College Football's 5 Best Coaches of the 21st Century
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College football fans argue about who the best team is each season, but the real discussion should be over who the best coach is at getting the highest percentage of wins over a period of time.
The so-called "Generation Y" fans, born in the 1980s and '90s, identify the "modern age of college football" as the period since the invention of the BCS National Championship Game in 1998.
Everything before that is pretty much meaningless to this massive group of consumers, so who are we to argue with John Q. Public?
Never one to let a sleeping dog lie, we shall modify the parameters to encapsulate only the past 10 years.
Just take the entire century to this point and grade the performances.
Baby boomers, this writer included, tend to look at overall impact.
They also examine the most effective use of available facilities, people skills, coaching skills to develop players, titles and championships.
There's also the legacy factor, someone who has done it all, like Les Miles of LSU (see picture).
Don't try to sell those ancient guidelines to the "Gen Y" crowd—they will advise you in a heartbeat that winning and winning percentage are all that matters.
Perhaps they should be known as the bottom-line generation.
To be fair and reduce the "flash in the pan" possibility, we should settle on a minimum of games coached during the past decade. That will be set at five seasons.
The initial evaluation process was designed to single out only a solitary coach, but the feats and accomplishments of several men deserve great praise and mention.
Therefore, let us look at the five best coaches of the 21st century.
No. 5: Chris Petersen, Boise State Broncos
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Now here is someone who has to rank at the top of anyone's evaluation.
By the time he is finished, Chris Petersen of Boise State may be history's greatest college football coach.
Petersen has been a head coach for five seasons and has lost a total of five games.
That is a career 92 percent-plus rate of winning.
The man is obviously a football genius.
While rolling up 61 victories in 66 games, Peterson has produced two perfect seasons. His worst year was 2007, when he went 10-3.
Nick Saban went 10-3 last year at Alabama, and the people there built a statue of him.
No. 4: Jim Tressel, Ohio State Buckeyes
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Were it not for the effects of "Tattoo-Gate" in Columbus, Jim Tressel was on his way to becoming the greatest coach in college football.
The specifics of his demise are best left for another discussion, and we will not concern ourselves with technical postseason adjustments of forfeited or vacated games, because then we may have to eliminate the entire SEC and Pac-12.
We will be concerned here only with his performance and results on the field in the 21st century.
It has been said that "you have to beat Jim Tressel to win the BCS championship," and in several instances that has been true over the past 10 years.
Beating Tressel for the title was difficult. Miami tried it in the 2002 season and could not do it.
Florida and LSU both had to hammer away at the defensive line of the Buckeyes to take the championship in the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Tressel's 14-0 season and BCS title in 2002 was his crown jewel, augmented by a 19-game winning streak spanning two seasons and a 9-1 record against arch rival Michigan.
Known as "The Vest" due to his constant wearing of sleeveless scarlet sweaters, Tressel produced a 9-3 season in 2000 at Youngstown State before going to Columbus in '01.
Tressel won 116 games and lost 25 in his 10 years at Ohio State. That gives "The Vest" a 21st-century victory rate of 82 percent.
No. 3: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Sooners
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Known simply as "the man" in college football circles, Bob Stoops has built a dynasty at Oklahoma.
With 122 wins and 26 losses in the past decade, Coach Stoops has won at an 82 percent rate while producing a BCS championship, an undefeated season and a 20-game winning streak.
Stoops' Sooners opened the century by going undefeated and winning the 2000 season BCS championship.
Oklahoma made history in winning that championship by holding its opponent, Florida State, to a total of two points in the contest.
That is the fewest points allowed in BCS championship history.
Prior to settling in Norman, Stoops was the defensive coach for Steve Spurrier at Florida from 1996 to 1998.
While in Gainesville the Gators won the last undisputed "pre-BCS" national championship in 1996. The coming of the BCS era two years later followed a split national championship in 1997.
Still prowling the sidelines in 2011, fans of the Sooners look at the great achievements of the past decade and eagerly await adding another BCS championship to their magnificent accomplishments.
No. 2: Urban Meyer, Florida Gators, Utah Utes and Bowling Green Falcons
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Urban Meyer is such a great coach that he makes the list with three teams he took to glory in the past decade.
Meyer produced three 13-1 seasons at Florida. This era was highlighted by a 22-game winning streak and capturing two BCS championships in a three-year period.
Meyer left Utah after an undefeated season in 2004 and previously won 17 while losing six at Bowling Green in 2001 and '02.
The Falcons had six straight losing seasons before Meyer became head coach in 2001 and turned everything around with an 8-3 mark.
The Utes, coming off a losing season under the prior regime, won 15 straight games under Meyer during his two seasons in Salt Lake City.
Meyer's predecessor in Gainesville, Ron Zook, lost 15 games in this three years on the job. Meyer lost 15 in the next six seasons while winning 65.
Coach Meyer won 82 percent of the games he coached in the 21st century, and that includes three stops, something no one else on this list accomplished in the decade.
Urbane, witty, well liked and respected by everyone, the sophisticated and polished Urban Meyer takes his place as a giant among 21st-century coaches.
No. 1: Pete Carroll, Southern California Trojans
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A 32-game winning streak spanning three seasons was the calling card of Pete Carroll's tenure at Southern California.
As head coach from 2001 until 2009, Carroll won 95 games and lost 19. Ten of those losses were earned in the first and last years of his stay with the Men of Troy.
A winning percentage of more than 83 percent, an undefeated BCS championship in 2004, an AP national championship in 2003 and a 7-2 bowl record are among the accomplishments of this intimidating and feared figure in coaching.
Coach Carroll's most impressive squad may not have been either team that won the national championship.
The 2008 edition of the Trojans averaged 41 points a game while giving up fewer than 10 on the way to a 12-1 season.
Carroll's greatest success came at Southern California, but he made an impact in college football as far back as 1977, when he was an assistant to Lou Holtz at Arkansas.
That Razorback team walloped heavily favored Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 31-6.
By 1979, Pete was an assistant at Ohio State, running the show for the defensive backfield.
The Buckeyes won all 11 regular season games but lost their share of a national championship by falling to No. 3 Southern California in the Rose Bowl, 17-16.
Life is strange that way.
Why Did You Not List My Favorite Coach?
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The answer to that quandary is simple: We do not list people because they are someone's favorite or because they coach a person's favorite team.
The facts speak for themselves when talking about the winning percentage of coaches in the 21st century.
Chris Peterson is the hottest commodity in college football because his winning rate of 92 percent is higher than the 105-12 career record of Knute Rockne.
Stoops, Tressel and Meyer won 82 percent of their games in the 21st century, while Pete Carroll rocked along with a victory ratio of 83.
The obvious question is what about Joe Paterno? Or Bobby Bowden?
Those two icons have the most wins of all time, but they did not dominate the 21st century the way they did in other eras—Paterno from 1968 to 1994 and Bowden from 1979 until 2000. Have to pass on them.
The next controversy would be Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks.
Kelly has 22 wins and four losses in Eugene for a winning percentage of 85 percent, so he is definitely one of the rising stars. He should receive honorable mention status with only two seasons on the job.
Larry Coker of Miami won 60 and lost 15 for a winning percentage of 80.
Gary Patterson of Texas Christian has won 98 and lost 28 for a 78 percent winning rate.
Nick Saban of LSU and Alabama won 91 and lost 27 for a 77 percent rate and Kyle Whittingham of Utah captured 57 victories in 77 contests for a 74 percent winning rate.
Bronco Mendenhall of Brigham Young and Lloyd Carr of Michigan each won 73 percent of their contests in the past decade.
Gene Chizik of Auburn and Les Miles of LSU are hurt by prior positions they held.
Chizik has won 81 percent at Auburn alone, but his time at Iowa State pulls that down.
Miles suffers from his time in the Big 12 as well. He has won 78 percent at LSU, but his tenure at Oklahoma State brings him down overall.
In the end, we are left with only one real choice as the runner-up to the top five listed.
That person is Mack Brown of Texas.
Brown (pictured) has won 115 while losing 26 for an 82 percent winning rate. He is fully entitled to be listed among the top coaches of the past decade.
If you wish to do it as a "5-B" or at No. 6 alone, there will certainly be no hard feelings in this corner.