Two Sure Things
With the College Football Hall of Fame on its way to Atlanta in the near future, let's take a quick look at several likely coaching candidates who are still on the sidelines at the Division I-A level.
(All records and statistics are compiled from all levels of college head coaching within the coach's career.)
Passing the Torch in the ACC
With the recent somber departure of legends Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, the new Dean of College Football becomes Coach Frank Beamer. This man has lived the dream. From a notable career as head of 1-AA Murray State, Beamer got the opportunity to take the helm at his alma mater.
Frank Beamer has led his school from irrelevant independent to perennial contender on the national stage, and has done it with solid defense and the best special teams in the nation year in and year out. He may very well be the greatest coach of all without a national title at any level (lost the 1999 BCS title game to FSU).
The facts: national titles—0, conference titles—8, bowl record—8-10, major/BCS bowl appearances—8, FCS playoff record (0-1), Coach of the Year awards—13 (8 national, 5 conference).
Three of a Kind
Is there really any need for me to write anything in support of the numbers? With a win over his former team, LSU, Saban became the first coach in the BCS era to pick up three crystal footballs. There have only been 14 BCS title games, which means Nick Saban owns over 20 percent of all BCS titles on his own, more than any one program.
Also, note that Saban tried his hand at the NFL for two years, taking away probably successful stats from his college career. With Frank Beamer yet to own a title, Nick Saban may very well become the greatest coach of the current active pool, especially considering he is far from finished.
The facts: national titles—3, conference titles—4, bowl record—(6-6), major/BCS bowl appearances—5, Coach of the Year Awards—12 (9 national, 3 conference).
"Strong" Case for Meyer
Ohio State’s newest coach is a winner. He wins everywhere he goes and turns programs around quickly. Coach Urban Meyer can recruit, coach up talent once he gets it, and beat rivals (and everyone else for that matter), while making it seem easy.
Meyer did well in the MAC, dominated the Mountain West in his two seasons there, and then did the impossible. Urban Meyer showed up on the SEC’s doorstep and kicked down the door. He won and won until he decided to walk away after quickly building the Florida Gators into one of the premier programs in college football.
It only took a year to realize that he belonged back at the helm, and Urban Meyer will return as the head of his favorite childhood team, the Ohio State Buckeyes. He’s already a Hall of Famer. All that’s left is a retirement and a vote.
The facts: national titles—2, conference titles—4, bowl record—7-1, major/BCS bowl appearances—4, Coach of the Year awards—10 (7 national, 3 conference), Coach of the Decade awards 2000s—2.
The "Old Ball Coach" Pleads His Case
The “Old Ball Coach” is legendary enough to come up in a Google search with just a general nickname. This isn’t by accident. Before Nick Saban came on the scene Steve Spurrier was, perhaps, the best thing going in the SEC. Like Saban shortly after him, Spurrier also lost two valuable years of stats from his college coaching career in the NFL.
Still, he has incredible numbers and is not yet finished. Spurrier is an offensive innovator, former Heisman Trophy winner, and one of the most entertaining characters in college sports. This man won a conference title at Duke. Chew on that for a minute or two.
The facts: national titles—1, conference titles—7, bowl record 8-10, major/BCS bowl appearances—8, Coach of the Year awards—9 (0 national, 9 conference).
Bull by the Horns
Though his teams have struggled (relatively speaking) of late, there is no mistaking the career of Mack Brown is a Hall of Fame worthy one. He was the last consistent winner at North Carolina and took Tulane to a bowl, which alone are both worthy feats.
Brown led his 2005 Texas Longhorns to the national title game. Against a terribly good USC squad, they did the unthinkable, winning in dramatic fashion. There is a reason Mack Brown is perennially one of the highest paid coaches in college sports.
The Facts: national titles—1, conference titles—2, bowl record (12-7), major/BCS bowl appearances—4, Coach of the Year awards—4 (2 national, 2 conference).
Big Game Bob
Bob Stoops is a proven winner. He has struggled in big games, but you can’t struggle if you aren’t there. Bob Stoops has had his Sooners in the national title hunt for nearly his entire career at Oklahoma. His first head coaching job will likely be his last (in a good way). His so-called "struggles" have been a reality only in comparison to his own success.
With 10 seasons with at least 10 wins and eight top-10 finishes, Stoops can go ahead and count on a trip to Atlanta for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in his future. Even with all the heat, “Big Game Bob” is a legend.
The facts: national titles—1, conference titles—7, bowl record—7-6, major/BCS bowl appearances—8, Coach of the Year awards—5 (5 national, 0 conference).
Another coach without a national title under his belt who has all but solidified his candidacy as a future Hall of Fame coach is Georgia’s Mark Richt. Though he had a huge part in Bobby Bowden’s championship seasons at FSU, Richt has remained frustratingly close to a shot at a title of his own.
What he has done is win. Richt has finished with 10 wins or more seven times and has finished in the top five in both polls twice. Perhaps the one factor that has bought him time to continue at Georgia without a crystal football is the fact that he has only lost to Georgia Tech once in his time there. This stat isn’t everything, but it certainly is a lot.
A solid recruiter, talent has never been an issue at Georgia under Mark Richt, but there have been a few busts in those classes, as well as a few surprises off the radar. At 51, Richt still has time to reach the top, but how much more does he have left at Georgia? With an SEC title game appearance this past season, his rope just got a tad longer.
The facts: national titles—0, conference titles—2, bowl record—(7-3), major/BCS bowl appearances—3, Coach of the Year awards—2 (0 national, 2 conference).
Two factors put wild card Chris Petersen on this list. One is win percentage and the other is age. As a head coach, all at the FBS level, Petersen has only lost six games and is only 47 years of age. Some will contend that Petersen and his Broncos haven’t played a level of competition every week necessary for such praise.
I contend that they not only dominate the game within their own conference(s) with the same level of advantage as the other teams, but they also kill giants on a consistent basis. Oklahoma, TCU, Virginia Tech and Georgia have all fell victim to the David of college football.
Ask these coaches about Boise State and they will surely tell you of the level of play under Chris Petersen.
He still has many, many games left to win. The WAC was a breeze, the Mountain West didn’t offer much more of a challenge, so now we just have to wait and see how the Broncos and their coach fare in their new home the Big East.
The facts: national titles—0, conference titles—4, major/BCS bowl appearances—2, Coach of the Year awards—5 (3 national, 2 conference).
This is one coach who still has much to prove at the FBS level with his mastery of the option, but has already accomplished a great deal. Even without an FBS career, Paul Johnson had already solidified himself as a legitimate Hall of Fame contender with his work at Georgia Southern. Johnson won the Southern Conference title in each of his five years in Statesboro.
He played for the national title three times, winning it two years in a row. The other two years included a quarterfinal loss and a semifinal loss. At Navy, Johnson qualified the Midshipmen for five bowls and beat Notre Dame for the first time in 44 years, and did it on the road.
He is 11-1 in the Commander In Chief's trophy competition with his only loss coming at the hand of Air Force in his first season in which his team went 2-10. Johnson showed up in the BCS in 2008 with Georgia Tech and beat Bobby Bowden and Mark Richt in his first season going 8-5, then won the ACC Title the very next season.
With only two losing seasons in his entire 14-year career, Paul Johnson, 54, still has a few good years left in the BCS to make a run at a FBS title and prove his offense is a legitimate contender at any level.
The facts: national titles—2, conference titles—6, bowl record—2-6, FCS playoff record—14-3, major/BCS bowl appearances—1, Coach of the Year awards—5 (3 national, 2 conference).
This one may seem like a long shot to some, but the numbers don’t lie. I couldn’t put Chris Petersen on this list without Gary Patterson, after a look at his record. Patterson’s TCU squads have dominated the Mountain West Conference, and during an era when some would argue it held better competition than the Big East.
That landscape has changed, and TCU will be soon in their rightful home, the Big 12. TCU has top-tier facilities, talented players and a motivated fan base. This is almost all due to the hard work and dedication of Gary Patterson. Eight seasons of double-digit wins, a Rose Bowl victory and only one losing record in eleven years. At age 51 and with a new conference to begin the 2012 season, I’d look for many more successful years out of Gary Patterson.
The facts: national titles—0, conference titles—5, bowl record—7-4, major/BCS bowl appearances—2, Coach of the Year awards—12 (9 national, 3 conference).
Outside the loop
Obvious HOF candidates no longer coaching FBS:
Lloyd Carr (122-40)
Dennis Erickson (200-97-1)
Jim Tressel (229-79-2)
Pete Carroll (It’s Complicated)
Phillip Fulmer (152-52)
Howard Schnellenberger (158-152-3)
Larry Coker (64-21)