(WTNH)–Picture this for a second.
You’re the No. 1 high school football recruit in the country–the LeBron James of football–and you can take your talents to any beach, forest, desert or farmland you want.
Coaches are falling all over themselves to recruit you. They’re bringing NFL stars to your games, texting your mom, getting you Fetty Wap tickets, and doing everything but handing you the keys to a new Hummer and telling you to say you got it from the money you made working weekends at Pablo’s Car Wash.
Which school would you go to?
For the sake of our argument, let’s say your football talents are so impressive, you’re going to make any school competitive. We didn’t consider current coaches or extra-recent program sucess. This was more about which campus you’d like to be on, fans you’d like to play in front of, and which jersey you’d like to wear for four years.
Check out Kels Dayton’s own personal rankings for the AAC, and then comment with yours below:
12. Navy– They rank here ONLY because you have to be ridiculously smart, tough, disciplined, responsible, and driven to join the Navy. And I am none of those things. I’d be out of college football in three days if I went there, so by default, we ranked Navy 12th. It is amazing what head coach Ken Niumatalolo has done there, given the academic and character standards the program has.
11. Tulsa– I don’t know much about northeast Oklahoma, although it looks lovely on Google Maps. But I’m not sure I would want to spend my formative college years there. Just sayin’.
10. Cincinnati–Sure, this is a major program in a big-league city, but would I really want to spend four years in Cincinnati, as opposed to Orlando, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Philly, Tampa, Memphis….you see what I’m saying? The AAC has some great locales, and the Kentucky border isn’t exactly No. 1 on the list for a kid from Thomaston, Connecticut. Don’t get me wrong–location isn’t everything, and the Bearcats have a gem of a stadium and some of the best fans in the league. But it would take a great recruiting pitch to get me to Cincy.
9. Temple–The Owls get to play at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play on Sundays. They also get to live in Philadelphia, home of cheesesteaks, Sixers, Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles games, Rocky, and the Jersey Shore nearby. But no one cares about Temple football (except Bill Cosby), and dodging speeding cars and navigating city streets to get to biology class sounds like a living nightmare. No thanks, Temple.
8. South Florida– USF plays in an NFL stadium (the Buccaneers’ Raymond James), Tampa is awesome, and the Jim Leavitt era proved that this program can be very successful. But USF doesn’t have the passionate fan base that ECU has, and Tampa ain’t quite Orlando, or New Orleans, or some of the other places that are higher on this list.
7. Tulane– Fans at Tulane (if they exist) may be apathetic, but bruh, have you seen that campus? And they get to play in the Louisiana SuperDome? And live in New Orleans? How are they not better?
6. East Carolina–The first thing I thought of when I had the idea to write this column was, “How are the folks in Greenville going to feel about this?” No joke. Just look at the comments section in this article. We felt the wrath of crazy Pirates fans last year, and because of their passion, ECU is a sneaky-high No. 6 here. I’ve still never been to Greenville, but again–it looks lovely on Google Maps, and playing in front of 50,000 rabid ECU fans every Saturday sounds OK to me.
5. Memphis– Who wouldn’t want to party on Beale Street, go to Grizzlies games and eat awesome barbecue all the time? Sure, the country and blues music would get annoying after a while, but I’m sure there are some places that play 50 Cent, right?
4. Connecticut–Yeah, call me a homer. Call me delusional, or out of touch. But when I think about UConn football, I think about the glory days. I think about the Huskies beating Notre Dame in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. I think about them kicking South Carolina’s rump in a bowl game. I think about the No. 9 national ranking, the upset of once-No. 2 South Florida, the win at West Virginia, and the Fiesta Bowl showdown with Oklahoma. I remember the cold weather, the die-hard fans at Rentschler, and the home-field advantage that was actually significant in the Big East. I’d love to play for UConn…but thinking objectively, there are better places to play football in the AAC. Still though…had to rank them higher than East Carolina. (What’s up, Pirates fans?)
3. Houston–The University of Houston is right in the city, which is pretty sweet. Plus, the Cougs have terrific football tradition, including a Heisman winner in Andre Ware and incredibly, the NCAA’s all-time passing leader, in Case Keenum. This program is a potential sleeping giant.
2. SMU–They’ve got ridiculous football tradition (Eric Dickerson, Craig James) even if most of it came while breaking every NCAA rule imaginable. The program still hasn’t recovered from the “Death Penalty” the NCAA issued in 1987, and that’s honestly kind of stunning considering the school’s location (Dallas is awesome) and the area’s appetite for football. SMU should be better.
1. Central Florida– The location (Orlando) is awesome, the football stadium is beautiful, and the program appears on the rise, with a Fiesta Bowl win in 2014. The one downside? UCF is the second-largest school in the country, trailing only Arizona State (60,000-plus students to 58,000-plus). That could be a good thing (like if you’re Blake Bortles after the Fiesta Bowl), but it can also be a bad thing (not being able to walk to class without being hounded).
Still, if you’re the top recruit in the country and you choose to play football in the AAC (Why would you do that? Fair question), Central Florida seems like the perfect place.
To me, anyway.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.
Get at us, Tulsa fans.