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Spring 2011 - Ranking The Independent Coaches
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall
Posted Apr 17, 2011

What coach would you want to run your program? Who's on the hot seat? As part of the 2011 Spring Preview, CFN ranks all the Independent coaches based on the future and not necessarily on how good they are right now.

2011 Spring Preview - No. 13
Ranking the Indy 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 Independent coaches; 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. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU
Career Record: 56-21

Shhhhhhh. Mendenhall might be the best kept secret in college football. After four straight ten-win seasons, he struggled last year early on before a late rally once the schedule eased up and a bowl win to turned the season around. Yes, he gets the benefit of coaching several mature, older, married players who come back as men from Church missions, but he also has to deal with losing some of his key parts for a few years before they return. A terrific defensive mind, his teams are always aggressive and always tough, while he’s doing a solid job of recruiting the offensive talent needed to make the attack shine.
Hot Seat Status: None. He restored the glory at BYU and the football faithful have no interest in losing him.
The Coaching Change Will Come … In five years. He’s only 45 and will get several big job offers over the next few seasons, but he appears to love being at BYU. Now that the program is an independent, he’s ushering in a new era and should be able to be in the mix for BCS games with just a few key wins a year – and no mistakes against the layups. However, there will be a too-good-to-pass-up offer in the near future (watch out when Oregon State, his alma mater, eventually comes calling).

2. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Career Record: 179-62-2

As if being the head coach at Notre Dame isn’t interesting enough, Kelly had a few other tough twists and turns to deal with. The deaths of Declan Sullivan and Elizabeth Seeberg will always be attached to the Kelly era no matter how much success he has, but the focus, for right and wrong, got back to on the field and a four game winning streak to close things out. Football-wise, Kelly was able to overcome the adversity, including the loss of starting QB Dayne Crist, to get everyone excited when the season could’ve easily have gone in the tank. With the winning streak, the bowl victory, and the strong recruiting class, the needle is pointed up.
Hot Seat Status: He’s not under any more pressure than any other Notre Dame head coach would have to deal with. After what happened last year, all will be fine as long as he wins.
The Coaching Change Will Come … At least ten years. He really is a terrific coach and he’s going to show why with a strong 2011.

3. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
Career Record: 27-13

It’s not longer fair to say that Niumatalolo is only carrying on what Paul Johnson started; the program is now his. While he’s 1-3 in bowl games, he continues to do a strong job of getting his teams up for the big games – like Notre Dame – and he has done enough to be on the verge of getting some strong job offers. The former Hawaii quarterback is a no-nonsense coach who could succeed anywhere.
Hot Seat Status: Zero. He’s doing a brilliant job of cranking out winner after winner.
The Coaching Change Will Come … In the next five years. Only 46, he still has time to take the Navy attack elsewhere, but that could be on hold if Paul Johnson starts struggling at Georgia Tech.

4. Rich Ellerson, Army
Career Record: 68-48

As the man said, he can take his'n and beat your'n, and he can take your'n and beat his'n. He was able to take a struggling Army program and get it to a bowl game, and while his offense still needs to find a passing game, to get 12 wins out of the Knights in two seasons is a major success. After a brilliant stint at Cal Poly, with a little bit of luck, he might not be all that far away from taking Army to another level.
Hot Seat Status: Zero. He’s to Army what Paul Johnson was to Navy.
The Coaching Change Will Come … It depends. At 58 there isn’t much time to jump to a bigger gig, but he went to Hawaii and made a name or himself as the defensive coordinator at Arizona in the late 1980s. Even so, he appears to be enjoying turning around Army and he should be in place for the next several seasons.

- 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