College Football Coaches Rankings: Big East and Big 12 Edition

Daniel MayCorrespondent IJune 4, 2009

21 Sep 1996:  Head coach Mack Brown of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on from the sideline as he watchs a play during the Tar Heels 16-0 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Mandatory Credit: D

Coaches Rankings—Big East and Big 12 Edition

These rankings are a combination of several factors, including longevity, coaching skills (recruiting, player development, game planning), and impact on winning.  For a full explanation of the data that was used for these rankings, see “Behind the Rankings” at the end of these lists.

Because change in winning percentage, as well as experience as a head coach, counts in these ratings, many times, new coaches will “sink to the bottom” as there is no data to use for evaluation purposes.

The Big East

This season, the only major coaching change in the Big East occurred at Syracuse.  The Big East has a number of quality head men.  Many of the coaches in the conference are well-established, including Greg Schiano, Randy Edsall, and Jim Leavitt, who have become synonymous with their programs. 

In the case of Leavitt, he is the only head coach to work at South Florida. 

1.  Brian Kelly, Cincinnati.  In just two short seasons on the job, Kelly has skyrocketed to the top of the Big East list.  In addition to being winning a MAC title at Central Michigan, Kelly led the Bearcats to last year’s Orange Bowl as Big East champs.  His back-to-back 10+ win seasons are the first in school history, dating to 1888. 

2.  Greg Schiano, Rutgers.  Give the Rutgers administration some credit; they gave Schiano time to build this program.  His first two seasons ended with a 3-20 mark, but his team began to show improvement, and now the rebuilding job is complete. 

Rutgers has not been this successful since a brief period in the mid-to-late 1970s.  Also, in the eight years prior to Schiano, Rutgers’ winning percentage was .278 (24-63-1).  During his last six seasons, this has more than doubled to .581 (43-31).

3T.  Randy Edsall, Connecticut.  Edsall has guided Connecticut from an upstart I-AA school, to a team that has won a share of the Big East title. 

Under his guidance, the Huskies have won at least eight games four times in the last six seasons, to go along with three bowl games during this period.  His teams are often short on talent, but always play hard and are well-disciplined.

3T.  Jim Leavitt, South Florida.  As the only coach that the Bulls have known, Leavitt has presided over one of the most remarkable stories of recent college memory.  South Florida began playing football in 1997, and has since climbed in national respectability.  Leavitt has won 87 games in his time there.  Not bad for a local St. Pete kid.

5.  Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh.  With Wannstedt on the sideline, one thing is the norm—inconsistency.  Pittsburgh is talented enough to win big games (see 2007 West Virginia), but also make mistakes in coaching and execution that allow them to lose as big favorites (see 2008 Bowling Green). 

The Panthers have given “Wannstache” an extension, but the feeling is the program needs to elevate its game to achieve the goal of a conference championship.

6.  Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville.  The Cards boss is on a hot seat.  Louisville, just three seasons ago, was emerging as “the next mega power.”  Kragthorpe, however, due to injuries, coaching, and transfers, has lost much of that momentum, and Louisville has faded to obscurity. 

It is hard to believe that this is the same coach that laid the foundation for success at Tulsa (17-9 in final two seasons with a conference title).

7.  Bill Stewart, West Virginia.  Of course, there were some rookie coaching mistakes, but a hundred teams would have liked to trade with the ‘eers last season—a final record of 9-4 and No. 23 ranking in the AP poll.  Still, there was a sense of disappointment in the program.

There is talent returning to Morgantown this season, and a duplicate of last year will move him up this list. 

8.  Doug Marrone, Syracuse.  A former Orange offensive lineman, Marrone remembers the good times of Dick MacPherson and Paul Pasqualoni.  He has a long way to go to restore the program to the levels of the 1980s and 1990s. 

If, however, he can deliver an offense remotely like the one he coordinated for the Saints, then this team might be the surprise of the conference.  Unfortunately, there is no Brees, McCallister, Bush, or Colston on this roster.

The Big 12

In terms of coaching, the Big 12 should be renamed the Big Two plus 10.  There’s Brown and Stoops and everyone else.  Nothing against Mangino, Pinkel, or Leach, but those two have been coaching at a level higher than almost everyone else for the entire decade. 

With the addition of Briles and Pelini recently, and the return of Bill Snyder, the Big 12 has a very strong lineup of coaches.

1.  Mack Brown, Texas.  This could easily be Stoops, but Brown has just as many national titles as Stoops, and he has done it with the best winning percentage of any BCS team in the 2000s (97-18 for .843).  Further, Brown proved he could build a program back with North Carolina (going 45-15 in his final five seasons there).   

2.  Bob Stoops, Oklahoma.  Stoops is the reason that many coaches have less than three years to win.  He took over Oklahoma in 1999, and won the national title in 2000.  He is 6-4 head-to-head against Brown.  Stoops has finished with five Top-Five rankings.  His team also has the most wins of this decade (102).

3.  Gary Pinkel, Missouri.  The Tigers had one 10-win season in their history (1960) until Pinkel performed the feat consecutively in 2007 and 2008.  He led Missouri to their first ever Big 12 championship game and he has won three of his last four bowl appearances.

Further, throughout the 1990s he established Toledo as a perennial MAC power (and thereby earning the third slot by a slight nod over Mike Leach).

4.  Mike Leach, Texas Tech.  Imagine what Leach’s system could do at an established BCS program that was able to consistently recruit blue chip talent, say a place like Miami, FL. 

Regardless, Leach has turned Tech into an offensive machine that few like to play.  His teams are capable of bombing away on anyone.  He has won over 66 percent of his games in Lubbock, and over 71 percent in the past three years.

5.  Mark Mangino, Kansas.  Another former Stoops assistant, Mangino has made his mark at KU, capping the best season in Jayhawks history in 2007 (12-1).  After a disastrous 2-10 record in his first season, Mangino’s teams are 43-31 since 2003.  If the current team lives up to preseason hype, Mangino will likely get offers from other schools.

6.  Bill Snyder, Kansas State.  This placement is based solely on his previous experience.  Architect of the Miracle in Manhattan, no one appears completed convinced that Snyder (at 70 years of age) will be able to re-capture previous successes.

Still, during his first stint, he won 136 games in 17 years, a truly shocking achievement, especially considering the history.  From 1935-1988 (54 seasons) Kansas State won a total of 137 games.

7.  Art Briles, Baylor.  Briles was able to quickly find and mold a quarterback to fit his offense, and Baylor surprisingly won four games in his initial season.  The recruiting has been upgraded and there is a buzz (albeit quiet) beginning about this program. 

Briles has proven he can re-construct a program, having elevated Houston to Conference USA champion in 2006.   

8.  Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State.  This is the season for Gundy.  If he is able to win big like many are projecting, then he will shoot up these rankings.  For now, however, he settles here due to two things:  being moderately successful (.540 winning percentage) and being on the job for less than 5 years.

9.  Dan Hawkins, Colorado.  The Hawk has been a disappointment at Colorado, leading the Buffs to just thirteen wins in three seasons.  If these rankings were based simply on current performance, he might well be at the bottom of the list. 

Still, Hawkins gets a boost for his stellar performance with Boise State, going 53-11 there with four consecutive WAC titles.  His team at Colorado needs to win now though.

10.  Bo Pelini, Nebraska.  His rating is held down only because he has one full year of head coaching experience.  This ‘Husker team demonstrated significant improvement in all aspects of their game with Pelini on the sideline, and he appears to have the skill to continue this growth. 

Expect Nebraska to be back to Nebraska soon, and Pelini to be in the top five Big 12 coaches.

11.  Mike Sherman, Texas A&M.  This continues to be a puzzling hire, as Sherman has not proven that he can adjust to the college game.  Last season’s 4-8 record might be a harbinger of things to come and, rest assured, that type of record will not sit well with loyal Aggies. 

Sherman needs to demonstrate improvement in fundamentals, as well as significant defensive improvement (seven times last year, the unit allowed at least 40 points).

12.  Paul Rhoads, Iowa State.  The Iowa State-Auburn connection is the most confusion process in some time.  Iowa State hires Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik as its head coach.

Two years later, Chizik is then selected by Auburn to replace longtime coach Tuberville, and so Iowa Statehires defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads (from Auburn) to replace Chizik.  For Cyclone fans, here’s hoping history does not repeat itself.

Behind the Rankings

These rankings are not simply my arbitrary opinion but rather a combination of objective and subjective elements to determine the value of each coach in the country.  Ratings were calculated using the following:

Head Coaching Experience (up to four points):  Years of previous head coach experience

Previous Titles (up to two points):  One point for national titles (.5 if won with different school) and one point for conference championships (.5 if won with different school)

Performance over time (up to three points).

For coaches with less than five years at a school, the coach’s winning percentage at the school is compared versus previous five seasons winning percentage.  For coaches with more than five years at a school, the overall winning percentage is compared to percentage over the last three seasons.

Coaching Skills (up to 12 points):  This is much more subjective.  How well does a coach recruit, motivate, and develop his players.  At what level is he able to game plan, make adjustments, etc?


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