To the casual college football fan the only championship that matters is the BCS Championship. Any real fan will tell you that winning a conference title is the first step toward a bigger prize.
Even non-BCS teams have hope now. Just ask Boise State, TCU and Utah. Of course they have to go undefeated as well, but it starts with winning the conference.
So with the 2010 football season getting closer every day, here's a look at 14 current Division I coaches who have won a league title in the past, but won't do so again.
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
Last conference title: Pac-10 in 2007
Why he'll never win a title again? Erickson is on the hot seat (of course it's a dry heat), and another losing season will mean the end of his run in Tempe. Since he's never shied away from any job, Erickson could find a home at a non-BCS team but even that's unlikely at his age (63).
The vagabond Erickson shared the Pac-10 title in his first season at ASU, but not much else has gone right for the coach who won two national titles at Miami, Fla. But since the Sun Devils have endured back-to-back losing seasons, something Erickson has never experienced, his time may be limited. Not to mention he's just 19-18 in three seasons.
Last season was disappointing because expectations were high around Tempe. The Sun Devils should have a strong defense again in 2010, but if the offense is inconsistent again — and spring reports were not positive on this front — Erickson could be done.
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland
Last conference title: ACC in 2001
Why he'll never win a title again? It's not easy to win a championship at Maryland—something the Fridge has done. It's even tougher to do when you just finished 2-10 and 2010 may be your final year. The Terrapins have already named his replacement (James Franklin), and he's expected to assume those duties in 2011.
Look back at Friedgen's first three years when he went 31-8 and was named the National Coach of the Year and you would have thought he could keep Maryland among the ACC's elite. But since his fourth season, the Terrapins own a paltry 33-38 record.
At 63, it is also not likely Friedgen will relocate to a school that is not his alma mater.
Turner Gill, Kansas
Last conference title: MAC in 2008
Why he'll never win a title again? Gill is just 47 and should be coaching for at least another 15-20 years, but is Kansas really the best place to win a conference championship? Not under the current alignment and existing membership. The Big 12 South is the dominant division and Kansas is light years away from playing at that level.
Give the former Nebraska quarterback his due, though. The job he did at doormat Buffalo was beyond impressive, and he was a good hire for the Jayhawks. His best chance of winning another league crown is Texas and Oklahoma leaving the conference or eventually moving to his alma mater.
On another positive note about Gill, he's proving to be the anti-Mark Mangino with curse-free zones and a more upbeat approach to coaching.
Dan Hawkins, Colorado
Last conference title: WAC in 2005
Why he'll never win a title again? Boise State fans probably have fond memories of Hawkins as he won four straight WAC titles and compiled a 53-11 record in five seasons.
But he's 16-33 since arriving in Boulder, and if not for financial woes at the university Hawkins probably would have been relieved of his duties after last season. The Buffaloes 2010 prospects aren't much better, so Hawkins' days at Colorado are limited (anyone know the odds of him making it through the entire season?).
Hawkins' success at Boise should keep him in the coaching profession, but probably at a non-BCS conference school.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Last conference title: Big East in 2009
Why he'll never win a title again? This is easy; Notre Dame stays an independent so he can't win another one.
But let's speculate a little. Even if the Irish join the Big Ten (let's say the odds of that are probably 85-15 against), Notre Dame has middle of the conference talent and would likely not win it in his time in South Bend.
If the Irish would join the Big East, a conference Kelly is familiar with, it may only take them three to four years to win a title.
Les Miles, LSU
Last conference title: SEC in 2007
Why he'll never win a title again? The Miles is a Moron bandwagon is off base, but the LSU coach has been involved with some bonehead decisions in recent years. There's no questioning his recruiting savvy as the Tigers continue to bring in Top-10 classes. But there's no doubt the past two seasons have been disappointments, even though many other programs would take 8-5 and 9-4 after winning the national championship.
The biggest obstacle in Miles way of winning the SEC again is what Nick Saban has built at Alabama. Right now the Tigers are talented enough to hang with the Tide, but his rival in Tuscaloosa out coaches Miles.
Miles' best shot at winning another conference title will come at Michigan if he replaces Rich Rodriguez in the near future.
Tom O'Brien, N.C. State
Last conference title: Big East in 2004
Why he'll never win a title again? O'Brien runs his program with military precision, but his style hasn't produced the same results at North Carolina State like it did at Boston College. The Wolfpack will always play second fiddle to North Carolina, and it's difficult to see how they could ever become a serious ACC contender.
Last season there were a lot of experts who felt State could actually challenge for the Atlantic Division. How did the Wolfpack respond? O'Brien's team finished 5-7 and 2-6 in the conference.
This year expectations are much lower as the offseason has not been friendly to N.C. State. Four players, including two starters from last year, are facing misdemeanor charges.
Joe Paterno, Penn State
Last conference title: Big Ten in 2008
Why he'll never win a title again? I'm not trying to hate on JoePa or the Nittany Lions. This prediction is more on Paterno's age. He clearly wants to coach until he's 150, but eventually old age will catch up to him. So his coaching days will probably come to an end before he can earn another Big Ten championship.
Right now Ohio State's talent-level is a notch above PSU, and I'd even argue the coaching in Columbus is better. Also Wisconsin and Iowa are better than the Lions.
And then there's the potential Big Ten expansion that could make it even tougher for Penn State to win another championship before Paterno's days are over in State College.
Mike Price, UTEP
Last conference title: Pac-10 in 2002
Why he'll never win a title again? Remember when Price was a hot coaching name and he was able to win at Washington State (take note Paul Wulff)? Of course everyone remembers his short stint at Alabama and his night in a Florida hotel with a stripper that cost him the job in Tuscaloosa.
Now he has been relegated to coaching purgatory at UTEP in Conference USA. The Miners are not likely to win a championship, especially after their performance the past few years — 5-7 (2006), 4-8 (2007), 5-7 (2008) and 4-8 (2009).
With the baggage and six-year record of 34-38 is not likely to garner much attention from a big-time program.
Mark Richt, Georgia
Last conference title: SEC in 2005
Why he'll never win a title again? Richt is an outstanding coach who has had a nice run at Georgia, but it feels like his time is running out. Even if the Dawgs find a way to win the East this year it's very unlikely they could beat the West champ.
Richt's teams always seem to lose a game they shouldn't or play uninspired. That's not a good mix in the SEC, especially when you're coaching against the likes of Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino.
If the Georgia fans and administration are willing to ride out a few more years with Richt he could have another championship run.
Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Last conference title: Big 12 in 2003
Why he'll never win a title again? Give Snyder credit for the magic he worked at K-State in the late ’90s and early 2000s. But the Big 12 is a much different conference now. Oklahoma and Texas are the alpha dogs and Nebraska isn't too far behind.
He found a way to regroup after the horrible hire of Stan Parrish in 1996, and now he's being asked to do the same after another bad hire in Ron Prince.
If Snyder were 15 years younger he might be able to work some magic again, but he's likely to retire for good within the next 2-4 years.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Last conference title: SEC in 2000
Why he'll never win a title again? Spurrier is one of the great college coaches ever. Anyone who can win a share of the ACC crown at Duke deserves high praise. But something just hasn't clicked at South Carolina.
After going 122-27-1 and winning six SEC crowns in 12 seasons in Gainesville, Spurrier has never finished better than 8-5 and in second-place in the East. The Gamecocks have been schizophrenic during the Spurrier years. South Carolina has cracked the Top 10 under Spurrier only to cave and finish out of the rankings and at some low-tier bowl.
Spurrier has done a respectable job of recruiting to Columbia, but the results are so average that no one can expect him to win another conference crown.
Bob Toledo, Tulane
Last conference title: Pac-10 in 1998
Why he'll never win a title again? Toledo has not been able to find even a little of the magic that he experienced at UCLA since he arrived at Tulane in 2007. Injuries have been a big reason why Toledo has gone 9-27, but the Green Wave have never seemed to recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Toledo also faces a recruiting obstacle since Tulane is a private school with much-higher standards than many of its Conference USA opponents.
He's past his prime and his days as a head coach may be over after 2010.
Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
Last conference title: SEC in 2004
Why he'll never win a title again? If Mike Leach couldn't win a title with the Raiders what makes anyone think Tuberville can do it? The former Auburn coach only won one title with the Tigers, and that's a much easier place to recruit and the SEC isn't much tougher than the Big 12.
What could potentially change this picture is the possible defection of Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, etc. as the Big Ten expands and other conferences follow suit. If the a weaker Big 12 remains or Texas Tech lands somewhere else is too much to predict today.
So if the Big 12 maintains its anchors Tuberville will struggle to even duplicate what Leach was able to accomplish.