What every SEC coach needs to do to become best in school history
Some of the most respected coaches in the country are set to patrol SEC sidelines this fall.
But how many of those guys, considered at the top of their profession today, are considered among the elite in school history?
Let’s talk about what each of the current SEC coaches would have to do to be considered the best ever at their program.
Alabama: Nick Saban
Alright Alabama fans, what would it take for you to choose Nick Saban over Paul “Bear” Bryant as the greatest coach in Alabama football history? Bear Bryant won six national championships, 13 SEC championships and boasts a 232-46-9 record as the Crimson Tide coach. Saban is halfway there on the national titles, and actually has a slightly better winning percentage (.835 to .824) in his 103 games at Alabama. Those numbers are good enough to be the best coach at almost any school, but he still needs a few more national titles to be in the conversation at Alabama.
Arkansas: Bret Bielema
Bielema has endeared himself to the Razorback faithful with a winning season in his second year on campus, but he is a long way from taking the place of long time coach and athletics director Frank Broyles. Broyles was 144-58-5 over nearly two decades as the Razorbacks coach, and has a claim to the 1964 national championship after an 11-0 season and a Cotton Bowl victory.
Auburn: Gus Malzahn
Gus Malzahn got off to a fantastic start at Auburn, winning 19 of his first 22 games as the Tigers head coach. He even deserves extra credit for his tenure as the offensive coordinator during the 2010 national championship season. But to become the best in school history, Malzahn must chase down Ralph “Shug” Jordan, who won 176 games and the 1957 national championship for the Tigers.
Florida: Jim McElwain
We’ll let McElwain worry about his first win as Gators coach before we start comparing him to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Spurrier posted a 122-27-1 record at his alma mater, and won the national championship in 1996. In the minds of most, that still ranks ahead of the six years of excellence under Meyer which led to a 65-15 record and two national championships.
Georgia: Mark Richt
As the longest-tenured coach in the SEC, Mark Richt has created the largest set of data to work with at his current coaching stop. Richt has an impressive list of accomplishments with the Bulldogs, as his 125-44 record would indicate, but he still has some work to do to catch legendary coach Vince Dooley, who has 201 victories to go along with the 1980 national championship.
Kentucky: Mark Stoops
Mark Stoops has seven wins in his first two seasons of a Kentucky rebuild, so it is really hard to project how his tenure at the helm of the Wildcats program may look like before it is all said and done. Bear Bryant is the program’s all-time winningest coach with 60 wins in his eight seasons with Kentucky, during which he took the program to the Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls.
LSU: Les Miles
As things stand today, there is a good argument to be made for Les Miles being the best coach in LSU football history. He ranks second on the Tigers all-time wins list, trailing only Charles McClendon (137-59-7) by 33 wins, won a national championship in the 2007 season, and has an impressive .780 winning percentage during his 10 years in charge.
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen
Dan Mullen is well on his way to being considered the best coach in Mississippi State football history, and some may argue he is already there after having the Bulldogs atop the college football world last November. Mullen is just 29 wins away from chasing down Jackie Sherrill for the most wins in program history.
Missouri: Gary Pinkel
This one is up for debate. Pinkel, Don Faurot and Dan Devine are three of the leading candidates for best coach in school history. Pinkel recently passed Don Faurot as the winningest coach in Missouri football history with 102 wins, but Dan Devine holds the best winning percentage of the three at 93-37-7 (.704). Pinkel needs a few more years of strong performance and perhaps a SEC championship to differentiate himself.
Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze
Hugh Freeze has become an incredibly popular coach in Oxford, Miss., after three winning seasons in three tries as the Rebels head coach. But in order to be the best in school history, he must find a way to best legendary coach Johnny Vaught, who won 190 games and took the Rebels to seven Sugar Bowls and has a claim to three national championships.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier
This competition has already been won. Steve Spurrier is the best coach in South Carolina history. The Head Ball Coach has won a program-record 77 games in his 10 years as the Gamecocks head coach. He has set the school record with 11 wins in a season three years in a row from 2011-13.
Tennessee: Butch Jones
Good luck, Butch. While the Volunteers are headed in the right direction since hiring Jones following the 2012 season, he still has an unbelievably tall mountain to climb to be atop the coaching ranks at Tennessee. That’s because General Robert Neyland, who went 173-31-12 and won four national championships as the Tennessee head coach amidst breaks to serve in the U.S. Army, is a legend in Volunteers country.
Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin
Kevin Sumlin is off to a nice start with 28 wins in his first three seasons at Texas A&M. In order to top the list of Aggies coaches, he’s going to have to contend with a couple of coaches with national championships under their belts in Dana Bible and Homer Horton. R.C. Slocum tops the career wins list with 123 victories with the Aggies.
Vanderbilt: Derek Mason
Unfortunately for Derek Mason, the title of Vanderbilt’s greatest coach of all-time is likely to always belong to Dan McGugin. Not even James Franklin’s brief tenure of success at Vanderbilt could come close to what McGugin was able to do as Commodores coach from 1904 to 1934. McGugin compiled a record of 197-55-19 and went unbeaten four times, earning an induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.