The 50 Most Influential People in College Football

Carl Stine@@CFBAllDayCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2011

The 50 Most Influential People in College Football

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    The 50 people on this list have influenced the game of football to such a degree that they deserve recognition for their accomplishments.

    Put down the leftovers and check it out.

    Whether it be conference realignment, a surprise winning season or even a horrible decision or individual performance, every person on this list made an impact that was felt through out the college football universe.

    So, from Eric LeGrand's inspiring story to Tom O'Brien's horrible decisions, read on to find out who had the biggest impact on the season.

50. Jerry Sandusky

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    Not to give the guy anymore press than he already has, but the child sex abuse trial that Sandusky is in the middle of has rocked Happy Valley and the rest of the college football universe.

    His alleged actions and the actions following have led to the firings of several Penn State officials, including the legendary Joe Paterno.

    For 2011, there was not an event that created more of a ripple effect than the sad events that came to light at Penn State.

49. Jim Tressel

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    Tressel has been the leader of Ohio State's Big Ten dominant program for a long time.

    That ended in a blaze of shame and disgrace.

    The tattoo cover-up that led to Tressel's departure and eventual sanctions for the program, also led to the departure of Terrelle Pryor and suspensions of several key contributors for the Buckeyes.

    To top it all off, Tressel's indiscretions led to one of the most high profile hirings in the history of the B1G.

48. Will Muschamp

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    Muschamp has used this season to clean house and implement a new outlook on football and life the university of Florida.

    The Gators were not that impressive on the field, but clearly groundwork was being laid for the work Muschamp has yet to do.

    After being the mastermind behind some great defenses at Texas, Muschamp now has a wealth of talent at his disposal.

    Expect him to take the Gators to an SEC championship within five years.

47. Declan Sullivan

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    Sullivan passed away after a tragic accident when he was videotaping the Notre Dame football team from a hydraulic lift during a windstorm on Oct. 27, 2010.

    This event has resonated at Notre Dame, and across the country, leading to implementation of camera permanently placed around practice fields so young people are not 50 feet in the air recording practice sessions.

    His death was a horrible event, as it is any time a human being loses their life, but hopefully school officials wise up and use that event to create change for the better in future seasons.

46. Denard Robinson

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    While Denard Robinson may not be your choice of man to pass the ball with any sort of consistency, he has opened eyes about mobile quarterbacks in a way that we have not seen since Michael Vick.

    He delivered one of the most magical performances of the season in Michigan's last second comeback win over Notre Dame, and continually made jaws drop with his quickness and footspeed.

    The Wolverines are in a BCS bowl, with a new coach, a new defensive scheme and Denard, and for this season, he has been more than enough.

45. Oliver Luck

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    Oliver Luck is the athletic director at West Virginia.

    In that role, he brought in Dana Holgorsen, handled the nasty Bill Stewart smear campaign fairly well, and has given Mountaineer fans hope that they can return to the heights they reached under Rich Rodriguez.

    But his impact reaches beyond his job, to his family.

    As you possibly already guessed, Luck is the father of stand-out Stanford quarterback, Andrew Luck, and obviously instrumental in his son's success.

44. Mack Brown

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    The University of Texas football team is coached by Mack Brown.

    The man has had immense success through the course of his time at Texas, but the last two seasons have not been part of that success.

    Texas' inability to make a dent in their newly modified conference led to the resurgence of such teams as Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

    While Texas fans and boosters would have you think his job is secure, if he has too many more seasons with negative impact on the program, he is going to find himself out the door.

43. Mark Emmert

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    The man is the head of the NCAA, that pretty much sums it up very nicely.

42. Chip Kelly

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    Kelly and the Oregon Ducks have now earned three straight BCS bowl berths.

    Kelly has already left his mark on the Pac-12 in his short time with the Ducks.

    He has taken the opportunity that USC's fall from grace has provided, and turned it into a new era of dominance in the Pac-12.

41. Todd Monken

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    Dana Holgerson was the mastermind behind the explosive Oklahoma State offense.

    Then he left for West Virginia.

    Enter Monken.

    He took over for Holgorsen, and the Cowboys picked up right where they left off, earning a BCS berth and flaunting the most explosive offense in a BCS conference.

40. Urban Meyer

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    After leading Florida to a bowl victory on New Year's Day, Meyer stepped down from the job at Florida.

    Following the turmoil at Ohio State, he is now taking over a program in the midst of NCAA sanctions.

    With his recruiting prowess and experience, we can be fairly certain that he will be successful at OSU.

    His "poaching" of recruits from other programs within the conference have already left an mark on the face of Big Ten recruiting.

39. Pac-12 New Coaches

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    Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez took over the Arizona schools, while Mike Leach is on his way to Washington State.

    Graham has now had three coaching jobs over the past eleven months, leaving Tulsa for Pitt and Pitt for Arizona State.

    Rodriguez may be the guy to finally take the Wildcats to a Rose Bowl, while Leach will undoubtedly have the Cougars making some noise in the conference before long.

38. Chris Petersen

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    Boise State's coach once again led them to a great season and a top ten finish in the BCS rankings.

    All of this while playing in a new conference, the MWC.

    The Broncos were one game away from an undefeated season, and Petersen demonstrated his ability to overcome key losses and get solid talent onto the field.

37. Al Golden

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    Golden is now the head coach at one of the premier football programs in the country.

    He was hired with no prior knowledge of Miami's scandal, and yet has chosen to hang around through suspensions and other adversity.

    This man has shown that he knows how to coach a football team, and will have a lasting impact in his position at Miami when all is said and done.

36. Kirk Cousins

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    Kirk Cousins, quarterback at Michigan State, never lost to Michigan.

    On top of that, he delivered the pass on the most exciting play of the season, a "Hail Mary" as time ran down against Wisconsin that knocked the Badgers from the ranks of the unbeaten and out of BCS title contention.

    Cousins also delivered an incredibly well-spoken, moving speech at the B1G's Kickoff Luncheon in July, before the season even started.

    Cousins is the classiest player in the B1G, and likely the country.

    Of course, he was a little off about Happy Valley, but I think it's safe to say we all were.

35. Phil Knight

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    The man will be on this list as long as he continues to have a love affair with Oregon Ducks' sports.

    The man donates ridiculous amounts of money, and as the founder of Nike, he has been the catalyst for all of the uniform designs we have seen the Ducks wear in recent seasons.

    Any man that can donate millions to a program and is affiliated with a company as high profile as Nike deserves a spot here.

34. Charlie Strong

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    Charlie Strong finally got an opportunity to become a head coach, and has promptly taken advantage.

    He had his Louisville Cardinals within one win of a BCS berth, and has started to take this program back to the top of the Big East.

    With Strong at the helm, even with all the change coming to the conference, the Cardinals are going to be a force.

33. Zach Collaros

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    Collaros is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country, simply because he plays for a Big East school.

    Collaros finished the season with 20 total touchdowns, in spite of missing three games and part of another due to injury.

    Before he went out, the Bearcats had it rolling, losing only one game in which Collaros played the entire four quarters.

    Collaros' bowl performance is going to be something to watch.

32. Tom O'Brien

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    N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien, while not a bad coach, left his mark on this season in a rather negative way.

    Wisconsin is set to play in the Rose Bowl, led by quarterback Russell Wilson.

    O'Brien let Wilson go from the Wolfpack football program last spring when the quarterback decided he wanted to pursue baseball as well as football.

    This paved the way for Wilson's transfer to Wisconsin, where he was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation, and led them to a B1G championship.


31. Greg Mattison

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    That's right, the man that is the architect of Michigan's revamped defense.

    And in year one, this veteran assistant was a smashing success.

    The Wolverine defense, while still a work in progress, was less like a sieve on a consistent basis.

    For a program with this tradition and the type of national following the Wolverines boast, his ability to help this defense tighten up is going to be a focal point of Brady Hoke's tenure.

30. Andrew Luck

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    Luck was anointed the leader in the Heisman race immediately after he declared he was returning to Stanford.

    After another stellar year, he was a Heisman finalist, and again led Stanford to a top five finish in the BCS polls.

    Luck's incredibly cerebral play and ability to make any throw have made him the top NFL prospect for the 2012 Draft, and helped lead Stanford to consecutive BCS berths.

29. Mark Richt

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    At the beginning of this season, Georgia head coach Mark Richt's seat was hot.

    After two consecutive losses to open the season, it was scorching.

    After a ten game winning streak to end the season, it's cooled off a bit.

    Richt's Dawgs took the SEC East crown, and things are looking up for a team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball in 2012.

    Richt's ability to coach through adversity led to the Bulldogs' success.

28. Larry Fedora

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    Fedora was the head coach of Southern Miss this season, and has since departed for the greener pastures of the North Carolina head coaching job.

    His role in this season was defined on December 3, when the Eagles upset previously undefeated Houston in the C-USA championship game.

    This win prevented the Cougars from finishing undefeated and capturing a BCS bid.

    For fans of the BCS conferences Fedora is a hero for keeping another "BCS-Buster" out in the cold.

27. Will Lyles

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    Lyles is the director of Complete Scouting Services.

    Whatever course of action the NCAA decides to take regarding scouting services, we know that we have Lyles to thank for being the first high-profile service to be brought to our attention.

    Lyles' name has been associated with Oregon and LSU, regarding the recruiting of such high profile studs as Patrick Peterson and LaMichael James.

    His name first came up when it came to light that Oregon had paid Lyles $24,000 for his services while recruiting Lache Seastrunk.

26. Paul Rhoads

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    Rhoads took over as head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones after Gene Chizik headed to Auburn.

    After winning only 12 games in his first two seasons as coach, 2011 was supposed to be tougher due to conference realignment.

    The realignment assured that the 'Clones would not be able to avoid meeting Oklahoma and Texas in conference play.

    While Rhoads' team finished 6-6 yet again, they altered the fate of the BCS championship game by upsetting then number two Oklahoma State in two overtimes on November 18.

    If you are not a fan of the SEC title rematch, you can blame it on Rhoads' solid gameplan against the Cowboys.

25. Justin Blackmon

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    Blackmon won the Biletnikoff award as the nation's best receiver for the second time in a row, becoming just the second receiver in history to win the award multiple times.

    His play for Oklahoma State was a huge reason the Cowboys were able to win the Big 12, and he finished the year with 15 touchdown catches and over 1,300 yards.

24. Brady Hoke

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    Hoke has made all the right moves since taking over as head coach at Michigan.

    He took this team to a BCS game in his first season, returning one of the most prominent programs in history to a place where they garner some national attentions, and knocking off rival Ohio State in the process.

    His team faces Alabama next season in non-conference play, and with a win, will declare themselves in the race for the BCS title game.

23. Casey Pachall

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    Coming into the 2011 season, expectations were much lower for this TCU team following the departure of star quarterback Andy Dalton to play on Sundays.

    Couple that with a new conference and a trip to Boise City, and the expectations were reasonably low.

    Enter Casey Pachall.

    Pachall took over the reins of the offense and showed incredible improvement over the course of the season, leading the Frogs to the MWC title and BCS eligibility.

    Next year, he will get to display his talents in the Big 12.

22. Matt Barkley

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    Barkley's decision to return to USC made headlines and waves in Pac-12 country.

    He was a top three quarterback this season, and with some returning talent and something to play for will be a force next season.

    His decision to return changes the shape of the Pac-12 race, and places USC squarely in the 2012 pre-season top five.

21. Trent Richardson

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    Let's be honest, the Alabama defense has been superb all season long, and the Tide may have finished with only one loss even with Lou Holtz playing running back.

    That said, Richardson had an incredible season, and was easily the most consistent offensive threat on a squad that struggled to move the ball at times.

    Richardson averaged six yards per carry, scored 20 times on the ground and amassed over 1,500 yards en route to becoming one of five Heisman finalists.

20. Ryan Broyles

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    Before Broyles suffered a season ending injury, he became the NCAA's leader in career receptions, and the Big 12's leader in career touchdowns.

    For a snapshot of how important he was to the Sooners, one must realize that they lost two of the three games that he missed, including a horrible beating at the hands of in-state rival Oklahoma State.

    His loss affected the BCS race in a big way.

19. Kellen Moore

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    Moore hung up his cleats for Boise State as the NCAA record holder for most career victories.

    He finished his career at BSU with a 50-3 record, and a BCS bowl victory to his name.

    His play this season was overlooked at times due to the success of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley, but was still a force at the quarterback position, yet again.

18. Lane Kiffin

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    The Trojans, in the middle of NCAA sanctions, enjoyed a successful season in part due to the coaching of Kiffin.

    He has continued to recruit for SC at an elite level, in spite of restrictions and the accompanying difficulties.

    His biggest accomplishments to date have been getting T.J.McDonald and Matt Barkley to return for next season as Trojans.

17. Montee Ball

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    Ball, Wisconsin's punishing running back, is one touchdown shy of breaking Barry Sanders' record for scores in a season.

    The man runs people over, or shakes them with astonishing regularity, and was a key part of the Badgers' run to the Big Ten title.

    He wound up in New York as Heisman finalist, and has an opportunity to break that record in the Rose Bowl.

16. Case Keenum

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    Case Keenum became the NCAA record holder in career passing yards and touchdowns in the 2011 season.

    The man was a scoring virtuoso.

    He finished the season with 45 passing touchdowns and only 5 picks to go with a ridiculous 5,099 passing yards in his sixth season of eligibility.

    He may not have done his damage in one of the "major" conferences, but Keenum's accomplishments are extremely impressive, nonetheless.

15. John Swofford

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    The ACC has now poached the Big East for conference members twice.

    As the commissioner of the ACC, Swofford has made a huge impact this season on the face of college football.

    The Big East has turned into a nationwide affair, and looks like a mess, after Swofford and the ACC took Syracuse and Pitt.

14. Jim Delany

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    Forgive the man his hair.

    As the commissioner of the extremely lucrative B1G, Delany can get away with it.

    He was instrumental in bringing the inaugural conference championship game to the mid-west, and it was a smashing success.

    Couple that with his move to pull in Nebraska to the conference, and he clearly deserves a spot on this list.

13. Crimson Tide Defense

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    It's a group, not one person, but to list the entire defense would take up too much space, so here they are, en masse.

    This group is statistically the best defense in the nation, allowing 191.3 total yards per game.


    Their hard-hitting, disciplined style absolutely terrorizes opponents, too bad the offense cannot keep up.

12. Bill Hancock and the BCS

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    Those of you that hate the BCS system with a passion are probably already familiar with Hancock.

    He is the Executive Director of the BCS, and the guy who will argue any rational argument against the BCS system by letting you know it is not flawed and is, in fact a perfect system.

    Sadly, he has tremendous influence in the direction of the BCS, and by default, the direction of the NCAA.

11. Larry Scott

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    The Pac-12 Championship game may have been a dud in it's inaugural season, but it will surely be a financial bonanza for the conference in seasons to come.

    Larry Scott, as commissioner of the Pac-12 was influential in bringing this game into reality, as well as luring Utah and Colorado away from the MWC and Big 12 respectively, to join the Pac-12.

    Scott has been one of the very prominent faces in the ever changing landscape of conference expansion.

10. Russell Wilson

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    Wilson was let go from N.C. State due to a desire to pursue a potential career in baseball alongside his  college football career.

    After a much-publicized courtship by Auburn and Wisconsin, he decided to play his final season at Wisconsin, leaving a mark in more ways than one.

    He paved the way for guys such as Notre Dame's Dayne Crist, who already pulled the same stunt and headed to Kansas.

    Not only that, he made waves in the Big Ten, leading Wisconsin to their second straight conference title and Rose Bowl berth.

9. Dabo Swinney

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    Honestly, who saw Swinney leading the Clemsons Tigers to an ACC title?

    If you are yelling "I did" you are a liar.

    Swinney's ability to coach his team led to an extremely successful season in Clemson.

    His recruiting chops are quietly making waves down south, as he is starting to see his recruits make the team, and will likely have an even better squad next season than this season.

    And with a name like "Dabo" you can't go wrong.

8. Tyrann Mathieu/ Morris Claiborne

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    Every week, it seemed like we were inundated with fresh "honey badger" highlights.

    Mathieu's play at the cornerback position for LSU was superb whenever he was on the field, and coupled with Claiborne, the duo made the most impressive corner combo in the country.

    Between them, they finished with five forced fumbles and eight interceptions.

    The two were both named first team All Americans by the AP, and had more impact on the BCS title race than any other duo in the country.

7. Eric LeGrand

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    LeGrand has been the best story of 2011, for those of you who enjoy inspirational sagas.

    LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down in a violent collision against Army in October of 2010.

    Whenever he has shown up on any sort of radio, his attitude has been positive and determined, and in October of this season, he returned to the football field, leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field in his motorized wheelchair.

    His determination and perseverance should be an inspiration to us all.

6. Robert Griffin III

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    RG3 came out of nowhere in the final month of the season to garner some Heisman Trophy buzz and eventually win the award.

    This guy has the most accurate deep ball you will ever see.

    He led Baylor to victories this season over both Texas and Oklahoma, and will lead the Bears into their bowl game against Washington.

    His speed and passing ability make him a threat to hurt you from any part of the field, and his big time play on big stages thrust him into our collective consciousness.

5. Nick Saban

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    Power corrupts.

    That's one thing J.R.R. Tolkien got right.

    We saw it at Happy Valley, and many would like you to believe that it is taking place in Tuscaloosa.

    But Nick Saban has done nothing to draw so much ire but turn around the most storied franchise in college football history.

    This season, he put together another absolutely lockdown defense, and cobbled together a serviceable offense.

    Voila, the Tide are in another title game, led by their stoic head coach, Saban.

4. Mike Slive

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    The commissioner of the SEC has made some significant acquisitions this season.

    Not only has he led the SEC to dominance of the college football universe, but he went out and expanded his conference by picking up Missouri and Texas A&M for next season.

    The SEC may or may not be clean and honest, but you cannot argue that Slive has done his job, and done it well.

    The only possible exception to that statement would be the conference's television contract.

3. Bill Snyder

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    Snyder may be old, but he's still great.

    The man that turned around Kansas State over a decade ago, returned and led them to BCS eligibility this season.

    The 'Cats fell short of a berth, but finished with a double digit win season and a great venue for their final match-up in the Cotton Bowl.

    Snyder put together an incredibly solid team, and they cam out of nowhere to win ten games.

2. Les Miles

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    Do you need any other reason for Miles to make this list?

    He coached his team through one of the toughest schedules in the nation, battled suspensions due to bar fights and synthetic cannabis, and still managed to lead his team to and undefeated, SEC championship season and a shot at the BCS title.

    As long as he doesn't somehow screw up his clock management in the BCS title, his season has been perfect.

1. NCAA Committee on Infractions

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    The "COI" are basically the college basketball version of "they".

    You know how in movies, the protagonist says such gems as "They are out to get us", and "They want me dead".

    You don't see much of them, but you get the sense that they alter the course of college football nearly at will.

    The committee is made up of ten members, and has been involved this year on the campuses of USC, Ohio State, North Carolina and Boise State, just to name a few.