It is hard to see a coordinator in this spot raising his stock any more without becoming a head coach. And with the lack of open jobs, coaches who have to move on out of fear of seeing their stock fall are going to have to settle.

There’s a risk, though.

Of course, if several great jobs do happen to open up after some average schools have made the decision to cut bait, those lesser programs could lose serious leverage. That’s an unlikely scenario, but one that cannot be ignored.

There’s also the issue of buyouts

You have to spend money to make money, as the story goes. However, some schools just simply might not be able to afford to buy out coaches, creating a very strange lame duck situation.