Who are the best head coaches in college football?
On the surface, that’s not a tough question.
Alabama’s Nick Saban, a West Virginia native, and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney are obviously No. 1 and No. 2 on the hit parade.
The order is debatable.
But what about after that duo? What about the other 128 FBS head coaches? Where do they rank?
Ah, that’s where The Sporting News recently stepped up. The revered sports publication ranked all 130 FBS coaches 1 through 130.
And, yes, it was very interesting.
The most intriguing fact, perhaps, was new West Virginia University coach Neal Brown was ranked No. 26. That’s fairly lofty considering Brown will be cutting his head-coaching teeth in the Power Five in 2019.
Yet it also speaks to what an outstanding hire Brown was for WVU. It’s a clear indication of what an up-and-comer he is. Brown’s reputation clearly has preceded him.
In fact, Brown was ranked higher than four other Big 12 head coaches. Texas Tech’s Matt Wells came in at No. 76, Kansas State’s Chris Klieman was No. 70, Baylor’s Matt Rhule was No. 41 and Kansas’ Les Miles — yes, THAT Les Miles — was No. 30.
Brown being ranked ahead of them is impressive.
But what’s even more interesting is former Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen, who left WVU to take the reins at Houston, was ranked 30 spots lower than Brown at No. 56.
Overall, the Big 12 was third in the P5 in number of coaches ranked in the Top 25. The Big Ten led with seven, followed by the SEC with six, Big 12 five, Pac-12 four and ACC two.
The Big 12 leader was predictable. Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley was No. 5. Next, came Texas’ Tom Herman (No. 9), followed by TCU’s Gary Patterson (No. 12), Oklahoma State Mike Gundy (No. 20), Iowa State’s Matt Campbell (No. 23) and Brown.
All this seems to bode well for WVU’s future.
Then, there’s Conference USA.
As expected, it didn’t fare nearly as well.
Marshall University’s veteran head coach, Doc Holliday, was ranked No. 83, one spot ahead of Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz (No. 84) and one spot below Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin (No. 82). Southern Miss’ Jay Hopson trailed them at No. 98.
Overall, UAB’s Bill Clark was C-USA’s highest-rated coach at No. 46. Next came FIU’s Butch Davis at No. 58, followed by Middle Tennessee’s Rick Stockstill (No. 74) and North Texas’ Seth Littrell (No. 77).
None of that is too surprising.
The alarming part, however, is nearly half of Conference USA’s head football coaches — six of the 14 — were ranked below the No. 100 mark.
Old Dominion’s Bobby Wilder was rated No. 103, followed by UTSA’s Frank Wilson (No. 108), Western Kentucky’s Tyson Helton (No. 118), Rice’s Mike Bloomgren (No. 123), UTEP’s Dana Dimel (No. 124) and new Charlotte coach Will Healy, who came in next to last at No. 129.
The only coach ranked below Healy was Walt Bell at of UMass at No. 130.
What’s worse, C-USA had three coaches ranked among the bottom 10 — Rice’s Bloomgren, UTEP’s Dimel and Charlotte’s Healy. Joining Conference USA in that inauspicious territory was the Mid-American Conference, which also had three coaches in the bottom 10 — Sean Lewis (Kent State), Scot Loeffler (Bowling Green) and Tom Arth (Akron).
Some of this was predictable, but to The Sporting News’ credit, some was surprising.
The best part?
Neal Brown was No. 26.