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College Football: Power Ranking Every BCS Championship Game Head Coach Ever

David LutherFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2012

College Football: Power Ranking Every BCS Championship Game Head Coach Ever

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    The ultimate goal in college football is the BCS Championship.

    There have been 14 BCS Championships Games since the system was introduced for the 1998 season, and each team making it that far is certainly worthy of praise for such success.

    Along those lines, the head coaches who, in many cases, built a program to a point where it could compete for a national title also deserve great praise.

    But where do those coaches rank among their contemporaries—the other coaches to guide their programs all the way to the BCS Championship Game?

    Here, we'll rank the coaches of the teams that have played in the year's final game—the BCS National Championship Game.

Listing the Coaches

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    First, we need to take a look at the coaches we'll be ranking.

    Phillip Fulmer—Tennessee, 1998 (W)

    Bobby Bowden—Florida State, 1998 (L), 1999 (W), 2000 (L)

    Frank Beamer—Virginia Tech, 1999 (L)

    Bob Stoops—Oklahoma, 2000 (W), 2003 (L), 2004 (L), 2008 (L)

    Larry Coker—Miami (FL), 2001 (W), 2002 (L)

    Frank Solich—Nebraska, 2001 (L)

    Jim Tressel—Ohio State, 2002 (W), 2006 (L), 2007 (L)

    Nick Saban—LSU, 2003 (W); Alabama, 2009 (W), 2011 (W)

    Mack Brown—Texas, 2005 (W), 2009 (L)

    Urban Meyer—Florida, 2006 (W), 2008 (W)

    Les Miles—LSU, 2007 (W), 2011 (L)

    Gene Chizik—Auburn, 2010 (W)

    Chip Kelly—Oregon, 2010 (L)

    And, no, we're not forgetting Pete Carroll. Both of USC's appearances in the BCS National Championship Game under Carroll (2004 and 2005) were vacated. Since USC vacated the appearances, we're vacating Carroll's chances to be ranked.

No. 13 Frank Solich, Nebraska; 2001

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    We get our list underway with Nebraska's Frank Solich.

    While it's easy to look at the list and think Solich is the “worst” of the bunch, keep in mind that there are only 13 coaches on the list—out of the hundreds that have coached during the BCS era and not earned a berth in the title game.

    So the worst of this bunch isn't all that bad.

    But Solich has a few strikes against him. First, Nebraska wasn't even a conference champion in 2001—the first non-champion to reach the BCS title game.

    Nebraska finished in a tie atop the Big 12's North Division in 2001, and Colorado earned a berth in the Big 12 title game with a win over the Cornhuskers in the final week of the regular season.

    With Colorado's loss in the Big 12 Championship Game to Texas, and a few other timely losses by top ranked teams in conference title games, Nebraska backed its way into the 2002 Rose Bowl, which served as the championship game that season.

    The Miami Hurricanes defeated the Cornhuskers, 37-14, and Frank Solich was out at Nebraska after the 2003 season, despite a 58-19 record over six seasons.

No. 12 Chip Kelly, Oregon; 2010

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    It's probably way too early to write down Chip Kelly's all-time ranking in ink.

    Kelly's Ducks are still going strong in the Pac-12, and if the previous few years have been any indication, we'll likely see Kelly and the Ducks in the title game again before too long.

    But as it currently stands, Kelly is just three years into his head coaching career.

    While all three seasons have ended in conference titles and BCS berths, Kelly is just 1-2 in those games, including an 0-1 mark in the title game (2010).

    As the years progress, and the field is littered with more and more Kelly recruits, we'll see exactly what kind of coach he will be. But for right now, he's a one-time participant with an 0-1 record in the big game, and the argument can be made that he didn't recruit many of the players responsible for getting the Ducks to the title game in 2010.

No. 11 Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech; 1999

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    There really isn't anyone left who doubts Frank Beamer's coaching credentials.

    Having coached at Virginia Tech for a quarter century after six seasons at FCS Murray State, Beamer has amassed 209 victories for the Hokies, and seven conference titles (three in the Big East and four in the ACC).

    Despite his longevity and success at Va Tech, Beamer has just one appearance in the title game—the 2000 Sugar Bowl. And the Hokies were pretty well crushed by Florida State, 46-29.

    Realistically, it's his year after year success over 25 seasons at Virginia Tech that's buying Beamer enough points to come in at No. 11—the top-ranked 0-1 coach on our list.

No. 10 Gene Chizik, Auburn; 2010

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    Auburn fans are probably going to go a little bonkers when they read this, but Chizik is bringing up the rear of the 1-0 one-hit wonders simply because of the fact that Chizik likely had as little to do with his team's championship as a head coach possibly can.

    First, Auburn hires a guy with just two years of head coaching experience and a 5-19 overall record. Okay, fine.

    That coach proceeds to go 8-5 in his first year, which is good enough for a mediocre-at-best 4th-place finish in the SEC-West in 2009 while barely squeaking by a questionable Northwestern Wildcats team in the Outback Bowl.

    Then, magically, one of the most dominant players in college football comes along, torches the competition, wins the Heisman by a landslide, and carries his team to a national championship.

    After said player leaves, Chizik and the Auburn Tigers return to the 8-5, 4th-place doldrums.

    And we're expected to believe that Chizik was the reason the Tigers won a BCS title?

    No dice.

    No matter how you slice it, without Cam Newton, Gene Chizik is a coach with a 21-29 record and without any kind of hardware whatsoever.

No. 9 Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee; 1998

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    Remember the days when Tennessee didn't absolutely suck?

    Yes, there was a time in the late 1990s when Tennessee was one of the top teams in the SEC every season, and the Volunteers were turning into quite the powerhouse program.

    What happened?

    While Phillip Fulmer managed to guide the Vols to a victory in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl (the championship game for the 1998 season), things fell apart rather quickly afterward.

    Tennessee managed to make a return trip to the BCS after the 1999 season, but only finished 9-3, and never again won a conference title under Fulmer.

    Fulmer was finally dismissed in 2008, when the Vols finished 5-7, missing a bowl game for the second time in four seasons.

    Fulmer won 100 more games than he lost (152-52) at Tennessee, but the 1998 BCS Championship remains his lone claim to national acclaim as a head coach.

No. 8 Larry Coker, Miami (FL); 2001, 2002

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    We've finally reached the point on the list where coaches with multiple appearances reside.

    It's also worth noting that there isn't a single coach in the history of the BCS-era that has guided his team to multiple title games without winning at least once.

    The No. 8 coach on our power rankings is Miami's Larry Coker.

    Coker ranks at the very bottom of our grouping of two-timers mainly because Coker's success came without much in the way of contribution from his own recruits. In fact, Coker's two title games happened in his first two seasons at Miami.

    Coker also had what many believed was an easier path to an undefeated season in the Big East (Miami moved to the ACC in 2004). Miami's championship also came after an 11-game regular season with no conference title game—meaning Miami's 12 wins matches the lowest total of an undefeated national champion in the BCS era.

    Still, an undefeated season is impressive whether you're coaching a junior high rocket football team or the Green Bay Packers.

    Add in the fact that Coker's Hurricanes were a yard shy of sending the following year's title game to a third overtime, and it's easy enough to make the case for Coker's ranking at No. 8.

    By the way, all you Coker fans out there will be pleased to see him back in the coaching game.  Coker is the head coach for brand-new FBS program Texas-San Antonio.  The UTSA Roadrunners begin FBS play this fall.

No. 7 Mack Brown, Texas; 2005, 2009

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    There was a time not all that long ago when the prospect of Texas winning conference titles and even national titles didn't elicit snickers and giggles.

    Yes, the Longhorns have had a difficult couple of season's since Colt McCoy was knocked out of the 2009 BCS title game, but that doesn't diminish the accomplishments of Texas under Mack Brown.

    Mack Brown is 141-39 as the head coach at Texas, but the biggest win of his career came during the 2006 Rose Bowl, where Texas defeated USC to claim its first—and to date, only—BCS National Championship.

    But Mack Brown's 1-1 record in the title game isn't enough for him to rank any higher than No. 7 in our power rankings mainly because the Longhorns haven't had much championship-caliber success under Brown.

    After taking over in 1998, Texas has won just two Big 12 titles. Brown apologists will argue that the Big 12 is a difficult conference to win, but Bob Stoops at Oklahoma has won seven over that span.

    If Mack Brown ever wants to truly be considered an all-time great, he'll need to do something about all of that extra space in the Texas trophy case.

No. 6 Les Miles, LSU; 2007, 2011

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    After spending four years building a strong foundation at Oklahoma State, Les Miles was given the career upgrade of all upgrades by taking over for the departing Nick Saban at LSU in 2005.

    The Tigers continued their success under Miles, finishing 11-2 in 2005 while winning the SEC-West title and the Chick-fil-A Bowl over Miami (FL), 40-3.

    The next season was another 11-2 finish with a Sugar Bowl invite, routing Notre Dame, 41-14.

    Not losing an ounce of momentum, Les Miles and the Tigers finished the 2007 season with yet another 11-2 record, but this time, the Tigers won the ensuing SEC Championship Game before beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game.

    Not only did Miles bring LSU its second BCS title (the first team ever to win multiple crowns), but he became the first and only coach to win a national title with more than one loss during the season.

    Miles came up just short of another impressive finish this past season, with his Tigers running out of steam and getting trounced by SEC rival Alabama in the championship game.

    Still, Miles is 75-18 at LSU with two SEC championships and a national championship, not to mention a 5-2 bowl record and 2-1 record in all BCS games.

No. 5 Jim Tressel, Ohio State; 2002, 2006, 2007

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    It's really difficult to rank a coach like Jim Tressel.

    Like Pete Carroll, Tressel left his job in disgrace. Unlike Carroll, Tressel didn't have to vacate any of his appearances in the BCS National Championship Game or return any crystal football trophies.

    Jim Tressel's ranking is also hampered by his 1-2 record, and lingering questions about being able to win the really big games against the nation's toughest competition.

    But if you take away all of the noise surrounding Tressel's ignominious departure from Columbus, you're left with a coach who guided Ohio State to six Big Ten titles (2002, 2005-2009 with 2010's title vacated) a 94-22 record (taking into account the 12 vacated victories from 2010), a 4-3 record in all BCS bowls (again taking into account the vacated 2011 Sugar Bowl appearance), and a national championship.

    But Tressel doesn't climb any higher than No. 5 in our rankings because of his 0-3 run in all BCS games from the 2006 season to the 2008 season, which included back-to-back losses in the BCS National Championship Game.

No. 4 Urban Meyer, Florida; 2006, 2008

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    Leapfrogging Jim Tressel (who had three title game appearances) in our power rankings is the man who ultimately replaced him at Ohio State: Urban Meyer.

    Lost in the list of Meyer's lofty accomplishments is the fact that he's the original BCS-buster. His Utah Utes in 2004 became the first non-automatic qualifying program to earn a place in the BCS. Before anyone paid much attention to the likes of Boise State or TCU, Utah was running the table in the Mountain West, posting a 12-0 record, and knocking off Big East co-champions Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl with ease, 35-7.

    After just two seasons and a 22-2 record, Meyer was hired at Florida to guide the Gators to an unprecedented run of success.

    In just his first five seasons in Gainesville, Meyer had amassed 57 wins to just 10 losses, which included three SEC-East titles, two SEC championships, a 3-0 record in all BCS bowls, and two BCS National Championships.

    The stress of recruiting—and actually utilizing all of your own recruits on the field—must have finally gotten to Meyer, as the Gators struggled to a 8-5 mark in 2010 before Meyer resigned.

    Meyer wanted to leave the game of football, supposedly to spend more time with his family.

    But it's a little hard to spend time with your family when you're on the road every week doing commentary for ESPN. Makes you wonder...

    Still, Meyer is 2-0 in the big game, and his coaching record is, as yet, unimpeachable. That's more than good enough for the No. 4 spot on our power rankings list.

No. 3 Bobby Bowden, Florida State; 1998, 1999, 2000

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    From the moment Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminoles entered the ACC in 1992, they were a force with which no one could cope.

    Bowden led the Seminoles to at least a share of nine consecutive conference championships from 1992 to 2000.

    Over that same span, Bowden guided the 'Noles to a 2000 Sugar Bowl title and the BCS National Championship that went along with it.

    And although it doesn't figure into the history of the BCS, Bowden also won an undisputed national championship in 1993—the only coach on our list to have a pre-BCS-era national title to his credit.

    Bowden may have the taint of vacated victories on his record, but whether you consider Bowden to have 389 all-time victories or 377, the fact remains that he is one of the all-time greats. Only his 1-2 mark in the BCS National Championship Game keeps him from finding himself in one of the top two spots.

No. 2 Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008

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    It's hard to argue against Bob Stoops' success at Oklahoma.

    Just by the numbers, it's an eye-popping résumé; 139 victories to just 34 losses, 13 bowl appearances in 13 seasons, eight BCS appearances (more than any other team in the nation), seven bowl victories, seven Big 12 championships, four BCS championship game appearances (more than any other team in the nation), and the BCS National Championship for the 2000 season.

    That's more than most coaches achieve in an entire career, and Stoops has done it in 13 years.

    But even with Oklahoma's most recent win in any BCS game—the 2011 Fiesta Bowl—there is still a lingering question about a BCS curse of sorts surrounding the Sooners.

    Oklahoma was 0-5 in BCS games from the 2003 Rose Bowl through the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. And the 2011 Fiesta Bowl victory was against a clearly over-matched and (to some) undeserving Connecticut team from the lowly Big East.

    But even with all of the questions surrounding Oklahoma's true ability to win BCS games still hanging over Norman like a cloud of locusts, Bob Stoops is still the only coach to guide his team to four appearances in the BCS National Championship Game. That's sufficient to get him a solid No. 2 ranking on our list.

No. 1 Nick Saban, LSU; 2003 and Alabama; 2009, 2011

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    There's really no other way to put this: when it comes to success in guiding teams to the BCS National Championship Game, Nick Saban is currently in a class all his own.

    Not only is Saban the only coach with three championship rings, he's the only coach with title game victories with two different programs.

    Heck, he's the only coach even to appear in the title game with two different programs.

    So, not only is he batting 1.000 in the championship, it apparently doesn't even matter which team he's coaching.

    That puts Nick Saban at the very top of our BCS Championship Game coaching power rankings.

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