Think your team has the best coach in college football?  Sure you do – heck, join the club – they’re now taking applications.  But should your school’s coach land in the elite coach trios for each of the power conferences in college football?

The whole concept may be a bit arbitrary – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a topic that gets tackled… and that’s just what this writer did – by first picking out the BEST trio from each of the six power conferences, and then ranking them per conference.

Keep in mind that the focus was on the coach’s performance within conference – so in many cases, the newbies are unable to be judged.

Enough of this – let’s get to the list and hear your arguments as to why your coach should be ranked in a different spot (or included at all).

Elite Coach Trios: Ranking College Football’s Power Conferences by Coaching Caliber

6. Big East – The Candidates

Butch Jones (Cincinnati)


Randy Edsall (Connecticut)

Charlie Strong (Louisville)

Dave Wannstedt (Pittsburgh)

Greg Schiano (Rutgers)

Skip Holtz (South Florida)

Doug Marrone (Syracuse)

Bill Stewart (West Virginia)

Big East – The Elite Coach Trio

Randy Edsall (Connecticut), Greg Schiano (Rutgers) and Dave Wannstedt (Pittsburgh)

This list almost created itself considering that there are a handful of newbies to the conference (Strong, Jones and Holtz).  Still, coaches like Schiano are no-brainers considering the success he’s brought to Rutgers – a school that has to fight to get recruits.  But…

Why Him? Randy Edsall – Are you kidding?  Any coach that doesn’t just keep a team together after the death of a teammate, but also to produce a bowl game and some big victories… that deserves to be among the best.  Expect this guy to be in higher demand soon.

Why NOT Him? Bill Stewart – As mentioned in previous posts, Stewart has posted a solid record in his brief tenure in Morgantown, but after all the success West Virginia had under Rich Rod, it’s hard to be too excited about posting back-to-back four-loss seasons in arguably the weakest of the power conferences.


5. Pac 10 – The Candidates

Mike Stoops (Arizona)

Dennis Erickson (Arizona State)

Jeff Tedford (California)

Chip Kelly (Oregon)

Mike Riley (Oregon State)

Jim Harbaugh (Stanford)

Rick Neuheisel (UCLA)

Lane Kiffin (USC)

Steve Sarkisian (Washington)

Paul Wulff (Washington State)

Pac 10 – The Elite Coach Trio

Jim Harbaugh (Stanford), Chip Kelly (Oregon), Mike Riley (Oregon State)

Harbaugh provides a spark and has Stanford relevant again, while Chip Kelly pushed the Ducks to the Rose Bowl, even after the tough opening week game that included the LaGarrette Blount incident, plus a loss to Boise State.  If only he could get the team to be more disciplined off the field.  But…

Why Him? Mike Riley – Take a look at his resume for a second.  The Beavers have won 36 games over the last four seasons, not to mention owning USC at home in Corvallis, too.  Oh yeah, he’s also been to a bowl in all but one season since coaching OSU.

Why NOT Him? Steve Sarkisian – Love what Coach Sark has already done for the Huskies, but it’s been one year and if this were to be reevaluated again, it’s possible he would crack the list.  But for now… off to a good start and consider it a victory that he’s got Locker back for his senior season.


4. ACC – The Candidates

Frank Spaziani (Boston College)

Dabo Swinney (Clemson)

David Cutcliffe (Duke)

Jimbo Fisher (Florida State)

Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech)

Ralph Friedgen (Maryland)

Randy Shannon (Miami)

Butch Davis (North Carolina)

Tom O’Brien (North Carolina State)

Mike London (Virginia)

Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech)

Jim Grobe (Wake Forest)

ACC – The Elite Coach Trio

Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech), Butch Davis (North Carolina) and Paul Johnson (Georgia Tech)

“Beamer Ball” is still a success in the ACC and Butch Davis has translated his NFL experience to a solid career at Chapel Hill.  But…

Why Him? Paul Johnson – A number of critics didn’t think that Johnson’s triple option system would translate into a power conference.  However, this is far from the truth and the Yellow Jackets saw success immediately, including a BCS bowl berth in his second season as coach.

Why NOT Him? Jim Grobe – Coach Grobe is just on the outside of this list.  It’s a tough call, but he’s definitely been a positive for Wake’s football program, including leading the Demon Deacons to nearly half of their bowl games over the past 50 years.


3. Big 12 – The Candidates

Art Briles (Baylor)

Dan Hawkins (Colorado)

Paul Rhoads (Iowa State)

Turner Gill (Kansas)

Bill Snyder (Kansas State)

Gary Pinkel (Missouri)

Bo Pelini (Nebraska)

Bob Stoops (Oklahoma)

Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State)

Mack Brown (Texas)

Mike Sherman (Texas A&M)

Tommy Tuberville (Texas Tech)

Big 12 – The Elite Coach Trio

Mack Brown (Texas), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri)

The first two are obvious choices – Mack Brown who has had tremendous success at Texas, plus Bob Stoops, who put Oklahoma back on the map – even though he’s struggled to win the “big game” over the last few seasons.  But…

Why Him? Gary Pinkel – To point out exactly how solid Pinkel has been at Missouri, one should look at the history of the program, where the last head coach to have a winning record at “The ‘Zou” was Dan Devine – who finished coaching the Tigers in 1970.  Now, Pinkel has Missouri to five straight bowl games (and six of seven) – quite impressive.

Why NOT Him? Mike Gundy – Gundy has done some great things for the Cowboys, but this team still can’t quite vault to the top of the conference.  That plus you get the impression that in the end, Gundy will be known more for being a man…that was once 40… (see video below)


2. Big Ten – The Candidates

Ron Zook (Illinois)


Bill Lynch (Indiana)

Kirk Ferentz (Iowa)

Rich Rodriguez (Michigan)

Mark Dantonio (Michigan State)

Tim Brewster (Minnesota)

Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

Jim Tressel (Ohio State)

Joe Paterno (Penn State)

Danny Hope (Purdue)

Bret Bielema (Wisconsin)

Big Ten – The Elite Coach Trio

Joe Paterno (Penn State), Jim Tressel (Ohio State) and Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern)

No brainer times two – as you’re adding in the all-time winningest coach in Paterno, plus the man in the red vest – who has won or shared six straight conference titles.  But…

Why Him? Pat Fitzgerald – Coach Fitz is a pillar of motivation.  Friends – you could have your feet cased in cement and if Fitzgerald told you to jump, you’d respond with “how high AND how often.”  The Wildcats have responded to his fire, being a small school that rarely ever reels in big names, yet still keeps posting winning seasons, including back-to-back nine-win campaigns.

Why NOT Him? Kirk Ferentz – There’s a reason why Ferentz’s name gets mentioned in NFL coaching rumors.  The guy is good – real good.  Still, Fitzgerald gets the nod as he’s been able to do more with less, and didn’t inherit a program from a guy like Hayden Fry, who had big-time success of his own at Iowa.


1. SEC – The Candidates

Nick Saban (Alabama)

Bobby Petrino (Arkansas)

Gene Chizik (Auburn)

Urban Meyer (Florida)

Mark Richt (Georgia)

Joker Phillips (Kentucky)

Les Miles (LSU)

Houston Nutt (Ole Miss)

Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)

Derek Dooley (Tennessee)

Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)

Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt)

SEC – The Elite Coach Trio

Urban Meyer (Florida), Nick Saban (Alabama) and Houston Nutt (Ole Miss)

Meyer may be on leave, but he’ll be back – so he still counts, especially after reeling in such an impressive recruiting class even with all the news of his absence being in play.  Combine Meyer and Florida’s success with Saban, who put ‘Bama back in the nation’s elite quickly – including the most recent National Championshp.  But…

Why Him? Houston Nutt – Sure, he benefited from some of Orgeron’s recruits – and believe me, Orgeron is a masterful recruiter.  Still, Nutt has 18 victories in two seasons with Ole Miss, a school that often has trouble keeping up in the recruiting battle with the powers of the SEC.  So the man deserves some credit for what he’s done.

Why NOT Him? Les Miles – The Tigers have had a solid program for years now, and Miles has done a good job.  Still, for those that want to argue the National title that he won at LSU, that was mostly with the recruits of a previous coaching staff.  That, plus one can’t help but have visions of the recent late game clock management issues dancing in their heads.

*Also posted to my Bleacher Report page

More College Football at The Wife Hates Sports