The Real Big Ten Coach Rankings

By Alex Gleitman on April 14, 2009 at 7:00 am
Who's number 1?The Vest beats The Kirk in our rankings

After reading an article by's Tom Dienhart that ranked the Big Ten's football coaches, I could not be more apalled by what I have seen, even as Buckeye Grove has tried to rectify Dienhart's analysis. In case you're too lazy to click the link in the last sentence, Dienhart has listed Kirk Ferentz and Rich Rodriguez above The Vest in his list of the top coaches in the conference.

While I understand, but don't agree, with the decision to put a guy like Ferentz first on his list, how can Dienhart possibly justify putting Joe Tiller's good buddy before JT? First off, looking at the numbers, RR is 63-35 as a head coach at the FBS level, while The Senator's mark stands at 83-19. Secondly, Dick Rod has 4 conference titles (all Big Least) in his 8 years at the FBS level, while going 2-3 in bowl games (Bill Stewart coached WVU's 2008 Fiesta Bowl win), with 1 BCS victory. Tress has 5 conference titles (in a real conference), is 4-4 in bowl games, 3-3 in BCS games, and oh yeah, has a National Championship.

As I could continue to steam off more and more stats and other pertinent information as to why I am so angered that Dienhart has in all seriousness listed Dick Rod above Tressel in his coach rankings, I would much rather show Tommy how the rankings should fall when it comes to coaches in the Big Ten. Tom take notes, here's how it goes:

1. Jim Tressel, The Ohio State University
While you can say I am completely biased, I think the above statistics and continued dominance in the conference speak for themselves. Four straight outright or shared conference titles, four straight BCS games (6 in 8 years), double digit victory seasons in six out of eight seasons, and the best built program for success on the national level give Jim the upperhand over Kirk, Joe Pa, or any other coach that people want to argue should hold the number one spot on this list.

2. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Not to take anything away from Ferentz, as he is a great coach, but he is number two in my book behind JT. Kirk has done a great job with an Iowa program that went 1-10 in his first year, and holds a 82-74 record with the Hawkeyes headed into his 11th season with the program. He has taken Iowa to seven bowl games during his tenure, winning four of those. Year in and year out he makes the more out of less and has even tallied two Big Ten titles during his time in Iowa City. Looking at the numbers, Ferentz doesn't pop out at you, but there is a reason his name is continually brought up for big time college openings and in the NFL every year.

3. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
It was a tough call whether to put RR or Joe Pa in this slot, but I do have to give credit where credit is due, even if it pains me to do so. Dick Rod did do a very good job with his alma mater at WVU, bringing them to the top of the Big Least and putting them on the national map with a big Sugar Bowl win over Georgia in January of 2006. We're not completely sure how his time up north will pan out, but now that he is starting to get some players that are made for his system it's time for old Dicky to put up or shut up. If he doesn't have the results on the field in the next couple of years he may find himself on the open market.

4. Joe Paterno, Penn State
You can make the argument that Joe Pa doesn't even really coach the Nittany Lions anymore, but as far as we know he's still whipping up genius from his seat in the press box. Happy Valley has enjoyed a revival of the program the last few years, with two conference titles in the last four seasons, including last year's surprising 11-1 record and appearance in the Rose Bowl. Joe Pa is 383-127-3 in his 43-year stint as head of the PSU squad and holds the record for most wins, bowl wins (23), and bowl appearances (35), among other marks for FBS coaches. At age 82, he's still hanging in there and whether he's calling the plays or not, he remains a very important person to Penn State football and tradition.

5. Ron Zook, Illinois
After getting the royal treatment by Gator Nation after a 23-14 run in his three years at Florida, Zook has bounced back strong and made the Fighting Illini a legitimate Big Ten Contender. The Zooker is 18-30 in four years in Champaign-Urbana, but don't let numbers fool you as Illinois made the Rose Bowl in January 2008 after a 9-3 season which included an upset of our beloved Buckeyes in Columbus. Zook has done an excellent job of recruiting and while Illinois had a disappointing 5-7 season last year, expect the Orange Crush to bounce back strongly in Juice Williams' senior season. Illinois may be a basketball school, but Ron Zook is not letting football be forgotten.

6. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
The man who lead the OSU defense to the 2002 National Title is working his magic again, this time in East Lansing. After resurrecting Cincinnati football, Mark D. is 16-10 in his two years leading the Green and White. He's brought Sparty to two consecutive bowl games and has taken advantage of Michigan's fall by having tremendous success with in-state recruiting, putting his team in a position to be successful for many years to come. Dantonio may one day be JT's successor in Columbus, but it may be awfully hard to leave MSU if the program continues its success under his lead.

7. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Fitzgerald has done a very nice job since taking over for the late Randy Walker a few seasons ago. He has improved the Wildcats every year he has been the head coach, going 19-18 in his three seasons at the helm and lead NU to the Alamo Bowl last season. The future is bright for Fitzgerald in Evanston and with Mike Kafka behind center this year, his spread offense should be even more lethal than ever before.

8. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
I am not a huge fan of Bielema's and he has regressed the last two seasons after going 12-1 in his first year taking over for Barry Alvarez. Bielema clearly has had a problem bringing in his own players and developing talent, but the prestige and success of the UW program, coupled with three bowl appearances in three seasons puts him above Tim Brewster in the eight spot.

9. Tim Brewster, Minnesota
Brewster is another Big Ten coach on the up and the Gophers impressed many by going 7-6 last season, just one year after their embarassing 1-11 campaign in 2007. Brewster not only had Minny bowling last year, but has put the Gophers on the recruiting map on the national level. The program in the twin cities has turned around quickly and it will be interesting to see what progress the Brew Crew can make this season.

10. Bill Lynch, Indiana
Lynch is lucky that there's a new coach in town, otherwise he'd be at the bottom of this list. Lynch has not been able to complete the rebuilding project that late coach Terry Hoeppner started and faltered with a 3-9 record last year after making a bowl appearance in his first season with Hoepp's players. This season Lynch is shaking things up on offense in Bloomington, including moving QB Kellen Lewis to wide receiver and using more spread and pistol in his schemes. If the changes don't lead to more wins, Lynch can't expect to have a job much longer.

11. Danny Hope, Purdue
Unfortunately for Hope, he is the new guy in town and is inheriting a team that went 4-8 last season. Bringing experience as a former head coach at Eastern Kentucky and as offensive coordinator at Louisville, Hope also had a stint as an offensive line coach in West Lafeyette during the Drew Brees era, and was brought on by Joe Tiller a couple seasons ago with it being known that he would succeed the long time coach. Hope has a lot of work to do and he falls last on this list because he first has to prove himself in the ranks of the Big Ten's quality stable of coaches.