CFN 2000-2009 All-Decade
The Ten Best Coaches of the Decade
2000-2009 All-Decade Teams
Defense & Special Teams
10. Brian Kelly
Kelly is one of those guys who’s going to win no matter where he puts up stakes. That’s good news for Notre Dame, which now signs his checks. A star in the Division II ranks at Grand Valley State, his Lakers won two National Championships and lost just a single game from 2001-03. By his third year at Central Michigan, he had the Chippewas atop the MAC and winning nine games. In three years at Cincinnati, he’s elevated the Bearcats to new heights, winning 34-of-40 games and back-to-back Big East titles. Beyond the record, he has one of the best offensive minds in the game.
9. Paul Johnson
When the decade began, Johnson was winning I-AA national championships at Georgia Southern. As the decade comes to an end, he has Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl after guiding it to its first ACC crown in almost two decades. In between, he did the unthinkable in Annapolis, making Navy perennially relevant from 2002-07. In his final five seasons with the Middies, he took the Academy to five consecutive bowl games and ended Notre Dame’s 40-year dominance in the series.
8. Mark Richt
Don’t be short-sighted when sizing up one of the top all-around coaches and most respected leaders in America. Yeah, he’s coming off his worst year in Athens, but he’s also directed six winning seasons since being hired in 2001 and owns SEC championships in 2002 and 2005. His 6-2 mark in bowl games has also led to six season-ending top 10 finishes over the last eight years. He’ll need a national championship before even getting mentioned in the same discussion with Saban and Meyer.
7. Frank Beamer
Admit it. You thought Beamer would get exposed once Virginia Tech took a step-up in competition and joined the ACC in 2004. Au contraire. The Hokies have been even better in new surroundings, winning three conference championships and needing a victory over Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to make it six straight seasons of at least 10 wins. For the decade, Beamer and the Hokies have gone 98-32, using a familiar formula of strong defense and special teams that came with him more than two decades ago.
6. Nick Saban
Assuming NFL stints aren’t being counted, Saban has been among the game’s best coaches since leaving Michigan State for LSU in 2000. In Baton Rouge, he went 48-16 over five seasons, winning a pair of SEC titles and the National Championship in 2003. In Tuscaloosa, he’s taken less than three years to get Alabama back on top, going 32-8 and positioning the Crimson Tide this year to win its first title since 1992.
5. Jim Tressel
Assuming league championships are the measure of greatness in the Big Ten, Tressel has far exceeded expectations since raising a few eyebrows when he was hired away from Youngstown State in 2001. Just a year after landing on campus, he led Ohio State to a perfect season, an epic upset of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl, and an improbable National Championship. Over the last five years, the Buckeyes have done no worse than a first place tie in the Big Ten, copping three outright titles to help raise the coach’s record in Columbus to 93-21.
4. Bob Stoops
Jim Tressel without the sweater vests, Stoops hit the high note with a national championship in his second season and has won a mess of Big 12 championships, but has been dragged down lately by losses in January. Even after this season’s 7-5 disappointment, he’s still a sterling 109-24 in the decade, winning the conference on six different occasions and the 2000 National Championship with an upset of Florida State. However, five straight losses in BCS bowl games keep him from rising any higher in the pecking order.
3 Pete Carroll
You know you’ve made it when simply winning league championships is no longer considered enough. Carroll inherited a program in disarray and took a little over a year to transform it into a juggernaut. Before this season, USC had won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles, 6-of-7 BCS bowl games, and at least a share of the 2003 and 2004 National Championships. Using a laid-back coaching style and a knack for finishing strong, Carroll is 96-19 since being hired in 2001.
2. Mack Brown
Although it took the upset of USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl and subsequent National Championship to shed the last of his critics, few doubt Brown’s ability these days. Since the beginning of the decade, he’s gone 110-18, winning at least 10 games in each of the last nine seasons. He’s won five consecutive bowl games, including three BCS events, and a sixth in-a-row would give him a pair of national titles in the last five years. A terrific collector of talent—on the field and the sidelines—he’s the ultimate executive in college football.
1. Urban Meyer
It began rather quietly with 17 wins at Bowling Green in 2001 and 2002. From there, Meyer has evolved into the nation’s premier head
man and the best coach this decade. Remember, before taking over Florida, he won 22-of-24 games at Utah, guiding the Utes to a perfect season and a Fiesta Bowl win in 2004. Any questions about his spread offense working in the SEC have been answered, winning the National Championship in 2006 and 2008. In three stops, he’s 95-18 and 5-1 in bowl games, building Florida back into a national power.