10 Most Intimidating Coaches in College Football
There are many things that go into making a successful college football coach; determination, talent, intelligence, and a strong personality are just some of the ingredients that combine to make a good coach.
But the truly great have something extra. It's not always good enough to simply be smarter than your opponent. Having a higher level of talent doesn't always guarantee victory. Sometimes, intimidation is necessary.
That's something the 10 coaches on this list certainly know how to do. Combining their set of skills with a level of intimidation could very well propel these men onto the list of all-time greats when all is said and done.
In the meantime, they occupy a spot on our list of most intimidating college football coaches.
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At first glance, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder looks like an affable older gentleman. He has the aura of a man who has seen it all, knows it all and likely has stories of it all.
But his often quiet confidence leads to his intimidation. Snyder is simply one of the smartest college football coaches you'll ever meet.
He's an absolute wizard with a football team. There's just something about the way he can squeeze every last drop of effort and talent from his players that makes you believe he can beat you at any time with his football team. What's more, he could probably switch positions with any coach in the nation and proceed to then beat his own team with the other.
A quiet confidence can sometimes be more unnerving than a firebrand style, and Snyder has ice in his veins.
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Among all of the active college football coaches in the FBS with at least five years of experience, no one has a better win percentage than Boise State's Chris Petersen.
His 84-8 record (.913) is unrivaled, and only Georgia's Mark Richt (.747) and Brian Kelly (.743, which includes his time at Division II Grand Valley State University in Michigan) come close.
And it's not as if Boise State isn't winning some big games. In fact, Petersen has beaten Mark Richt head-to-head (2011), and the Broncos have won two BCS bowls, five conference titles, and has finished in the final AP Poll's top 10 four times in his seven seasons of leadership.
Petersen is another coach that doesn't often breathe fire and brimstone, but an 84-8 record has an intimidation factor all its own.
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Just one look at Mark Dantonio during a game will tell you all you need to know about him. He's stern to say the least, and his constant scowl on the sidelines belies an intensity few coaches in the game possess today.
That demeanor cold enough to freeze a man's soul can also be credited with bringing Michigan State back to the forefront of the Big Ten—something that hasn't been seen for two decades. The Spartans won a share of the conference title in 2010 and captured the first Legends Division crown in 2011.
Even the 2012's 7-6 campaign wasn't a total loss. All five of the Spartans' conference losses were by four or fewer points, and the lone non-conference loss was to the eventual BCS National Championship Game participant Notre Dame.
At season's end, MSU was a rare bright spot for the Big Ten, knocking off TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Gone are the days of the “same old Spartans,” and Mark Dantonio is a big reason for the recent success.
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As a head coach, Urban Meyer is 116-23 with four different programs (Bowling Green State, Utah, Florida and Ohio State), and is 4-0 in BCS games including two BCS title wins. But what makes Meyer so intimidating as a head coach is the seemingly effortless way in which he wins.
We know enough to know that this kind of success is anything but effortless, but Meyer's calm, personable demeanor in public and with the press is what sets him apart from so many of his successful contemporaries.
Behind the scenes, Meyer isn't afraid to make the tough choices, and he's far from being a pushover as recent dismissals from the Buckeyes seem to show—perhaps an effort to erase perceived problems of Meyer's past.
There's also that 12-0 finish to 2012 at once dominant Ohio State. That will certainly up Meyer's intimidation factor for 2013.
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Jim Mora hasn't been at UCLA long, but his time leading the Sons of Westwood has been pretty successful thus far. Whether it's thinly-veiled yet denied insults directed at arch nemesis Southern California or a renewed focus on winning the big games and power recruiting, the Bruins suddenly look like they've found their mojo.
Talk is cheap, but Mora has been able to back up his fiery talk with wins on the field—nine of them in 2012 which included a Pac-12 South Division title.
Not only is he knocking heads around on the field, he's doing it in a way that impresses his bosses at UCLA. Mora was given a one-year extension after just one season.
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The fact that Mark Richt was ever on the hot seat to begin with is pretty silly.
After all, with the exception of the aforementioned Chris Petersen of Boise State, no FBS head coach has a better win percentage than Richt. His 12 seasons at Georgia include 118 wins, 40 losses, six East Division titles, two SEC championships, 12 bowl trips, eight bowl wins and a 2-1 record in BCS games.
He's also 67-29 in the cutthroat SEC and has twice been named the conference coach of the year (2002 and 2005).
After yet another SEC East title in 2012 and a 12-2 record that included a Capital One Bowl victory, Richt dumped a bucket of ice water on that hot seat, and is now free to pursue another conference title without distraction from the fanbase.
Don't think for a moment opposing coaches and players don't know Richt's résumé. He's a very successful coach, and looks the part. Calm, confident and collected, you can look across the field hoping to find any sign of cracking only to see a head coach staring at you from behind a pair of dark sunglasses.
That shudder you feel is impending doom at the hands of the Bulldogs.
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We've put Steve Spurrier on this list for a couple of reasons. First, anyone who dares cross the Head Ball Coach does so at his own peril. Spurrier clearly isn't shy about holding a grudge.
Childish as some might see it, it's all part of Spurrier's persona.
The other part, of course, is the animated coach we see on the sidelines at South Carolina. Spurrier can run up and down the sideline, screaming at players, officials and assistant coaches with the best of them. He's not afraid to call it like he sees it, and there's no doubt that he's become the most entertaining coach in college football.
But all of this would be nothing without backing it up with what really counts: wins. Spurrier is 208-77-2 all-time as a college head coach, including a 122-27-1 record at Florida where he won six SEC titles and a national championship.
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Les Miles isn't your typical intimidating coach. He's got a style all his own, and it's crazy enough to have earned him an equally crazy nickname: the Mad Hatter.
In the 18th century, hat makers in England used mercury in the production process for men's hats. Today we know what mercury can do to a human body, but three centuries ago, it was simply assumed that hat-making could make a person go mad. Hence, mad hatters.
While we seriously doubt Miles is certifiably “mad,” we are equally certain that his coaching style is unique in college football today. Irrespective of the score, the opponent, the time remaining, when or where the game is being played, Les Miles is willing to roll the dice just to gain a few extra yards to a first down he thinks he badly needs—or just wants.
From fake, pitch over the back field goals to double reverses, Miles has engineered one of the most diverse trick playbooks in the nation.
With an 84-21 record at LSU which includes a pair of SEC titles and a national championship, Miles is more than crazy. He's crazy good. Preparing to face a Miles-coached LSU team can be such a daunting task, opposing coaches might be the ones who end up going mad.
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When Brian Kelly took his first job as a college football head coach, it was clear that there was something different about him. In 13 seasons at Division II Grand Valley State in Michigan, Kelly never had a losing season, won five conference championships, two national titles and posted a record of 118-35-2.
When he took over at Central Michigan in 2004, Kelly had his first—and to date, only—losing season with a 4-7 mark. But two seasons later, CMU was on top of the MAC, winning its first conference title since 1994.
He then traveled to Cincinnati where he went 34-6, leading the Bearcats to back-to-back BCS trips as Big East champions.
And just when everyone thought his tenure at Notre Dame would be less than spectacular, he resurrected pride in a program decimated over the previous decade by a succession of coaching failures.
Kelly is now 199-67-2 all-time, but besides his success, his attitude towards each game is what can intimidate anyone within 100 yards.
His frequent and wild outbursts on the sidelines at first raised questions. Was Kelly a little too Irish for the Irish? Was that famous temper getting the best of him? Could Notre Dame be a success with a guy stomping up and down the sidelines with a beet-red face?
After a 12-1 finish to 2012, we have those answers.
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We finally come to the top spot on our list, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that Alabama's Nick Saban shows up as the most intimidating coach in college football today.
Saban is a force of nature. Brian Kelly isn't the only guy with a fiery temper, and Saban can scream with the best of them. But it's not Saban's on-field or in-game antics that land him on this list.
We may very well be in the midst of witnessing the greatest college football coaching performance in history. Saban not only wins games, he wins all of the important, big games, too. In six seasons at Alabama, Saban is 63-13 with three SEC West titles, three conference titles and three national titles.
But it's not just Alabama. Saban was 48-16 at LSU in five seasons with three SEC West championships, two SEC championships, and a national championship.
Even at then-lowly Michigan State he was 34-24-1 before turning Michigan State into a 10-2 team in 1999 that beat Florida in the 2000 Citrus Bowl and finished in the top 10 nationally.
Long after Nick Saban has retired, he'll be mentioned right along side names like Bryant, Royal, Paterno, Schembechler, Hayes and Bowden. But Saban isn't done yet.
He's a legend in his own time, and every opponent that takes the field against Alabama knows it. With so much success in the past, and surely more to come in the future, we can't blame adversaries for being a little overwhelmed by Saban's mere presence on the other side of the field.
And as long as he keeps winning, he'll keep his spot atop any list of intimidating college football coaches.