Power Ranking the 10 Best Coaches in the BCS Era
Since 2013 marks the final season of the BCS format as we know it, why not look back over the last 15 years and see which coaches grappled the best with the scheme that cranked up back in 1998?
Though our ongoing relationship with the BCS arrangement ultimately makes it difficult to completely gauge how it has impacted college football, it’s pretty safe to say that the influence is enormous.
To illustrate, think back to what it took to win a national championship prior to 1998 and then consider what programs have to do now that the BCS is the sheriff in our college football town.
Furthermore, the way we measure successful seasons has also changed due to the BCS. We now live in a world where there are merely 10 teams out of a field of 125 that garner a BCS bowl bid and reach the pinnacle of a “successful” campaign.
The following slideshow looks back over the 15 years of the BCS scheme and power ranks the coaches who have been the most accomplished in the era that has undoubtedly changed the face of college football.
The rankings themselves are based on a very objective set of criteria since 1998 including: conference crowns, national titles, winning percentage, BCS bowl bids and then success ratio in the BCS-driven “postseason.”
It’s key to remember that what a coach did before the BCS era has no bearing on these rankings, regardless of how good or bad that performance was.
10. Frank Beamer
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Even though Frank Beamer has been the head coach at Virginia Tech since 1987, his biggest run of success has been since 2004 when the Hokies made the move from the Big East to the ACC.
In fact, Beamer has only had one sub-10-win season since 2004; a drop in production that came just this past season when the Hokies finished 7-6.
Overall, Beamer edges his way into our top 10 with a resume since 1998 which includes five ACC crowns, six BCS bowl bids and a winning percentage over the 80 mark.
What hurts Beamer from moving further up the rankings is his lack of a national title and the fact that he and the Hokies are a dismal 1-5 in BCS play.
9. Bobby Bowden
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Though many folks might to expect to see Florida State’s longtime coach Bobby Bowden further up in the rankings, his 1-5 record in BCS play combined with a drop off in production late in his career hindered a higher finish.
On the plus side, Bowden captured six conference crowns and six BCS bowl invitations during the BCS era.
On the minus side, Bowden, who managed 14 consecutive double-digit win seasons from 1987-2000, had the bulk of his success before and early in the BCS era as opposed to smack dab in the middle of it.
This timing issue is clarified by pointing out that one of Bowden’s two total national titles fell outside of the BCS era (1993) and much of his hugely successful run was over by 1998.
Either way, Bowden and the ‘Noles were a powerful fixture in the formative years of the BCS scheme.
8. Larry Coker
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Perhaps a bit of a surprise at No. 8, Larry Coker did well enough at Miami (Fla.) from 2001 to 2006 to make our rankings.
Coker lost only 15 total games in six seasons at Miami, a run that spawned three Big East titles, a national championship and a 2-1 record in BCS play.
What’s a bit disconcerting about Coker’s record is that his glory came during his first three seasons (2001-03), when he went 35-3, as opposed to his final three campaigns (2004-06) when he went 25-12.
Though many would argue that Coker doesn’t belong on this list, his quick run of success and most of all his national title and three conference championships make it hard to say that he isn’t at least a strong No. 9 or No. 10.
Coker is currently the head man at the start-up FBS program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
7. Chris Petersen
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As questionable as Larry Coker might seem, Boise State’s Chris Petersen will no doubt be more controversial.
Yes, Petersen has never even coached a team in a BCS conference, and yes, he’s never won a national title. But beyond those two very real facts, his qualifications are very difficult to ignore.
Petersen took over as the head guy at Boise State in 2006. Since that time, he’s pumped out five league titles and has an overall record of 84-8.
Probably the most impressive part of Petersen’s body of work is that he’s taken what was virtually an unknown program, in a faraway, non-media attractive state and managed to garner two BCS bids in a very inhospitable climate.
Beyond that very huge achievement is the even more stunning fact that Petersen is a perfect 2-0 in BCS play.
When you keep in mind the disadvantage the Broncos live with from a recruiting standpoint and the inherently elitist nature of the BCS scheme, this is absolutely a dazzling accomplishment.
6. Mack Brown
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Though Mack Brown has also made head coaching stops at Tulane and North Carolina, his entire BCS era coaching experience has come at Texas.
Brown is an impressive 150-43 since 1998, has a national championship and is 3-1 in BCS play.
What really keeps Brown from rising higher in our rankings is the fact that he’s only led the Longhorns to two total Big 12 crowns since he took over the reins in Austin.
When you paint this relatively huge deficiency against the rest of his sparkling record at Texas, it is almost unbelievable.
Seriously, ask someone you know who follows the game, “How many Big 12 titles has Mack Brown won at Texas?” and I can almost guarantee you that the individual in question will guess more than two.
That is unless he’s a Longhorn fan, and then he already knows.
5. Bob Stoops
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Even though some Texas fans might snub their noses at Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops at No. 5 in our rankings versus Mack Brown at No. 6, the numbers simply don’t lie.
Stoops has been at Oklahoma one season less than Brown has been at Texas. In that time, he’s got a boatload more conference crowns and BCS appearances.
In fact, Stoops has won four times more Big 12 titles than Brown, and with eight total BCS-era league championships he’s got more than any other guy on our list.
Other highlights of Bob Stoops’ run through the BCS years include one national title, eight BCS bowl appearances and a 149-37 record.
What keeps Stoops from breaking into the top four is the fact that he and the Sooners are 3-5 in BCS play.
4. Jim Tressel
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Even though the Jim Tressel era at Ohio State is solidly a part of the college football past, his successful run from 2001 to 2010 earns him the right to be called one of the four best coaches in the BCS era.
Tressel led the Buckeyes to six Big Ten crowns during his tenure, captured a national title and made the BCS festivities eight times.
Add in a 5-3 record in BCS play and an overall winning percentage over the 80 mark and you realize how big of a job Urban Meyer will have to outpace Tressel at Ohio State.
So, what keeps Tressel from the top three?
Well, with only a single national title in the BCS era, it’s tough to compete with two guys who tout two championship rings and the guy who has four crystal footballs.
3. Urban Meyer
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In at No. 3 is Urban Meyer, who has built his BCS resume via stops at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now Ohio State.
Though it’s safe to say that the bulk of Meyer’s success, at least thus far, comes from his run at Florida, don’t forget about his two Mountain West titles and one BCS win at Utah from 2003 to 2004.
Overall, Meyer has earned four league crowns, two national championships and is a perfect 4-0 in BCS play.
What may be even more impressive is that Meyer’s BCS era winning percentage, 83 percent, is higher than any other guy on our list with the exception of Boise State’s Chris Petersen.
And remember that Meyer got the bulk of this done in the SEC.
2. Nick Saban
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Though many folks will expect to see current Alabama head man Nick Saban at No. 1, when you stack his 15 years since the BCS took over with everyone else’s, he finishes at a very strong No. 2.
The thing that makes Saban difficult to rank is obviously his four national titles in the BCS era, an achievement that nobody can touch.
But despite the fact that he owns four league crowns and is 5-1 in BCS play, Saban has had some years during the BCS era that just aren’t as shiny as others at the top of our list.
To illustrate, Saban opened up his BCS years with a 15-8 run at Michigan State. He also has suffered through single-digit-win seasons at LSU (three times) and Alabama (once).
Overall, Saban carries a BCS era winning percentage which is below the 80 mark, putting him more in line with Mack Brown than Meyer, Stoops and Tressel.
The other thing that hurts Saban a bit in this competition is that one of his five conference championships (the 1990 MAC crown at Toledo) came outside of the BCS era.
1. Pete Carroll
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The most successful coach in the BCS era, at least until an active college guy catches him, is Pete Carroll, who ripped it up at USC from 2001 to 2009.
Carroll won the Pac-12 seven times during his tenure, captured two national titles, was 6-1 in BCS play and touts an 81 percent winning mark.
Though Carroll, who is currently stationed at the NFL Seattle Seahawks, obviously isn’t even active at the college level, his overall body of work at USC can’t currently be beat.
Yes, Saban has four national titles versus Carroll’s two, but Carroll has more conference championships and more BCS wins in a shorter time frame.
But, regardless of all the factual evidence, you’ve got to figure that Saban is on pace to catch Carroll, smoke him and be at the top of this list in short order.