Which coach ranks as the Big 12's best for 2018?
The Big 12 coaching ranks feature an interesting blend of youth and rising stars to go with three coaches with at least 10 years of experience at their current job. TCU's Gary Patterson, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Kansas State's Bill Snyder are the top three coaches in the rankings, and all three have maintained success over their extended tenure. The league's rising stars come from Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley, Texas' Tom Herman and Iowa State's Matt Campbell. West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, Baylor's Matt Rhule and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury round out the next tier of coaches for 2018.
Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn't have the resources of the nation's elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.
How did we compile the rankings for the Big 12 coaches? For starters, it's an impossible task. However, we tried to weigh every possible factor into this ranking. This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn't provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Oklahoma is different than winning 10 games at Kansas.
Every team has different built-in resources available, and hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. Those factors, along with career biography/resume, success in developing talent and landing prospects on the recruiting trail factored into the ranking. Additionally, how well programs value staff (is the head coach better as a CEO or hands-on approach) and the facilities or program resources matter into forming an outlook of how coaches have performed at different stops throughout their career.
Again, wins and the overall body of work to this point are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they have accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants -- only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for Big 12:
Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2018
10. David Beaty, Kansas
Beaty enters 2018 squarely on the hot seat. Although the Texas native inherited a mess from Charlie Weis, progress has been hard to find through his first three years in Lawrence. Kansas is 3-33 under Beaty's watch and has just one Big 12 victory in that span. Beaty came to Lawrence regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, but he's yet to sign a class rated higher than No. 62 nationally.
9. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
After successful stints as an offensive coordinator at Houston and Texas A&M, Kingsbury took over at his alma mater prior to the 2013 campaign. Texas Tech got off to a fast start under the former Red Raider quarterback, finishing 8-5 overall and claimed a Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State. But since that eight-win debut, Kingsbury has not won more than seven games and has posted three losing seasons over the last four years. His overall record stands at 30-33 since 2013 and is 6-12 in Big 12 play over the last two seasons.
8. Matt Rhule, Baylor
As expected, Rhule's first season at Baylor was clearly a rebuilding year. The Bears finished 1-11 but lost five games by 10 points or less. However, the future outlook in Waco is promising for the New York native. Baylor has added back-to-back top-40 signing classes and a handful of talented young players are back (with added experience) for 2018. Prior to taking over at Baylor, Rhule had a successful 28-23 stint at Temple, which included back-to-back 10-win seasons. He also has stints in his coaching career as an assistant at Temple, Western Carolina, UCLA and in the NFL with the Giants.
7. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Holgorsen got off to a fast start in Morgantown. He took over the program prior to the 2011 season, guiding the Mountaineers to a 10-3 record, an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson and a share of the Big East title. Additionally, Holgorsen guided West Virginia in its transition to the Big 12. Over the last six years, the Mountaineers are 43-34 under Holgorsen's watch. West Virginia finished 10-3 overall and 7-2 in Big 12 play in 2016, which was the program's best mark since joining the conference. With quarterback Will Grier and one of college football's top receiving corps, the Mountaineers should be among the nation's top 25 teams, giving Holgorsen a chance to match the 10-win campaign from two years ago.
6. Matt Campbell, Iowa State
Campbell is quickly moving up in the coaching ranks. The Ohio native guided Toledo to a 35-15 record after taking over as the program's head coach prior to the 2011 Military Bowl. Under Campbell's direction, the Rockets won at least nine games in three out of his four years. Campbell was hired at Iowa State prior to the 2016 season and finished 3-9 in his debut. However, the Cyclones showed marked improvement last fall. Campbell's team beat both Oklahoma and TCU -- the two teams that played in the Big 12 Championship Game -- en route to an 8-5 record. The eight-win season was the program's highest win total since 2000. Campbell is a rising star in the coaching ranks, and Iowa State will make plenty of noise with the Mount Union product leading the way.
5. Tom Herman, Texas
High expectations surrounded Herman's debut in Austin last fall. Herman arrived at Texas following a successful two-year run at Houston. The Cougars went 13-1 in Herman's debut (2015), defeated Florida State in the Peach Bowl and finished No. 8 nationally. Houston followed that up with a 9-3 showing in the regular season, as his tenure ended with a 22-4 mark. Last fall, Herman went 7-6 leading the Longhorns, losing five games by 10 points or less. Prior to his stints as a head coach, Herman was one of college football's top assistant coaches at Ohio State (2012-14) and also had stints at Rice, Texas State and Iowa State. After inking the No. 3 signing class this year, Herman is starting to put the pieces into place for Texas to get back into contention for the Big 12 title.
4. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
In terms of a debut, it doesn't get much better than what Riley accomplished in 2017. And it wasn't a typical transition to the head coach role for the Texas native. Bob Stoops decided to retire in June, prompting athletic director Joe Castiglione to promote Riley from offensive coordinator to head coach. Riley simply guided Oklahoma to a 12-2 season, won the Big 12 title and came up just short of a Rose Bowl victory against Georgia in the CFB Playoff. Additionally, Riley's high-powered attack averaged 45.1 points per game (the most by a Power 5 team), with quarterback Baker Mayfield also taking home the Heisman Trophy. Prior to Oklahoma, Riley worked as East Carolina's play-caller from 2010-14 and also coached at Texas Tech under Mike Leach from 2007-09.
3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Just how important is Snyder to Kansas State football? Consider this: Prior to Snyder's arrival, the Wildcats had just one bowl trip in program history and won just nine games over the previous six years. However, Kansas State has thrived under Snyder's direction. Snyder guided the program to 11 consecutive bowl games from 1993-2003, including two trips to the Fiesta Bowl. Additionally, K-State's '03 team claimed the Big 12 title and finished 11-4 overall. Snyder retired following the 2005 season but returned to the sidelines in Manhattan in 2009. The Wildcats have continued to have success in Snyder's second act, claiming the Big 12 title in 2012 and playing in eight straight bowl games. Snyder is 210-110-1 since taking over as Kansas State's head coach. In addition to his ability to develop players and maximize the talent on the roster, Snyder has found a way to win consistently at one of the Big 12's toughest jobs.
2. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Gundy has recorded a 114-53 overall record since taking over at his alma mater prior to the 2005 season. Oklahoma State has won at least seven games in each of the last 12 years and has not posted a losing mark since 2005. Additionally, Gundy has helped to elevate the program into a consistent top 25 team. The Cowboys have finished in the final Associated Press poll seven times under his watch, including No. 3 in 2011. Oklahoma State also has four 10-win seasons over the last five years. Gundy's 114 victories are the most by any coach in program history.
Related: Big 12 Football 2018 Predictions
1. Gary Patterson, TCU
Patterson enters 2018 as the nation's second-longest tenured coach and takes over the top spot in Athlon's Big 12 coach rankings. The Kansas native took over as TCU's head coach for the 2000 bowl game and has guided the program through three different conference transitions. The Horned Frogs moved from the WAC to Conference USA prior to 2001 and shifted to the Mountain West in '05. The program landed in the Big 12 before the 2012 season, and through all of the changes, TCU hasn't missed a beat with Patterson at the helm. He's guided the program to a 160-57 record and has just three losing seasons in 17 years as the head coach in Fort Worth. TCU has also claimed at least a share of six conference titles, finished No. 2 nationally in 2010 and just missed out on the CFB Playoff in '14. In addition to his success as a head coach, Patterson is one of college football's top defensive minds and has guided TCU's defense to rank consistently among the best in the nation.