I was at a family reunion in Florida the past week, and while driving back to Virginia Beach, the big topic as always between my dad and I was Tennessee football. We also got to talking about some of the great SEC coaches of all time, which gave me the idea for this article. So here is the first of a three-part series on the greatest SEC coaches.
The criteria for the list are overall wins, winning percentage, SEC titles, and National Championships. Also, having a stadium named after you is a real good thing.
There is some dispute about the number of National Championships for certain coaches, so to keep everything fair, the National Championships all come from the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia.
There were some coaches that came close or coached their school before they were in the SEC. I had to give them an honorable mention, so here they are.
Frank Broyles, Arkansas (1958-1976): 144-58-5 (.708 pct), one National Title
Broyles would definitely be on this list if Arkansas was in the SEC at the time. Broyles lost his first six games as head coach in 1958, but then he won out the season and kept on winning: 144 wins, nine New Year's Day Bowls, and the 1964 National Championship.
Bobby Dodd, Georgia Tech (1945-1966): 165-64-8 (.713 pct), two SEC titles, stadium named
Yup, Georgia Tech was in the SEC until 1963, and Dodd was a great coach for the Yellow Jackets. A disciple of General Neyland, Dodd emphasized finesse and execution. He guided Tech to a 31-game unbeaten streak from 1950-1953, and he beat Georgia eight consecutive times.
Paul Dietzel, LSU (1955-1961): 46-24-3 (.651 pct), two SEC titles, one National Title
The man who coached the great Billy Cannon and gave LSU its best era of football before their current reign. Before their 1958 championship season, Dietzel had not exactly set fire to the Bayou in his first three seasons, going 5-5, 3-7, and 3-5-2. But with Cannon leading the way, Dietzel coached the Tigers to their first National Title and a place in Tiger lore.
Dan McGugin, Vanderbilt (1904-1917 & 1919-1934): 197-55-19 (.762 pct)
I had to give some love to Vanderbilt. McGugin guided the Commodores through their greatest years. His 197 wins are more than four times as many as any other coach in school history. He beat Tennessee so often that a man named Neyland was brought in to even the score.
Johnny Majors, Tennessee (1977-1992): 116-62-8 (.645 pct), three SEC titles
The Volunteers were struggling through the mid-1970s, and Majors came home to Knoxville. He brought the Vols back to the top of the SEC and gave them three SEC titles, including the 1985 Sugar Vols who upset Miami, and the 1989 SEC title after going 5-6 the previous season.
And now finally, the Top 10...
10. Nick Saban, LSU (2000-2004) & Alabama (2007-present): 55-22 (.714 pct), two SEC titles, one National Title
The Bayou Bengals were a shell of their former selves until Saban got there. Saban used great recruiting to keep all the great Louisiana recruits at home, and he stockpiled the talent and made the team a force in the SEC. LSU spoiled Tennessee's season in 2001 and then won the National Title in 2003.
Saban left for the NFL at the end of the 2004 season, but then he came back to where he belongs: the SEC. This time he is at Alabama and is working to bring them back to the summit.
9. Pat Dye, Auburn (1981-1992): 99-39-4 (.711 pct), four SEC titles, field named
Dye was the guy who followed the guy who followed the great Shug Jordan. Dye was a hard-nosed, fundamental football coach. Throughout his tenure, Auburn had a tough and tenacious defense that was always one of the best in the SEC. He was also the man that coached the great Bo Jackson. Behind those great defenses and running backs, Auburn won four SEC titles under Dye and was the SEC Team of the 1980s.
8. Frank Thomas, Alabama (1931-1946): 115-24-7 (.812 pct), four SEC titles
Thomas was the coach who brought Alabama into the SEC when it formed in 1933. In 1931 he accepted the job at Alabama, where he established himself as one of the top coaches in the nation. He brought the Crimson Tide to prominence with bowl wins in the Rose, Orange, and Sugar. He became the coach and mentor for Paul "Bear" Bryant.
That ends part one, click here for part two