Top Ten College Football Coaches of All-Time

Who is the best of them all? The greatest football coach of all time…there are many to choose from, but here is your Top Ten. The best of the best college football coaches in history

10)  John Gagliardi, St. John’s University (MN)
Only the purest of football fans have even heard mention of Gagliardi, who at age 85, still patrols the sidelines of the small Division III school where Gagliardi has amassed 484 wins, the most ever by a college coach at any Level. His teams have won four national championships the most recent coming in 2003. He is one of two active coaches (Nevada’s Chris Ault the other) in the College Football Hall of Fame and is known for his unique approach to coaching. He does not use a whistle, his teams do not tackle during practice, and he keeps his practice sessions to 90 minutes and under. Hey, it has worked for him

9)  Bobby Bowden, Florida State University
After six years at West Virginia, Bowden inherited a Florida State program that had won just four games over the previous three years. To say he turned the program around…well, he had only one losing season, his first when he went 5-6, in the 34 years hspent in Tallahassee. Bowden took the job because he likedthe climate plus he could be closer to his family in Alabama. He spurned offers from other schools and built a dynasty. From 1987 to 2000 his Seminoles finished every season with at least 10 wins and in the top 5 of the final AP college football poll. In 1993 and 1999, he took home national championships. In 44 years as a head coach, Bowden had 40 winning seasons. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and coached his final game on January 1, 2010, in the Gator Bowl against, ironically, his former school, West Virginia.

8 ) Wayne “Woody” Hayes, Ohio State University
In 28 years as the head coach of the Buckeyes, Hayes won five national championships, 13 Big Ten titles, and won 205 games. Hayes started his coaching career at Denison, where after struggling his first year, reeled off two consecutive undefeated seasons in 1947 and ‘48. He then became the head man at the “Cradle of Coaches” Miami (OH) University, where he went 14-5 in two years leading him to Ohio State. Hayes coached 58 All-Americans and the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin. His teams were well known for their toughness as evidenced by their strong rushing attacks and powerful defenses. Hayes often said that three things happen when you pass the football…and two of them are bad. Little known was Hayes post-game interview dress after losses or ties…he opted for his birthday suit. As you can, reporters didn’t stick around long.

7) Glenn “Pop” Warner
Youth football leagues around the country bear the name of this legend who helped lay the foundation for the game we love. Warner coached at six different schools and compiled a career record of 319-106-32. He won four national championships and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954. He took his first head coaching job at the University of Georgia in 1895, hired for a whopping $34 per week. Warner coached quite possibly the greatest athlete of all-time, Jim Thorpe, while at the Carlisle Indian School in PA from 1899-1903. Among his many innovations that he brought to the game were the screen pass, the spiral punt (as opposed to end over end), the single- and double wing formations, and the use of shoulder and thigh pads.

6) Amos Alonzo Stagg
Another of the pioneers of college football, Stagg won 314 games, most while the head coach at the University of Chicago. His 1905 and 1913 teams, both unbeaten, were national champions. A phenomenal athlete, Stagg is not only in the College Football Hall of Fame, he is also in the Basketball Hall of Fame as well. He had such a love of the game that he coached until he was 96 years old, serving as a kicking coach at Stockton College in California. The Division III national championship game bears his name as does the Big 10 Championship trophy. Too numerous to name, the innovations he introduced to the game include the onside kick, the T-formation, the forward pass, and men in motion.

5) Joe Paterno, Penn State University

The winningest coach in FBS history with 409 wins, Paterno passed away earlier this year after spending 61 years in Happy Valley, 46 of those as the head football coach. Sure, there is the scandal that ended his career abruptly at the end of the 2011 season, but what he accomplished is nonetheless amazing. He had 38 winning seasons, five undefeated seasons, won two national championships, numerous coach of the year awards, and was the first college football coach ever named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year after leading the Nittany Lions to the national title in 1986. He coached in more bowl games (37) and won more bowl games (24) than anyone in history. Also well known is Paterno’s philanthropy–he donated more than $4 million to Penn State.

4) Eddie Robinson, Grambling State University

Robinson spent 56 years as the head coach at Grambling and, at the time of his retirement in 1997, was the winningest coach in all of college football with 408 wins. Between 1960 and 1990, Robinson coached only one losing season, going 5-6 in 1987. His teams won or shared the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship 17 times. More than 200 of his players went on to play professionally, including Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, who succeeded Robinson as head coach at Grambling in 1998.

3) Tom Osborne, University of Nebraska

Growing up as a star athlete in Nebraska, Osborne took an assistant job under legendary coach Bob Devaney. After Devaney won back-to-back national titles in 1970 and ‘71, he decided he was going to concentrate on his duties as the AD and named Osborne his successor. What a great choice! In 25 years as the Cornhusker head coach, Osborne won at least nine games in every season and finished with 255 career victories. His teams were known for their potent running game and strong defense, but he couldn’t win the big one. In the 1984 Orange Bowl, the ‘Huskers with a 12-0 record and ranked No. 1 in the nation, faced upstart Miami. Nebraska scored late in the game to trail by a point. Osborne elected to go for two. The pass attempt was batted away and Osborne would not win a national title until 1994. And another in 1995. His teams were the first consensus, unbeaten to win back-to-back national championships since Oklahoma in the mid-1950s. His final five teams at Nebraska went an unbelievable 60-5. Osborne retired in 1997 after winning another national title and currently serves at the AD at Nebraska.

2) Knute Rockne, Notre Dame University

After immigrating from Norway, Rockne grew up in Chicago, then saved his own money to pay his way at Notre Dame. After graduating in 1914 with a degree in pharmacy, Rockne shunned the science world for an opportunity to coach. The football world is grateful. Rockne’s Notre Dame teams went a remarkable 105-12-5 in his 13 years at the helm. He coached five unbeaten teams, three national champions, and his winning percentage (.881) is the highest among all college football coaches…EVER. He introduced the “shift” to college football moving from the T-formation to the Box formation prior to the snap. He also helped in popularizing the forward pass. After winning back-to-back national titles in 1929 and 1930, Rockne was killed in a plane crash in March 1931 while on his way to participate in the film The Spirit of Notre Dame.

1) Paul “Bear” Bryant, University of Alabama
Best known as the man in the houndstooth hat patrolling the Crimson Tide sidelines, Bryant amassed almost 100 wins at Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas A&M before becoming the Alabama head coach in 1958. In 38 years as a head coach, he had one losing season, his first at Texas A&M. While at Alabama he won six national championships and 13 conference titles. When he retired in 1982, he held the record for most victories (323) by a college coach. Bryant started at end on the 1934 Alabama national championship team. He reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander while serving in the US Navy during World War II. Bryant was the National Coach of the Year three times. Rightfully so, the award now bears his name.

13 thoughts on “Top Ten College Football Coaches of All-Time

  1. bo schembechler never even won a single National Championship! He has no business even being mentioned in an article about these GREAT coaches!

  2. Stop posting anything. No John McKay, Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer, or Jimmy Johnson. No knowledge of college is quite apparent.

  3. I could go on asking why Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz, Howard Schnellenberger, Ben Schwartzwalder, and I’m sure that we all have a handful of other coaches that belong on this list. The one name that I was looking for on this list is Earl “Red” Blaik. I’m not an Army fan but what coach Blaik did for the game is second to none.

  4. Any list of Great Football Coaches that doesn’t include John Heisman of Georgia Teach, is absurd.

    Besides winning 77 per cent of his games, and his ‘Wreck’ being the first Southern team to win the National championship — he was an historic innovator. Tech was the first team to wear uniform numbers … use the ‘hidden ball’ play … develop a power sweep with a pulling guard leading the way … yard markers … and pre-snap offensive shifts.

    C’mon! Terrible!

  5. I just ran across your article…very disappointed. No Neyland or Dodd? Hayes not in the top five? Better try again.

  6. I think this is admirable list , however, there are a few coaches not mentioned that deserve to be ,and I would name one. Before I mention their name when I am asked a question like who are the greatest coaches , I say what would happen if their teams met in a game to play? You have to consider a question like this because this is one of the only ways you can arrive at the greatest or best. Of all the caoaches mentioned I do not believe that any of their best teams could have defeated Barry Switzers teams at Oklahoma . Switzers teams dominated Osbornes, Bowden could not do anything against them , he defeated Woody Hayes as a rookie coach, and he defeated Paterno in a bowl game. Barry Switzer is one of only three coaches in history to have won seven national championships. Finally, when you look at his record versus other top contemporary coaches he dominated them. He may not have coached as long as some of the other coaches but his wininning record speaks for it self.

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