The role of the college football coach carries much more impact than that of their professional counterparts. The college coach recruits and established relationships with prospective players at 16 and helps to shape and mold that teenager into a man when they step onto campus.
College football has been blessed with a number of outstanding coaches in its long history from Bear Bryant to Bobby Bowden to the preeminent college coach in American right now, Nick Saban.
Here is how I see the top four coaches in the nation:
Nick Saban (148-54-1): The coach at Alabama is the only active coach with three national championship titles, and became the first coach to win titles at two different schools; he won the title in 2003 at LSU. With his success at two different SEC schools, Saban joined Bryant as the only two coaches to capture a SEC championship at two different schools.
Saban is currently the #1 team in the nation and aiming for the school’s 5th consecutive 10-win season. Owning multiple coach of the year awards in addition to his national titles, Saban is the best coach in the country.
Urban Meyer (106-23): In his first season at coach at Ohio State, Meyer has picked up right where he left off after abruptly retiring from Florida after the 2010 season.
Meyer did great things at small programs prior to his arrival in Gainesville turning around a dreadful Bowling Green team and leading Utah to an undefeated season and BCS bowl berth. However, winning at Florida proved he could compete with the programs in the SEC and won national titles in 2006 and 2008.
He has coached a Heisman winner at Florida in Tim Tebow and a #1 draft pick at Utah in Alex Smith and saw countless other of his players drafted to the next level.
With a 7-1 record in bowl games, Meyer has proved he is one of the two best coaches in the country.
Bob Stoops (141-34): Stoops has been the head coach at Oklahoma since the 1999 season and gets overlooked far too often when discussing the coaching elite. Overshadowed by conference foe Texas and the dominance of the SEC in the last six years have taken the spotlight off Stoops and what he has accomplished with the Sooners.
Stoops’ teams won the Big 12 seven times whereas their rival Texas has won only two under Mack Brown. Winning the 2000 BCS National Championship established Stoops as a rising star in the coaching industry and repeatedly has turned down overtures from the NFL.
Coaching two Heisman trophy winners in Jason White and Sam Bradford, who would also be the top pick in the draft, and one gives Stoops a reputation as a guy that can recruit elite talent and get the most out a guy’s potential.
The Sooners behind Stoops are as consistent as they come and rank inside the top 10 again this year with a legit chance at the national title again.
Les Miles (105-39): Saban’s successor at LSU came to LSU and in his first season took the Tigers to an 11-2 record and a top six ranking. He followed up his debut with a second 10-win season, a feat that had never been accomplished at the school. Under Miles tenure 10 wins has been a near certainty.
The 2007 season was the pinnacle thus far for Miles as he led the team to a BCS National Title despite two regular season losses, albeit both were in triple overtime with a smashing win over Ohio State.
LSU had one of the programs best seasons in 2011 with a 13-0 regular season record that featured wins over eight ranked opponents; however, his team was shutout by Alabama and Saban in a rematch the Tigers won during the regular season.
Miles has guided his teams to three BCS bowl games, and finished either first or second in the SEC west six of the seven years at LSU.
Just missing the cut are Steve Spurrier, Frank Beamer, Chris Peterson, and Chip Kelly.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.