Rank the Big Ten and SEC Head Coaches

AEW Champion

Well-known member
Here’s a little exercise that I thought could be interesting and lead to some discussion. I’d like everyone to rank the Big Ten head coaches 1 to 16 (including Lincoln Riley and Chip Kelly); then rank the SEC head coaches 1 to 16 (including Steve Sarkisian and Brent Venables); and then do a combined third list where you rank the Big Ten and SEC head coaches from 1 to 32.

What criteria you choose to use is up to you. I personally would base my rankings on how I feel each coach will perform over the next five years, but also factor in past results a bit.

Here are the coaches, generally in geographic order:

Big Ten:

Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Mike Locksley, Maryland
James Franklin, Penn State
Ryan Day, Ohio State
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Tom Allen, Indiana
Jeff Brohm, Purdue
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Bret Bielema, Illinois
Luke Fickell, Wisconsin
PJ Fleck, Minnesota
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Matt Rhule, Nebraska
Chip Kelly, UCLA
Lincoln Riley, USC

SEC:

Billy Napier, Florida
Shane Beamer, South Carolina
Kirby Smart, Georgia
Josh Heupel, Tennessee
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Clark Lea, Vanderbilt
Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri
Hugh Freeze (presumed Auburn HC)
Nick Saban, Alabama
Mike Leach, Mississippi State
Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Brian Kelly, LSU
Sam Pittman, Arkansas
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Steve Sarkisian, Texas
Brent Venables, Oklahoma

Feel free to add any discussion points as desired.

It’s true, it’s true. Trust me …
 

LCL

Active member
Best to Worst.
My criteria:
#1- Overall Success as a Head Coach/Coordinator
#2- Consistient successes as a coach
#3- Fully employing all resources available in an effort to be successful (i.e. Kentucky vs Florida)

SEC
#1 Nick Saban
#2 Brian Kelly
#3 Kirby Smart
#4 Josh Heupl
#5 Lane Kiffin
#6 Jimbo Fisher
#7 Mike Leach
#8 Mark Stoops
#9 Shane Beamer
#10 Steve Sarkisian
#11 Brent Venables
#12 Sam Pittman
#13 Hugh Freeze
#14 Billy Napier
#15 Eli Drinkwitz
#16 Clark Lea

B10
#1- Kirk Ferentz
#2- Lincoln Riley
#3- Bret Bielema
#4- Jim Harbaugh
#5- Ryan Day
#6- Chip Kelly
#7- James Franklin
#8- Pat Fitzgerald
#9- Jeff Brohm
#10- PJ Fleck
#11- Matt Rhule
#12- Luke Fickell
#13- Tom Allen
#14- Mel Tucker
#15- Greg Schiano
#16- Mike Locksley

I know these are controversial picks. In the SEC, you might be screaming how can you put Brian Kellly at #2, or how is Mark Stoops so high?

In the B10 you might be yelling about Kirk Ferentz being #1 or Bret Bielema being above Day and Harbaugh.

Again, I am considering past success, consistent success, and fully employing available resources for football. I.E. Napier is ranked low because he is not putting to use his success as a coach and applying it to all of the resources Florida provides, which are a lot.
 

LCL

Active member
Ranking them #1-32 by Win Percentage

Ryan Day (45-5/.900)
Lincoln Riley (66-11/.857)
Kirby Smart (78-15/.839)
Nick Saban (274-67-1/.803)
Josh Heupl (45-16/.738)
Jimbo Fisher (121-44/.733)
Brian Kelly (175-64/.732)
Billy Napier (78-16/.719)
Luke Fickell (63-25/.716)
Jim Harbaugh (102-45/.694)
Chip Kelly (73-35/.676)
Hugh Freeze (83-42/.664)
James Franklin (101-51/.664)
Lane Kiffin (84-45/.651
Kirk Ferentz (185-115/.617)
Bret Bielema (109-69/.612)
Jeff Brohm (65-43/.602)
Shane Beamer (15-10/.600)
PJ Fleck (73-49/.598)
Mike Leach (158-107/.596)
Eli Drinkwitz (28-19/.596)
Steve Sarkisian (58-46/.558)
Matt Rhule (47-43/.552)
Mark Stoops (65-58/.528)
Mel Tucker (23-21/.523)
Pat Fitzgerald (110-101/.521)
Sam Pittman (18-17/.514)
Brent Venables (6-6/.500)
Greg Schiano (80-88/.476)
Tom Allen (30-40/.429)
Clark Lea (7-17/.292)
Mike Locksley (22-54/.289)
 

eastisbest

Well-known member
Brohm deserves a little higher doesn't he? Quite a few upsets of ranked teams. Beat Tenn in last year's bowl game. Not really a recruiting mecca. Every team seems to have at least one walk-on star. Had to fix the program left by Danny Hope ( 0.45 ) and Darrel Hazel ( 0.21 ). Lost a couple games this season because of dumbstuff but still better than expected considering lost all their play-makers to the NFL.

I don't think he'll ever get a 10 win season but when you're recruiting to an engineering school not in Palo Alto, he's doing pretty good.
 

Orin Swift

Well-known member
Best to Worst.
My criteria:
#1- Overall Success as a Head Coach/Coordinator
#2- Consistient successes as a coach
#3- Fully employing all resources available in an effort to be successful (i.e. Kentucky vs Florida)

SEC
#1 Nick Saban
#2 Brian Kelly
#3 Kirby Smart
#4 Josh Heupl
#5 Lane Kiffin
#6 Jimbo Fisher
#7 Mike Leach
#8 Mark Stoops
#9 Shane Beamer
#10 Steve Sarkisian
#11 Brent Venables
#12 Sam Pittman
#13 Hugh Freeze
#14 Billy Napier
#15 Eli Drinkwitz
#16 Clark Lea

B10
#1- Kirk Ferentz
#2- Lincoln Riley
#3- Bret Bielema
#4- Jim Harbaugh
#5- Ryan Day
#6- Chip Kelly
#7- James Franklin
#8- Pat Fitzgerald
#9- Jeff Brohm
#10- PJ Fleck
#11- Matt Rhule
#12- Luke Fickell
#13- Tom Allen
#14- Mel Tucker
#15- Greg Schiano
#16- Mike Locksley

I know these are controversial picks. In the SEC, you might be screaming how can you put Brian Kellly at #2, or how is Mark Stoops so high?

In the B10 you might be yelling about Kirk Ferentz being #1 or Bret Bielema being above Day and Harbaugh.

Again, I am considering past success, consistent success, and fully employing available resources for football. I.E. Napier is ranked low because he is not putting to use his success as a coach and applying it to all of the resources Florida provides, which are a lot.
Pittman too low, prior to Pittman Arkansas went winless in conference for 3 years. Kirk automatically gets #16 for the abomination that his is son he refuses to fire.
 

AEW Champion

Well-known member
Here’s how I’d rank them:

Big Ten:

1. Lincoln Riley
2. Jim Harbaugh
3. Matt Rhule
4. Bret Bielema
5. Ryan Day
6. Jeff Brohm
7. Chip Kelly
8. Luke Fickell
9. James Franklin
10. Mel Tucker
11. Greg Schiano
12. Mike Locksley
13. PJ Fleck
14. Pat Fitzgerald
15. Kirk Ferentz
16. Tom Allen

SEC:

1. Kirby Smart
2. Nick Saban
3. Lane Kiffin
4. Hugh Freeze
5. Brian Kelly
6. Josh Heupel
7. Mark Stoops
8. Sam Pittman
9. Steve Sarkisian
10. Jimbo Fisher
11. Mike Leach
12. Shane Beamer
13. Billy Napier
14. Brent Venables
15. Clark Lea
16. Eli Drinkwitz

Combined Ranking:

1. Kirby Smart
2. Nick Saban
3. Lincoln Riley
4. Jim Harbaugh
5. Lane Kiffin
6. Matt Rhule
7. Hugh Freeze
8. Brian Kelly
9. Bret Bielema
10. Ryan Day
11. Josh Heupel
12. Mark Stoops
13. Jeff Brohm
14. Sam Pittman
15. Chip Kelly
16. Steve Sarkisian
17. Jimbo Fisher
18. Luke Fickell
19. James Franklin
20. Mike Leach
21. Mel Tucker
22. Shane Beamer
23. Greg Schiano
24. Billy Napier
25. Brent Venables
26. Mike Locksley
27. PJ Fleck
28. Pat Fitzgerald
29. Kirk Ferentz
30. Clark Lea
31. Eli Drinkwitz
32. Tom Allen

It’s true, it’s true. Trust me …
 

AEW Champion

Well-known member
I wonder what the Penn State and Michigan State administrations would think about their $95 million head coaches being in the bottom half of my combined SEC/Big Ten list.

My list also properly ranks guys like Pat Fitzgerald and Kirk Ferentz who the media likes to pump up anytime they have a decent year.

It’s true, it’s true. Trust me …
 

LCL

Active member
I wonder what the Penn State and Michigan State administrations would think about their $95 million head coaches being in the bottom half of my combined SEC/Big Ten list.

My list also properly ranks guys like Pat Fitzgerald and Kirk Ferentz who the media likes to pump up anytime they have a decent year.

It’s true, it’s true. Trust me …
I think Ferentz's ranking on this list might be more of "what have you done for me lately" ranking. I'm in no way at all an Iowa homer, in fact I kind of despise Iowa, but I do recognize that Ferentz's best days are behind him and he is overpaid.

As for Pat, the only credit to his success is what he has done to make Northwestern relevent. They were terrible this year, but they have made B10 title game appearances. I also dont think this https://www.google.com/amp/s/theath...9/28/northwestern-new-football-stadium/?amp=1 happens without Pat leading the program.

Matt Rhule's ranking on this list puzzles me. Other than turnaround Temple for a short time, and make Baylor relevent again after the fallout of Art Briles and become a lousy NFL Head Coach, I'm not quite sure he is deserving of a Top 5 ranking.
 

Orin Swift

Well-known member
I wonder what the Penn State and Michigan State administrations would think about their $95 million head coaches being in the bottom half of my combined SEC/Big Ten list.

My list also properly ranks guys like Pat Fitzgerald and Kirk Ferentz who the media likes to pump up anytime they have a decent year.

It’s true, it’s true. Trust me …
Scrambling to fire them both now, heard they were content until this morning. What a shake up you’ve caused!
 

14Red

Well-known member
Big Ten:
Ryan Day, Ohio State
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Chip Kelly, UCLA
Lincoln Riley, USC
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Luke Fickell, Wisconsin
Matt Rhule, Nebraska
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
James Franklin, Penn State
PJ Fleck, Minnesota
Bret Bielema, Illinois
Jeff Brohm, Purdue
Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Mike Locksley, Maryland
Tom Allen, Indiana


SEC:
Nick Saban, Alabama
Kirby Smart, Georgia
Brian Kelly, LSU
Billy Napier, Florida
Shane Beamer, South Carolina
Josh Heupel, Tennessee
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Clark Lea, Vanderbilt
Brent Venables, Oklahoma
Mike Leach, Mississippi State
Steve Sarkisian, Texas
Sam Pittman, Arkansas
Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri
Hugh Freeze (presumed Auburn HC)


Overall
Nick Saban, Alabama
Kirby Smart, Georgia
Brian Kelly, LSU
Ryan Day, Ohio State
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Greg Schiano, Rutgers
Mike Locksley, Maryland
James Franklin, Penn State
Chip Kelly, UCLA
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Lincoln Riley, USC
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Luke Fickell, Wisconsin
Josh Heupel, Tennessee
Mel Tucker, Michigan State
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Jeff Brohm, Purdue
Matt Rhule, Nebraska
Bret Bielema, Illinois
Mike Leach, Mississippi State
PJ Fleck, Minnesota
Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Steve Sarkisian, Texas
Brent Venables, Oklahoma
Billy Napier, Florida
Shane Beamer, South Carolina
Sam Pittman, Arkansas
Clark Lea, Vanderbilt
Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri
Hugh Freeze (presumed Auburn HC)
Tom Allen, Indiana

Just a few comments, thanks for posting this, good exercise.
Saban #1, no question, but Kirby Smart is closing the gap. Kelly has LSU going the right direction, they will be near the top, year in and year out.

Day is still the best in the big ten, Harbaugh 2nd.

Hard to rate some because they are guys who've led "good" teams but not great teams. Franklin, Ferentz, Jimbo

I think you'll see a clear separation in the coming years of the guys who can coach a "program" meaning the old recruit freshman and build them up over the next 3-4 years and the transfer portal guys. We are seeing now that some programs can win with transfers immediately. The ability to build can be quicker than ever. Unfortunately for many of the lower programs, this is where they'll just get plucked year in and year out with their best running back/ receiver / linebacker for greener pastures. It's too bad but the rulemakers have decided that player movement is more important than building loyalty and trust.
 

KingKong24

Well-known member
TBH all of these coaches are talented. Outside of a few, if most of these coaches had top tier talent would be just as successful as Smart and Saban.
That’s a bold statement. Look at the talent Ryan Day inherited. His teams have managed to regress from 1 season to the next every year. Can’t whiff on coordinators and fail to develop the talent you recruit.
 

irish_buffalo

Well-known member
That’s a bold statement. Look at the talent Ryan Day inherited. His teams have managed to regress from 1 season to the next every year. Can’t whiff on coordinators and fail to develop the talent you recruit.
"Outside of a few"

I can tell you Pat Fitzgerald and Kirk Ferentz are excellent head coaches who have both been pursued multiple times and have chosen to stay put out of loyalty and coach up a bunch of 2 star guys and make the B10 title game and bowl wins. If these guys had the budget and resources and pull of an OSU/Bama/Georgia I am very convinced they would be just as successful.
 
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