The Mount Rushmore of College Football Head Coaches

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterAugust 27, 2014


Immortalizing coaches and/or players by carving their likeness into metaphorical rock may be a common theme in the offseason, but what's one more Mount Rushmore before the 2014 college football season gets underway?

Bleacher Report selected four coaches to be on its Mount Rushmore: Bobby Bowden, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Tom Osborne and Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner. 

What makes the following four coaches worthy of such a distinction? Primarily, they're among the winningest coaches in college football history. Beyond those wins, their contributions to the game in various forms make them icons of the sport. 

Bleacher Report coaches Mount Rushmore
CoachSchool(s)WinsNational Championships
Paul "Bear" BryantMaryland/Kentucky/Texas A&M/Alabama3236
Tom OsborneNebraska2553
Bobby BowdenWest Virginia/Florida State3772
Pop WarnerGeorgia/Iowa St./Cornell/Carlisle/Pitt/Stanford/Temple336*4
NCAA, Various *includes wins as Iowa State co-coach


Paul "Bear" Bryant

Picking four of the great coaches in college football can be tough, but this seems as close to a no-brainer as they come. 

In 38 years as a head coach (25 at Alabama), Bryant won 323 games and six national championships. Along the way, he cemented the Crimson Tide as one of the premier programs in college football.

Beyond the wins, though, Bryant was iconic and remains the standard to which all Tide coaches, including current coach Nick Saban, are held. From the houndstooth hat, which has morphed into its own art and inspired an awesome sports bar in Tuscaloosato his memorable quotes, Bryant was revered by Alabama.

"I left Texas A&M because my school called me," Bryant famously said about his return to Alabama. "Mama called, and when Mama calls, then you just have to come running."

Being depicted in multiple movies and television commercials doesn't hurt his legacy, either. 

"He was simply the best there ever was," former Nebraska coach Bob Devaney said in an interview with Mike Puma of


Tom Osborne

It's an amazing fact to this day, but it took Osborne 22 years and 206 of his 255 wins before he won his first national championship in 1994-95 with Nebraska.

But by the time he retired after the '97 season, Osborne had three national championships to his name and had the Cornhuskers in dynasty mode. For context, Chase Goodbread of recently ranked the '95 Nebraska team as the best of all time (ESPN ranked them as the third-best team ever). 

Osborne was a part of memorable games as a head coach on both the winning and losing ends. Perhaps Osborne's most memorable moment, unfortunately for Nebraska, was his failed two-point conversion against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl. 

Win or lose, Osborne is remembered for remarkable consistency with which he coached. In 25 years, he never lost more than three games in a season. Of course, the recruiting landscape has shifted significantly since Osborne coached at Nebraska. Today, the Huskers rely heavily on out-of-state recruiting, which can make it difficult to compete at a national championship level. 

As an athletic director, Osborne oversaw Nebraska's transition to the Big Ten and was selected to be on the first 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee. The respect he's garnered around college football is unlike that of any other coach. 


Bobby Bowden

Few coaches in college football had a longer tenure of sustained success than Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. Following the NCAA's decision to vacate wins under former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, Bowden became the all-time winningest coach in major college football. 

Bowden got his coaching feet wet during six seasons with West Virginia (1970-75) but made his mark on college football with the Seminoles. It was only appropriate, then, that Bowden's last game came in the 2010 Gator Bowl in a win over the Mountaineers. 

In 34 years with Florida State, Bowden guided the program to a pair of national championships (1993, '99) and an unprecedented 14 straight finishes in the Top Five in the Associated Press poll. According to's Mark Schlabach, Bowden coached two Heisman winners—Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke—26 consensus All-Americans and more than 150 NFL draftees. 

But perhaps Bowden's greatest accomplishment was putting Florida State on the map as an athletic powerhouse.

The popularity of Bowden's football program helped Florida State grow into one of the country's largest public universities. From 1909 to 1947, FSU was known as the Florida State College for Women until it returned to coed status. FSU didn't field its first football team until 1947 -- more than four decades after the University of Florida fielded its first team -- and didn't award athletic scholarships until 1951.

Does Bowden deserve a spot on this Mount Rushmore? You're daggum right. 


Pop Warner

Pop Warner's 336 all-time wins tell only a fraction of the story. Yes, he won national championships. Yes, he coached at historical powerhouse Pitt. But Warner's greatest accomplishments come in the form of a question: Is there anything Warner didn't have a hand in when it comes to the game of college football?

Of all the coaches on this list, none other played as instrumental a role in the development of the game of football like Warner did. 

The screen pass, the single- and double-wing formations, the three-point stance, the use of shoulder pads and tackling dummies—Warner was on the forefront of it all. In other words, if you like college football, you can thank Pop Warner.

And when you have a youth league named after you, you know you did something right.  


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats courtesy of the NCAA and individual athletic departments.