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Big Ten Football: The Best Coaches Since 1993

Jeffrey BatheContributor IIINovember 18, 2016

Big Ten Football: The Best Coaches Since 1993

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    Next season the Big Ten Conference welcomes the University of Nebraska to their ranks, the first new team in the league since 1993. As the 11-team era comes to a close, it is time to look at the top five coaches in the conference since Penn State joined in 1993. Only records since 1993 will be looked at when ranking the coaches. As with any form of rankings, there is the potential for subjectivity, and conversation about who was snubbed.

    Let the list begin.

    Other stories in the series:

    Big Ten Football: The Worst Coaches Since 1993

    Big Ten Basketball: The Best Coaches Since 1992

Honorable Mention

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    These five coaches have demonstrated the ability to be successful coaches during their Big Ten tenure, but are just outside of the top five.

    •   Brett Bielema: University of Wisconsin, 2006-Present: 49-16  (27-13 Big Ten)

    •   Mark Dantonio: Michigan State University, 2007-Present: 33-18 (20-12 Big Ten)

    •   Kirk Ferentz: University of Iowa, 1999-Present: 89-60 (53-43 Big Ten)

    •   Nick Saban: Michigan State University, 1995-1999: 35-24-1 (23-16-1 Big Ten)

    •   Gary Moeller: University of Michigan, 1993-1994: 16-8 (10-6 Big Ten)

5. Barry Alvarez: 1993-2005

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    He took over a program that had not had a winning season since 1984, winning only seven Big Ten games during that time. While struggling at the start of his tenure, he proceeded to turn the program into a winner, leaving it better than when he started.

    Overall Record: 107-51-4

    Big Ten Record: 60-41-3

    Bowl Game Record: 8-3

    Number of Winning Seasons: 11

    Big Ten Titles: Three

    Number of Seasons in Big Ten Top Three: Five

    National Titles: None

    Final Top 10 Rankings: Three

    Best Season: 11-1 (1998)

    Worst Season: 4-5-2 (1995)

    Notes: Alvarez was 118-73-4 (65-60-3) during his tenure with the Badgers. He was fortunate that he was given a chance to reach the Penn State era in the Big Ten as he was 11-22 (5-19) between 1990 and 1992. There was a three-year stretch where he struggled late in his tenure, finishing seventh or worse in the Big Ten in 2001 to 2003. He was recognized for his coaching multiple times, receiving the AFCA Coach of the Year (1993), Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (1993) and Big Ten Coach of the Year (1993 and 1998).

4. John Cooper: 1993-2000

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    In 1988, John Cooper was hired to replace Earle Bruce by the Ohio State University. He took over a team that had at least nine wins in eight of the previous nine seasons.

    Overall Record: 76-22-1

    Big Ten Record: 47-16-1

    Bowl Game Record: 3-4

    Number of Winning Seasons: Seven

    Big Ten Titles: Three

    Number of Seasons in Big Ten Top Three: Six

    National Titles: None

    Final Top 10 Rankings: Four

    Best Season: 11-1 (1996 and1998)

    Worst Season: 6-6 (1999)

    Notes: Cooper was 111-43-4 (70-30-4) during his 13-year tenure with the Buckeyes. While Cooper had had success during his tenure, his record against Michigan (2-10-1), a poor bowl record and player off-the-field problems led to his dismissal after the 2000 season. Cooper was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

3. Joe Paterno: 1993-Present

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    In 1966, Paterno was promoted to replace Rip Engle by Penn State. Paterno had been on Engle's staff since he started in 1950. Paterno took over a team that had 15 winning seasons in 16 years. Paterno has set the standard of coaches in Divsion I-A (FBS) with 401 wins in 45 seasons. In the 27 seasons prior to joining the Big Ten, Penn State was 247-67-3 under Paterno's leadership.

    Overall Record: 154-68

    Big Ten Record: 90–53

    Bowl Game Record: 10-4

    Number of Winning Seasons: 14

    Big Ten Titles: Three

    Number of Seasons in Big Ten Top Three: Eight

    National Titles: None

    Final Top 10 Rankings: Six

    Best Season: 12-0 (1994)

    Worst Season: 3-9 (2003)

    Notes: Paterno is 401-135-3 (90-53) during his tenure with Penn State. Penn State football struggled from 2000 to 2004, with an overall 26-33 record in those seasons. Paterno has not had the same level of success since joining the Big Ten as he did prior, with .693 and .784 winning percentages respectively (both darn impressive).

    In his career, Paterno has had 29 finishes in the Top 10 national rankings (six since 1993). Paterno was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007. Because of his lifetime achievement, his name is attached to the trophy for the newly added Big Ten championship game (Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy). Additionally, he has won the following awards:

    •   NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award (2011)
    •   Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (1986)
    •   AFCA Coach of the Year (1968, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2005)
    •   Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1972, 1994, 2005)
    •   Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (1978, 1982, 1986)
    •   Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year (1981, 2005)
    •   Paul "Bear" Bryant Award (1986)
    •   Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (2002)
    •   The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (2005)
    •   Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year (2005)
    •   Big Ten Coach of the Year (1994, 2005, 2008)

2. Lloyd Carr: 1995-2007

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    In 1995, Lloyd Carr was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Gary Moeller, who had resigned due to off-the-field problems. Carr took over a program which had not had a losing season since 1967, so the pressure for success was extremely high. An odd part of Carr's move to head coach was that the the promotion was on an interim basis and was not made permanent until after the first 10 games, where Carr went 8-2.

    Overall Record: 122-40

    Big Ten Record: 81-23

    Bowl Game Record: 6-7

    Number of Winning Seasons: 13

    Big Ten Titles: Five

    Number of Seasons in Big Ten Top Three: 12

    National Titles: One (1997)

    Final Top 10 Rankings: Six

    Best Season: 12-0 (1997)

    Worst Season: 7-5 (2005)

    Notes: Carr ranks third at Michigan in career victories, behind only Bo Schembechler (194) and Fielding Yost (165). Despite his successes, his critics point to Carr's struggles against Ohio State (losing six of the last seven) and in bowl games (6-7), were two of the weaknesses of his tenure with the Wolverines. Also, in the BCS era, while successful, Michigan was never really in title contention.

    However, we see that against Joe Paterno, Carr was quite successful, posting a 9-2 record against Penn State. Carr was recognized for his success on the field being awarded the AFCA Coach of the Year (1997), George Munger Award (1997), Paul "Bear" Bryant Award (1997), Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (1997) and the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2007) during his tenure at Michigan.

1. Jim Tressel: 2001-Present

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    In 2001, Jim Tressel was hired to replace John Cooper by the Ohio State University. He took over a team that had success (11-43-4) over the past 13 seasons, but had struggled in bowl games (3-8) and against Michigan (2-10-1). Tressel was well aware of the troubles and made a bold proclamation shortly being hired in which he said, "I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field." During his tenure, he has definitely lived up to each of these areas.

    Overall Record: 106-22

    Big Ten Record: 66-14

    Bowl Game Record: 6-4

    Number of Winning Seasons: 10

    Big Ten Titles: Seven

    Number of Seasons in Big Ten Top Three: 10

    National Titles: One (2002)

    Final Top 10 Rankings: Eight

    Best Season: 14-0 (2002)

    Worst Season: 7-5 (2001)

    Notes: Has only lost to Michigan once in his tenure, something that was a vast improvement over his predecessor, John Cooper. He has reached the BCS title game three times, losing the last two. During his tenure he has been recognized with multiple awards including the Eddie Robinson Award (1994 and 2002), Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year (2002), Paul "Bear" Bryant Award (2002) and Woody Hayes Trophy (2002 and 2006).

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