The 11 Worst College Football Coaching Performances of the 21st Century

BabyTateSenior Writer IMay 22, 2009

This is an easy enough discussion to have. We all agree that John Cooper and Larry Coker are the two worst coaches anyone has ever seen.

But wait, Cooper won 192 games in a 24-year career while another legendary Ohio State head coach, Woody Hayes, won 219 in 30 years. That's only 27 more wins in six more seasons, an average of less than five wins a year.

Maybe Cooper wasn't all that bad.

Larry Coker has to be the worst Miami coach. No comparison to the smiling, glad-handing, ship-jumping Butch Davis.

See folks, Davis is 63-33 in his career while Coker is only 60-15. Wha?

There must be something wrong with these figures because everybody knows it can't be true.

It's a case where reality interferes with the perception. These two fanbases, inexorably intertwined since that night in the state of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, do not want to be confused with records; they know what they want to know!

And so it is throughout the decades and across the continent.

Many times a coach has been left with only the actual results to make his argument for tenure while "supporters" of the program demand action—action that can only be satisfied by removal and replacement of the current regime.

Let us review some of the most obvious cases of where a head coach was removed for what was either a perceived poor job, an unacceptable comparison to a rival program, or just a terrible performance requiring job separation.

To be fair, we should allow for a coach to have been at the institution for which he is identified for at least three seasons.

11. John L. Smith, Michigan State

Twenty-two wins and 26 losses for the arrogant Smith, who has hopped from opportunity to opportunity with no regard for feelings of the fanbase.

10. Ron Zook, Florida

He couldn't cut the mustard in the SEC, losing 14 games in his three seasons. Steve Spurrier lost 14 games in his last six seasons at Florida.

9. Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M

He wasn't that bad at Alabama (17-8), and he was pretty good at TCU and his other stops, but in College Station he went 32-28.

8. Mike Shula, Alabama

Twenty-six wins and 23 losses in the temple of Southern football. He must be thankful he doesn't have a famous name to live up to or anything like that.

7. John Mackovic, Arizona

A good guy who has won elsewhere but couldn't figure it out in Tucson, losing 18 out of 28 games before leaving during his third season.

6. Mike DuBose, Alabama

Just qualifying by the skin of his teeth since he left after the 2000 campaign. With only 24 wins against 23 losses, he committed the worst of all coaching sins—he hurt his alma mater and set back the program.

5. Ed Orgeron, Mississippi

He came, he saw, he lost, he left. Ten wins in 35 games sealed the fate of the big-talking man known appropriately as Coach "O."

4. Bill Callahan, Nebraska

Twenty-two losses in four years. Legendary Cornhusker coach Bob Devaney lost only 20 games in his entire career at Nebraska. Frightening.

3. Gary Crowton, Brigham Young

Took over one of the most successful programs of the past 30 years and immediately drove it into the ground, going 26-23. Provo must be glad Bronco Mendenhall was around to pick up the pieces and save Cougar football.

2. Greg Robinson, Syracuse

Ten wins and 37 losses enabled the animated Robinson to completely destroy one of the proudest programs in college football history.

1. Ty Willingham, Washington

More excuses have been made for this guy than anyone in history. The truth sometimes hurts: Ty just doesn't have it—0-12 last year.

So. Why not some of the most-hated coaches? Like Mike Price, for instance?

Because Mike Price is a good coach. For all you Red Elephants out there, just recall that Price never lost a game as the head coach of Alabama.

Bill Doba? Sylvester Croom? Come on, these two guys worked miracles to keep the towns of Pullman and Starkville competitive. You don't see many big names lining up to take those jobs.

Charlie Weis? He took Notre Dame to two BCS Bowls in his first two seasons in South Bend, going 19-6. Nick Saban didn't do that at Alabama, and Saban is 19-8 after two years in Tuscaloosa. You want Weis on the list? Fine, Saban is going with him.

Karl Dorrell was able to leave his imprint at UCLA during the past decade by having two winning seasons in five years. It seems to help your reputation if nothing is expected of you and your program has not won a national title since the Dodgers were in Brooklyn.

ACC fans are no doubt panting for Chan Gailey and Tommy Bowden. Gailey had a winning season all six years he coached at Georgia Tech, and Bowden never had a losing season at Clemson. So much for appearances.

Keith Gilbertson at Washington and Walt Harris at Stanford? Pretty bad, but they coached only two seasons each at those schools, so they do not qualify for this list.

Likewise, the embattled Rich Rodriguez (pictured above) should be on the hot seat by Michigan fans after turning in a disastrous performance in his initial season as the Wolverine head coach.

Fortunately, he hasn't been the headman long enough to make this list, and there is certainly every confidence in the coach who led West Virginia to the Sugar Bowl.

A word to the wise: If you are coaching the winningest program of all time, you had better win. The gigantic Wolverine football fanbase will not accept mediocrity.   

There are others. Many belong on or near the list. Some have gathered themselves at other locations to attempt a comeback. Mike DuBose is a good example.

Some have demonstrated true skill in working as assistant coaches. 

Still others, broken by a media and fanbase pounding, have simply hung up their whistles. More than one has turned to the world of "color commentators."

After all, if a coach doesn't have his reputation, what does he have?


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