November 4, 2016
Part three of three in a series that lists the best Big Ten coaches of all time.
To see part one of this series click here and to see part two click here
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.
While doing research for this article I was stumped as to what to do with arguably two of the best college football coaches of all time. Although neither coached the majority of their tenures while their teams were considered members of the Big Ten, because they are members now and became members during their tenures I decided to include them on this list. It would be unfair to leave them out. And therefore... it's a tie for No. 3.
3 (tie). Clarence Lester “Biggie” Munn -- Michigan State, 1947-1953
Record at Michigan State: 54-9-2 (.857) *Michigan State joined the Big Ten in 1953
Although Biggie Munn only coached 7 years at Michigan State, those 7 years were just about as successful as could be. His teams won a Big Ten title (in his only year coaching in the Big Ten), back to back National Championships, and a Rose Bowl victory over UCLA in Munn's final game. Munn was also the only coach to beat Notre Dame’s three time National Championship coach Frank Leahy three straight years (1950-1952).
During the latter part of his coaching career, Munn developed the talents of Willie Thrower, the Big Ten's first black quarterback. Thrower subsequently became the first black quarterback to play in the National Football League, playing for the Chicago Bears.
Munn's coaching produced seventeen All-American players and Munn's teams have held on to the school's top four spots in rushing-yards-per-game: 1948 (304.5), 1951 (293.9), 1952 (272.4) and 1950 (269.3).
When Munn retired after the 1953 season his team had won 28 of 29 games. He became the Athletic Director of Michigan State in 1954 and remained at that position until 1971. In 1974 the University honored Munn by naming their new ice arena after him.
Munn was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959.
3 (tie). Joe Paterno -- Penn State, 1966-present
Record at Penn State: 372-125-3 (.748) *Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993
Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions teams have won 2 National Championships and 2 Big Ten titles. At age 81, Paterno is coaching his 59th season at Penn State as an assistant or head coach in 2008, holding the record for any football coach at any university. The 2008 season marks Joe Paterno’s 43rd season pacing the sidelines as head coach of the Nittany Lions, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most years at a single institution.
Paterno's loyalty is so strong with Penn State that he turned down an offer to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 (the Steelers went on to hire Chuck Knoll.) Michigan Athletic Director Don Canham also contacted Paterno in 1969 to see if Paterno would accept the vacant Michigan job. Paterno turned down the offer and Michigan went on to hire Bo Schembechler. In 1972 Paterno also turned down a head coaching position with the New England Patriots which included a percentage ownership position.
Paterno’s 24 bowl victories ranks first in bowl victories. He also tops the list of bowl appearances with 34. Paterno is the only coach with the distinction of having won each of the current four major bowls—Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar—as well as the Cotton Bowl, at least once. Under Paterno, Penn State has won at least three bowl games each decade since 1970.
Overall, Paterno has led Penn State to five undefeated, untied seasons. Four of his unbeaten teams won major bowl games, but were not awarded a national championship.
Paterno has had 21 finishes in the Top 10 national rankings.
Paterno won the National Coach of the Year Award in 1986, the Amos Alonza Stagg Award in 2002, and the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award in 1972, 1994, and 2005. Paterno was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and is one of only three active coaches to be members of the Hall of Fame.
2. Fielding Yost -- Michigan, 1901-1923, 1925-1926
Record at Michigan: 165-29-10 (.833)
Under Fielding Yost, Michigan won four straight national championships from 1901-04 and two more in 1918 and 1923, 10 Big Ten titles, and 20 of his players were named All-Americans.
Yost's first Michigan team in 1901 had a perfect season and a victory in the inaugural Rose Bowl on January 1, 1902 over Stanford, the school Yost had coached the previous year. From 1901 to 1904, Michigan did not lose a game and was tied only once in a legendary game with the University of Minnesota that led to the establishment of the Little Brown Jug, college football's oldest trophy.
Before Michigan finally lost a game to Amos Alonzo Stagg's University of Chicago squad at the end of the 1905 season, they had gone 56 straight games without a defeat, the second longest winning streak in college football history. During their first five seasons under Yost, Michigan outscored its opponents 2,821 to 42, earning his teams the nickname "Point-a-Minute."
Along with his accomplishments as the head football coach, Yost served as Michigan's Director of Athletics from 1921-41. For his leadership of the athletic department, Yost is viewed by many as the consummate pioneer and visionary of the field. As athletic director, Yost continued Michigan's tradition of accepting only the highest personal, academic, and athletic standards, while spreading that ideal to the facilities which support Michigan's athletic pursuits. Yost conceived and engineered today's modern athletic campus in Ann Arbor. Among the projects constructed under Yost's direction were Michigan Stadium, the university's 18-hole golf course, the nation's first Intramural Sports Building and the nation's first multi-purpose field house-now known as Yost Ice Arena.
Yost was among the inaugural class of inductees to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
1. Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes -- Ohio State, 1951-1978
Record at Ohio State: 205-61-10 (.761)
Wayne Woodrow Hayes was known as a hot-tempered and agressive man-- but at the same time, he was loving, gentle, and often went to unprecendented lengths of kindness. People can label Woody Hayes as many things, but the one thing he was without dispute was a winner. He was even known to refuse pay raises because he thought they would cause problems that would interfere with winning. He welcomed pay raises for his assistants, but by choice, he never received one himself, and was one of the lower-paid coaches as a result.
Over his career at OSU he amassed a record of 205-61-10, won 5 National Championships, 13 Big Ten Titles, and played in 8 Rose Bowls (including four straight from 1972-1975). He had 56 players named All-Americans and had 3 Heisman Trophy winners including the only two time winner in history. His Ohio State teams also won outright or shared in a record 6 straight Big Ten Titles.
Woody had a conservative style of play in which he predominantly ran the ball. He was so set in this style that his offense became known as "three yards and a cloud of dust." Woody believed that the pass should be used as an element of surprise; "There are three things that can happen when you pass, and two of them ain't good," he said.
Woody won with preparation; he was a notorious perfectionist who paid close attention to every minute detail. When teams played a Woody Hayes-coached Buckeye team, they had to be ready to face the toughest, strongest, most determined, most disciplined, and most prepared team that they'd be facing that season.
In November 1987, the university dedicated the new Woody Hayes Athletic Center in his memory. There is currently an effort by Ohio State students to build a statue of Woody Hayes on the campus of Ohio State to honor his achievements and commitment to Ohio State.
Woody's all-time record of 238-72-10 places him ninth in all-time NCAA Division 1-A coaching victories. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983. Famous assistants to serve under Woody Hayes include Lou Holtz, Bo Schembechler, Earle Bruce, Rudy Hubbard, Bill Mallory, and Dave McClain.