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 Big Ten Head Coaches for 2013
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Record at Ohio State: 12-0 (2012-present)
Record at Florida: 65-15 (2005-2010)
Record at Utah: 22-2 (2003-04)
Record at Bowling Green: 17-6 (2001-02)
Overall Record: 116-23 (11 years)
Really the only thing left on Meyer’s resume is to defeat an SEC school in the national championship. In his first year at Ohio State, he took a 6-7 Buckeyes team and turned them into a perfect 12-0 program, proving his past successes were no fluke. He already claims two BCS National Championships, four conference titles (would have been five had OSU been eligible last year), three conference Coach of the Year awards, one Heisman winner and one national Coach of the Year honor. In each stop along the way, Meyer has proven to have an immediate impact on the program be it at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida or Ohio State. He is an elite recruiter and an elite talent developer. No, he isn’t the nicest or most honest guy in the business, but his teams are extremely well coached and they win big.
2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Overall Record at Northwestern: 50-39 (2006-present, 7 years)
Fitzgerald is the perfect fit at Northwestern, and he continues to take the program to new heights. The Illinois native starred at linebacker for the Wildcats from 1993-96 and was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Fitzgerald had no coordinator experience when he was promoted to the top spot at Northwestern and took over the program in a difficult time, replacing Randy Walker after his unexpected death in 2006. Despite his inexperience on the sidelines, Fitzgerald has been a home-run hire for Northwestern. The Wildcats are 50-39 under his watch and have played in five consecutive bowl games. Northwestern earned its first bowl victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl by beating Mississippi State 34-20 in last season's Gator Bowl. Fitzgerald is never going to reel in top-25 recruiting classes, but he has done a good job of finding and developing plenty of talent during his tenure. As long as Fitzgerald stays on the sidelines in Evanston, expect the Wildcats to remain a consistent contender in the Big Ten Legends Division, and they could start 2013 in the preseason top 25.
3. Brady Hoke, Michigan
Record at Michigan: 19-7 (2011-present)
Record at San Diego State: 13-12 (2009-10)
Record at Ball State: 34-38 (2003-08)
Overall Record: 66-57 (10 years)
After turning around Ball State and San Diego State, Hoke was Michigan’s pick to lead the program back to national prominence. So far, so good. The Wolverines are 19-7 under Hoke’s watch and have back-to-back 6-2 records in conference play. Michigan also won the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech to cap its first season under Hoke’s watch and has finished each of the past two seasons ranked in the Associated Press top 25. Although Hoke posted an overall losing mark at Ball State (34-38), the program didn’t have a winning record in the six seasons prior to his arrival. He was able to guide the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, including a 12-1 regular season record in 2008. San Diego State was considered an annual underachiever prior to Hoke, but he led the Aztecs to the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl – their first postseason appearance since 1998. As a Michigan man, Hoke is a perfect fit in Ann Arbor. And after two seasons, Hoke has the Wolverines poised once again to be a threat to win the Big Ten title every year.
4. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Record at Michigan State: 51-28 (2007-present)
Record at Cincinnati: 18-17 (2004-06)
Overall Record: 51-28 (9 years)
The Spartans underachieved in 2012, but Dantonio’s overall record in six years in East Lansing is a rock-solid 51-28. The Texas native has guided Michigan State to six consecutive bowl berths and recorded back-to-back 11-win campaigns in 2010-11. Dantonio’s 2011 team played for the Big Ten Championship, and the 2012 squad tied for the conference title. Prior to his tenure with Michigan State, Dantonio recorded an 18-17 record in three years with Cincinnati, which included two bowl appearances. Michigan State has the resources to be a consistent top-25 program but was considered an underachiever before Dantonio’s arrival. Despite slipping to 7-6 in 2012, Dantonio will have Michigan State back in the mix for the Big Ten Legends Division.
5. Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Overall Record at Penn State: 8-4 (Penn State, 2012-present)
Bill Belichick assistants haven’t exactly gone on to do big things as head coaches, but in one short year, O’Brien might be on his way to being the best of the Patriots' coach’s offspring. There is little viable evidence in favor of or against O’Brien as a head coach other than the job he did in his first year in Happy Valley. In the face of the worst NCAA scandal in history, he won eight games with an offense that was more creative and innovative than fans at Penn State had seen in nearly a decade. He also recruited extremely well considering the circumstances. The sample size is extraordinarily small and the situation is still difficult to quantify. That said, it's pretty clear that O’Brien has won most of Nittany Nation over in one quick season. And if his growing interest from NFL executives is any indication, Penn State has found a good one in the Brown University graduate.
6. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Record at Wisconsin: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Utah State: 26-24 (2009-2012)
Record at Southern Utah: 4-7 (2003)
Overall Record: 30-31 (5 years)
Don’t be fooled by Andersen’s 30-31 career record. The Utah native is an excellent coach who should win big in Madison. Prior to his first head coaching job at Southern Utah in 2003, Andersen worked as an assistant at Northern Arizona and Utah. And after a one-year stint as the Thunderbirds head coach, he rejoined the Utes’ coaching staff and stayed in Salt Lake City until 2009, when he was picked to lead Utah State. Andersen turned the Aggies from WAC bottom feeder to a title contender, leading Utah State to an 11-2 record in 2012 with a top-20 finish in the Associated Press' poll. Andersen doesn’t have experience coaching in the Big Ten, but he is familiar with Urban Meyer since he served as his defensive line coach with the Utes in 2004. Despite his lack of familiarity with the Big Ten, Andersen has been successful at each of his coaching stops, and Utah State showed big improvement in each of his four seasons. With Meyer leading Ohio State, the Badgers may not match its recent run of three straight Big Ten titles in the near future. However, Wisconsin should be a consistent top-25 team under Andersen’s watch.
7. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Overall Record at Nebraska: 49-20 (Nebraska, 2003, 2008-present)
Pelini is one of the most intriguing coaches to evaluate among all the BCS conferences, if not the entire FBS pool. He leads one of the most powerful and historic programs in the nation and has resources at his disposal that most schools only dream of. He has led the Cornhuskers to three conference championship games in six seasons in two different leagues and has never won fewer than nine games. He also posted his best conference record with a 7-1 mark a year ago. However, he has also had many uncomfortable (and possibly inappropriate) moments with his players on national television and has never lost fewer than four games in any season. Nebraska is back competing for league championships for the first time since the '90s, but is Pelini treading water at 9-4 each season or was 2012 a glimpse of more to come?
8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Record at Iowa: 100-74 (1999-present)
Record at Maine: 12-21 (1990-92)
Overall Record: 112-95 (17 years)
A few seasons ago, Ferentz would have ranked much higher on this list. However, Iowa has been going in the wrong direction over the last three years. After going 11-22 including an Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech in 2009, the Hawkeyes have watched their win total decrease in each of the last three years. This steady decline resulted in a 4-8 mark in 2012, which was Ferentz’s fewest wins since 2000 (3-9). While Ferentz has led Iowa to 10 bowl games and two BCS bowls, the program seems to have gone stale in recent years, and he certainly didn’t make anyone in Iowa City happy when he hired Greg Davis as his offensive coordinator in 2012. Are the Hawkeyes capable of getting back on track under Ferentz? Absolutely. However, with Ohio State and Michigan coming back to national prominence, along with a challenging division (at least for now), Iowa has a tough road to contend in the Big Ten. Ferentz has done a lot of good things for the program, but if the Hawkeyes have a few losing seasons in a row, it might be time for a fresh start for both parties.
9. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Record at Minnesota: 9-16 (2011-present)
Record at Northern Illinois: 23-16 (2008-10)
Record at Southern Illinois: 55-32 (2001-07)
Record at Emporia State: 11-11 (1999-2000)
Record at Saginaw Valley State: 38-14 (1994-98)
Overall Record: 136-89 (19 years)
Kill isn’t flashy or exciting, but he enters 2013 with the most wins during his head coaching career among his Big Ten peers. The Kansas native started his career with Saginaw Valley State in 1994 and recorded a winning record in each of his five seasons. Kill took over at Emporia State in 1999 and left for Southern Illinois in 2001. He went 55-32 with the Salukis, which included five consecutive playoff appearances from 2003-07. After that, Kill led Northern Illinois to three straight bowl trips from 2008-10 and recruited many of the players who played in the Huskies’ Orange Bowl appearance last season. Minnesota went 3-9 in Kill’s first season but improved to 6-7 and earned a bowl berth in 2012. Kill knows how to develop talent and can uncover hidden gems on the recruiting trail. Minnesota isn’t an easy job, but Kill’s track record shows he can consistently produce a winner. Expect the Golden Gophers to only get better with Kill on the sidelines the next few seasons.
10. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Record at Purdue: 0-0 (First Season)
Record at Kent State: 16-10 (2011-2012)
Overall Record: 16-10 (2 years)
No one can accuse Hazell of not paying his dues. Born in Cinnaminson, N.J., and playing his college ball at Muskingum University (New Concord, Ohio), Hazell spent 25 years as an assistant before getting his first head coaching gig at Kent State. Doug Martin posted nary a winning season with the Flashes in seven seasons prior to Hazell’s arrival. In just two years, Hazell built KSU into a division champion and set a school record with 11 wins. With heavy coaching ties to the Midwest and Northeast, Hazell should be able to recruit the Big Ten footprint well and clearly has the coaching chops to be successful at Purdue.
11. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Overall Record at Indiana: 5-19 (Indiana, 2011-present)
Offense has long been the name of the game for Wilson, both at Oklahoma as a coordinator and now at Indiana. After grooming nearly a decade’s worth of elite passers in Norman, Wilson has quickly turned Indiana’s passing game into one of the Big Ten’s best. His team ranked fifth in the league in passing offense, but managed just one win in his first year in Bloomington. Last season, his team led the league in passing offense and improved to four wins with all signs pointing to even more success — and a possible bowl game — in 2013. There is still much to be accomplished for Wilson to be considered one of the league’s better coaches but more progress in Year 3 at Indiana would go a long way to proving that the Hoosiers made the right choice.
12. Tim Beckman, Illinois
Record at Illinois: 2-10 (2012-present)
Record at Toledo: 21-16 (2009-2011)
Overall Record: 23-26 (4 years)
All signs were positive for Beckman when he took over for Ron Zook at Illinois last season. He learned under two respected names in Jim Tressel and Mike Gundy before building Toledo into a MAC contender in his three years leading the Rockets. Everyone knew it was going to take time to rebuild the Illini following the Zooker, however, no one expected a 2-10 debut season in Urbana-Champaign. He has his work cut out for him in a tough division loaded with solid coaches and powerful programs to prove he was the right choice for the job.
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