List all of the Private School, FBS programs with, multiple national championships since 1980. Southern Methodist University, The University of Miami, and The University of Southern California make the list. Not even the great Notre Dame who many consider the best College Football program makes the cut. In reality, only 10 public schools have multiple national championships since 1980. So as far as “what have you done for me lately” goes, 90% of programs should respond, “not much”. It is tough to be excellent in this new, ultra-competitive, nationwide recruiting era of college football. This is not to say you cannot have a great season without winning a national championship, but expectations should become more relative.
As hard it is to remain at the pentacle of college football program, it is even harder to get there. Most programs remain great because of great coaching, not because they have large athletic budgets. Look at The University of Miami, they were the premier college football program for two decades. Now they are a separated from that success by 14 years, 2 head coaches and a bevy NCAA infractions. This is not to say Miami is not doing everything it can to get back to its success, but to show you how easy and quick the fall can be. Even more, how you can be a good coach, team or program and not win championships. This is why, if USC wants to get back to championship-form quickly, it has to get this next coaching hire right. That is not to say they need to hire a coach who has already won a championship, because there are not too many of those guys around. Not to mention most, if not all, already have stable jobs. That is to say they need to hire a guy who will leave the program better off than when he joins it, because that is what great coaches do.
The biggest thing USC needs to worry about is fit. The best coach in the world only works if he wants to be there and the people around the program want him there. The fit has a lot to do with expectations and location. Lucky for USC they are sitting in one of the most fertile states for football talent and have one of the most nationally respected brands out west, so location is not an issue. Expectations however are another story. If you expect to be great in 2017 then maybe a coach who wants to change the system is not the right direction, because he will want to recruit his own kind of player. Same goes for an NFL coach who is not used to recruiting and will need time to adapt. If; however, the Athletic Director, Major Boosters, and University President are all on the same page (and the right page, in my opinion), then they will be patient and choose the coach who ensures improvement. It may take 4 years, but they should choose a coach can build a winner and seems to have a solid system. No, that is not easy to do. Patience, as I have said before, is the toughest skill to exhibit in sports. As a coach, fan or player, but not everything can come easy.
Now I do not have the answer for which coach that is, because acquiring coaches who can build programs are not easy to do. They definitely do not grow on trees, but I will say that the trendiest coach is not always the answer. Find the best football guy, and let it grow from there. I do have the answer for why this is so important though. Of the 13 programs who have multiple national championships in the past 35 seasons, 8 are still nationally competitive on the field and in recruiting. Of the other 5, Nebraska, Penn State, SMU, the University of Miami, and the University of Washington. All 5 feel light years away from competing at a championship.
USC, who I counted in the nationally competitive category, is one bad hire away from changing that description. USC has still been able to recruit at a high level, but is now separated from its last championship appearance by a decade. That is a dangerous area. By the time Nebraska and Miami had reached a decade of separation from a championship appearances they were both viewed as different programs. While Bo Pelini and Nebraska were never bad, they were never feared as national title contender and while Al Golden recruited well at “The U”, his recent termination proved Miami has not returned to being “The U”. USC was ranked as highly as #6 this preseason, so they are not far from championship level play, but another season or two of mediocrity and they could quickly find themselves in that same shoes as the other programs mentioned who seem several years and possibly another coaching change away from prominence.
*** Follow up: Prior to the 2015 PAC-12 Championship Game, USC announced they would remove the interim tag on football coach Clay Helton. He is a former college quarterback and long-time Coordinator at USC.***