1. Bear Bryant-Alabama. Hard to argue against Bear Bryant as the top college football coach in my life time. Bryant coached 25 years at Alabama and won 6 national titles. Over all, his teams won 323 games and only lost 85 and tied 17. Bear Bryant started coaching at Maryland, then moved to Kentucky and then Texas A&M. He played and graduated from Alabama and that was where his heart lied and that’s where he would coach until he retired. Obviously, Bear Bryant was born to coach college football because sadly a few weeks after he retired, he passed away. Bear Bryant was one of a kind.
2. Bobby Bowden- Florida State. There’s no way that Bobby Bowden is going to be left off of any top coaching list, I even considered making him first on this list. From 1987 to the year 2000 nobody in the history of college football put together a run like Bobby Bowden. 152-19-1 over a 14 year period is simply incredible. Their lowest, or highest, ranking during that time period was #5. Think about that for a minute. 14 straight years of at least #5 in the polls.
Bowden ended up with a 304-97-4 record at Florida State and 377-129-4 all time. Bobby Bowden put Florida State on the map in a really huge way. He won national championships in 1993 and 1999. Only real drawback about Bobby Bowden was lack of good kickers in several games.
3. Dr Tom Osborne-Nebraska. Osborne coached the Nebraska Cornhuskers for 25 years and had a 255-49-3 record in that time period. He won 13 conference championships and 3 national championships. In Tom Osborne’s last 8 years his teams went 105-11-1 and that’s when he won all of his national championships. Osborne, unlike some great coaches, retired at just the right time when he was on top. People have called the 1971 Huskers possibly the most dominating teams of all time and Osborne was the Offensive Coordinator for that team. His 1994, 1995 and 1997 were every bit as dominating as that 1971 team if not a lot more. Osborne never changed his offensive style and stuck with the I formation running one great tailback through his system after another. But, with all the outstanding tailbacks and offensive linemen, it was Quarterback Tommie Frazier that would take his team to its greatest heights.
4. Woody Hayes-Ohio State. Not only was Woody Hayes a great coach, he was also responsible for a lot of modern day quotes about football. “Three yards and a cloud of dust” and “3 things can happen when you pass and 2 of them are bad”. Maybe no coach ever hated losing more than Woody Hayes.
Hayes had an overall coaching record of 238-72-10. He coached the Buckeyes to 13 conference titles and 3 National Championships. Woody Hayes also coached at Denison and Miami of Ohio.
Hayes, while being a great coach, had a number of off field issues and plenty of issues on the field including the final one that got him fired which was punching a Clemson player in the Gator Bowl.
5. Joe Paterno-Penn State. Some people wouldn’t rank Paterno after the huge scandal that basically ended his coaching career. But, it’s hard to overlook his 409-136-3 career record. Paterno was head coach at Penn State from 1966 to 2011. Paterno’s Penn State teams went undefeated 5 times and he only had 2 national championships to show for it. His 1968, 1969, 1973, 1986 and 1994 teams were all unbeaten but for one reason or another some were overlooked for national title contention.
Penn State had the same coach for 46 years and now they have had 3 in what amounts to 3 years.
6. Nick Saban- Alabama. Saban has 3 official national titles to his name and a controversial one so there’s no way he’s not going on this list. Saban started off at Toledo, but was gone in a year to Michigan State. From there, he was hired by LSU, then the Miami Dolphins and then was back in college coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide. He has a 165-57-1 overall coaching record which is very impressive. But, his history of national championships is even more so impressive. Saban is a very strict, no nonsense kind of guy that recruits lights out and has some of the top talent in the nation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama right now. Don’t be a bit surprised if he wins a few more national titles before he rides off into the coaching sunset. Love or hate his 5 foot 6 inch self, the man knows how to win at the college level.
7. Steve Spurrier- South Carolina. Let me get two things perfectly straight that I absolutely hate. First, I hate football played on blue turf. The other thing that I hate is the term ‘old ball coach’. I won’t watch a game on blue turf and I never want to hear that overused term ‘old ball coach’ again.
Spurrier is the only guy on the list that actually played much football with him winning the Heisman Trophy back in 1966 when he Quarterbacked the Florida Gators. He first became a head football coach at Duke in 1987, then it was back to Florida where he won 1 national championship and played for another. Spurrier tried his hand at the NFL briefly with the Washington Redskins and then it was to South Carolina.
The Gamecocks have been more successful under Spurrier than any other time in the history of their school. Spurrier has compiled a 219-79-2 record coaching college football. South Carolina has won 11 games in a season for 3 straight seasons which is unprecedented.
Just please don’t call him the Old Ball Coach. Am I the only one that gets very annoyed with that?
8. Barry Switzer- Oklahoma. Like most of my other choices, Switzer will not be popular but Switzer won and he won big. Did he do it illegally? I can’t answer that definitely but one thing he did do was win. Switzer, like Tom Osborne on the other sideline, was the Offensive Coordinator of the Oklahoma Sooners during the Game of the Century in 1971.
Switzer won 157 games as a head coach at OU, while losing 29 games and tying 4. In 16 seasons as head coach he either won or tied 12 times for the championship of the Big 8 conference. Switzer won 3 national championships at Oklahoma before stepping down in 1988. Switzer was an excellent recruiter and especially in the state of Texas.
9. Darrell Royal- Texas Royal coached at Mississippi State for 2 years and then at Washington for a year before getting the head coaching job at the University of Texas. He compiled a 184-60-5 overall record in college football and he retired early at the age of 52 and became the AD for a few years.
Royal won 3 national titles in the 60s. Funny thing about Darrell Royal, is he played football for Texas’ biggest rival, Oklahoma and didn’t seem to like them very much.
10. Bo Schembechler- Michigan. Bo never won a national championship, but he did manage a lot of success at Michigan. Like Woody Hayes above and Ara Parseghian below, Bo Schembechler also got his start at Miami of Ohio. Bo went 40-17-3 in 6 years there before taking the Michigan job in 1969. Bo’s Wolverines won or tied 13 Big 10 championships while he coached there. He retired with a very nice 234-65-8 over all record in 1989.
11. Ara Parseghian- Notre Dame. Parseghian put a struggling Notre Dame back on the map. He got his career started off by taking Woody Hayes old job at Miami of Ohio where he had a very impressive 39-6-1 record over 5 years. Coach Parseghian moved to Northwestern where he struggled and had a 36-35-1 over an 8 year period. But, Parseghian sure didn’t struggle at Notre Dame going 95-17-4 over an 11 year period. Notre Dame was and is still an independent so there are no
conference titles to show, but Notre Dame was awarded 2 national titles during Parseghian’s time in South Bend.
12. Eddie Robinson Grambling. Had to be a spot for Eddie Robinson on my list. Coach Robinson led the Grambling Tigers into action as the head coach for an incredible 57 years. Over that time period, he compiled a 408- 165- 15 record. Nobody on the list above other than maybe Bobby
Bowden coached more talent than Coach Eddie Robinson as he put over 200 guys in the NFL, AFL or other Professional football leagues. Grambling is irrelevant today because the white universities decided they wanted to recruit all of the black players that the Grambling University level schools were getting in the past. I am here to write about football and not right the wrongs of the past. But, Eddie Robinson was one fine college football coach.
13. Pete Carroll- USC This is not going to be a popular choice with some and Carroll only was a head coach in college football for 9 years. But, what a 9 years they were. During Carroll’s first season, the Trojans went 6-6. The following 8 years, the USC Trojans went 91-13 with 7 conference titles and 2 national championships. Pete Carroll came to the Trojans after being the head coach of the New England Patriots, then he left USC in 2010 to coach again the NFL with the SeattleSeahawks. He joined Jimmy Johnson as the only coach that won a national championship in college as well as a Super Bowl. Carroll won national titles in 2003, 2004 and came really close to another in 2005 if not for a heroic effort of Texas and Vince Young.
14. Bill Snyder- Kansas State. I left off Bill Snyder off my initial list. Huge mistake. Usually a coach that wins national championships gets the glory and the credit, but Bill Snyder deserves credit for coaching Kansas State to anything better than 1 loss seasons. Kansas State was incredibly awful before the arrival of Snyder.
Snyder’s record at KSU is 178-90-1 over 22 seasons. That’s not incredible compared to some other legendary coaches like Bobby Bowden or Tom Osborne or Barry Switzer. But, consider this, before Snyder’s arrival it took the previous 12 coaches 45 years to win 116 games. They were on a 0-26-1 streak when they hired Snyder.
His first season, the Wildcats went 1-10, then they went 5-6, 7-4, 5-6 and then it was on with a 9-2-1 record in 1993. Bill Snyder also groomed future head coaches like Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Bret Bielema, Mark Mangino, Dana Dimel and Phil Bennett. You can tell a great leader by the kind of leaders he produces.