Coaching is one of the driving forces in building a national championship team or program. No matter how much talent a program has, it can’t win a national title if the coaching is questionable.
Considering how important coaches are to teams or even making preseason predictions, Athlon is taking a look at how each conference stacks up with its head coach rankings for 2013.
Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an X's and O's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach? How is the resume outside of their current position? These questions and more were posed to the editors at Athlon Sports, as they were asked to rank the coaches of each of the six BCS conferences. One thing to keep in mind - the record is not always indicative of where a coach should rank in a conference.
Ranking the ACC Head Coaches for 2013
1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech: 216-104-2 (1987-present)
Record at Murray State: 42-23-2 (1981-1986)
Overall Record: 258-127-4 (31 years)
First as a player and now as the head coach, Beamer has been a part of Virginia Tech football for four decades, and his success has made “Beamerball” a recognized commodity both within and outside of the state. After a slow start to his coaching career at Tech, Beamer has led the Hokies to 20 straight bowl games dating back to 1993. During this time he won three Big East championships — including one memorable run at the national title with Michael Vick in 1999 — four ACC titles and five conference Coach of the Year Awards. In eight years of playing in the Coastal, Beamer has won the division five times. His seven-win 2012 campaign ended an eight-year run with at least 10 wins and it forced him to make some coaching changes. That said, he is still the longest tenured and winningest active coach in college football.
2. Al Golden, Miami
Record at Miami: 13-11 (2011-present)
Record at Temple: 27-34 (2006-2010)
Overall Record: 40-45 (6 years)
Golden earned the Miami job after building bottom feeder Temple into a MAC contender. He didn’t have a losing league record in his final four seasons in Philly and earned MAC Coach of the Year honors in 2009. A massive NCAA scandal involving super booster Nevin Shapiro didn’t slow Golden’s recruiting efforts and his team showed improvement last fall by winning the ACC's Coastal Division. Yet, for a second straight year, Miami missed a bowl game due to self-imposed postseason sanctions. His tribute to Howard Schnellenberger — a dress shirt, tie, slacks and jacket gameday attire — has once again become an iconic symbol on the Hurricanes’ sideline. After more than 10 freshmen saw starting time in ’12, Miami could be the front-runner in the Coastal this fall. Golden still has much to prove in Coral Gables, but his resurrection job at Temple shows he's capable of elevating Miami back into ACC title contention - provided the program can dodge major NCAA sanctions from the ongoing investigation.
3. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Record at Georgia Tech: 41-26 (2008-present)
Record at Navy: 45-29 (2002-07)
Record at Georgia Southern: 62-10 (1997-2001)
Overall Record: 148-65 (15 years)
After two I-AA National Championships at Georgia Southern, Johnson completely reinvented the Naval Academy before bringing his patented triple-option attack to the big leagues. Since showing up at Georgia Tech, Johnson has never posted a losing ACC record, has played in three ACC championship games and never missed the postseason. The Sun Bowl win over USC a year ago was his first at Tech and the school’s first bowl win since 2004. Needless to say, the long-time head coach has proven his option system is fully capable of winning at a high level.
4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Overall Record at Florida State: 31-10 (2010-present, 3 years)
Under Fisher’s direction, Florida State has once again emerged as a top-10 program. The Seminoles slipped in the final years under Bobby Bowden but have won at least nine games in each of Fisher’s three seasons. Florida State also has three bowl wins under Fisher and is 1-1 in the ACC Championship game under his watch. Despite Fisher’s success, the Seminoles have yet to climb back into the national title discussion and have finished just once in the Associated Press' poll final top 10. So while Florida State has made strides under Fisher, it’s not back among the nation’s elite – at least right now. The Seminoles continue to recruit well, and there’s plenty of young talent to fill the voids by the departing players. Fisher has a revamped coaching staff and a new indoor facility is on the way. All of the pieces are in place for Florida State to win big once again. If Fisher can elevate the Seminoles into a consistent top-five team once again, he will move into the top three of the ACC coaching ranks. However, Florida State also has a few head-scratching losses under Fisher, including a 17-16 road loss to NC State in 2012 and a 14-13 home defeat to Virginia in '11. If Fisher wants to be considered elite, it’s time for the puzzling losses to end.
5. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Record at North Carolina: 8-4 (2012-present)
Record at Southern Miss: 34-19 (2008-11)
Overall Record: 42-23 (5 years)
Fedora cut his coaching chops at Baylor, Air Force, Middle Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma State. After a four-year run at Southern Miss that culminated with a C-USA Championship in 2011, Fedora landed at a North Carolina program still reeling from the aftermath of the Butch Davis era. He led the Heels to a co-Coastal Division title last season, but bowl sanctions didn’t allow North Carolina to play in the postseason. His offensive scheme is a proven commodity, but can he rebuild a roster hurt heavily by NFL defections and scholarship limitations?
6. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Overall Record at Clemson: 40-21 (2008-present, 5 years)
Swinney is one of the toughest coaches to rank in the ACC. He may not be the best X’s and O’s coach, but Clemson is 40-21 with two appearances in the ACC Championship under his watch. The Tigers seem to have turned a corner under Swinney’s direction and are the favorite to win the ACC in 2013. While Swinney deserves credit for the Tigers’ rise in recent years, having two of college football’s highest-paid coordinators hurts his case to be ranked higher on this list. Since Chad Morris arrived at Clemson, the Tigers are 21-6. Prior to his arrival, Swinney was just 19-15. Credit Clemson for giving Swinney the money to spend on quality assistants, which has clearly paid dividends for the program in recent years. Is Swinney an elite coach? Probably not. However, as long as he continues to recruit at a high level and hire good coordinators when Morris and Brent Venables leave for head coaching jobs, Clemson should remain one of the top programs in the ACC.
7. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest
Record at Wake Forest: 73-74 (2001-present)
Record at Ohio: 33-33-1 (1995-2000, 6 years)
Overall Record: 106-107-1 (18 years)
Grobe has done a lot of good things at Wake Forest, which includes leading the Demon Deacons to the ACC Championship and a BCS bowl in 2006. The West Virginia native isn’t the flashiest coach, but he turned around Ohio during his six-year stint from 1995-2000 and has a 73-74 mark during his Wake Forest tenure. While a 73-74 record isn’t overly impressive, winning in Winston-Salem is no easy task, and Grobe needs just five victories to become the school’s all-time winningest coach. Despite making Wake Forest into a more competitive team within the ACC, there’s some concern Grobe may have slipped in recent years. The Demon Deacons have four consecutive losing seasons and won only one conference game in 2010. It's not easy to sustain success at Wake Forest. But considering Grobe's track record and the youth on this team last season, he should have the Demon Deacons back in the mix for a bowl game in 2013.
8. David Cutcliffe, Duke
Record at Duke: 21-40 (2008-present)
Record at Ole Miss: 44-29 (1998-2004)
Overall Record: 65-69 (11 years)
Cutcliffe has been an incredibly effective offensive coach — when he has a Manning under center. After coaching Peyton in Knoxville, he posted five winning seasons in six years at Ole Miss (three of which Eli quarterbacked) but was fired before his seventh season. After four years of coordinating at Notre Dame and Tennessee, he returned as a head coach at Duke. The Blue Devils haven’t posted a winning record in his five years and are 9-31 in ACC play under Cutcliffe. That said, his offenses have always been excellent, the team is much more competitive than it was prior to his arrival, and Duke finally returned to the postseason in 2012 for the first time since 1994.
9. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Record at Maryland: 6-18 (2011-present)
Record at Connecticut: 74-70 (1999-2010)
Overall Record: 80-88 (14 years)
After a disastrous debut with Maryland in 2011, Edsall appears to have the Terrapins headed back in the right direction. Maryland went 2-10 in Edsall’s first season and navigated four season-ending injuries to quarterbacks in 2012 to finish with a 4-8 mark. Prior to taking the job at Maryland, Edsall spent 12 years as the head coach at Connecticut. Under his watch, the Huskies recorded a 74-70 mark and played in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Before Edsall was picked as Connecticut’s head coach in 1999, he worked at Syracuse (1980-90), spent three seasons with Boston College (1991-93), served four years in the NFL with the Jaguars (1994-97) and one season as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator ('98). Edsall is just under .500 for his head coaching career, but he had to bring Connecticut from the FCS level to the Big East, which was no easy task. And Edsall’s job is only going to get tougher in the coming years, especially after Maryland joins the Big Ten in 2014.
10. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
Record at Pittsburgh: 6-7 (2012-present)
Overall Record: 6-7 (1 year)
The former Wisconsin quarterback has coached all over North America in the NFL (San Diego), CFL (Ottawa, Saskatchewan) and at numerous college programs. However, he blossomed as an elite offensive mind at his alma mater in Madison. For seven seasons, Chryst led arguably the greatest era of offensive football in Badgers history, culminating in a near national title berth in 2011. This led to his first head coaching job at Pitt in 2012. His first season leading the Panthers — a team faced with its fourth different head coach in as many years — began slowly but his team showed marked improvement over the course of the season and all signs point to being competitive in their new league.
11. Dave Doeren, NC State
Record at NC State: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Northern Illinois: 23-4 (2011-12)
Overall Record: 23-4 (2 years)
NC State made one of the offseason’s top coaching moves by hiring Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois. Although Tom O’Brien led the Wolfpack to four bowl games in five seasons, a 22-26 record in conference play wasn’t good enough. It’s tough to envision NC State consistently beating Clemson and Florida State, but the program can win more than it has the last few years. Doeren looks like the right coach to take NC State to the next level, as he comes to Raleigh after a 23-4 mark in two seasons with Northern Illinois. Although he inherited a good team from Jerry Kill, Doeren took the Huskies to new heights, including a berth in last season's Orange Bowl against Florida State. Prior to his two-year stint as Northern Illinois’ head coach, he served as a defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Kansas and also spent time as a graduate assistant at USC. Doeren doesn’t have any experience in the ACC, so it may take some time to build connections on the recruiting trail. However, all signs point to Doeren’s hire being a home run for NC State.
12. Mike London, Virginia
Record at Virginia: 16-21 (2010-present)
Record at Richmond: 24-5 (2008-2009)
Overall Record: 40-26 (5 years)
London is somewhat of a mystery at Virginia. He was one year removed from an FCS National Championship at Richmond when the Cavaliers hired him in 2010. He took an underachiever and turned them into an eight-win team in just one season on the job and has totally reinvigorated the Virginia brand on the in-state recruiting trail. However, his Wahoos took a major step back in 2012, finishing 2-6 in the ACC and 4-8 overall. Needless to say, London’s 2013 campaign will be carefully scrutinized.
13. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Record at Boston College: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Temple: 13-11 (2011-12)
Overall Record: 13-11 (2 years)
After two years at Temple, Addazio takes over a Boston College program that has fallen on hard times after 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1999-2010. Addazio had a solid two-year stint at Temple, which produced the program’s first bowl victory since 1979 and a 9-4 mark in 2011. With the departure of a handful of key players on both sides of the ball, along with the transition to the Big East, Temple took a step back in the win column in 2012. Before his two-year stint with the Owls, Addazio was an assistant at Florida from 2005-10. He also served as an assistant with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Indiana before coming to Gainesville, and was highly regarded for his work on the high school level in Connecticut from 1988-94. Addazio is a good recruiter and as a native of Connecticut, is a good fit in the Northeast. Boston College doesn’t have to be an ACC title contender in every season for Addazio to be successful. But the Eagles need to get back to contending for bowl games in the near future. Addazio looks like a good hire for Boston College, but the lack of head coaching experience and building a program keeps him from being ranked higher in the ACC coach rankings.
14. Scott Shafer, Syracuse
Record at Syracuse: 0-0 (First Season)
Doug Marrone left Syracuse’s football program in much better shape than what he inherited in 2009. When Marrone was hired as the head coach for the Buffalo Bills in early January, Syracuse decided to stay in house and promote Shafer to the top spot. Shafer has never been a head coach before, so there’s plenty of uncertainty surrounding his ability to lead a program. Combine the coaching change, the loss of some key personnel and the shift to the ACC from the Big East, and Syracuse is clearly a program in transition. However, promoting Shafer to replace Marrone makes a lot of sense for the Orange, especially since the timing of Marrone’s departure wasn’t ideal for hiring a new head coach. Shafer has served as an assistant in the college ranks since 1991, making stops at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Ilinois, Western Michigan, Stanford and Michigan. He has been a defensive coordinator for five different programs, including the last four years at Syracuse. Shafer was nominated for the 2006 Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach and his '10 defense at Syracuse ranked seventh nationally in yards allowed. Shafer was a popular hire among the players, but he still has much to prove as a head coach in 2013.
Related College Football Content
Ranking the Big 12 Head Coaches for 2013
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 25 Pre-Spring Heisman Contenders
College Football's Top Assistant Coach Hires for 2013
Ranking All 125 College Football Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Players on the Rise for 2013