Thursday, August 28, 2014
Behind The Scoreboard
Talking about top 10 coaches
A little while back we came out with the pre-season collegiate rankings of the most prominent teams in the Division I level of the NCAA. While it is true that quarterbacks are generally the first “heroes” recognized in the very successful seasons of the stalwarts, there is always a puppet master of sorts who pulls the strings of the puppets.
We all know how competitive the pro leagues are when it comes to finding and hiring that “right string puller,” all important to a properly conducted season. “Properly conducted” means a program which wins a prestigious bowl game or a national title.
Someone got the idea of ranking 128 head coaches in all of the super conferences in Division I. Arguably, these are the ACC, SEC, Pac 12, Big Ten and Big 12. If one looks closely at the stats, one will find that the most successful coaches are first and foremost relationship builders. This trait leads all other organizing challenges, including offense and defense schemes. A coach has to install an across-the-team relationship in which everything meshes. This has to be done with a gentle, but firm, persona. Being a real football buff, I could relish in apprising you of all the most salient attributes of the entire 128. But that would be just too many stats to ask you to digest. So, I have chosen 10 to talk to you about.
Number 10 is a relative newcomer to “big name” coaching (two years). Gus Malzahn made a name for himself at the helm of the Auburn Tigers. He went 12-2 in his maiden year and contested Florida State for the national (and last BCS) title last season. He has been a head coach at only one other place, Arkansas State in 2012. He replaced head coach Gene Chizik at the end of 2012. He had been the Auburn offensive coordinator under Chizik when the Tigers won the title in 2010.
Brian Kelly (number nine) has been a steady performer in his 23 years. He has a pair of Division II titles to his credit and lost in the national title game after Notre Dame went undefeated in 2012. He has had only one losing season and that was at Central Michigan in 2004. The Notre Dame Program (an independent) is ranked seventh nationally.
Number eight’s name is probably not a glaring word in these parts. Mark Dantonio has been guiding the Spartans of Michigan State for seven seasons and finally put the team back on the right track to being a household name. His biggest coup was a 13-1 finish and a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl last season.
Another coach who has turned a team around weighs in at number seven. His is a name not readily revered by us SEC watchers. Jimbo Fisher and his revived Seminoles won the title last season. Florida State had always been prosperous during the (Bobby) Bowden years. Jimbo’s Seminole program is ranked number one in the ACC and eleventh nationally. His career record (all at Florida State) is 45-10 in four years.
Number six is Bill Snyder, who has 22 years on the sidelines and a record of 178-70-1. He took a four-year break (retirement said he), but returned to Kansas State after four years.
Art Briles of Baylor is number five and has struggled at times, but has been successful in making the Bears a national contender.
Bob Stoops, at number four, has spent all of his 15 years at Oklahoma. He and the Sooners went 7-5 during his first season (1999) but went 13-0 and defeated Bobby Bowden and Florida State for the BCS title in 2000.
Often referred to as “The Ole Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier, although approaching septuagenarian status, just won’t quit. At number three, Spurrier has 24 years experience and has built the Gamecocks into a recurring powerhouse in the SEC. No one is making odds on when he will step aside.
Ohio State’s head is number two and has a stellar record of 128-22 in 12 years. Urban Meyer’s forte seems to be a quick turnaround of any program which he takes over. His loss record is less than two games per season. There is no doubt that Meyer has his team’s goal as a national title.
I know that by now you’ll have noticed that this list is in descending order. That old adage of “saving the best for last” applies here. Heading the entire list of 128 is Nick Saban of the Crimson Tide. In seven years at the Tide, Saban’s record is 79-15 with three national titles. Clearly a talent developer and a tactician, Saban has been around the SEC for awhile with five years at LSU (48-16). A winning coach wherever he stopped in his 18 years, you can count on Saban being a contender wherever he is in the future.
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