The Ball Coach is indeed #1 on our list
20 Best Coaches of Expansion Era
Part 3 of our celebration of 20 years of SEC Expansion continues with our look at the 20 best coaches in the SEC Expansion Era.
Note: In order to qualify a coach needed to coach at least 2 seasons from 92-2011. While great coaches like Pat Dye and Johnny Majors did coach in the 92 season, they aren't eligible for this list. Also, we do not consider a coaches accomplishments prior to 92 at other schools like Lou Holtz or Danny Ford for example.
20. Bobby Johnson Vanderbilt- If you look at Johnson's career record(29-66) you aren't going to be impressed. Fact is that this man elevated the Vanderbilt program and kept them competitive in most game. Johnson is also responsible for the first Vanderbilt team to appear in a bowl game in 26 years. The 08 Commodores won the school's first bowl since 1955.
19. Gerry Dinardo Vanderbilt/LSU- In his 4 years at Vanderbilt Dinardo won 5 games 3 different seasons. This landed him the LSU job in 1995. From 89-95 LSU had an amazing 6 straight losing seasons, something had to imagine these days. Dinardo elevated the program and won 33 games in his 5 years. Unfortunately for Gerry, 26 of those wins came in his last 3 seasons and the program was back in the dumps when he left in 99.
18. Jackie Sherril Mississipp State- Sherril came to Mississippi State after a solid run at Texas A&M and great run at Pitt. By the end of the 90s, Sherril had one of the best programs in the SEC and even won the SEC West in 1998. The 10-2 Bulldogs in 99 finished with the school's 2nd highest ranking in school history at #13. 6 of MSU's 14 bowl games in school history came while he was coach.
17. Rich Brooks Kentucky- Brooks took over a Kentucky program that had been through NCAA Probation and was the school's 4th coach in 7 years. The start of Brooks' career with UK was tough, but in the end the wait was worth it. Kentucky had 4 straight winning seasons for the first time since the early 1950s during his last 4 years. UK also went to 4 straight bowl games for the first time in school history.
16. Dennis Franchione Alabama- Franchione was only at Alabama for 2 years, but it was a successful two seasons. The Tide went 7-5 in year 1 and then 10-3 in year 2. Despite winning 10 games in 2002, Alabama missed on a bowl game due to probation and finished the season ranked #11. Franchione then left the school to coach Texas A&M, one of the worst coaching moves in the last decade.
15. Lou Holtz South Carolina- Holtz took over a program that was probably the worst among BCS Conference Schools in 1998, but within 3 years he coached USC to their only two New Years Day Bowl wins. The last 3 seasons of Holtz's career wasn't great, but even a 6-5 season in 2004 was much better than what Holtz inherited from Brad Scott. Lou took over the SEC's worst program and started a culture change at the school.
14. David Cutcliffe Ole Miss- 5 of Cutcliffe's 6 Ole Miss teams won 7 games or more. Cutcliffe ended his 6 year career with a record of 44-29. The 2003 team is the only Rebel team since 1971 to finish with 10 wins. Cutcliffe was fired at Ole Miss in 2004 following a 4 win seasons, but the 6 years after he left have seen the Rebs earn a 32-41 record.
13. Houston Nutt Ole Miss/Arkansas- Nutt ended his 10 year career at Arkansas as the school's 2nd winningest coach(in wins, not %) and he appeared in 2 SEC Championship Games. Houston was never able to get the Hogs to the next level though and was let go following the 2007 season. He then went to Ole Miss where he won back to back Cotton Bowls. In his career Nutt has led teams to 7 New Year's Day Bowl Games, but has never been to the BCS.
12. Jim Donnan Georgia- Donnan had a very impressive 40-19 team at Georgia, but never could get the Dogs to be a championship team. The 97 team that finished #10 in the AP Poll was only the 2nd Georgia team in 15 years to finish in the top 10. Donnan improved the program from where Ray Goff had it, but wasn't good enough to win a championship.
11. Terry Bowden Auburn- Terry Bowden started his career at Auburn 20-0, but finished it 27-17-1. The Tigers finished in the top 25 five times in Bowdens career, but the program started to struggle in the end. Bowden started the 98 season 1-6 and then left Auburn to never coach in the FBS again.
10. Gene Chizik Auburn- In only 2 seasons with the Tigers Chizik already has a national championship. There were some angry Auburn fans when he first accepted the job, but everything seems to be fine on the plains now. Chizik could move up this list with an impressive 2011 and if he can prove that the Tigers are going to be BCS contenders each year after Malzahn eventually leaves for a head coaching job.
9. Bobby Petrino Arkansas- Petrino took over a talent depleted team and had the Hogs in their first BCS game ever last season. The future looks even brighter for Arkansas and the 2011 Hogs are legit National Championship Contenders. If Petrino can keep the Arkansas program in the top of the SEC for the next few seasons then he would certainly deserve a bump on this list.
8. Tommy Tuberville Auburn/Ole Miss- While he never won a National Championship, the 2004 Auburn team deserved to win it. Tuberville took over an Auburn program that finished the 98 season 3-8. In his 10 years at Auburn, Tuberville won 85 games(3rd most in school history) and finished in the top 20 5 times. 9 of 10 teams went to bowl games in Tuberville's tenure.
7. Mark Richt Georgia- In his 10 years at Georgia, Richt has 6 seasons of 10+ wins and 6 years where the Dogs ended in the top 10. Richt has 2 SEC Championships and is 7-3 in bowl games(2-1 in BCS games). His winning pct of 73% is higher than Vince Dooley's 71%.
6. Les Miles LSU- He's a bit odd and takes some chances on the field, but Miles has found a way to win. All 5 of Miles' teams have finished in the top 20, with 4 of those teams finishing in the top 10. The highlight of Miles' career was the 2007 National Championship. His 78% winning percentage is the highest in school history.
5. Gene Stallings Alabama- After Bear Bryant retired, Alabama Football was good but not elite under Perkins and Curry. Gene Stallings got the program to elite status again. The 92 Tide won the National Championship and probably had the best defense college football has seen in the last 20 years. Only 1 Gene Stallings team failed to win the SEC West Championship.
4. Phil Fulmer Tennessee- Fulmer won an amazing 100 more games than he lost in his career at Tennessee. His 152-52 record ranks 2nd all time in Vol history. Had it not been for Florida, Tennessee might have been the dominant program in the SEC over the last 20 years. 14 Fulmer coached teams ended up being ranked and 6 of those teams were in the top 10 nationally. Fulmer's 1998 National Championship was the first undefeated season for a SEC schools since Alabama went 13-0 in 92.
3. Urban Meyer Florida- In just 6 seasons Urban Meyer went 65-15 with two national championships. In BCS games Meyer was 3-0 and outscored his opponents 116-52! Meyer was also 5-1 in bowl games. Florida won the SEC twice in his 6 years and appeared in the conference championship game 3 times.
2. Nick Saban Alabama/LSU- Saban took over a LSU program that had struggled for over a decade. In his 5 seasons, Saban won the SEC Championship twice and won the 2003 National Championship. After coaching 2 seasons in the NFL, he took over an Alabama program that had not been elite in over a decade and has won a SEC Championship, National Championship, and 2 SEC West Championships. Saban's 2011 team enters the season ranked #2 in the Coaches Poll.
1. Steve Spurrier Florida/South Carolina- Spurrier not only won big at Florida, but he also changed the way an entire conference plays football. Prior to Spurrier the SEC was known for its running game with guys like Walker, Smith, and Jackson dominating in the 80s. It was Spurrier who brought the passing game to the SEC, which led to more speed being seen on the defensive side of the ball. Spurrier has won 6 SEC Championships, a record 8 division titles, and 1 National Championship. He is currently #2 all time in SEC Wins behind only Bear Bryant. Spurrier's Florida teams didn't just win the SEC 6 times, but they did it in a dominating fashion. At one time Florida won 25 straight SEC games under Spurrier. Spurrier is the winningest 6th year coach in South Carolina History and led the school to their only SEC Division title a season ago. The Gamecock program enters the 2011 season with its highest preseason ranking ever.