If Todd Monken, or Josh Heupel, or even Mike Stoops, wants a head coaching job, I have a recommendation. Get to the MAC. Get to the Mid-American Conference. Fast as you can.
In 2008 and/or 2009, Butch Jones was the coach at Central Michigan, Brady Hoke was the coach at Ball State, Jerry Kill was the coach at Northern Illinois, Turner Gill was the coach at Buffalo and Tim Beckman was the coach at Toledo. Now Jones is the coach at Tennessee, by way of Cincinnati; Hoke is the coach at Michigan, by way of San Diego State; Kill is the coach at Minnesota; Gill was the coach at Kansas; and Beckman is the coach at Illinois.
And the new wave has started. North Carolina State just hired Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, and Purdue just hired Kent State’s Darrell Hazell.
That’s not even accounting for the MAC’s great coaching legacy. Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel were head coaches at Toledo. Glen Mason was the coach at Kent State. Brian Kelly was at Central Michigan. Urban Meyer was at Bowling Green. Jim Grobe was at Ohio. Randy Walker was at Miami-Ohio.
Going back even longer, Miami-Ohio had as head coach from 1944 through 1977 Sid Gillman, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, John Pont, Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory and Dick Crum. All went on to success at least on the Big Ten level.
The lesson is clear. Get a MAC job, do well and move on to bigger things.
That’s what Beckman did. Mike Gundy’s defensive coordinator in 2007-08 jumped from Toledo to Illinois after three years, none of which were spectacular (21-16 combined). Gundy’s offensive coordinators took other routes — Larry Fedora went to Southern Miss, which eventually got him the North Carolina job, and Dana Holgorsen got the West Virginia gig.
Bob Stoops’ lieutenants haven’t gone the MAC route. Some went straight to BCS-level conference — Mike Leach to Texas Tech, Mark Mangino to Kansas, Mike Stoops to Arizona, Kevin Wilson to Indiana. Others went the mid-major route — Chuck Long to San Diego State, Kevin Sumlin to Houston and eventually Texas A&M.
There are lots of ways to get the job you want. But clearly, going through the MAC is one of the best ways.