More than any other sport, college football coaches are put on pedestals. Texas was willing to give Nick Saban $100 million to coach the Longhorns. He didn’t take it, choosing to stay at Alabama, where he already has a statue.
Saban is the undisputed No.1 college football coach in the country.
HE is trying to join Paul “Bear” Bryant and Knute Rockne as one of the all-time greats.
Texas didn’t get him.
But, the Big 12 still has plenty of solid coaches. Some who have built their programs from scratch (Kansas State’s Bill Snyder), some who have resurrected sleeping giants (Bob Stoops, Oklahoma) and some who are among the hottest young coaches in the game (Kilff Kingsbury, Texas Tech).
But, there is a pecking order, and this is it:
1. BOB STOOPS, OKLAHOMA
His nickname is “Big Game Bob” for a reason. Some think he hasn’t earned the monicker of late. But he is the only coach in the Big 12 with a BCS national championship as a head coach. He has another as a defensive coordinator, while under Steve Spurrier at Florida. He took Oklahoma to nine BCS games and two Cotton Bowls. His worst record at Oklahoma is 7-5 (his first season as coach), he has never won less than eight games (doing so twice) and he has 11 seasons of 10 wins or more while with the Sooners. He has not won as many national titles as many thought he would after the Sooners went 13-0 and won the title in his second season, but few coaches has been as consistent or as successful as Stoops, who is 160-39 (.804 winning percentage) over 15 seasons.
2. BILL SNYDER, KANSAS STATE
His predecessor Stan Parrish was 2-30-1 over three seasons (1986-88). Snyder took over at Kansas State and rebuilt the program from the ground up. He went 1-10 in his first season and had a winning record in the third (7-4). By his fifth year, Kansas State was a conference power and began a string of 11 straight bowl games, including two Cotton Bowls and two Fiesta Bowls. He won 10 or more games seven times during that streak (1993-2004). No coach has done more with less than Snyder. From 1995 to 2001, the school appeared in the AP Poll for 108 consecutive weeks — the 14th-longest streak in college football history. After two subpar years in 2004-05, though, Snyder stepped down. At 66, he was labeled as “too old.” Kansas State went 17-20 without him. So, Snyder was brought back, and once again, he rebuilt the program. After two average years — where the Wildcats went 13-12 — he again had Kansas State as a conference and even a national power, winning 21 games over the next two seasons and adding another Cotton and another Fiesta Bowl to his resume. Since his return, the Wildcats are 42-22 and his career record is 178-90-1 — a .664 winning percentage. Without Snyder, Kansas State’s all-time winning percentage is .377.
3. ART BRILES, BAYLOR
Baylor was the worst football program in the Big 12. A bottom feeder. Now it is one of the favorites. The Bears have been to a BCS bowl, have a Heisman Trophy winner — Robert Griffin III — and are about to enter a new stadium. And none of that would have happened without Briles, who coached at Texas Tech for two years and graduated from the university after his playing days for Houston were over. However, Baylor still has a ways to go if the goal is to make the Bears a national title contender. But even having the university on the right path is a remarkable feat. He only has a 78-60 record overall, but in his two final seasons in Houston, the Cougars went 18-8. They were 5-18 in the two seasons before his arrival. He is 19-7 in his last two years at Baylor. The two years before his arrival, the Bears were 7-17. Baylor had not had a winning season since 1995 and had not had a 10-win season since 1980. Briles already has had two of those.
4. CHARLIE STRONG, TEXAS
High for a new coach in the Big 12. But it is Texas, and Strong has had success everywhere he has gone. He has a BCS win while at Louisville and won two BCS national championships as defensive coordinator at Florida. Outside of Stoops, no coach in the Big 12 has held the crystal ball before. So, Strong gets the benefit of the doubt for now and a No. 4 ranking of all coaches in the Big 12.
5. MIKE GUNDY, OKLAHOMA STATE
Gundy helped turned around the program for the Cowboys. Yes, they got an infusion of cash from T. Boone Pickens, and Les Miles really got things going (taking the team to three straight bowls), but Gundy deserves more credit than he is given for the job he has done at a once dormant program. Oklahoma State went from 4-7 in his first season at the helm to two Cotton Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl. In nine seasons he has gone 76-36.
6. GARY PATTERSON, TCU
He once would have been at the top of this list, giving Stoops a run for his money. He was rumored to take nearly every big job that came open — some even in the NFL. But the Horned Frogs are not in the Mountain West anymore and are not racking up 10-win seasons. Another 4-8 season and he could even be on the hot seat. He is ranked sixth here based on his 120-44 career record and the fact that he took TCU to 12 bowl games and two BCS bowls, including a Rose Bowl win that capped off an undefeated season in 2010.
7. KLIFF KINGSBURY, TEXAS TECH
OK, the watch was fake. But his skill as an offensive coordinator is not. Nor has been his skill as quickly bringing prominence to a Texas Tech program that had been sullied by the ouster of Mike Leach and weird resignation of Tommy Tuberville. Thanks to Kingsbury, those days might be behind Tech. He was rated as the coolest coach by members of the press at Big 12 media days this past weekend, and he has the players on campus believing. Briles did it in much the same way but didn’t have the Ryan Gosling-look-a-like factor. If the wins can translate for Kingsbury like they did for Briles and the Bears over the next three to four years, Kingsbury could rocket to a top-three position on this list. But an overall record of 8-5 means he is still a work in progress — even if his style is not.
8. DANA HOLGORSEN,
Holgorsen’s offenses put up huge numbers at Texas Tech in 2007 and then in Houston with Case Keenum at the helm in 2008-09. He became one of the hottest assistants in the country after helping Gundy make Oklahoma State an offensive force. He was named as a coach in waiting at West Virginia. They ousted Bill Stewart almost before he even had a chance to be the coach of the Mountaineers to give Holgorsen the reins. In his first season, West Virginia went 10-3 and made the Orange Bowl. And then they have done little since, going 11-14. Now, his seat might be one of the hottest in the country.
9. PAUL RHOADS, IOWA STATE
Rhoads is a better coach than this ranking gives him credit for. But the Cyclones are the Cyclones. He is doing well with the hand he was dealt. If he had landed any other job in the Big 12, he might be higher on this list. He has taken Iowa State to three bowl games (the Cyclones have gone to 12 overall). But his star is dimming, too. After a 7-6 record in his first season in Ames, Iowa, Rhoads has gone 20-30, including a 3-9 mark last season.
10. CHARLIE WEIS, KANSAS
Coaching success at the college level does not always translate to the professional ranks (Spurrier). But it goes the other way as well. Weis built his reputation coaching Tom Brady, winning a couple of Super Bowls as OC of the Patriots and by sending traditional drop-back quarterbacks like Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen to the NFL. A rough ending at Notre Dame, the forgettable season spent as Florida’s offensive coordinator and a pair of stalling offenses in Lawrence, however, have crushed his credentials. Thanks to a 4-20 record at Kansas, he is 39-47 overall as a head coach.