Spring 2011 - Ranking The Big Ten Coaches
Bo Pelini, Kirk Ferentz, Bret Bielema
Bo Pelini, Kirk Ferentz, Bret Bielema
Posted Apr 16, 2011

If you had to pick a coach right now to lead your program for the next five years and beyond, which one would you want? Who's on the hottest seats? When will each team deal with a coaching change? As part of the 2011 Spring Preview, CFN ranks all the Big Ten coaches based on the future and not necessarily on how good they are right now.

2011 Spring Preview - No. 13
Ranking the Big Ten Coaches

Here's the drill. You have to hire a head coach right now to lead your program for the next several years; whom would you choose? Forget about what happened in the past and forget about legendary status - you wouldn't hire Joe Paterno to build the franchise - you want a guy who can be the head man for a long, long time.

2011 Spring Preview  

- No. 20 Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50)  

- No. 19 - Is a smaller Big 12 better? 
- No. 18 - Who doesn't want to be Independent?  
- No. 17 - Should the SEC champ play in the BCS Champ?  

- No. 16 Top 50 Conf. Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 41-50)  

- No. 15 The Preseason Polls Will Probably Be ...

Schedules and Too-Early Spring Picks
ACC | Big East
Big Ten | Big 12
C-USA | Ind | MAC   
Mountain West | Pac-12
SEC | Sun Belt | WAC 
Age is a factor, being able to recruit helps, and the ability to do big things with mediocre talent doesn't hurt. So with that in mind, this isn't a ranking of the best coaches in the Big Ten; this is a ranking of the coaches you'd want to lead the program for the next five years or more.

- ACC Coaches | Big East Coaches | Big Ten Coaches
- Big 12 Coaches | C-USA Coaches | Ind Coaches
- MAC Coaches | M-West Coaches | Pac-12 Coaches
- SEC Coaches | Sun Belt Coaches | WAC Coaches

- Top 15 | No. 16 - 30 | No. 31 - 45 | No. 46 - 60
- No. 61 - 75 | No. 76 - 90 | No. 91 - 105 | Bottom 15 

1. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Career Record: 30-12

Mark, or Bo to everyone else, might be Mr. Coachy when it comes to his glare, toughness, and intensity, and he might only have one speed in the way he handles his business, but he is doing a whale of a job of restoring the glory to the Big Red. Only 43 years old, he has all the makings of a legend if he can do a little bit better job of bringing in some top talents. While he has been a good recruiter, he hasn't loaded up nationally like a Husker coach needs to do.
Hot Seat Status: Zero. He's the coach the program desperately needed after the Bill Callahan era.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2025. He played at Ohio State and might be in the mix for the job whenever Jim Tressel is done, but he won't be going anywhere.

2. Jim Tressel, Ohio State
Career Record: 241-79-2

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's going to be scorched earth and sanctions of some sort when all is said and done, and the NCAA is hammering him for withholding evidence in the Terrelle Pryor Tattoo Five scandal, but there's a reason the guy is having a harder time getting fired than George Costanza from the New York Yankees. There's no questioning Tressel's ability to amass talent – okay, so there's some question - and there's no questioning his ability to come up with consistently great teams. He'll turn 59 at the end of the regular season and still has another ten years and 100 wins in him if he's able to weather the storm. As crazy as this might sound, he could conceivably catch Joe Paterno for all-time wins if he sticks around for another 15 years,
Hot Seat Status: Double secret probation. He owns The Ohio State University, and the school is still standing by him even after the NCAA has said there were major violations in the recent scandal. Remember, originally the school only wanted to suspend him for two games, but it's still a coin flip on whether or not he'll end up surviving. The bigger problem might be a losing streak of any sort. Buckeye fans aren't going to forgive two 8-4 years in a row if there's a loss to Michigan along the way.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Sometime in the next five years. The skeletons will start to come out on a regular basis and there will be one big down year that will be just enough to suggest that it's time for a change.

3. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
Career Record: 49-16

The only question is recruiting ability. Barry Alvarez was able to load up with enough top-shelf talents to build Wisconsin into a powerhouse, and while Bielema is getting the guys who fit what he and the program want to do, at some point it would be nice if he could get a few more four and five star guys. On the hot seat three years ago, he came through and proved he could make UW a national title caliber monster. Now it'll be about consistency. Outside of being badly outcoached in the Rose Bowl – RUN THE BALL – 2010 was special. Now he has to do it again.
Hot Seat Status: Remember, he 2009 was a prove-it season after a disastrous 2008 and he needed to come up with a big year to keep his job. However, he just got a contract extension.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Ten years. He's just 41 and he's going to get a few big offers if he has a few more big years. Wisconsin is big, but he could get an even higher-profile gig with a little more success.

4. Brady Hoke, Michigan
Career Record: 47-50

Michigan is going to LOVE him. Okay, so he didn't actually win the MAC title when he had the heater of a Ball State team in 2008, and he left San Diego State just when it was about to be a true player, but at 52 he's the right fit at the right time for Michigan. While he's a tough-minded defensive coach, his biggest success over the last few years has been in the way his running backs are always, ALWAYS flying through ten-mile-wide holes. His offenses always produce, his defenses are always aggressive, and he certainly knows what the Maize and Blue are expecting.
Hot Seat Status: It's Michigan so there's always going to be ramped up pressure, but not being Rich Rodriguez will buy him two years.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Ten years. He'll turn around the Wolverines, raise up the expectations, and then will suffer from Lloyd Carr-what-have-you-done-for-me-lately syndrome.

5. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Career Record: 101-81

The workout controversy this offseason will be an ongoing problem, and the off-the-field concerns with several players at the end of last year was an issue, but Ferentz has become an Iowa institution. He's not going to get any other big job offers and it would take something much bigger than the problems at the end of last year for him to get fired. As long as the Hawkeyes are in the Big Ten title hunt on a regular basis, he's going to keep getting the coin like one of the best head coaches in college football.
Hot Seat Status: There's a little heat after what happened this offseason, but no one around the program has any interest in losing him.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2020. He's only going to be 56 at the start of the season, and he's going to get paid really, really well up until 2020. The bloom is off the rose as far as his upward mobility, and he's not going to the NFL, so this might be it. This is his destination.

6. Danny Hope, Purdue
Career Record: 44-34

It would be great to see what he could do with a fully healthy team and with a few more talented players. He has had no luck whatsoever since taking over the program from Joe Tiller a few years ago, but he has managed to make chicken salad despite all the issues. He was a major success at Eastern Kentucky, he knows how to motivate a team, and he has nothing but respect around the Big Ten.
Hot Seat Status: None, but at some point the wins need to start coming. All the injury problems of last year made it a lost season, and he did what he could to rebuild in 2009. Even so, it would be nice if he could get the Boilermakers to a bowl soon.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Five years. He might be a great coach, but Purdue isn't able to get the top talents and he'll have a hard time making the program consistently competitive. Only 52, he'll end up becoming a whale of a coordinator again.

7. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Career Record: 51-36

The heart concerns are always going to be there after what happened after the Notre Dame win. At 55, he might not want to be doing this for another 15 years if the stress and strain are too much, but he's feisty and doesn't appear to want to go anywhere. He has done a great job of making Michigan State strong again taking a flaky program and making it rock solid, and even though he has been in East Lansing for four years and he won a piece of the Big Ten title last year, there's a sense that things are just starting to take off.
Hot Seat Status: None. After the success of last year, MSU would love to keep him around for another decade.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2016. Dantonio might have been given a clean bill of health, but after the health scare, will be willing and able to keep up with the intensity of being a college football head coach into his 60s?

8. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Career Record: 127-73

This could be one of the more interesting new coaching hires to keep an eye on. Kill might not look the part, and he doesn't have the innate jerkweed, 25-hour-workday coaching streak that most top ones have, but he's really, really good. He has the right personality for Minnesota and he should bring the running game back to the program. Only 50 once the season starts, he's ready for a BCS program after a wildly successful run at both Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. He's the right coach at the right program at the right time.
Hot Seat Status: Zero. There's almost no pressure whatsoever after the Tim Brewster disaster.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 15 years. Kill isn't going to take Minnesota to the BCS Championship, but he'll make the program a regular on the bowl circuit and he'll be able to stick around as long as he wants. He's not going to get another big gig after this; this is his destination.

9. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Career Record: 33-29

Here's thing about Captain Intensity; his act works at Northwestern because he is Northwestern football, but it might not play anywhere else. Everything about his world revolves around making the program to be special, and it's believable because he truly loves the program. As one of the greatest linebackers ever to play college football and possibly the greatest player in school history, there's no better ambassador. On sheer will he's taking the under-talented program to good bowl games on a regular basis, but there's a ceiling on what the team can do. Is he a good enough Xs and Os man to outthink teams with far more talent? Yeah, at least more than he gets credit for. He's a very, very good head coach … for Northwestern.
Hot Seat Status: None. He's going to be a part of Northwestern football as long as he wants.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Not for a long, long time. His name will start coming up for other jobs after doing the near-impossible and making NU consistently good, but he really does have dreams of being Joe Paterno and being around for another 30 years.

10. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Career Record: 0-0

Is he another Mike Leach or another Chuck Long? Wilson was part of the reason why the Sam Bradford Oklahoma offenses blew up and set a ton of records, and now he's going to try to bring the same fun to one of the roughest coaching situations in college football. About to turn 50 this season, he's finally getting his shot after two decades of being a top offensive coordinator, and he's ready. Can he make the jump? He has never been a head coach on any level, and now he has to do the impossible and make IU relevant.
Hot Seat Status: None. There's no pressure whatsoever. All he has to do is take the Hoosiers to a bowl game every three years and he can stay as long as he wants.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Five years. It's Indiana. 1965 Vince Lombardi would struggle to come up with a consistent winner.

11. Ron Zook, Illinois
Career Record: 51-59

While there was a little bit of success last year when the pressure was on, and there's a little bit of hope that all the planets will align and he can take Illinois to another Rose Bowl, but he's not doing enough to make the program a consistent factor. The best thing he did over the last few years was bring in the right assistants in a job-saving move, and while it was a good 2010, it wasn't anything truly special. The recruiting magic appears to have dried up and the top-shelf talents aren't mysteriously signing on the dotted line like they did in 2005.
Hot Seat Status: Toasty. One more mediocre year and it'll be time to change. Illinois didn't want to east the contract two years ago, but it'll be able to do it after next season if needed.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Ten minutes after the 2011 season is over.

12. Joe Paterno, Penn State
Career Record: 401-135-3

A reasonable case could be made that he's the greatest college football coach of all-time. To put his success into perspective, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, only 41, would have to win ten games a season FOR THE NEXT 36 YEARS to surpass Paterno's record. The Penn State players still have nothing but respect for Paterno, and no matter how it's happening, the program is still succeeding. But, of course, age is the issue. He'll be 85 at the end of the regular season and he's not exactly the one you want to take over a program for the next five years.
Hot Seat Status: It's relative. There's a faction of the Penn State world that's ready to push him out and move on with the succession plan, but at this point there's no way, no how he'll get fired.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2012. It's one of the big jobs that several coaches would love, LOVE to get hold of. As resurgent as Penn State might have been over the last few years, in a way, the program is a dozing giant. The next head coach might have some giant shoes to fill, but he'll also inherit a program with everything in place.
- ACC Coaches | Big East Coaches | Big Ten Coaches
- Big 12 Coaches | C-USA Coaches | Ind Coaches
- MAC Coaches | M-West Coaches | Pac-12 Coaches
- SEC Coaches | Sun Belt Coaches | WAC Coaches

- Top 15 | No. 16 - 30 | No. 31 - 45 | No. 46 - 60
- No. 61 - 75 | No. 76 - 90 | No. 91 - 105 | Bottom 15