Ranking the top 100 college football head coaches of the past 50 years

The best college football head coaches of the past 50 years will be ranked here—from the best to the worst. Other rankings will include the best offensive minds, the best defensive minds, the best offensive and defensive coordinators, the best college football head coaches ever, and so on.

The NCAA football season is just around the corner and for the past 50 years, there have been some very good coaches behind the sidelines. To create a list of the top 100 coaches of this era, we looked at every coach’s career win total, conference titles and losses, and head-to-head results. We also looked at how their teams fared against other top coaches.

The head coach of a football team can make or break a college football season. In fact, a head coach’s performance can be the difference between a good team and a great one. So, what makes a great coach?. Read more about top 100 college football coaches of all time and let us know what you think.

Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech was inadvertently left out of the initial edition of this list. He’s now No. 27 on the list, making it a top 101 ranking.

Alabama’s Nick Saban earned his sixth national championship in the last 12 years, and his seventh overall, in January. Only Bobby Bowden’s 14 consecutive top-five finishes could compare to his run of dominance, and it’s startling to think that last year’s squad was very likely his finest ever.

In the late 1990s, Saban delivered high-level success at Michigan State (including one of the sport’s most famous shocks with the Spartans’ 1998 defeat of No. 1 Ohio State), then awoke a sleeping giant at LSU and won his first national championship in 2003. He was enticed back to the college levels after a brief dalliance in the pros, where he created the modern recruiting machine that so many others have tried to imitate. He had some of the greatest defenses of the twenty-first century, and after recognizing that his offensive assault needed to be updated, he had maybe the best offense of the century in 2020.

As a new season begins, let’s take a look at Saban’s — and other current coaches’ — achievements in comparison to the greatest of contemporary college football. Let’s take a look at the top 100 coaches from the last 50 years.

2 Related

What is the significance of 50 years? It’s mainly because the sport was approaching complete integration 50 years ago, at a time when offensive innovation was happening in two ways: the Wishbone was gaining traction among strong schools, and the forward pass was making creative and thrilling progress behind the scenes. It seemed like a logical boundary to draw in order to define contemporary collegiate football.

(That, and the fact that I couldn’t think of a way to compare Walter Camp’s achievements to, say, Urban Meyer’s.)

Before we get started, one last note: this list is only focused on on-field achievements. On this list, you’ll find a number of coaches who have had run-ins with the NCAA or who may have had a part in much more serious off-the-field controversies. It didn’t seem right to mention the controversies in passing in brief blurbs about accomplishments, so I opted to avoid it and concentrate only on on-field successes.

I wrote about 50 guys in particular, but I wanted to include as many fantastic instructors as possible. Here are the numbers 100 through 51:

Toggle navigation: Top 50 | Top 10

Bruce Snyder (No. 101) (Utah State 1976-82, Cal 1987-91, Arizona State 1992-2000)

Bronco Mendenhall (#100) (BYU 2005-15, Virginia 2016-present)

James Franklin, 99. (Vanderbilt 2011-13, Penn State 2014-present)

Rich Rodriguez, 98. (Salem 1988, Glenville State 1990-96, West Virginia 2001-07, Michigan 2008-10, Arizona 2012-17)

Bobby Wallace, 97. (North Alabama 1988-97, Temple 1998-2005, West Alabama 2006-10, North Alabama 2012-16)

Bobby Ross, 96. (The Citadel 1973-77, Maryland 1982-86, Georgia Tech 1987-91, Army 2004-06)

Kevin Donley, 95. (Anderson 1978-81, Georgetown-KY 1982-92, California-PA 1993-96, Saint Francis-IN 1998-present)

Charles McClendon, 94. (LSU 1962-79)

Kirby Smart, 93. (Georgia 2016-present)

Kirby Smart is on the verge of breaking into the top 50. A national title for Georgia would be a huge boost. John Raoux/Associated Press

David Shaw (age 92) (Stanford 2011-present)

Dan Mullen (number 91) (Mississippi State 2009-17, Florida 2018-present)

Mel Tjeerdsma, 90 (Austin College 1984-93, NW Missouri State 1994-2010)

Larry Coker, 89. (Miami 2001-06, UTSA 2011-15)

Ken Sparks (ninety-eighth) (Carson-Newman 1980-2016)

Mike Bellotti, 87. (Chico State 1984-88, Oregon 1995-2008)

Claude Gilbert, age 86 (SDSU 1973-80, SJSU 1984-89)

Mike Van Diest, 85 (Carroll 1999-2018)

84. Gene Stallings (Texas A&M 1965-71, Alabama 1990-96)

Kyle Whittingham (age 83) (Utah 2005-present)

Darryl Rogers (age 82) (Cal State Hayward 1965, Fresno State 1966-72, SJSU 1973-75, Michigan State 1976-79, Arizona State 1980-84)

Rich Brooks (#81) (Oregon 1977-94, Kentucky 2003-09)

Dick MacPherson (80) (UMass 1971-77, Syracuse 1981-90)

Erk Russell (age 79) (Georgia Southern, 1982-89)

Frank Solich (age 78) (Nebraska 1998-2003, Ohio 2005-20)

Bobby Petrino, 77. (Louisville 2003-06, Arkansas 2008-11, WKU 2013, Louisville 2014-18, Missouri State 2020-present)

Sonny Lubick (76) (Montana State 1978-81, Colorado State 1993-2007)

Butch Davis, 75. (Miami 1995-2000, North Carolina 2007-10, FIU 2017-20)

Jerry Claiborne, 74. (Virginia Tech 1961-70, Maryland 1972-81, Kentucky 1982-89)

Jim Butterfield, 73. (Ithaca, 1967-1993)

Wayne Hardin (age 72) (Navy 1959-64, Temple 1970-82)

Kirk Ferentz (#71) (Maine 1990-92, Iowa 1999-present)

Jeff Tedford, 70. (Cal 2002-12, Fresno State 2017-19)

Don Nehlen, 69. (Bowling Green 1968-76, West Virginia 1980-2000)

Joe Tiller (no. 68) (Wyoming 1991-96, Purdue 1997-2008)

Bob Reade, 67. (Augustana, 1979-94)

Fisher DeBerry, 66. (Air Force 1984-2006)

Mike Gundy, 65. (Oklahoma State 2005-present)

Gary Pinkel, 64 (Toledo 1991-2000, Missouri 2001-15)

George Welsh (age 63) (Navy 1973-81, Virginia 1982-2000)

Craig Bohl (no. 62) (NDSU 2003-13, Wyoming 2014-present)

Hayden Fry (#61) (SMU 1962-72, North Texas 1973-78, Iowa 1979-98)

Earle Bruce, 60. (Tampa 1972, Iowa State 1973-78, Ohio State 1979-87, Northern Iowa 1988, Colorado State 1989-92)

Jerry Moore, 59. (North Texas 1979-80, Texas Tech 1981-85, Appalachian State 1989-2012)

Chip Kelly, 58. (Oregon 2009-12, UCLA 2018-present)

Bill Yeoman, 57. (Houston 1962-86)

56. R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M 1989-2002)

Terry Donahue (#55) (UCLA 1976-95)

John Robinson, 54. (USC 1976-82 and 1993-97, UNLV 1999-2004)

53. Billy Joe (Cheyney 1972-78, Central State 1981-93, Florida A&M 1994-2004, Miles 2008-10)

John Cooper (number 52) (Tulsa 1977-84, Arizona State 1985-87, Ohio State 1988-2000)

Now it’s time for the top 50.


Chris Ault (no. 51)

Nevada is the team to beat (1976-92, 1994-95, 2004-12) 234-108-1 is the score. Big Sky (1983, 1986, and 1990-91); Big West (1992-94); WAC (2005, 2010)

You might argue that Ault is Nevada’s best and second-best coach, respectively. He retired twice, but each time he did, he won big and introduced a lasting innovation: the pistol formation, which brought downhill power running to the shotgun period.


Johnny Majors (#50)

Iowa State (1968-72), Pitt (1973-76), and Tennessee (1978-80). (1977-92) 185-137-10 is the score. 1976: National Champion SEC Conferences in 1985 and 1989-90

At three separate institutions, Majors has been regarded as one of the greatest coaches in history. He made something out of nothing at ISU, rode Tony Dorsett to a Pitt national championship, and transformed Tennessee into an SEC powerhouse in the late 1980s. The victory % was tainted by bad years, but the highs were incredible.


Phil Fulmer, 49.

Tennessee is the team to beat (1992-2008) 151-52-1 is the score. 1998 was the national championship. SEC (Southeast Conference) 1997-98

Fulmer had all of Knoxville’s arrows pointing in the right way, rode Peyton Manning to three top-10 finishes, and then won the national championship without him. He completed his career with eight seasons of ten or more victories, and Tennessee has never won the SEC East without him.


Mark Dantonio, 48

Cincinnati (2004-2006), Michigan State (2004-2006). (2007-19) 132-74 is the score. The following are the dates of the conferences: 2010, 2013, and 2015. The Big Ten

Dantonio led his team to the Rose Bowl in 2013, a CFP bid in 2015, and three consecutive top-10 finishes with an old-school, flash-free approach — run the ball, defend. And he did it at a school that has only had two top-10 results in the previous 40 years.

During his tenure in East Lansing, Mark Dantonio oversaw one of the greatest periods in Michigan State football history. Mike Carter is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.


Les Miles (#47)

Oklahoma State (2001-04), LSU (2005-16), and Kansas are the teams (2019-20) 145-73 is the score. 2007 was the national championship. 2007 SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC SEC

After bringing OSU back to life after a decade in the wilderness, he took over for Nick Saban in Baton Rouge and led the Tigers to five top-10 finishes and a national championship by relying on defense, attitude, and the odd trick play.


Lance Leipold, 46

Wisconsin-Whitewater (2007-14), Buffalo (2015-20), and Kansas are the teams (2021-present) 146-39 is the score. 2007-09, 2009-11, and 2013-14 national championships 2007-11 and 2013-14 WIAC Conference championships in Division III

In eight years at his old school, the former UWW quarterback completely destroyed the place, winning 109 games and six national championships. He turned Buffalo into a MAC heavyweight in pursuit of a fresh challenge, and now he faces the ultimate test: the Jayhawks.


Shug Jordan (#45)

Auburn is the team to beat (1951-75) 175-83-7 is the score. 1957 was the national championship. Titles of FBS Conferences: 1957 SEC

Despite leading Auburn for the most of Bear Bryant’s time at Alabama, he managed to steal seven top-10 finishes, seven seasons with nine or more victories, a Heisman Trophy (through Pat Sullivan), and a national championship for himself. Cliff Hare Stadium was renamed Jordan-Hare Stadium in 1973 for a reason.


Vince Dooley, 44.

Georgia’s team (1964-88) 201-77-10 is the number to remember. 1980’s national championship SEC Conferences in 1966, 1968, 1976, and 1980-82

Dooley, a former quarterback and assistant for rival Auburn, went to Athens in 1964 and became Georgia’s coach and athletic director for the next 24 years. Oh, and from 1980 through 1983, he went 43-4-1, due in part to a running back called Herschel.


John Merritt (number 43)

Teams: Tennessee State (1952-62), Jackson State (1952-62). (1963-83) 235-70-12 is the score. 1965-66, 1970-1, 1973, 1979, and 1982 were the national championships. 1957 is the year of the conference. Midwest Athletic, SWAC, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic, Midwest Athletic,

“Where [Eddie] Robinson went recruiting Bible in hand, Merritt came in a luxury car, wearing sunglasses, numerous rings, and an El Producto cigar,” according to Samuel Freedman’s “Breaking the Line.” Merritt has a long history of success, producing 36 NFL draft selections in the 1970s alone.


Lloyd Carr (#42)

Michigan is the name of the team (1995-2007) 122-40 is the new record. 1997 (national championship) 1997-98, 2000, and 2003-04 are the names of the conferences. The Big Ten

Carr’s stint at Michigan is most remembered for what the Wolverines haven’t accomplished since he left: finishing higher than 10th in the polls five times, winning a Big Ten championship five times, and defeating Ohio State more than once (he went 6-7).


Mike Leach (#41)

Texas Tech (2000-09), Washington State (2012-19), and Mississippi State are the teams (2020-present) 143-97 is the score.

Leach, who is more known for his oddities and Air Raid impact, has also won large at schools that aren’t known for it. Tech was rated five times before he departed, but hasn’t done so since. Wazzu’s only ranking finish in 17 years was when he was in charge.


Bill McCartney is number 40 on the list.

Colorado is the team to beat (1982-94) 93-55-5 is the current record. 1990’s national championship Big 8 Conference (1989-1991)

Before the former Michigan assistant turned the Buffaloes into an option-heavy powerhouse, CU had only previously finished in the AP top 10 twice. He had three 11-win seasons, the first of which he outperformed rival Nebraska and then temporarily surpassed the Huskers.


Danny Ford (age 39)

Arkansas (1978-89), Clemson (1978-89). (1993-97) 122-59-5 is the current record. 1981: National Champion 1981-82, 1986-88 Atlantic Coast Conference

Ford, the most underappreciated coach of the 1980s, took over at Clemson at the age of 30, guided the Tigers to their first national championship three years later, then overcame NCAA penalties to win three consecutive ACC crowns. He also led Arkansas to its first SEC West championship.


Dennis Erickson (#38)

Idaho (1982-85), Wyoming (1986), Washington State (1987-88), Miami (1989-94), Oregon State (1999-02), Idaho (2006), Arizona State (2007). (2007-11) 179-96-1 is the score. 1989 and 1991 were the years in which the United States won national championships. Big Sky Conference (1985), Big East Conference (1991-92 and 1994), Pac-10 Conference (2000 and 2007)

Erickson, a journeyman, players’ coach, and underappreciated offensive innovator, kept The U’s supremacy going for a few years following Jimmy Johnson’s departure, winning conference championships on both coasts, and, perhaps most impressively, leading Oregon State to its lone top-five finish.


Frank Kush, 37.

Arizona State is one of the best teams in the country (1958-79) 176-54-1 is the score. Border Conferences (1959 and 1961), WAC (1969-73), and WAC (1975 and 1977)

The authoritarian Kush willed Arizona State into a power-conference team, orchestrating four AP top-10 finishes in six years, including a No. 2 finish in 1975, while being one of the sport’s most physically demanding coaches (to put it mildly). In 1978, ASU was promoted to the Pac-10.


Brian Kelly, 36.

Grand Valley State (1991-2003), Central Michigan (2004-06), Cincinnati (2007-09), and Notre Dame (1991-2003) were the teams (2010-present) 273-96-2 is the score. 2002-03 national championships 1992, 1997-98 Division II Conference Championships Midwest Intercollegiate, GLIAC 2001-02, MAC 2006, Big East 2008-09

Kelly is one of the rare coaches who has had the chance to win large in several divisions, from Allendale, Michigan, to South Bend. He almost led Cincinnati to the BCS Championship and has returned Notre Dame to consistent, high-level success.

Brian Kelly has been a successful coach at every stage of his career. Kirby Lee is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.


Mark Richt, 35

Georgia (2001-15), Miami (2001-15). (2016-18) 171-64 is the score. SEC Conferences in 2002 and 2005

Richt’s résumé had everything but a national championship. In his first five seasons at UGA, he won two SEC championships, led the team to seven top-10 finishes, and came within a game, or a single bounce, of winning the championship in 2002, 2007, and 2012.


Jimbo Fisher (#34)

Teams: Florida State (2010-17), Texas A&M (2018-present) Record: 109-33 National title: 2013 Conference titles: 2012-14 ACC

Fisher succeeded Bobby Bowden and quickly reestablished FSU’s powerhouse bona fides. His Noles won 59 games in five years and were barely challenged during a national title romp in 2013. He got A&M back into the top five within three years, too.


Howard Schnellenberger (#33)

Miami (1979-83), Louisville (1985-94), Oklahoma (1995), and Florida Atlantic University (2001-11) 158-151-3 is the score. 1983: National Champion Titles of Conferences: 2007 The Sun Belt is a region in the United States

Schnellenberger’s unwavering confidence and gravelly voice transformed Miami, a school that had contemplated abandoning football, into a national powerhouse and converted Louisville into a football believer. Then he brought a fledgling FAU team to the FBS level, where he temporarily flourished.


Barry Alvarez, 32.

Wisconsin is a team from Wisconsin (1990-2005) 120-73-4 is the score. The following are the dates of the conferences: 1993, 1998, and 1999. The Big Ten

Turning a program around is one thing. It’s one thing to turn things around indefinitely. Alvarez introduced a physical style to Madison that the Badgers have kept ever since; Alvarez’s fingerprints are still visible throughout the program, and in the greatest possible manner.


Pat Dye (#31)

East Carolina (1974-79), Wyoming (1980), and Auburn (1980). (1981-92) 153-62-5 is the score. Southern Conference (1976), SEC (1983), and SEC (1987-89).

Dye’s career, like Richt’s, had everything but a national championship. In 1983, his Tigers came agonizingly close to being undefeated, and in 1988, they came within seven points of going undefeated. Regardless, AU was the most dangerous SEC team in the late 1980s, as shown by top-10 performances.


Frank Broyles (#30)

Missouri (1957), Arkansas (1957), Missouri (1957), Missouri (1957), Missouri (1957), Missouri (1958-76) 149-62-6 is the current record. 1964 won the national championship. 1959-61, 1964-65, 1968, and 1975 were the names of the conferences. SWC

Broyles recognized enough promise at Arkansas to quit his first head-coaching job after just one year, and he followed up by guiding the Hogs to nine top-10 finishes, seven conference championships, and a claim to the 1964 national championship.


Bo Schembechler (no. 29)

Miami (Ohio) (1963-68), Michigan (1963-68). (1969-89) 234-65-8 is the score. 1969, 1971-74, 1976-78, 1980, 1982, 1986, and 1987-88 MAC; 1969, 1971-74, 1976-78, 1980, 1982, 1986, and 1987-88 Big Ten

Schembechler, a storied member of the Miami (Ohio) Cradle of Coaches, drew with Woody Hayes in the Ten Year War, racked up 16 top-10 finishes and 10 Rose Bowl appearances, and ended with one or zero losses six times.


Gary Patterson (#28)

TCU is the name of the team (2001-present) 178-74 is the score. Titles of Conferences: 2002 Mountain West Conference, 2005-09, Big 12 Conference, 2014

TCU has never finished in the top 20 in the AP poll in the 40 years prior to Patterson’s arrival. Patterson has eight in the last two decades. After a 36-3 season (and a Rose Bowl victory) from 2008-10, he got the Horned Frogs moved to the Big 12, and he’s had three more top-10 finishes since then. Also a good guitarist.


Frank Beamer (#27)

Virginia Tech (1981-86), Murray State (1981-86). (1987-2015) 280-143-4 record in conference championships: 1986 OVC, 1995-96, 1999, 2004, 2007-08, 2010 ACC

Almost everything you think of when you think of Virginia Tech football comes from the Beamer era, including Michael Vick, the 1999 BCS Championship appearance, “Enter Sandman,” creative defense, and game-changing special teams pyrotechnics. That is all there is to it.


Bob Stoops (#26)

Oklahoma as a team (1999-2016) 190-48 is the record number. 2000 was the national championship. Big 12 champions in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006-08, 2010, 2012, and 2015-16.

When Stoops came over in 1999, OU was at its lowest point in history… and in his second year, he won the national championship. He wasn’t able to repeat that accomplishment, but he did return the Sooners to their former glory as an offensive innovator and the Big 12’s top program.


Jimmy Johnson (#25)

Oklahoma State (1979-1983), Miami (1979-1983). (1984-88) 81-34-3 is the team’s record. 1987: National Champion

If Johnson hadn’t departed to become one of the greatest NFL coaches of the 1990s, he would have finished much higher, but in only a decade, he turned around Oklahoma State and solidified The U’s growing credentials as college football’s dominating school.


Dan Devine (number 24)

Arizona State (1955-57), Missouri (1958-70), and Notre Dame (1958-70). (1975-80) 172-57-9 is the current record. 1977: National Champion Border, 1960, and 1969 Big 8 were the conference names in 1957, 1960, and 1969, respectively.

After a brief NFL dalliance, he led Notre Dame to three top-10 finishes and, behind Joe Montana, its second-to-last national title. He went 10-0 in his final year at ASU, won Missouri’s last two conference titles (among four top-10 finishes) and, after a brief NFL dalliance, led Missouri to its last two conference titles (among four top-10 finishes).


John Gagliardi (number 23)

Carroll (1949-52) and Saint John’s (1949-52). (1953-2012) 489-138-11 is the score. NAIA championships in 1963 and 1965, Division III championships in 1976 and 2003

1950-52, 1950-52, 1950-52, 1950-52, 1950-52 Montana Collegiate, Minnesota Intercollegiate, 1953, 1962-63, 1965, 1971, 1974-77, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1993-96, 1998-99, 2001-03, 2005-06, and 2008-09

“Saint John” coached for eight decades, winning national championships in both the 1960s and 2000s, limiting contact in practice, and refusing to be referred to as “Coach.” In a profession full with phony generals, he was a true one-of-a-kind character.


Don James is number 22.

Kent State (1971-74) and Washington (1974). (1975-92) 175-79-3 is the score. 1991: National Champion 1972-73 MAC, 1977-78, 1980-81 Pac-10, and 1990-92 Pac-10

He coached Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel at Kent State before turning around Washington twice, first taking the Huskies to three Rose Bowls and then, following a slump in the mid-1980s, transforming the program into a national powerhouse. His 1991 Washington Huskies may be the greatest Pac-10 squad ever.


Mack Brown is number twenty-one.

Appalachian State (1983), Tulane (1985-87), North Carolina (1988-97), Texas (1998-2013), Appalachian State once again (2019-present) 259-132-1 is the score. National champion: 2005 Big 12 champions in 2005 and 2009.

Brown, one of the most dynamic and well-known recruiters in history, helped turn around Tulane and UNC teams before leading Texas to seven top-10 finishes in nine years. Then he came out of retirement and breathed new life into the UNC program.

For the second time in his career, Mack Brown has turned around the North Carolina football team. Gerry Broome/Associated Press


Chris Petersen (no. 20)

Teams: Washington (2006-13), Boise State (2006-13). (2014-19) 147-38 is the score. WAC champions in 2006, 2008, and 2010, Mountain West champion in 2012, and Pac-12 champions in 2016 and 2018.

Few mid-majors have surpassed Petersen’s achievements at Boise. In 2006, his Broncos went 13-0 and defeated Oklahoma, then from 2009 through 2011, they won 38 games and finished in the top ten three times. He also helped Washington earn a spot to the College Football Playoff and its first outright conference championship in almost 30 years.


Lou Holtz (19.)

Teams: William & Mary (1969-71), NC State (1972-75), Arkansas (1977-83), Minnesota (1984-85), Notre Dame (1986-96), South Carolina (1999-2004) Record: 249-132-7 National title: 1988 Conference titles: 1970 Southern, 1973 ACC, 1979 SWC

He led four colleges to conference or national championships and six to bowl games. He was a journeyman for decades until finding his home in South Bend, where he became the best Notre Dame head coach of the last 40 years with a championship and five top-five finishes.


Darrell K Royal, age 18

Mississippi State (1954-55), Washington (1956), and Texas (1957-58). (1957-76) 184-60-5 is the score. 1963, 1969-70, 1973-74, 1973-74, 1973-74, 1973-74, 1973 SWC titles: 1959, 1961-1963, 1968-1973, and 1975

Royal, a former Oklahoma quarterback, helped transform Texas into Texas, winning three national championships, losing just one or zero games eight times, and supervising Emory Bellard’s development of the Wishbone, which helped turn around his and many other heavyweight teams in the 1970s.

Larry Kehres (#17)

Mount Union is a team from Ohio (1986-2012) 332-24-3 is the team’s record. Division III Conference titles: 1986, 1990, and 1992-2012 Ohio Athletic Conference titles: 1993, 1996-98, 2000-02, 2005-06, 2008, and 2012

When Kehres took charge, Mount Union had only ever reached the Division III playoffs. Twenty-seven years later, the school had made the playoffs 23 more times, won 11 national championships, and advanced to the championship game five more times. He created one of the most reliable things in the sport.


Woody Hayes, no. 16

Denison (1946-48), Miami (Ohio) (1949-50), and Ohio State (1949-50). (1951-78) 238-72-10 is the score. National championships: 1954, 1957, and 1968 1947 OAC, 1950 MAC, 1954-55, 1957, 1961, 1968-70, and 1972-77 Big Ten Conferences

Hayes was one of the most conservative and military-obsessed coaches in history, and he won big by treating football like ground combat. He increased his recruitment after a mid-1960s lull and went on to win eight top-10s and six Rose Bowls in nine years. He only lost one or zero games a total of 12 times.


Jim Tressel (#15)

Youngstown State University (1986-2000), Ohio State University (2001-10) 241-79-2 is the score. 1991, 1993-94, and 1997 FCS National Championships; 2002 FBS Conference Championships 2002, 2005-10, Ohio Valley The Big Ten

Tressel moved to Ohio State after converting YSU into FCS royalty (he is now the school’s president). In his second year, the Buckeyes won their first national championship in 34 years. In his ten years in Columbus, he had eight top-10 finishes and shared seven conference championships.


Pete Carroll (#14)

USC is the name of the team (2001-09) 97-19 is the score. 2003-2004 national championships From 2002 to 2008, the Pacific-10 Conference was known as the Pac-10.

Carroll’s collegiate career was cut short by a Super Bowl-winning move to the NFL, much like Jimmy Johnson’s. But it only took him a year to reawaken a sleeping giant and lead it to near-unprecedented success: his Trojans won seven consecutive top-four finishes and two national championships.


Steve Spurrier (#13)

Duke (1987-89), Florida (1990-2001), and South Carolina (1990-2001). (2005-15) 228-89-2 is the score. National championships: 1996 1989 ACC, 1991, 1993-96 SEC, and 2000 SEC are the conference championships.

He was Duke’s first conference champion in more than six decades. He was a part of South Carolina’s only three top-10 finishes. With 10 top-10 finishes and the school’s first six SEC championships in 11 years, he transformed Florida into a football heavyweight. He’s a decent ball coach.


Eddie Robinson (#12)

Grambling’s team (1941-97) 408-165-15 is the number on the record. 1955, 1967, 1972, 1974-75, 1977, 1980, 1983, and 1992 were the national championships. National championships for historically black colleges and universities 1960, 1965-68, 1971-75, 1977-80, 1983, 1985, 1989, and 1994 were the names of the conferences. SWAC

Robinson’s first unbeaten season came at the age of 23, and he went on to win more than 400 games and nine Black college football national championships, as well as seeing more than 200 of his players play professionally. He’s also the only person on this list who has been portrayed by Harry Belafonte in a film. That’s all there is to it.

Eddie Robinson has won national championships in five decades. Getty Images/Focus on Sport


Joe Paterno (#11)

Penn State is the name of the team (1966-2011) 409-136-3 is the score. 1982, 1986, 1982, 1986, 1982, 1986, 1982, 1986, 1982, 1986 1994, 2005, and 2008 were the years of the conferences. The Big Ten

We’re really pushing the “don’t speak about scandals” guideline here, but Paterno’s ability on the field was undeniable. He finished in the top ten in five different decades, won two national championships, and came close to winning five more.


LaVell Edwards is number ten on the list.

BYU is the team (1972-2000) 257-101-3 is the record number. 1984 won the national championship. 1974, 1976-85, 1989-93, and 1995-96 WAC, 1999 West of the Mountains

Edwards was one of the greatest offensive coaches in history, as well as one of the most influential and productive. Before he guided the Cougars to the most improbable of national championships, three top-10 finishes, and shares of 19 conference crowns, they hadn’t even been rated for a week.


Barry Switzer (nine)

Oklahoma as a team (1973-88) 157-29-4 is the team’s record. National championships were won in 1974-75 and 1985. Big 8 championships from 1973 to 1980 and 1984 to 1987

Switzer rode the Wishbone and otherworldly recruitment to phenomenal success in the 1970s, then returned to the Bone and went 33-3 from 1985 to 1987 following a short identity problem in the early 1980s. Over half of his seasons saw the Sooners finish in the top three of the Associated Press poll.


Bill Snyder (number 8)

Kansas State is the name of the team (1989-2005, 2009-18) 215-117-1 is the score. 2003 and 2012 are the dates of the conferences.

Snyder, by probably the greatest coach to never win a national championship, accepted a position at K-State that virtually no one wanted, transformed it into one of the top programs of the late 1990s, retired, then came back and won the Big 12 for the second time. The all-in-one software creator.


Swinney, Dabo

Clemson is the name of the team (2009-present) 140-33 is the score. 2016 and 2018 national championships The 2011 and 2015-20 ACC conferences are the names of the conferences.

Swinney, the greatest coach to have temporarily resigned to peddle real estate, shocked many when he was hired by Clemson, then even more when he built a Tiger fleet. Clemson has gone 79-7 in the last six seasons, winning its second and third national championships. And he’s just 51 years old.


John McKay is number six on the list.

USC is the name of the team (1960-75) 127-40-8 is the score. 1962, 1967, 1972, and 1974 were the national championships. Pac-8 champions in 1962, 1964, 1966-69, and 1972-74

After the war, USC had been a shambles, but that changed in McKay’s third season. The Trojans won four national championships between 1962 and 1974, with nine top-10 finishes and eight Rose Bowl appearances. He transformed USC into Running Back U and paved the way for John Robinson’s future success.


Urban Meyer is number five.

Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04), Florida (2005-10), and Ohio State are the teams who have won the most games (2012-18) 187-32 is the record number. 2006, 2008, and 2014 were the years with the most national championships. 2003-2004 Conference Titles SEC, 2014 and 2017-18 Mountain West, 2006 and 2008 The Big Ten

He quickly flipped BGSU on its head. At Utah, he was 22-2. At Florida, he won two national championships (and came close to winning a third). In seven years at Ohio State, he won another game while losing just five conference games. Whatever your school’s potential was, Meyer helped you realize it.

After winning two historic FBS championships, Urban Meyer is taking his shot in the NFL. Getty Images/Joe Robbins


Tom Osborne, No. 4

Nebraska is the team to beat (1973-97) 255-49-3 is the score. National championships were won in 1994-95 and 1997. 1975, 1978, 1981-84, 1988, and 1991-95 were the years of the conferences. Big 8 in 1997, Big 12 in 1998

Every year, you together a fantastic squad, and you’ll ultimately break through and win championships. It’s what’s known as the Osborne rule. In the 1970s and 1980s, his Huskers were very steady, with just one team finishing below the top 15, and he eventually broke through with three championships in his last four seasons.


Bobby Bowden, No. 3

Samford (1959-62), West Virginia (1970-75), and Florida State (1959-62). (1976-2009) 377-129-4 is the score. 1993 and 1999 were the years in which the United States won national championships. ACC Conferences 1992-2000, 2002-03, and 2005

It’s virtually impossible to create a winner like Bowden did at FSU these days. His independent Noles took on anybody and behaved as if they were a national force until they were. Only Swinney has a chance to match his 14 top-five finishes in a row, and Bowden’s 26 top-15 finishes are also surprising.


Bear Bryant is number two on the list.

Teams: Maryland (1945), Kentucky (1946-53), Texas A&M (1954-57), Alabama (1958-1982) Record: 323-85-17 National titles: 1961, 1964-65, 1978-79 Conference titles: 1956 SWC, 1950, 1961, 1964-66, 1971-75, 1977-79 and 1981 SEC

He nearly won national titles at Kentucky and A&M, and when “Mama called,” he came home to his alma mater, won three national titles in five years, then responded to a late-1960s funk by integrating his roster, adopting the Wishbone and ripping off seven top-fives in eight years.


Nick Saban, No. 1

Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99), Louisiana State (2000-04), and Alabama (2007-present) 256-65-1 is the number of the record. 2003, 2009, 2011-12, 2015, 2017, and 2020 are the national championships. 1990 MAC, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2012, 2014-16, 2018, and 2020 SEC are the conference championships.

Was there any lingering doubt? When Saban departed for the NFL in 2005, he had already accomplished enough to deserve a place on this list. Since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2007, he has put together the greatest run of dominance in school history: six national championships (plus two more participation in the title game), seven SEC titles, and 13 consecutive top-10 finishes. He hasn’t quite equaled Bowden’s 14 consecutive top-five finishes, but the rings more than compensate. And, based on last year’s performance, this streak is far from finished.

The five guys tasked with ranking the best college football coaches of all time did not have access to modern coaches and players, but only historical, film-study material. Yet, they still came up with a very accurate ranking system.. Read more about espn top 100 fantasy football 2021 and let us know what you think.

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