Coaching Carousel: Explaining, ranking the current 11 FBS openings from best to worst

On3 imageby:Jesse Simonton11/27/23


Compared to recent cycles, the 2023 coaching carousel hasn’t exactly started spinning in earnest but there have still been 15 FBS openings thus far with more dominos (hirings and firings) likely to come. 

MTSU just fired longtime head coach Rick Stockstill on Monday, ending an 18-year run in Murfreesboro.

Several of the bigger jobs — namely Texas A&M and Michigan State — have already been filled. Northwestern smartly promoted interim David Braun to head coach, while Mississippi State is going back to the offensive well by tabbing Oklahoma OC Jeff Lebby for the job. 

Many of the 11 remaining openings have one thing in common though — they’re among the hardest jobs in the G5 and P5, respectively. Many are also considering the same pool of candidates, too, which further complicates how these openings will play out in the coming days. 

Houston, now a member of the Big 12, is a job with real potential, but the other current P5 vacancies — Indiana, Syracuse and Duke — are among the most difficult jobs to win at among all major conferences. Then there’s Oregon State, which is stuck in a P5/G5 limbo and just saw its former quarterback leave his alma mater for a better job at Michigan State. 

The Cougars have their pick of the litter among lots of attractive candidates, with UTSA’s Jeff Traylor a very obvious fit. With the Mike Elko move so fresh, the pool of options at Duke is just getting started, but the school does have money, and both David Cutcliffe and Elko have proven you can be semi-competitive in the current ACC coaching for the Blue Devils. 

Indiana and Syracuse are jobs at basketball schools where a coach will be well-compensated but wins will be extremely difficult to come by. We’re talking maybe 1-2 among all Power 5 schools in terms of hardest jobs. 

The Hoosiers have great facilities, but how much is that worth now in the new NIL/transfer portal world? You can count on one hand the number of times Indiana has made a bowl game in the last 30 years (five) — and the Big Ten is about to get more competitive with its expansion next season. 

Syracuse doesn’t have Indiana’s resources and has just two bowl berths in the last 10 years. Some insiders would argue that Boise State and San Diego State are much better jobs than Syracuse — they simply can’t pay quite as much. 

Boise State is absolutely an attractive opening that knows nothing but winning, and if the Broncos nail Andy Avalos’ replacement right, then they should return to being the kings of the Mountain West again. San Diego State was hoping to jump to the P5 this last offseason, but even after getting boxed out of a potential jump to the Pac-12, the Aztecs’ gig is viewed by insiders as a spot where the right guy can win big. 

Again, many of the same candidates are in the mix for the same jobs. Both Boise State and San Diego State are kicking the tires on the likes of Washington OC Ryan Grubb, Missouri OC Kirby Moore, ex-Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin, former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall and others.   

The remaining openings are among the grimmest in all of FBS. Historically speaking, it’s been next to impossible to win with any consistency at UTEP, New Mexico and Louisiana-Monroe. 

Typically, these jobs go to career assistants who just want a stab at being a head coach, or a retread hires like Terry Bowden, who was fired by the Warhawks after going 2-10 in 2023. Either way, these jobs almost always chew up whoever gets the gig. 

Ranking the current head coaching openings from best to worst:

  1. Houston
  2. Duke
  3. Boise State
  4. San Diego State
  5. Indiana
  6. Oregon State
  7. Syracuse
  8. MTSU
  9. New Mexico
  10. UTEP
  11. Louisiana-Monroe