Collegiate coaching is one of the toughest jobs around. You have immense pressure from fans with tons of passion, boosters with tons of money, and school administration with tons of ability to fire you at any moment, even mid-season. On top of that, you work long hours, almost everyday, with little to no vacation time. Between recruiting, managing your players, coordinating your staff, and actually coaching games, it has to feel like a 24/7 job. If that’s not enough, there are legions of regional and national writers whose job it is to judge you and every choice you make.
The good folks over at Athlon Sports have taken that task to its inevitable conclusion and decided to rank all 128 college football coaches heading into the 2015 season. It’s an impressive feat to say the least. As they pointed out, there is much more than winning to consider. There is the obvious, like recruiting, but there are also deeper issues such as who makes the most of their resources, reliance on coaching staff, and whether the coach has succeeded in more than one place.
For the sake of brevity, below is their top ten list. You can view the entire rankings here.
Best College Football Coaches For 2015
- Nick Saban – Alabama
- Urban Meyer – Ohio State
- Art Briles – Baylor
- Jim Harbaugh – Michigan
- Bill Snyder – Kansas State
- Mark Dantonio – Michigan State
- Gary Patterson – TCU
- Bob Stoops – Oklahoma
- Gus Malzahn – Auburn
- Jimbo Fisher – FSU
It’s hard to judge the list, considering the work that must have gone into making it, but let’s do it anyway.
Nick Saban at No. 1 is an obvious choice. However, if Meyer puts together a serious championship run over the next few years, that spot could very well be his for the taking.
The real shocker in the top ten, to me, is Jim Harbaugh, considering he has done diddly squat, on the field at least, at Michigan. It’s not his fault, the season hasn’t started yet, but I don’t think a couple bowl births at Stanford, several years ago, should warrant the No. 4 ranking among all college football coaches. He hasn’t actually resurrected the program yet, he’s just expected to. For comparison sake, Jimbo Fisher actually did bring FSU back to glory and he’s only at No. 10. That seems a little off.
Outside of the top ten, there are a few notables like Rich Rodriquez at No. 14 who has done a nice job in Arizona after completely failing at Michigan. It’s tough to recover from that kind of fall from grace.
Les Miles at No. 24 seems low considering he has a championship with LSU, recruits top ten classes on the regular, and makes some of the ballsiest on-field calls I’ve ever seen.
The highest ranked non-Power Five coach is ULL’s Mark Hudspeth, which answers the question “Who is 2016’s Jim McElwain?” The lowest ranked, most recognizable name would have to be Hawaii’s Norm Chow at No. 125. Chow, as you may recall, was the offensive coordinator for the juggernaut USC teams of the mid-2000s.
In case you were curious, the last ranked coach is John Bonamego from Central Michigan. He hasn’t done anything to earn that distinction. He hasn’t really done anything, which is kind of the problem. Bonamego has never been a head coach or head coordinator in college football.