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Ranking the Big East's College Football Coaches


by Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on twitter) and Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

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 Coaches:ACC
Ranking the Coaches:Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12 (Tues.)
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten (Wed.)
Ranking the Coaches: SEC (Thur.)
Ranking the Coaches: 2012 Top 25 Coaches (Fri.)

Editor's Note: Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, UCF, Houston, SMU won't join the Big East until 2013. Navy will join the Big East in 2015. 

Here is how Athlon Sports ranks the current and future coaches of the Big East:

1. Chris Petersen, Boise State (6 years)
Alma Mater:
UC Davis (1983-86)
Record: 73-6 (2006-present)

Few coaching careers have begun like Petersen’s has at Boise State. After learning under Mike Bellotti at Oregon, Petersen began his Bronco career as Dan Hawkins’ offensive coordinator. For five years, Petersen churned out one of the nation’s most powerful offenses under Hawkins. When Hawkins left for Colorado, Petersen was given the reins to the Smur-ffense and has taken the program to a new level. In his first year, Petersen led Boise State to its first undefeated season and the memorable Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. It would be his first of two BCS bowl wins. He has never won fewer than 10 games in a season and just watched the 2011 graduating class finish 50-3 over their four-year career. Kellen Moore quarterbacked those four teams and is now the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Most importantly, Petersen has elevated Boise State football to a BCS conference as he will usher the Broncos into a new era of football when they join the Big East in 2013. He has had multiple opportunities to take “better” jobs and has come within two missed field goals of playing for a national championship.

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2. Charlie Strong, Louisville (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Central Arkansas (1980-83)
Record: 14-12 (2010-present)
Record: 0-1 (Florida, 2004)
Overall: 14-13 (2 years)

It has taken Strong only two years to emerge as one of the top coaches in the Big East. After spending over 20 years as an assistant with stops at Florida, Ole Miss, Notre Dame and South Carolina, Strong has led the Cardinals to a 14-12 record and two bowl appearances. Even with one of the youngest rosters in college football, Louisville claimed a share of the Big East crown in 2011. The future looks bright for the Cardinals with Strong at the helm, as they should be the early favorite to win the conference in 2012. The biggest question for Louisville is whether or not it can keep Strong if one of the top programs in the SEC open up, but for now, he should have the Cardinals knocking on the door of a finish in the top 25 this season.

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3. June Jones, SMU (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Oregon (1971-72), Hawaii (1973-74), Portland State (1975-76)
Record: 24-28 (2008-present)
Record: 76-41 (Hawaii, 1999-2007)
Overall: 100-69 (13 years)

Resurrecting one program is difficult enough, but Jones has been successful at two stops with not much recent success prior to his arrival. Jones took over at Hawaii in 1999, leading the Warriors to a 9-4 record after posting a 0-12 mark in 1998. Under his direction, Hawaii posted a 76-41 record and made six bowl appearances, including a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Jones went 1-11 in his debut season with SMU, but has led the Mustangs to three consecutive bowl appearances. SMU has made a solid financial commitment to Jones, but that won’t stop other BCS programs from inquiring about his services in the future. The Mustangs have come a long way over the last three years and should be in good shape once they make the move to the Big East. 

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4. Butch Jones, Cincinnati (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Ferris State (1987-89)
Record: 14-11 (2010-present)
Record: 27-13 (Central Michigan, 2007-09)
Overall: 41-24 (5 years)

Jones has followed Brian Kelly’s footsteps at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He coached under Kelly at CMU in 2004 before he was given the Chippewas’ job when Kelly left for Cincinnati in 2007. When Kelly departed for Notre Dame, Jones, following two MAC championships in three years, again took over for Kelly at Cincinnati. After a tough rebuilding year in 2010, the Bearcats proved they made the right call in hiring Jones by winning 10 games for only the fourth time in school history. In total, Jones has at least a share of three conference titles in five years as a head coach and is poised to compete for Big East titles for years to come.

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5. Skip Holtz, South Florida (2 years)
Alma Mater:
Holy Cross Junior College (1982-84), (Notre Dame 1984-86)
Record: 13-12 (2010-present)
Record: 38-27 (East Carolina, 2005-09)
Record: 34-23 (Connecticut, 1994-98)
Overall: 85-62 (12 years)

After successful stops at Connecticut and East Carolina, Holtz is still trying to find the right formula at South Florida. The Bulls are just 13-12 over the last two years and were unable to capitalize off a 4-0 start in 2011. Despite the early so-so results with South Florida, Holtz still has a solid 85-62 career record and led East Carolina to two Conference USA championships. The hype surrounding Holtz’s hire hasn’t quite matched the results, but with the results at East Carolina and Connecticut, it should be only a matter of time before the Bulls are in contention for the Big East crown. 

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6. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Wisconsin (1986-88)
Record: First Season

No one can call Chryst a slacker. He has held 14 different jobs in the NFL, CFL and college ranks since graduating from Wisconsin in the late 80s. Once he finally returned to his alma mater in 2005, it was clear to fans he wouldn’t be around too long. In Barry Alvarez’ final season, Chryst led Wisconsin’s most prolific offense in school history, scoring 446 points. In each of the last two seasons, he has broken his own school scoring record, giving Chryst the credit for the three highest scoring teams in Badgers’ history. He led the Big Ten in rushing in 2008, led the Big Ten in rushing, total and scoring offense in 2009, posted the highest scoring team in the league again in 2010 and wrapped-up his coordinator-ship in Madison with the Big Ten’s highest scoring and most productive unit in 2011. Tailback Montee Ball posted the best single-season in Big Ten history as he tied Barry Sanders single-season NCAA touchdown record with 39. He takes over at Pitt with extensive knowledge of the Midwest and perfect personnel for his power-spread scheme.

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7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse (3 years)
Alma Mater:
Syracuse (1983-85)
Record: 17-20 (2009-present)

The cupboard at Syracuse was pretty bare when Marrone was hired as head coach. The Orange were coming off a disastrous 10-37 record under former coach Greg Robinson and had slipped to the bottom of the Big East. Marrone’s first year showed some promise as the Orange finished with a 4-8 record and followed that up with an 8-5 record and a bowl appearance in 2010. Although Syracuse had some momentum coming into 2011, the Orange finished a disappointing 5-7 with one conference victory. Marrone is the right coach for Syracuse, but with a move to the ACC likely happening next year, the Orange can’t afford to fall too far behind. Syracuse will have low expectations in most preseason polls for 2012, but it would not be a surprise to see this team push for a finish among the top four in the final standings.

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8. Steve Addazio, Temple (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Central Connecticut (1978-81)
Record: 9-4 (2011-present)

So far, so good for Addazio. In his first season as Temple’s head coach, Addazio led the Owls to a solid 9-4 record with a victory over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl. Al Golden did a good job of resurrecting Temple’s program before leaving to take the top spot at Miami and now it’s up to Addazio to continue the momentum. Although Addazio did a good job in one season, this is his first head coaching stop and we need to see more of a track record before ranking him higher. However, this seems to be a good fit for both sides, especially since Addazio is familiar with coaching in the Northeast.

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9. George O’Leary, UCF (8 years)
Alma Mater:
New Hampshire (1968)
Record: 50-51 (2004-present)
Record: 52-33 (Georgia Tech, 1994-2001)

The two-time ACC Coach of the Year spent a couple of years in the NFL after a resume snafu cost him the Notre Dame job. He landed on his feet at UCF and has built the Knights into a solid C-USA (soon to be Big East) program. The Knights had posted four winning FBS seasons when O’Leary took over and has since posted two of its three total 10-win seasons. He has won two C-USA championships (2007, 2010) and three Coach of the Year Awards (2005, 2007, 2010) and has a 50-40 record since 2005. O’Leary has been responsible for all four bowl appearances in UCF history including the program’s first bowl victory in 2010 over SEC power Georgia and will elevate the program for a second time when the Knights join the Big East in 2013. That said, falsifying his resume, the 2008 death of Ereck Plancher and widespread UCF athletic department transgressions keep O’Leary from being higher on this list.

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10. Rocky Long, San Diego State (1 year)
Alma Mater:
New Mexico (1969-71)
Record: 8-5 (2011-present)
Record: 65-69 (New Mexico, 1998-2008)

After 11 years and recording five bowl games, but no conference championships at his alma mater, Long resigned in 2008 and became the defensive coordinator with the Aztecs. Under Brady Hoke, San Diego State went 13-12 in two seasons before he left for Michigan. Long was then elevated to the top spot and went 8-5 with a bowl appearance in his first year. Fans know exactly what they are getting with the dependable veteran. Long might not be the flashiest head coach, but the 62-year old should be able to maintain the Aztecs' upward trajectory into the Big East. Many believe this program is a “sleeping giant,” and with BCS funding, this might finally be true.

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11. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (4 years)
Alma Mater:
Hawaii (1987-89)
Record: 32-21 (2007-present)

After making three consecutive bowl trips, the Midshipmen took a step back with a disappointing 5-7 2011 season. Niumatalolo has done a solid job of continuing what Paul Johnson built at Navy, but will he elevate the program over the long haul? The Midshipmen will move into the Big East in 2015, which will be a step up in competition from playing as an Independent. Navy has only nine starters this year and more questions about Niumatalolo will be raised if the Midshipmen miss out on the postseason in 2012. 

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12. Justin Fuente, Memphis (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Oklahoma, Murray State (1996-99)
Record: First Season

For the last five years, Funete has learned under one of the nation’s best head coaches at TCU. The first Gary Patterson disciple to land a “BCS” job, Fuente was responsible for the four highest scoring Horned Frogs teams in program history. He coached Andy Dalton to the program’s first unbeaten season since 1932 and won TCU’s first-ever BCS bowl when they went 13-0 in 2010. After losing the program’s greatest quarterback (Dalton), Fuente’s offense didn’t miss a beat behind sophomore Casey Pachall in 2011. Fuente is a relatively unknown commodity as a head coach, but Paterson doesn’t hire bad personnel and TCU’s offenses were dominant in Fort Worth.

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13. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut (1 year)
Alma Mater:
Penn State (1968-71)
Record: 5-7 (2011-present)
Record: 107-59-1 (Syracuse, 1991-2004)
Record: 34-17 (Western Connecticut, 1982-85)

Pasqualoni was a curious hire by Connecticut last season and the jury is still out on how well this marriage will work. The Huskies had some key personnel losses from 2010 to 2011 and watched their win total dip by three games. Connecticut’s offense was also a source of criticism throughout the year, and this unit has to improve if the Huskies want to push for the Big East title in 2012. Pasqualoni had a solid record at Syracuse (107-59-1), but his last three years with the Orange produced a 16-20 record. Only time will tell if Pasqualoni is the right coach to turn Connecticut into an annual contender in the Big East, but his first year with the Huskies wasn’t anything special. 

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14. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (First Year)
Alma Mater:
Iona (1989-92)
Record: First Season

Flood will have to quell concerns that Rutgers made this hire to keep intact what turned out to be the program’s greatest recruiting class in history. The longtime Rutgers offensive line coach (2006-11) was elevated to assistant head coach in 2008. As a part of the most successful era of football in Piscataway, Flood is charged with replacing one of the winningest coaches in program history (Greg Schiano, 68 wins, fourth in school history). He is a complete unknown as a head coach, but will certainly have plenty of young talent to work with in year one.

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15. Tony Levine, Houston (First Year)
Alma Mater: Minnesota (1992-95)
Record: 1-0 (2011-present)

Kevin Sumlin did a solid job during his four years at Houston and now it’s up to Levine to continue that momentum. Levine coached the Cougars in the bowl against Penn State, leading the team to an impressive 30-14 victory. Levine is well-liked by the players at Houston, but this is his first head coaching gig and he has no coordinator experience. He has stops at Louisiana Tech, Louisville and Houston as an assistant, with one stop in the NFL for two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Levine’s debut was impressive, but can he continue that momentum over the next couple of seasons as Houston enters the Big East?

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