Skip to main content

5 Most Memorable Coaching Feuds in College Football History

Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban do not make this list.
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M Aggies Football, and Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

Last spring, it appeared that the focus of Saturday’s Alabama/Texas A&M game would be the on-field settling of the sniping between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher over comments about name, image and likeness (NIL). However, the two buried the hatchet over the summer, putting a potential feud to bed.

That is a good thing. Nasty coaching feuds can go on for years, even decades. Here are the five most memorable in college football history. 

5. Steve Spurrier/Vince Dooley

This is the only feud on this list where the two never met as coaches. Instead, Dooley’s Bulldogs spoiled quarterback Spurrier’s hopes for an SEC title with a 27-10 beating in 1966. Dooley retired in 1988, and the Ole Ball Coach then took over as head coach of the Gators in '90 after decades of bitter feuding between the two schools. He went 11-1 against Georgia, scoring as many points as he could on the Bulldogs during his 12 years in Gainesville. When Spurrier abruptly retired as South Carolina head coach in the middle of the 2015 season, some speculated that it was so his career winning percentage would remain above Dooley’s.

4. Lane Kiffin/Urban Meyer

This feud started when Kiffin took over as head coach at Tennessee in 2009 and said, "I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee. Singing 'Rocky Top' all night long after we beat Florida next year." He then accused Meyer of cheating to try to recruit wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson (he wasn’t). The two only met as head coaches once, with Florida beating Tennessee 23-13 in 2009, before Kiffin bolted for USC. In the years that followed, Kiffin was fired from USC and after serving as offensive coordinator for Alabama, is now the head coach of Florida Atlantic. He has acknowledged that he made mistakes with Meyer and has said that two have connected and buried the hatchet.

3. Bear Bryant/Bobby Dodd

The two had been longtime friends, but a vicious hit in the 1961 Alabama/Georgia Tech went unpunished by Bryant despite calls from Dodd and the Atlanta media for action. As a result, the two coaches stopped talking and Dodd began thinking about pulling Tech out of the SEC, which he eventually did. The two made peace in 1975 after Bill Curry conveyed Bryant’s wishes to Dodd to put their bitterness to an end.

2. Jim Harbaugh/Pete Carroll

When Stanford was in the midst of throttling USC in 2009, Harbaugh kept running up the score and went for two after the seventh touchdown in a 55-21 win. The two coaches met in the middle of the field and had the now famous below exchange. The next season, Carroll went to the NFL to coach the Seattle Seahawks and Harbaugh followed in 2011 to helm their NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers. The renewing of this animosity at the pro ranks made it arguably the biggest coach feud of the 21st century.

1. Barry Switzer/Darrell Royal

In 1970, Royal, Texas' head coach, gave Switzer, who was then Oklahoma's offensive coordinator, the blueprint for running the Longhorns' vaunted wishbone offense. From there, the Sooners reeled off five straight wins over UT and the dislike between Royal and Switzer, who became head coach in 1973, increased. It boiled over before the 1976 game when Royal accused the OU coaching staff of spying on their preparations. Switzer denied the allegations at the time, but admitted to them almost 15 years later. Regardless, the situation worsened when an Associated Press reporter overheard Royal say, “Why those sorry bastards, I don't trust 'em on anything." The statement made it into print and OU fans greeted him with the chant, “Sorry bastards, sorry bastards.” The two teams played to a 6-6 tie and Royal retired at the end of the season. He died in 2012 without having ever developed much of a friendly rapport with Switzer.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.