Breaking down the list of college football’s best coaches


It’s no secret that the boredom of college football’s off-season lends writers to find pretty unique and interesting ways to pass the time. And well, the guys over at the Sporting News have definitely taken that to the extreme this week, when they released their rankings of the best coaches in college football. No, no, this wasn’t a list of the Top 5 or Top 10, but instead, a soup-to-nuts, No. 1-No. 124 ranking.

Fans, get your pitchforks ready!

Now before we go any further, I want to make one quick note and give the guys at the Sporting News a little credit here. There is no easy way to put together a list like this; as a matter of fact, I’d call it darn near impossible. And the truth is, no matter how much time you spend on it, no matter how many outside sources you speak with, you’re never going to make the majority of the fans happy. Actually, there’s a pretty good chance that 123 team’s fans are going to feel spited, and the fans of the top ranked coach are simply going to look at the list, andsay “Psht, we already knew our coach was the best!” before moving on.


Simply put, this was a thankless task, so I want to go ahead and give Steve Greenberg and Matt Hayes the credit for putting in the effort.


And with all that said… let’s start picking this bad boy apart!!

Here are the Top 10:

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Chris Petersen, Boise State
3. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
4. Les Miles, LSU
5. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
6. Chip Kelly, Oregon
7. Gary Patterson, TCU
8. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
9. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
10. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Alright, again, remembering that this isn’t an easy thing to do, I must admit that a few names surprised me here.

First, Saban in the top spot is a no-brainer, and frankly, I have no objection with Chris Petersen at No. 2. I know that many of you will be quick to point out the level of competition Boise’s teams have faced throughout Petersen’s run at the school, but at the same time, let’s get real here. The guy has won 73 of 79 games he’s coached, has had two undefeated seasons in six years at the school, and three others where he’s only lost one game. You all do realize that he’s two missed field goals away from potentially four undefeated seasons?

I have no problem with Meyer at No. 3, but afterward, that’s where the list gets a little confusing for me. Are we judging guys just based on the last couple years of their careers? Is it a “big picture” career achievement list? Who we would want if we were coaching one game tomorrow? That’s where it gets a little tricky.

I guess the reason I am confused is as follows: There are some guys, like Steve Spurrier (ranked at No. 8), who seem to have their ranking based on some type of career-achievement merit. Yes, Spurrier’s last two years have been phenomenal, and he had several great ones at Florida in the 1990’s too. Still, there were a bunch of average ones in between. At the same time, Mack Brown is only No. 16? To me Brown’s listing seems like the inverse of Spurrier; bad in the short-term (13-12 over the last two years) but great over the last decade. Which would you rather have? Personally, I’d take Brown. Maybe that’s just me though.

As far as the rest of the Top 10 is concerned, I’d probably move Chip Kelly up to No. 4. Yes, he’s only done it for the short-term, but looking at his track record, he’s got three Pac-12 titles, and other than some early struggles in his first year in 2010, his teams really have won every game they were expected to. When you’ve got three losses over the last two years, and two of them are to teams who’ve played in BCS title games that same season (Auburn in 2010 and LSU in 2011) with the third coming against a team which finished ranked in the Top 5 nationally (USC), it proves to me that you can coach. Having your guys ready to play, without a letdown every week for three straight years is kind of a big deal.

I’d also probably move Frank Beamer up a spot or two, and definitely think that Brady Hoke at No. 24 is the most egregious mis-listing there is. Looking at Hoke, the guy has resurrected three programs, in three different conferences, which is no easy task, regardless of where you’re coaching. And remember, while he caught some breaks at Michigan last year, the dude did go 11-2 without players that fit what he was totally trying to do. I think you could make a pretty compelling case that he belongs in the Top 10.

As for everyone else, you can nitpick just about anything, but my only real complaint is this: I don’t think it’s fair to put any first year coach on this list ahead of coaches who’ve already been head coaches.

For example, how is it logical to have Steve Addazio- who went 9-4 in his first season at Temple- ranked as the 83rd best coach, and have Southern Miss’s Ellis Johnson (No. 80) and Pitt’s Paul Chryst (No. 82), ranked ahead of him? I’m not defending Addazio here (believe me, I’m not), but given that neither Johnson nor Chryst has coached a single game, it doesn’t make sense to me. Couldn’t we put all the first year coaches on a separate list?

So there you have my take on this list.

What do you think?

For all his articles, opinions and insight on college football and beyond, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.