The college football landscape has changed over the past 15 years, has it not? The legends of the game such as Jim Tressel, Lloyd Carr, Bobby Bowden, and others are long gone.
New faces such as Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and of course, Jim Harbaugh, and others have emerged as the faces of college game. That being said, who among these is the best coach in the game? Let's take a look at the candidates.
Urban Meyer… You probably hate him, you might secretly love him, but regardless of your feelings for him, it doesn't take away from the fact he's an elite coach. As the saying goes, “keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer”, and that's why we’ll spend more time delving into his success more than any of these other candidates.
While at Bowling Green (OH) he immediately turned the program around. The Falcons had stumbled into a 2-9 record in the 2000-2001 season. When Coach Meyer rolled into town, though, the culture shift was felt instantly. Following that disappointing season, Meyer guided the Falcons to a respectable 8-3 record in 2001-2002, he followed that up with another successful season, finishing 9-3.
His tenure at Bowling Green, and the success they achieved gave him the chance to move into the ranks of higher profile coaching. He did that by accepting the offer to become the next head coach at Utah in the 2003-2004 season.
Meyer guided the Utes to a 22-2 record through his two seasons in Salt Lake City. That stellar record included Utah’s first undefeated season since 1930. He also won The Sporting News, National Coach of the Year award.
We won't spend too much time on his stops at Florida and Ohio State, being that they're more noteworthy, I won't bore you with some of the things you probably know.
The best highlights of Meyer’s time at Florida include 3 division titles, 2 conference championships, and 2 national championships. He also had the opportunity to coach one of the all time greatest college QB’s with Tim Tebow. He transformed Tebow from a shaky passer at best, into a Heisman Trophy winner. Wouldn't it be nice if Meyer had decided to stay in the SEC?
Unfortunately, Meyer brought his talents to Columbus, and inherited a plethora of talent already on the roster thanks to the work that Jim Tressel had done before his “departure”.
As we all know (sadly), he has amassed 3 Big Ten East division titles, 1 conference championship, 2 playoff appearances, and 1 national title.
Coach Meyer has done an amazing job at not only maintaining the level of success that Tressel had started, but even improving on it. His work on the recruiting trail is borderline insane. It seems like nearly every player they want, they get. It would take a lot for that program to lose the head of steam they're running with right now.
P.S. JT was short.
Perhaps The G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), Nick Saban has certainly placed himself up there with the greatest coaches of all time due to his illustrious career.
Coach Saban experienced brief success at both Toledo and Michigan State. The height of which included 9-2 records at both schools. That would be both schools best records with Saban as head coach.
Following his resignation in East Lansing, Saban accepted the job to be the head man of the LSU Tigers. His stay at LSU resulted in a 48-16 record, 2 SEC championships, and 1 national title before he once again leaped at another career opportunity, this time, though, in the NFL.
As most know, his stint in the NFL was nothing more than for a cup of coffee as he stumbled into 15-17 record across two seasons while coaching the Miami Dolphins.
Following that sub-par performance he made the choice to return back to the college ranks and take the lead in restoring The University of Alabama to their once fabled glory.
His success in Tuscaloosa is well known and yet, impressive to me every time I read over his accolades. Conference titles? He has 5 of them. National championships? Make it 4, and counting.
Outside of Urban Meyer, Nick Saban might be the most hated college coach in the game right now. Between his approach to handling player discipline, continuous winning on the recruiting trail, and the fact Alabama seems to always start and end the year in the top 5, it’s easy to not like St. Nick. That doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the best, though.
Name a college coach with a more outgoing, charismatic, and goofy personality... I’ll wait. Between his cringe-worthy dance videos, his sideline excitement, and the fact that he just appears to be a nice guy, it’s hard to not like Dabo. Swinney also has one of the most heart warming paths to head coaching.
Upon graduation in 1995 Dabo became a full-time assistant with Alabama coaching the wide receivers and tight ends. In 2001, though, Swinney was fired along with the rest of the Crimson Tide staff.
Seemingly lost, Coach Swinney turned to his former strength and conditioning coach at Alabama, Rich Wingo, and proceeded to sell real estate at Wingo’s firm in the Birmingham, AL area.
This new career change wouldn’t last long though, and Dabo found himself back in the coaching biz when his former position coach, Tommy Bowden, offered him a spot on his staff at Clemson. During Swinney’s first few seasons with the Tigers, he was the wide receivers coach as well as the recruiting coordinator.
Following the abrupt resignation of Tommy Bowden, Swinney was named the interim head coach. He immediately helped flip the culture around, but still stumbled into an unimpressive 7-6 season, losing to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
Despite the mediocre start to his head coaching career, Dabo Swinney has done a fantastic job at turning Clemson into a borderline powerhouse. The perennial top 10 recruiting classes, division titles, and back to back playoff appearances have cemented not only Clemson as an elite program, but have shown Dabo to be a top tier coach.
The holy scriptures speak of the second coming of Jesus, right? Well to Michigan fans, Jim Harbaugh is our Messiah reborn.
Polarizing college player with NFL playing experience? Check. Fantastic recruiter and play caller? Yeppers. History of turning around programs and franchises that were on the brink of imploding? Count it.
Throughout his career in the world of football Jim Harbaugh not only established himself as a winning player, but a winning coach.
In his first go-round at head coaching, Harbaugh took over a floundering program at The University of San Diego. Fast forward from the day he stepped on campus in 2004 to his departure in 2006 and just in that short period of time, he established himself as the best coach in their history. He guided the Toreros (yes, that’s their team name) to back to back Pioneer League Conference Championships.
His success at Stanford ranges from the greatest upset in college football history to giving Stanford their first 11 win season in program history, culminating in a Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech and receiving the Woody Hayes Coach of the Year Award.
Following the success at Stanford, Harbaugh took over a pitiful 49ers team and guided them to 3 straight NFC championship berths, including a Super Bowl appearance. This continued success in the NFL cemented the fact that he has a knack for turning programs around. For reasons (somewhat) unknown, the 49ers CEO, Jed York, found it in the best interests of the team to part ways with Coach Harbaugh. Enter The University of Michigan.
On the brink of total disaster, Michigan had nowhere to turn. The last 2 coaching hires had been colossal failures. But, as if written in a fairy tale, the conquering hero rode into town to save the day.
Over his first 2 seasons in Ann Arbor, not only has Coach Harbaugh put the program back on track, he’s done it faster than many could’ve ever anticipated. Sure, losing 2 straight to the Buckeyes stings like a pain in the you know what (JT was short), but the fact that finally, after years, and I mean YEARS of turmoil and agony, Michigan has finally returned to college football glory is satisfaction enough… for now.
The success from Harbaugh is inevitable. Now, in year 3, his players and system are finally all in place. The culture has been established. The time for winning is now.
So fellow fans of the Maize & Blue, who do you think is the best coach in the college landscape? Be sure to vote in the poll below, and share your thoughts in the comments section on who is THE BEST coach in college football.
Who is the best coach in college football?
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