Study: Big 12 leads all conferences in average head coaching tenure

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday July 06, 2017

Earlier this week, CoachingSearch looked at the tenure of every single FBS head coach, and nearly half of all head coaches have been hired since 2015.

Among the 130 coaches, the average tenure is only 4.4 years. The pressure has never been greater for head coaches to win. And when you win, higher-level jobs can come calling, so the turnover in the profession remains incredibly high.

Which conferences have kept coaches the longest? Here is the average tenure for each league, including 2017.

ACC: 5.1 years

Big 12: 5.9

Big Ten: 5.0

Pac-12: 5.0

SEC: 4.7

AAC: 2.5

C-USA: 5.0

MAC: 4.1

Mountain West: 4.0

Sun Belt: 4.2

It’s no surprise the Group of 5 schools have shorter tenures, as the winning coaches are plucked by bigger schools. It’s also no surprise the SEC has the lowest average among Group of 5 schools, but perhaps not by as much as you’d think. There was only one SEC change after 2016, but several league coaches face pressure heading into 2017. In average tenure, the Big 12 leads the way. It's also worth noting many coaches have seen their team change conferences in this span.

But a few coaches can skew the average in a league For example, Ken Niumatalolo is entering Year 11 at Navy, and the next-longest in the AAC is three years. So for a different measurement, here’s a look at the median tenure for each league.

ACC: 4.5 years

Big 12: 3.5

Big Ten: 3.0

Pac-12: 5.5

SEC: 5.0

AAC: 2.0

C-USA: 4.5

MAC: 3.5

Mountain West: 3.5

Sun Belt: 4.5

In this measurement, the SEC has the second-longest median tenure, an increase from the average, while the Big 12 and Big Ten dropped. The SEC hasn’t had as many recent changes — only five in the past three years, compared to nine in the Big Ten. In the Big 12, Gary Patterson (2000) and Mike Gundy (2005) pull up the average, but not the median.

The AAC’s numbers drop even more. When you take out Niumatalolo, AAC coaches are only around for two years. League coaches to move up to Group of 5 recently included Tom Herman, Justin Fuente, Willie Taggart and Matt Rhule.

It’s hard to get a head coaching job. It might be harder to stay there.

CoachingSearch’s 2017 offseason studies

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to