The late, great Tim Russert had one of his many signature moments in the 2000 Presidential election when he broke down the battle between George Bush and Al Gore to three words on a chalk board, “Florida, Florida, Florida.
In the most recent Presidential election, Florida was again correctly labeled as one of the “battleground” states, which held the key to the outcome between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
On Monday, as the final pieces in the 2016 coaching carousel fell into place, Florida Atlantic University had chosen Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin as its new football coach.
That move closed the deal on making Florida the epicenter of coaching stars in one state.
Consider the coaching line up in the state, which arguably has the deepest talent pool in the United States.
Florida State–Jimbo Fisher
South Florida–Charlie Strong
Florida International–Butch Davis
Florida Atlantic–Lane Kiffin
Central Florida-Scott Frost
Of that group, only Frost, just finishing his first season at UCF, has yet to really establish his credentials. But Frost arrived in Orlando from Oregon, where he had proven himself as the Ducks offensive coordinator and in one season he took a team that was 0-12 last season and improved to 6-6 this season.
Of the group which once totally ruled the state–Miami, FSU and Florida–McElwain is the most low key figure, but he has an inherent advantage being at the state university in the Southeastern Conference.
Having Davis, with his University of Miami background, Kiffin, who may be the best overall recruiter in the group, and Richt, who established himself at FSU and Georgia, before coming back to his alma mater last season, all grouped together in a 40 mile radius will make South Florida recruiting a must-watch event over the next seven weeks.
Add the presence of other national powers such as Ohio State, Michigan, as well as other major Power 5 schools looking for talent, and Florida will be much more than a battle ground state this recruiting season.
It will be a Dancing with the Coaching Stars contest that could determine the balance of power in the state, as well as in college football, for the next decade.
Amazingly, there is enough talent in the state to make everyone better.
FSU still must be considered the front runner because Fisher has the best credentials and the most recent success ratio.
Florida made a semi-revival this season under McElwain, winning the weak SEC East.
Richt switched leagues and schools when he came back to Miami and the Hurricanes showed some signs of life that the U might again be ready to become a predator rather than a pretender.
In the American Athletic Conference, Strong’s arrival at USF from Texas, where he was fired after three seasons for not doing well enough, does not diminish his recruiting skills or his ability as a coach who can find, and then develop talent.
AAC officials would like nothing better than to develop at UCF-USF rivalry between schools in the I-4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando.
All of this is good for the state of Florida, it’s good for college football and most of all, it’s good for the recruits in the state, who will have a very, very merry holiday season.