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Lists to end the summer lull

Ranking the 10 best coaches ... and the five worst

Posted: Tuesday June 28, 2005 10:27AM; Updated: Tuesday June 28, 2005 7:09PM
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Pete Carroll
Pete Carroll already is sitting pretty at USC; will he earn a third straight national title?
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Judging by the e-mails I've received during the past couple of weeks, it seems college football readers, like the sport itself, are in the midst of a summer lull. Not to be mean, but if you had read most of the questions I had to choose from, you, too, would have been headed straight to the hammock for an afternoon siesta.

So to shake things up a bit, I'm resorting to the Internet's one no-fail gimmick (besides porn): lists. In particular, controversial lists that a majority of readers are almost sure to disagree with and will therefore be motivated to type something into that little Mailbag box.

The subject is today's college coaches: the best, the worst, the most underrated and the most overrated. These men almost exclusively were judged on their performance over only the past few years (because that's how quickly job-security status can change these days) and not their career as a whole (sorry, JoePa and Bobby Bowden). And because a head coach is nothing if not for his assistants, the rankings are a de facto assessment of the entire staff and its ability to both recruit and get the most out of the talent it assembles. As a whole, I tend to give more credit to guys who get a lot out of a little, which is why Miami's Larry Coker, who has a staggering 44-6 record but was also handed one of the greatest collections of talent in history by predecessor Butch Davis, does not appear on the "10 Best" list, while Boise State's Dan Hawkins, whose team would have a hard time staying within 20 of the 'Canes, does. So, without further ado:

My top 10 coaches heading into the 2005 season:

1. Pete Carroll, USC: It's hard to argue with this one. In slightly more than four years, he's created the sport's reigning juggernaut, assembled a brilliant staff (which he since has had to replenish), cleaned up in recruiting and continually demonstrated his keen defensive mind with his game plans and in-game adjustments.

2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: He would have been No. 1 this time a year ago, but Carroll unseated him in somewhat embarrassing fashion. While Stoops' once impregnable rep has taken a hit after two consecutive late-season collapses, the fact is his teams have had five consecutive seasons of 11 wins or more and played for three national titles.

3. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: No one has done a better job the past three years of turning dust into gold, producing three straight 10-win seasons and two shared Big Ten titles despite an overall talent level that pales in comparison to that of conference rivals Ohio State and Michigan.

4. Jim Tressel, Ohio State: While his overly conservative nature is tough for many to stomach (and may have cost the Buckeyes a couple of games early last season when he stubbornly stuck with a horrendous rushing attack), he already has won one national title and has recruited the talent base necessary to win another.

5. Bobby Petrino, Louisville: I know, he's only been on the job for two years, but the guy is a certifiable guru. While John L. Smith got the Cardinals' ball rolling, Petrino has taken them to a whole other stratosphere with his unique offensive mind and ability to recruit BCS-caliber skill players.

6. Urban Meyer, Florida: While it remains to be seen how his system will fare at the major-conference level, there's no denying the rapid effect he had at both of his two previous stops, Bowling Green and Utah, and his new-age offensive approach has taken the sport by storm.

7. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: Beamer is another master of maximizing his resources, as he demonstrated again with last season's ACC title in what really should have been a rebuilding year. His ranking would be higher if not for a couple of disappointing showings in 2002 and '03.

8. Dan Hawkins, Boise State: What Hawkins is doing in the land of smurf turf is nothing short of remarkable. The Broncos have dominated the WAC the past three years, going 36-3 by constantly adjusting their approach to fit their various strengths each season.

9. Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee: Fulmer's staff has taken its share of criticism, but that's partially because it raised the bar so high in the '90s. The Vols have broken out of the brief rut they hit earlier this decade, winning the SEC East last year and nabbing the nation's top recruiting class.

10. Mack Brown, Texas: There undoubtedly will be many who say Brown should be nowhere near this list because he has yet to actually win any sort of championship, but there's no denying he has created an enviable program that has won 10 or more games each of the past four seasons.

Just missed: California's Jeff Tedford, Fresno State's Pat Hill, Michigan's Lloyd Carr (more on him in a bit), Georgia's Mark Richt and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville.

Read on for the five worst coaches ...