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This list will be controversial, descending the comments section into a ball of flames. But, in an attempt to explain my rationale for asserting these as the five most hopeless programs in America, here are the metrics used to evaluate the contenders:
-Current team quality
-Coaching staff stability
-Quality and trajectory of the conference
-Administrative investment (coach salaries, facilities, etc.)
-Geographic and recruiting concerns
For fans of these teams, it’ll be a long decade:
The low hanging fruit of the list. One would have to imagine the NCAA, if it retains any semblance of dignity, will make the SMU “Pony Express” 30 for 30 look like a fairytale. While Baylor still possesses elite facilities, is entrenched in perhaps the most fertile recruiting landscape in the nation, and the Big 12, with rumored future departures of Oklahoma and Texas, crumbling faster than Detroit’s infrastructure, one would think the Bears are well situated for a sustained run of success.
But there are no asterisks in life, only scoreboards, and for the foreseeable future, Baylor’s reads: fucked.
I feel bad putting the Wildcats and Coach Mark Stoops here, but I have an easier path to a Pulitzer than they do a decent bowl game. Kentucky football, stranded in a conference that expends more annual resources on football than all of the non-Power 5s combined, has the unenviable task of being the Donnie Wahlberg to Coach Cal’s Mark. Some people realize the team exists, but nobody gives a fuck.
Kentucky lacks a solid recruiting base, with the South a mecca for foul play amidst super recruiters Nick Saban, Les Miles, Gus Malzahn, Kirby Smart, Hugh Freeze, and the list goes on. Sadly, all of the aforementioned blue chip collectors are in Kentucky’s own conference, leaving the financially hamstrung Wildcats to a Frank Reynolds role: moving in for the scraps.
A basketball school unwilling to comparably invest in football, in the most difficult conference in the history of collegiate athletics, and a tradition perhaps best remembered for Jared “Hefty Lefty” Lorenzen? Fucking mess.
In fairness to new Head Coach Chris Ash, he has yet to embarrass himself on the field in Piscataway, though his off-the-field antics have left something to be desired. Claiming upon his arrival to have “built a fence around New Jersey,” Ash then watched helplessly as the top 10 players in his own state signed elsewhere, with four of the top five, including the number one player in the nation, Rashan Gary, heading to Ann Arbor.
Yes, Rutgers does have a solid recruiting base, if they can ever convince a decent prospect to “stay home,” after Ash’s inaugural effort on the trail ended in a flurry of late offers to D-IAA commits. This season, Rutgers sports perhaps the worst roster in all of major college football, while the administration’s bizarre decision to enter the Big Ten, perhaps without knowing through some sort of gerrymandered division alignment that they’d get Harbaugh, Meyer, and Dantonio every season, has not prompted increased investment in the program.
2. Oregon State
How pathetic is it that the “glory days” of Oregon State football was an endless Mike Riley tenure barely averaging mere bowl eligibility? That’s the reality for the Beavers.
In hindsight, 2014 was one of the most fascinating offseasons in recent history, with Nebraska making the profoundly bizarre move to fire Bo Belini in exchange for Oregon State’s Riley, who had averaged nearly four total wins fewer per season during Pelini’s tenure.
This oddity started a domino effect of strange decisions, with then Wisconsin Coach Gary Andersen bolting to Corvalis, probably to get as far away from Barry Alvarez as possible. The results have been an unmitigated disaster for everyone involved, with Wisconsin my pick to finish near the bottom of the Big 10, Oregon State coming off a season in which they beat just one Division IA opponent, and Nebraska fans with their pitchforks at the ready.
The Beavers simply have no recruiting base, desperate to an extent now they’re attempting to convince Samoans that rural Oregon is the place for them. As mentioned, the pinnacle of the program was kind of competing for some consideration in the Pac 12 race once a decade or so under Riley, and their own region now squarely belongs to in-state rival Oregon, and Washington under Chris Petersen.
Poor academics, facilities, coaches, tradition, and strengthening rivals? Might be time to close up shop.
Kansas is so fucking bad. I had to actually Google who their coach is. While this may sound pompous, I gamble so much on college football that I pride myself on knowing every Division I head man, so when I saw David Beaty come up in a Google search, I thought the same thing recruits did during the 2016 cycle: Who?
Beaty, who’s Wiki page lists his past experience as a high school soccer coach — I’m serious — did something for Texas A&aM and apparently co-coached wide receivers under former Kansas Coach Mark “the Whale” Mangino. So that’s got to count for something, right?
Anyway, Beaty and the Jayhawks got the tenure off on the right foot with a solid 0-12 in 2015, losing the new coach’s debut at home to nationally renowned power South Dakota State. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Jayhawks proceeded to post the worst point differential in the nation, with perhaps my personal favorite performance, a 49-0 home defeat vs. barely bowl eligible West Virginia, in which the Jayhawks had greater kick return yards than total offense. Think about that for a second.
Following inexplicable hires such as Charlie Weis, the Kansas roster desperately needed a talent infusion in the 2016 class, which Beaty provided in spades with a fringe top 100 talent haul ranking behind half of the much lauded MAC conference. Please detect my sarcasm.
Kansas football has a roster rivaling decent high school programs, a pathetic stadium, a coach nobody has heard of, is coming off their first ever winless season, and absolutely no semblance of a recruiting base.
Bill Self deserves a raise..
Image via YouTube