Utah Football Job Is One of Best in Nation

U head football coach Ron McBride likes his job. He has said so. He has a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium and a football team that downed Pac-10 powerhouse USC, against all odds, in the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas day.

But it is no secret that this is not the premiere place to coach in the country, right? Not according to a survey by ESPN.com. Twenty-six Division IA head football coaches and coordinators were asked where their dream college coaching job would be.

To the surprise of many people, the University of Utah was mentioned in the survey, receiving two first-place votes.

Though those were Utah’s only two votes of the poll, their first-place value was enough to make the U the 11th most desirable locale for coaching football among those polled.

The survey came in response to Florida coach Steve Spurrier suddenly and unexpectedly announcing his resignation from the Gators. UF should have little trouble in finding his successor though?in spite of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops turning the job down?as the coaches polled cited location/weather, in-state recruiting base/rivalries, top-notch facilities and fan support as just a few of the reasons they made the Gainesville, Fla., school the runaway winner.

Other schools finishing in the top 10?such as Texas, Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, USC and Michigan?are consistent national powers and football programs steeped in tradition.

You would expect such schools to generate such interest.

But the U has never been considered a national powerhouse. They play well, but the best the Utes have ever finished in the national ranks was No. 8 in 1994, when they went 10-2 and beat Arizona in the Freedom Bowl. They have never furnished a Heisman Trophy winner.

So to be among major college football programs gives the U some notoriety that is very helpful.

The U was the only school in the state or from the Mountain West Conference to receive any votes in the poll. The closest school to get any votes from the U would be from California.

This survey is surprising, considering the Utes haven’t had the best fan support over the years. They haven’t just failed to sell out home games consistently?the only sellout recorded in Rice-Eccles Stadium’s renovated history was against BYU in 1998. That includes the first game ever at Rice-Eccles against Louisville in 1998 and LaVell Edwards’ last game with BYU against Utah in 2000.

But there are some factors which would justify the high ranking:

?The U plays good teams. It battled Oregon (which finished second in the nation behind Miami) in Eugene this past year.

?The Utes get many recruits from California. They get good talent. They get a lot of great recruits from Utah, as well as some other states.

?Several former U players are doing well in the NFL. Mike Anderson of the Denver Broncos won the NFL’s Rookie of the Year last year. Stevonne Smith could win it this year for the Carolina Panthers, as he is?thus far?the only rookie invited to the NFL’s Pro Bowl in Hawaii in February. Jamal Anderson led his Atlanta Falcons team to the Super Bowl in 1998.

Ultimately, after seeing the enthusiasm McBride showed on national television after his team defeated USC, it is a little easier to understand why Utah would finish so high in a poll of this nature. Utah, quite simply, is a great place to play football.

Lance welcomes feedback at: [email protected].