Who is the next SEC coach to become his program's all-time wins leader?
Mark Stoops supplanted Bear Bryant as Kentucky’s winningest football coach Saturday night in The Swamp.
Stoops has 61 victories and counting at Kentucky. He and Bryant are the only coaches in program history with more than 50 wins.
Stoops’ accomplishment led to a natural question: Who’s next?
Is there another active SEC coach who is a viable threat to become his school’s all-time wins leader?
Let’s take a look around the league and assess their chances.
Leader: Bear Bryant, 232 wins.
Current coach: Nick Saban, 185 wins.
The skinny: It’s only a matter of time. Saban already has matched Bryant’s 6 national titles at Alabama and as long as he’s on the sideline, he’ll remain a threat to pass Bear in that category, too.
Saban has won 12 or more games 11 times at Alabama. He’s no more than 5 seasons away from Bear’s mark and, more likely, could get there by the end of the 2025 season. The perfect scenario? Needing to win the Iron Bowl, at Jordan-Hare, for No. 233.
Leader: Frank Broyles, 144 wins.
Active coach: Sam Pittman, 14 wins.
The skinny: As fun as it is to imagine Pittman on the sidelines for another 10+ years, that’s not very realistic. Not in this league. However, Pittman does have one big advantage in this race to the top: He sees Arkansas as a dream job. Culturally, he’s a perfect fit. But he’d need to average 9 wins for 15 years to pass Broyles. This record is safe.
Leader: Ralph Jordan, 175 wins.
Active coach: Bryan Harsin, 8 wins.
The skinny: Jordan’s record could be 17 wins and Harsin probably wouldn’t get there. That’s not a shot at Harsin, either, but rather the quirky culture on The Plains that chews up coaches faster than Oregon designs uniform combos.
Leader: Steve Spurrier, 122 wins.
Active coach: Billy Napier, 1 win.
The skinny: Only 5 coaches in program history have reached 50 wins. Spurrier’s record is beyond safe.
Leader: Vince Dooley, 201 wins.
Active coach: Kirby Smart, 68 wins.
The skinny: Smart already is 4th on Georgia’s career wins list. He’ll stay there for a while though. Wallace Butt is No. 3 with 140 wins. Mark Richt is 2nd all-time with 145.
The math works, though, if you think Smart will stay in Athens another 10+ years.
He’s only 133 wins from matching Dooley, making him every bit as likely as Saban to become his school’s all-time winningest coach.
Leader: Charles McClendon, 135 wins.
Active coach: Brian Kelly, 1 win.
The skinny: Kelly will just have to be content with being Notre Dame’s all-time winningest coach (113).
Leader: Jackie Sherrill, 74 wins.
Active coach: Mike Leach, 14 wins.
The skinny: Who knows, right? Leach is wacky enough to stay in Starkville another 10 years, which would make him a lock to replace Sherrill atop the Bulldogs’ leaderboard. Of course, he’s also 61 and could decide next week to coach a Pop Warner team in Key West and be perfectly happy doing that. My best guess? He’ll stay in Starkville, average 8 wins a year and pass Sherrill in 2029 — then retire in Key West.
Leader: Gary Pinkel, 118 wins.
Active coach: Eli Drinkwitz, 12 wins.
The skinny: If we’re being honest, Drinkwitz will do well to survive long enough to match Barry Odom’s win total (25). It’s a tough gig. Only 10 coaches in program history have won more than 15 games. Drinkwitz should join that list this season.
Leader: John Vaught, 190 wins.
Active coach: Lane Kiffin, 18 wins.
The skinny: Vaughn’s record is forever safe, but Kiffin will move into the program’s top 10 by October and crack the top 5 early in 2024. Those numbers are modest: Hugh Freeze and Henry Mehre each have 39 wins at Ole Miss. Billy Brewer is No. 2 all-time with 66 wins. That’s well within Kiffin’s reach, unless he decides to move on.
Leader: Steve Spurrier, 86 wins.
Active coach: Shane Beamer, 8 wins.
The skinny: When Stoops passed Bear Bryant on Kentucky’s list, that meant Steve Spurrier is the only coach with the most wins at 2 SEC programs. His South Carolina win total might be safer than his Florida total. Only 2 coaches in Gamecocks history have topped 50 wins. Odds are against Beamer becoming the 3rd.
Leader: Gen. Neyland, 173 wins
Active coach: Josh Heupel, 9 wins
The skinny: Neyland’s record is safe, but Heupel could climb into the top 10 by the end of next season. Butch Jones is No. 7 all-time with 34 wins. Only 4 coaches in program history have won more than 50 games. Becoming the 5th is a reasonable expectation for Heupel.
Leader: RC Slocum, 123 wins
Active coach: Jimbo Fisher, 35 wins
The skinny: 80+ more wins in 10+ more years? Sure, the math works in Fisher’s favor, but the emotions of too many more upset losses and 8-4 regular-seasons certainly don’t. Texas A&M paid for championships, not mid-tier bowl trophies. They got rid of Kevin Sumlin for the same reason, and Sumlin is No. 5 all-time in coaching wins (51) in College Station.
Leader: Dan McGugin, 197 wins
Active coach: Clark Lea, 4 wins
The skinny: Aside from exceeding Georgia Tech’s 222-point total against Cumberland, this might be the most secure record in college football.
Vandy coaches No. 2 through No. 7 on the all-time list combined to win 185 games.
In conclusion …
Who else? Saban is next up to become his team’s all-time winningest coach. Fisher certainly is being paid to win at that level — but he’ll fall short as soon as the boosters decide. Leach is the wild card in this debate. The math works in his favor. And Smart is a lock to eventually surpass Dooley, assuming he wants to keep coaching long enough.