The 50 Best College Football Coaches of All Time |  Ranking

A good college football program is usually built on several factors, including elite talent, resources, a dedicated fan base, and the right man at the helm to bring it all together.

The need for a mastermind head coach is self-evident. He’s the one who gathers all the ingredients, assembles them, and places the product on the field.

In no other sport is the head coach as important as college football. Coaching creates the sport.

There isn’t as much reactionary thinking as in basketball or hockey. On-field communication is not as prevalent as it is in soccer and baseball. Every single play in football is always controlled by the opposing coaching staff.

Let’s take a deep dive into a discussion of the best college football coaches of all time.

What Is American Football?

The football game comprises two teams scoring points on the field, each with 11 players. It is a very strategic sport with many plays that make the game more complex and impressive.

The game is now divided into four 15-minute periods for 60 minutes, but the stopwatch is usually stopped in many situations, such as fouls, when the ball goes out the sideline, when one team scores, or when no one grabs the ball before it touches the ground in a pass.

Football Field Size

The American Football field is 120 yards long (approximately 109 meters) and 53,3 yards wide (almost 49 meters), with 10 lines spaced every 10 yards.

Beyond the bottom line on either side is the Endzone, where players mark touchdowns, often in a different color, so that players in the middle of the game can easily identify them.

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How To Play Football

Unlike the vast majority of team sports, in which both teams attack and defend at the same time, this is no longer the case in American football. One team is attacking, while the other is defending. When it changes, the team alignment usually changes as well.

Each team has four attempts (or downs) to move ten yards. If he is unable to do so, the defending team becomes the attacking team and vice versa.

When they are already in the 4a attempt, the team will usually punt, or kick, the ball as far away from their field as possible to avoid losing possession of the ball (and the attack) very close to their side.

Best Colleges Football Coaches of All Time

#1. Nick Saban, Alabama

When we think of the “greatest coaches of all time,” we tend to favor older head coaches and players. Saban has won seven championships.

That is more than anyone in college football history. Despite a game-changing event occurring under his supervision.

The college game is becoming more like the NFL game, emphasizing the passing game over the running game. Saban has shifted his recruiting emphasis from finding the best running backs to finding the best wide receivers.

He has three or four five-star players at every position. Before they even arrive on campus, he gets them to buy into the Alabama program. Saban is one of the best college football coaches ever.

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#2. Paul “Bear” Bryant

When it comes to the top two coaches in the sport’s history, Alabama is the place to be. When asked who the best coach in history is, everyone immediately thinks of Bear Bryant.

He was fantastic for a long time. For over 45 years, Bryant was a mainstay in college football coaching.

In 1961, he won his first national championship. Then he had the best run with Alabama. He won another national championship in 1964, this time with Joe Namath at quarterback.

They defeated some of the greats in bowl games during that era, including Bud Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma team in the Orange Bowl in 1962. He is one of the best college football coaches of all time.

#3. Knute Rockne

Talk about an all-time classic. Rockne coached from 1918 to 1930, winning five national championships (1919, 1920, 1924, 1929, and 1930).

Rockne invented the forward pass as well as the T formation in the backfield. His impact on Notre Dame will is still remembered. He is one of the greatest moments in college football history. He is one of the best college football coaches ever.

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#4. Tom Osborne

Nebraska football has a complex because of Tom Osborne. They require greatness now because Tom Osborne provided it for over two decades. Nebraska hasn’t been the same since he led them to their best seasons.

Osborne has a unique profession. He began and ended his career at Nebraska. He began working at the college as an offensive assistant in 1964.

In 1969, he got a promotion to offensive coordinator. His I-formation offense helped them win back-to-back national championships. Bob Devany was the head coach, but he stepped down to focus more on his role as athletic director at the school.

Osborne maintained his winning ways, though it took him a long time to return to the national championship. He is undoubtedly one of the best college football coaches of all time.

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#5. Joe Paterno

Even today, Paterno’s raspy voice screams “college football legend.” Going 5-5 in his first season in 1966 was the beginning of everything for the all-time winningest coach in FBS history.

Paterno’s 406 victories are the most ever, and it appears that no one will ever catch the 84-year-old Penn State coach. Joe Paterno is one of the best college football coaches ever.

#6. Bobby Bowden

Bowden’s 14 consecutive seasons of top four postseason finishes (1987-2000) is something no coach in history will ever achieve.

Bowden won nine conference championships, two national championships (1994, 1999), and an unbeatable and unforgettable 152-19-1 (88 percent) record.

After Bowden led them to what is now, Tallahassee grew to love him. He is one of the best college football coaches of all time.

#7. Fielding Yost

From 1901 to 1905, the man known for his “Point-A-Minute” squads established himself as one of the best college football coaches ever.

He was 165-29-10 in his 25-year career at Michigan. But, from 1901 to 1905, he went an unstoppable 55-1-1, outscoring the opposition 2,821 to 42.

During those four seasons, he won four national championships, and after a decade of struggle, he returned to the promised land by winning two more national championships in 1918 and 1923

#8. Bud Wilkinson

This legend holds the record for most consecutive home victories (47). From 1901 to 1905, the man known for his “Point-A-Minute” squads established himself as one of the greatest of all time.

He went 165-29-10 in his 25-year career at Michigan. However, from 1901 to 1905, he went an unstoppable 55-1-1, outscoring the opposition 2,821 to 42.

During those four seasons, he won four national championships, and he eventually returned to the promised land after a decade of struggle by winning two more national championships in 1918 and 1923.

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#9. Amos Alonzo Stagg

We have no idea how a football coach lived to be 103 years old. Amos Alonzo Stagg was a pioneer who developed many plays and formations that are still in use today.

His most famous works include the Man in Motion and the Statue of Liberty, as well as a slew of other plays. He was one of the best college football coaches of all time, winning seven conferences and two national championships (1905, 1913) in 41 seasons with the Chicago Maroons (1892-1932).

#10. Woody Hayes

Woody Hayes is arguably the best Buckeye and Big Ten coach of all time, having won 13 Big Ten championships and five national championships (’54, ’57, ’61, ’68, ’70).

Going 152-37-7 in the Big Ten is simply insane. Despite getting fired after punching Charlie Bauman in the 1978 Gator Bowl, Hayes remains among the best college football coaches ever.

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#11. Kirby Smart

When Georgia hired Smart, the consensus was that he would eventually succeed Nick Saban as SEC commissioner. And, by extension, the college football boss.

That transition may not be complete while Saban is still in charge, but Kirby took an important step in that direction last season.

Georgia defeated Alabama to win its first national championship since 1980, the culmination of Smart and his staff’s intense and aggressive efforts in recruiting and developing talent and regaining national prominence. Kirby Smart is one of the best college football coaches available.

#12. Dabo Swinney

Swinney is one of only two active coaches to have won multiple national championships, has built a recruiting behemoth, has won 10 games in 11 straight seasons, has won six straight ACC titles, and has made the College Football Playoff six times in a row, winning a CFP title before Saban (and against him). Dabo Swinney is one of the best college football coaches available.

#13. Ryan Day, Ohio State

He only lost two games in his first two seasons, won two Big Ten championships, and made two College Football Playoffs, including a national championship appearance in Year 2. Ryan Day is one of the best college football coaches in 2022.

#14. Luke Fickell

Fickell, who was named SN Coach of the Year in 2021, is 33-5 over the last three seasons, ranking fourth among FBS coaches. He led Cincinnati to the Group of 5’s first College Football Playoff appearance, and the Bearcats drafted a school-record nine NFL players.

Fickell has accomplished all of this while working in the shadow of his alma mater, and he will be the coach who leads Cincinnati to a larger stage in the Big 12. He is one of the best college football coaches available now.

#15. Brian Kelly

Given his illustrious tenure at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly is consistently ranked among the “who’s who” of college coaches. Kelly is not only an excellent recruiter, but he also performs admirably on gamedays, having won three national coaches of the year awards during his career.

Kelly has appeared in the College Football Playoff twice (2018, and 2020) and reached the BCS championship game against Alabama a decade ago. The talent level at LSU should bring out Kelly’s best. He is one of the best college football coaches of all time.


#16. Lincoln Riley

Riley took over a solid Oklahoma program and helped it transition into the College Football Playoff era, with three straight semifinal appearances and five straight top-10 finishes. Lincoln Riley is one of the best college football coaches in 2022.

#17. Jimbo Fisher

Jimbo came to College Station with a national championship from Florida State, and while he’s helped A&M’s recruiting profile since his arrival, the results got mixed up.

Fisher has lost four games in three of his four seasons at A&M, and while the Aggies came close to making the College Football Playoff in 2020, they stumbled last fall and lost four games, despite a statement win over No. 1 Alabama.

Nonetheless, Fisher’s recruiting efforts have only improved, with the signing of arguably the best class ever in 2022.

It’s a step in the right direction for him and the program, which has a 7-10 record against ranked opponents. Fisher is one of the best college football coaches available.

#18. Luke Fickell

Cincinnati had 11 wins and got ranked in the top 25 under Fickell. After only five years, he made history by leading the first Group of Five teams to the College Football Playoff.

Fickell has had two consecutive perfect regular seasons and has established himself in terms of player development. Luke Fickell is one of the best college football coaches available.

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#19. Kyle Whittingham

Whittingham took over for Utah after Urban Meyer left and hasn’t looked back since, winning four division titles, defeating Nick Saban and Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, and winning 11 of his first 12 bowl games. Whittingham is no doubt one of the best college football coaches available today.

#20. Jim Harbaugh

Despite winning 10 games in three of his first four seasons at Michigan and finishing in the top 25 in all but two, Harbaugh’s track record has been heavily criticized. Despite all the criticism, he is still one of the best college football coaches in 2022.

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#21. Mario Cristobal

Cristobal is one of the best college football coaches available. He has a 26-8 with a.765 winning percentage in that span, ranking ninth among FBS coaches.

He reintroduced Oregon into the CFP discussion. If he does the same thing with the Hurricanes, there will be a lot more buzz.

#22. Mike Gundy

There have been ups and downs during the BCS and CFP eras, but Gundy has won 16 consecutive games with the Cowboys, and with Lincoln Riley gone, that makes him the Big 12’s top coach for the time being.

Last season, Gundy snapped a six-game losing streak to Oklahoma, but he missed out on a second Big 12 championship. He is one of the best college football coaches available.

#23. Kirk Ferentz

With Kirk Ferentz who is one of the best college football coaches available, the Hawkeyes continue to enjoy steady success in a rapidly-changing college football landscape.

#24. Mark Stoops

Stoops continues to outperform at Kentucky, and he may be the best coach there since Bear Bryant went 60-23-2 from 1946 to 1953. In the last six seasons, the Wildcats have gone 47-29.

This includes two 10-win seasons and four straight bowl victories over perennial top-25 programs. Stoops’ success has been difficult to come by since Bryant’s departure.

#25. Barry Switzer

Barry Switzer is one of the best college football coaches of all time. He did more than just take care of business at Oklahoma during his 16-year tenure.

Aside from Jimmy Johnson, he is the only coach to have won both a Super Bowl and a national championship.

Switzer won 12 conference championships, three national championships (1974, 1975, and 1985), and had an 8-5 bowl record.

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#26. Robert Neyland

Tennessee Volunteers stadium got its name after Robert Neyland. Neyland is one of the best college football coaches of all time. His 173 wins out of 216 games rank first, but the statistics don’t end there. He had six unbeaten seasons, nine unbeaten regular seasons, seven conference titles, and four national titles.

#27. Ara Parseghian

“The Era of Ara” was when Notre Dame football was back on track in terms of kicking teeth. Parseghian went on to win two national championships in 1966 and 1973, finishing 95-17-4 (.83 percent).

He never had a season with more than two losses or a finish lower than 15th. He also won the 1970 Cotton Bowl, 1973 Sugar Bowl (NC), and 1974 Orange Bowl.

#28. Eddie Robinson

Eddie Robinson was Grambling’s head coach for 54 years. He went on to have 45 winning seasons, including a share of 17 Southwest Athletic Conference titles. With a career record of 408-165-15. (71 percent ) Eddie Robinson is one of the best college football coaches of all time.

#29. Bob Devaney

It’s not easy to win consecutive national championships (’70-’71) while going a combined 24-0-1. Bob Devaney went on to win 12 conference titles, eight of them with Nebraska. This secured his title as one of the best college football coaches ever.

#30. Glenn Pop Warner

Pop Warner Little Scholars, which he helped to establish, is one of his more notable accomplishments. His 44 seasons, however, rank among the best of all time.

He won 319 games with six different schools (Georgia, Cornell, Carlisle, Pittsburgh, Stanford, and Temple), and he also won four national championships.

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#31. John McKay

McKay led the USC Trojans to nine Pac-8 conference championships and eight Rose Bowl appearances during his 16-year tenure.

In addition to his five Rose Bowl victories, he won four national championships (1962, 1967, 1972, and 1974). There is no doubt that he is among the best. He is no doubt one of the best college football coaches of all time.

#32. Mack Brown

Brown presents a difficult subjective case for these rankings. He turns 71 in August and has a chance to join the 300-win club.

He is one of the game’s five national championship coaches and is without a doubt one of the best college football coaches available today.

#33. Lane Kiffin

In 2019, Kiffin had a rank No. 82 as FAU’s coach. He’s now a sure thing in the top 25 with the Rebels after another 10-spot improvement. Last season, Kiffin led Ole Miss to a 10-win season and a Sugar Bowl appearance.

During that time, Ole Miss has a 3-5 record against top 25 opponents, and Kiffin demonstrated this offseason that he knows how to navigate the transfer portal.

#34. Dave Aranda

Aranda used what he learned as a defensive coordinator at LSU to build the Bears from the ground up for an early Big 12 championship run.

Baylor has gone 5-4 against ranked opponents over the last two years, which is a huge accomplishment given the mess Aranda inherited. He is one of the best college football coaches available today.

#35. Earl Blaik

Earl Blaik led one of the greatest college football teams of all time (No. 7 SN) thanks to his dynamic duo known as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside (Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis).

His 1945 Army team went 9-0, dominating every team in sight by outscoring the competition 45.8 to 5.1 on average. Mr. Inside (Blanchard) won the Heisman Trophy, while Mr. Outside (Davis) finished second in the voting. Earl Blaik is no doubt one of the best college football coaches of all time.

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#36. John Heisman

Having the Heisman Trophy named after you may be all you need to know about this trailblazer. In the late 1800s, John Heisman rose to prominence as one of the most popular and successful coaches.

Heisman played and coached for a long time at Oberlin (1892-1894), Auburn (1895-1899), Clemson (1900-1903), Georgia Tech (1904-1919), Penn (1920-1922), Washington & Jefferson (1923), and Rice (1924-1927).

#37. Bo Schembechler

Glenn Edward “Bo” Schembechler is one of college football’s most recognizable coaches. He had the honor of strapping on a headset for 21 seasons for the Maize and Blue.

Ann Arbor was always used to winning Big Ten championships after Bo brought them 13 in a row. His teams finished the season 16 times in the top ten.

#38. Darrell K. Royal

He won 11 conference championships in total, but it was his three national championships (’63, ’69, and ’70) that cemented his legacy as a college football great and Longhorn legend. Darrell is one of the best football coaches of all time.

#39. Lou Holtz

Holtz coached at William & Mary from 1969 to 1971, NC State from 1972 to 1975, Arkansas from 1977 to 1983, and Minnesota from 1984 to 1985.

He had three conference championships under his belt, one from each of his schools except Minnesota, where he had only spent two seasons.

He then transferred to Notre Dame (’86-’96), where he went 100-32-2 (75%) and won the national championship (12-0) in his third season.

#40. Vince Dooley

During his 25-year stay in Athens, Vince Dooley was a legend. Dooley led the Georgia Bulldogs to six Southeastern Conference titles and their fifth national championship in 1980.

Dooley would go on to finish seven times in the top ten and 14 times in the top 25. His most notable player was 1980 Heisman Trophy winner Hershel Walker, who many consider to this day to be the greatest college football player of all time.

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#41. P.J. Fleck

P.J Fleck is the youngest 2022 coach on this list. The Gophers rebounded from a COVID-affected 2020 season by winning nine games in 2021, re-establishing the program as a Big Ten West contender. This includes two Paul Bunyan’s Axe victories in the last four years.

#42. Mel Tucker

Tucker, who learned from Nick Saban at Alabama and Kirby Smart at Georgia, has brought those lessons to East Lansing, where he has led the team to a New Year’s Day Six Bowl victory in just two seasons.

Tucker is well skilled at navigating the transfer portal, and Michigan State was unbeaten at Spartan Stadium last season. Most importantly for the fans, Tucker is 2-0 against rival Michigan.

#43. Dave Clawson

The Demon Deacons won the ACC Atlantic last season, an honor previously held by Clemson. Clawson engineered Wake Forest’s slow climb to No. 4 in the nation with 41 points per game in 2021. Wake Forest has had five winning seasons in the last six years, which is the first time since the D.C. Walker era.

#44. Steve Spurrier

He has a career record of 191-74-2. (71 percent ). Steve Spurrier has coached for three different programs in 22 years, including Duke (’87-’89), Florida (’90-’01), and South Carolina (’05-present).

A resume that includes 17 bowl games and two BCS Bowls is impressive. However, Florida’s record of 11 straight top-12 finishes and nine-win seasons is not easily broken.

In 1996, he won the coveted national championship by crushing Florida State in a rematch of their regular-season finale loss.

He also never finished lower than second in the East during his time in Florida. He returned South Carolina to national prominence by aiming for consecutive top-25 finishes.

#45. Lavell Edwards

For 29 years, Lavell Edwards was a BYU legend, and he still is. In 1984, Edwards won a national championship. He is one of the best college football coaches ever.

#46. Dan Devine

Dan Devine accomplished a lot while coaching the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In 1977, he won the national championship by defeating Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

He coached in South Bend for only six seasons, compiling a respectable 53-16-1 (75 percent) record. Before taking over the Domers, he was a great coach

#47. Terry Donahue

Terry Donahue’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000 automatically places him on this list. During his 20-year tenure at UCLA, the Bruins shared or won five conference championships and appeared in four Rose Bowls.

#48. Dana X. Bible

In his career, Dana X. Bible won nearly 200 games. During the 1919 season, his Texas A&M Aggies went undefeated, outscoring their opponents 275-0. He won four national titles.

Bible was a winner no matter where he went and got inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.

#49. Don James

Don James, a three-time Pac-10 coach of the year (1977, 1984, and 1991), set a Pac-10 record with 98 conference victories in 1992.

He began his coaching career at Kent State, where he worked with Gary Pinkel and Nick Saban (1971-1974).

The Huskie legend once won 22 consecutive games from 1990 to 1992, and he got inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

#50. Frank Broyles

Frank Broyles had a long career as a coach before retiring as the Arkansas Razorbacks’ athletic director in 2007. He got inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He is one of the best college football coaches ever.

Types of Equipment Used in Football

Due to the violent nature of the sport, players wear a variety of protective gear. A helmet, jersey, shoulder pads, cleats, and a football are all required equipment.

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Where do They Play Football

Football games are usually played on a rectangular field that is 120 yards (110 meters) long and 53-13 yards (48.8 meters) wide.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What makes American football so unique?

Defensive touchdowns are among the most exciting plays in football, and nothing raises a team’s adrenaline like a monster hit. The fact that defense in football can have such a strong impact on a game is what makes football so exciting.

Is American football played anywhere else?

According to the International Federation of American Football, there are currently about 80 countries around the world with well-organized federations for American football.

Is American football played in the United Kingdom?

American football is a sport played at both the domestic and international levels in the United Kingdom.

Is American football played in Italy?

The Italian Football League (IFL) is Italy’s top-tier American football league, founded in 1980.

What is America’s favorite sport?

American football, or simply football as it is mostly known in the United States, is by far the most popular sport in the country, and its Major League, the NFL, is the league that runs television.


Many historic legends will live on in our hearts forever, but these are our personal top 50 greatest coaches of all time. We hope you had a great time looking at these historic giants.




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