July 29, 2008
Part one of three in a series that lists the best Big Ten coaches of all time.
The Big Ten has had many fine coaches patrolling the sidelines on Saturdays. In this report, I list the best coaches the Big Ten has ever seen (plus one). How did I come to these conclusions, you ask. Of course, the usual factors of: how many National Titles, Big Ten Titles, wins, and award winners went into the decision making process. But I also gave serious thought to the coaches legacy at the University he coached at.
So without further adieu, the Best Coaches in Big Ten History.
Jack Mollenkopf -- Purdue, 1956-1969
Record at Purdue: 84-39-9 (.670)
As Purdue's head coach of 14 years, Mollenkopf was best in the big games, holding a 10-4 record against Notre Dame and 11-2-1 against Indiana. In Purdue's only Rose Bowl appearance under his tutelage, January 2, 1967, the Boilermakers beat Southern California, 14-13.
During his time at Purdue, Mollenkopf would become the winningest head coach in the program's history, a record that he still holds.
Among the All-America players who were on Mollenkopf's Purdue teams were Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, Len Dawson, Leroy Keyes and Lamar Lundy.
Jack Mollenkopf was a coach who stressed fundamentals, preparation and execution. His life motto was loyalty. When he died, the Indianapolis Star paid this tribute; "What Purdue got with Mollenkopf was 24 hours of loyalty each and every day. Every time he left campus, he believed he was representing the school."
Mollenkopf was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
10. Paul Brown -- Ohio State, 1941-1943
Record at Ohio State: 18-8-1 (.692)
Paul Brown became the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 14, 1941. Under Brown, the Buckeyes went 18-8-1 (1941-43). Brown's players were known for speed, intelligence, and contact; his teams were known for execution and fundamentals; and he was dubbed "Precision Paul" at Ohio State.
In his first season at Ohio State Brown went 6-1-1, losing to Northwestern and their running back Otto Graham, and tying Michigan. The Buckeyes tied for second place in the conference and finished 13th in the AP poll. Brown was voted fourth place on balloting for National Coach of the Year behind Frank Leahy, Bernie Bierman, and Earl Blaik.
The following year, despite losing 18 lettermen to graduation and to military service in World War II, Brown led the Buckeyes to the University's first National Championship, using a team of 3 seniors, 16 juniors, and 24 sophomores. Among his players were senior Heisman Trophy winner Les Horvath.
Paul Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.
9. Earle Bruce -- Ohio State, 1979-1987
Record at Ohio State: 81-26-1 (.757)
Bruce played full back at Ohio State University until 1951, when he suffered a torn meniscus, ending his football career. Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes asked Bruce to join the coaching staff, which he did until his graduation in 1953.
In Earle Bruce’s first season as head coach at Ohio State he posted an undefeated regular season, won the Big Ten title and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl where he lost the National Championship by one point to USC. Bruce was named National Coach of the Year by both the Football Writers and Coaches Associations that season.
In his nine seasons at OSU, Bruce won or shared four Big Ten championships, took the Buckeyes to eight bowl games, finished in the top 20 eight times, and beat arch-rival Michigan 5 times.
Earle Bruce was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002
8. Lloyd Carr -- Michigan, 1995-2007
Record at Michigan: 122-40 (.753)
Under Lloyd Carr, the Wolverines record was 122-40, they won or shared five Big Ten titles. In 1997, Carr's team defeated Ohio State, 20-14, making him the third Michigan coach to defeat Ohio State in each of his first three games. The Wolverines concluded that season with a win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl, after which Michigan was named national champions by the Associated Press sharing the title with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. For his efforts Carr received the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award and was named the National Coach of the Year.
The Wolverines won consecutive Big Ten championships in 2003 and 2004, earning the school's 18th and 19th appearances in the Rose Bowl game. Carr ranks third in school history in career victories, behind only Schembechler (194) and Yost (165).
In addition, Michigan had been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for all but nine of its games under Carr and only once during his tenure did Michigan end its season unranked (2005). Carr also became the first Wolverine coach to win four straight bowl games.
Carr was also lauded for his high ethical standards and avoidance of any substantive NCAA violations during his tenure. His integrity was widely lauded as one of his defining characteristics, and a major part of his legacy.
Carr posted a better than .500 or better record against two of Michigan's three top rivals, going 5-4 against Notre Dame and 10-3 against Michigan State. Carr also has recorded a 9-2 record against Penn State. His record is 6-7 against Ohio State.
To see part two of this series click here and to see part three click here