March Madness has kept us extremely busy as we get to witness some of the winningest college basketball coaches of all-time chase the ultimate prize with their student athletes. It’s one of the most exciting and engaging months for sports fans and colleges across the country.
Winning a game doesn’t come easy in the NCAA, but the winningest college basketball coaches found a way to beat the system. They not only won with their respective schools, but they did so consistently and many of them had coaching careers spanning 40+ years – which is incredible.
As we prepare for the Sweet Sixteen, which is set for a March 24th and 25th tip off (25th and 26th for women’s basketball), there’s no better time to reminisce about some of the winningest college basketball coaches of all-time – some of whom are coaching in this year’s tournament.
Who Are the Winningest College Basketball Coaches?
Over the past 120+ years of college basketball history, we’ve seen plenty of head coaches attempt to build a dynasty at their respective schools. While it’s something that doesn’t happen often, there are a select few head coaches that have consistently led their team to success.
There are over 100 men’s and over 80 women’s college basketball coaches with at least 600 career NCAA wins – including Bruce Pearl, Jay Wright, Jody Conradt, Kay Yow, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, John Wooden, Bill Self, John Calipari, John Beilein, and Bob Knight.
All those head coaches are among the winningest college basketball coaches of all-time, but one thing that might surprise you – especially when you consider some of the names we just listed above – is that none of them are among the top-20 winningest college basketball coaches.
Don’t worry, we’re going to share with you the 20 winningest college basketball coaches of all-time below!
20. Jim Foster (NCAAW)
Jim Foster spent 40 years behind the bench, notching a career 903-347 (.722) as the women’s basketball coach at Saint Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, and Chattanooga. He’s a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and the 2003 USA Basketball Developmental Coach of the Year.
Foster won 248 games with St. Joseph’s from 1978-1991, 256 with Vanderbilt from 1991-2002, 279 with Ohio State from 2002-2013, and 120 with Chattanooga from 2013-2018. He was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 and finally retired in May 2018.
19. Roy Williams (NCAAM)
Roy Williams spent 33 years as head coach of Kansas and North Carolina, finishing his career with a 903-264 record – 418 wins with Kansas between 1988-2003 and 485 wins with UNC between 2003-2021. This season is the first year since 1988 that Williams isn’t a head coach.
Williams is a two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year, two-time ACC Coach of the Year, two-time AP Coach of the Year, and 1996-97 Naismith Coach of the Year. His teams finished with at least 30 wins 12 times in his career, making it to nine Final Fours and winning three national titles.
18. Bob Huggins (NCAAM)
Bob Huggins has spent over 40 years behind the bench, accumulating a 916-399 (.697) as head coach of Walsh, Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State, and West Virginia (currently). He’s one of just a few coaches to win at least 300 games at two different schools – WVU and Cincinnati.
Huggins has a 34-28 record in 25 NCAA Tournament appearances, 3-4 record in the NIT, and a 1-1 record in the CBI. Since 1991, Huggins has led his team to the NCAA Tournament in all but six seasons. While he has never won a national title, he has made two Final Four appearances.
17. Larry Holley (NCAAW)
Larry Holley spent over 50 years as the women’s head coach at Central Methodist, Northwest Missouri State, and William Jewell. He notched a 919-579 career record as head coach with 832 of those wins coming at William Jewell between 1979 and 2019 when he retired from the game.
Holley never won an NAIA title with William Jewell, but he had 13 tournament appearances, five of which ended in the Sweet 16, two of which ended in the Elite Eight, and four of which ended in the Final Four. His team won at least 20 games 24 times and won 43 straight home games at one point.
16. Jim Calhoun (NCAAM)
Jim Calhoun spent over 44 years as head coach of Northeastern, Connecticut (UCONN), and most recently Saint Joseph (DIII). During his time as head coach, Calhoun has accumulated an impressive 920-397 record, including 625 wins at UCONN and 248 wins at Northeastern.
Calhoun led Northeastern to six NCAA Tournament appearances in his final seven years with the team after missing the dance in his first seven years. With UCONN, he won one NIT Championship and three NCAA Championships – including eight seasons with at least 30 wins.
15. Don Meyer (NCAAM)
Don Meyer spent 39 years behind the bench as head coach of Hamline, Lipscomb, and most recently Northern State. He retired in 2010 with a 923-34 record as a men’s basketball coach. He won the NAIA Championship in 1986, which was his first year as head coach of Lipscomb.
Meyer was known for his three rules that he demanded his players follow – everyone takes notes, everyone says ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and everyone picks up trash. In 2010, he was awarded the Coach Wooden ‘Keys to Life’ Award and the John Bunn Award for his excellence.
14. Muffet McGraw (NCAAW)
Muffet McGraw spent 38 years as head coach of the Lehigh and Notre Dame women’s basketball teams. She retired in 2020 with a head coaching record of 936-293 (.762). She built Notre Dame into a collegiate powerhouse that won two titles and were runner-ups five times.
McGraw began her career with an 88-41 record with Lehigh over five seasons. She started coaching Notre Dame in 1987 and dominated the Midwestern Collegiate Conference for the next seven years. Since joining the Big East and recently the ACC, Notre Dame has been a force.
13. Glenn Robinson (NCAAM)
Glenn Robinson joined the Franklin and Marshall men’s basketball team in 1968 and served as an assistant for the next three years. In 1971, he was promoted to head coach and he held the position for 48 years until his eventual retirement in 2019. He has the most wins in DIII history.
Robinson retired with a head coaching record of 967-360 (.729). He led his team to more than 20 wins in 28 different seasons, including 10 consecutive years between 1986 and 1996. Under his leadership, Franklin and Marshall made 23 tournament appearances and five Final Fours.
12. Jim Boeheim (NCAAM)
Jim Boeheim is currently the head coach of the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team and has held that position since 1976 when he made his head coach debut. The Orange found immediate success under Boeheim, appearing in four-straight tourneys to start his career.
Boeheim has accumulated a 998-426 (.701) record with Syracuse, which doesn’t include the 101 wins he was forced to vacate as a result of a scandal (otherwise, he’d be much higher on this list). Under his leadership, Syracuse won the 2003 NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed.
11. Dave Holmquist (NCAAM)
Dave Holmquist played for Biola University between 1972 and 1974, immediately pursuing a career as a coach with Fresno Pacific. In 1978, he returned to Biola as co-head coach until 1988 when he became sole head coach. He’s the first head coach on this list with over 1,000 wins.
Holmquist led Fresno Pacific to a 36-43 record over three seasons before joining Biola. The team won 26 games in his second season and had an impeccable 39-1 season in 1981-82. Biola won more than 20 games in 29 different seasons and more than 30 games five times.
10. Sylvia Hatchell (NCAAW)
Sylvia Hatchell spent nearly 45 years as head coach of Francis Marion (1975-1986) and North Carolina (1986-2019). During that time, she led her teams to a 1,023-405 record and 751 of those wins came with UNC. The Tar Heels won at least 30 games seven times under Hatchell.
Hatchell led Francis Marion to an AIAW Division II Championship in 1981 and a 36-2 record in 1985 when they won the NAIA Championship. She joined UNC in 1986 and led them to 23 NCAA tourney appearances. The Tar Heels won the NCAA title in 1993 under Hatchell.
9. Danny Miles (NCAAM)
Danny Miles was a three-sport athlete at Southern Oregon, playing quarterback, shortstop, and point guard. By 1970, he was an assistant football, baseball, and basketball coach for Oregon Institute of Technology, also known as Oregon Tech. Some might say he loves sports a little.
Miles became the head men’s basketball coach for Oregon Tech in 1971 and remained in that position for the next 45 years, despite originally wanting to pursue a DI coaching career in football. He went on to lead Oregon Tech to a 1,040-437 record and three NAIA Division II titles.
8. Barbara Stevens (NCAAW)
Barbara Stevens spent 44 years as head coach of Clark University, UMASS, and most prominently at Bentley University for 34 years. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and later the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame two years ago.
Stevens led her teams to a 1,058-291 (.784) record, including 901 wins with Bentley. During her 34 seasons with the team, the Falcons finished with at least 30 wins 12 times and at least 20 wins 30 times. In 2013, the Bentley Falcons were named NCAA DII National Champions.
7. C. Vivian Stringer (NCAAW)
C. Vivian Stringer became the first African American college basketball coach to win 1,000 games in 2018. She has spent the past 50 years as a head women’s basketball coach for Cheyney State, Iowa, and Rutgers (currently). She has a 1,055-426 (.712) career record.
Stringer is a two-time Big East Coach of the Year and two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year. In Cheyney State’s first year in DI territory, Stringer led them to the NCAA Championship. She earned 251 wins with Cheyney State and 269 wins with Iowa before joining Rutgers in 1995.
6. Pat Summitt (NCAAW)
Pat Summitt played basketball for the University of Tennessee at Martin between 1970 and 1974. She became a graduate assistant for the Tennessee Lady Vols in 1974 and became the head coach that same year when the former one suddenly quit, sparking a legendary career.
Summitt led the Tennessee Lady Vols to a 1,098-208 (.841) over the next 39 years. Between 1981 and 2012, the Lady Vols were in the NCAA Tournament every year and even won it eight times – including three consecutive between 1996 and 1998. She’s one of the greatest ever.
5. Harry Statham (NCAAM)
Harry Statham earned a bachelor’s degree from McKendree University in 1960. He was then an assistant at the University of Illinois while he earned his Master of Science. In 1966, he returned to McKendree University as head men’s basketball coach and athletic director.
In his 52 years as a head coach at McK, Statham led the Bearcats to a 1,122-513 (.686) record and 15 NAIA tournament appearances. His team averaged nearly 23 wins per season and achieved more than 20 wins a total of 35 times. They played well and they did it consistently.
4. Herb Magee (NCAAM)
Herb Magee, famously known as the Shot Doctor, spent 54 seasons as the head men’s basketball coach at Thomas Jefferson University between 1967 and 2022. He announced his retirement earlier this month after leading his Rams to a 1,144-450 (.718) career record.
In just his third season as head coach, Magee’s Rams were named 1970 Division II Champions after going 29-2 on the year. While they haven’t won it since, they’ve won five CACC Tournaments since 2008 and made it to the Division II Regional Final a total of nine times.
3. Geno Auriemma
We’ve already talked about the legendary UCONN head men’s basketball coach in Jim Calhoun, but now let’s talk about the legendary and current head women’s basketball coach at UCONN – Geno Auriemma. He has led the Huskies to a 1,146-149 (.885) record since 1985.
Auriemma was an assistant at Saint Joseph’s, Bishop Kenrick HS, and Virginia before joining UCONN. He has won the NCAA Tournament 11 times, including three straight from 2002 to 2004, and four straight from 2013 to 2016. His team has won 111, 90, and 70 games in a row.
2. Tara VanDerveer
Tara VanDerveer began her college head coaching career with Idaho and Ohio State between 1978 and 1985. During that time, she had a 152-51 record. VanDerveer was named the head women’s basketball head coach at Stanford in 1985 and has held that position ever since.
VanDerveer has led the Cardinal to a 1,003-207 record since 1985, bringing her career coaching record to 1,155-258 (.817). Stanford has won three National Championships under her control and are currently the reigning champions. They play in the Sweet Sixteen on March 25th.
1. Mike Krzyzewski
Mike Krzyzewski, commonly known as Coach K, played guard for Army between 1966 and 1969. He became an assistant coach at Indiana in 1974 and was later named head coach of Army in 1975. Over the next five seasons, Coach K led the Cadets to a 73-59 (.553) record.
Coach K arrived at Duke University in 1980 and led them to a 1,127-308 (.785) record over the next 40+ years – bringing his career coaching record to 1,200-367 (.766). He sits atop the winningest college basketball coaches of all-time and has led Duke to five NCAA titles.
2022 Marks the End of a Legendary Career for Coach K
When Mike Krzyzewski retires at the end of this season, he’ll retire atop the winningest college basketball coaches of all-time. Despite a disappointing season last year that saw Duke left out of the tournament, he has his team in a prime position for one last run at a national title.
The Duke Blue Devils entered the 2022 March Madness tournament as a No. 2 seed after finishing the regular season 28-6. They defeated No. 15 Cal State Fullerton in the First Round and No. 7 Michigan State (coached by another legend in Tom Izzo) in the Second Round.
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The Blue Devils are now matched up against No. 3 Texas Tech on Thursday, March 24th as Duke continues their run in Coach K’s final tourney appearance before retirement. It won’t be an easy game, especially against one of the best defenses in college basketball, but it’s possible.
25 of the Best College Football Coaches of All-Time
The best college football coaches of all time know how to turn a good Saturday into a great one. After all, there’s no better way to kick off the weekend than with some quality college football — whether you’re sitting on the couch at home or at the game with your loved ones.
Let’s be honest, the NFL wouldn’t be what it is today without the great coaching we see at the college level. If it weren’t for college coaches, these young players wouldn’t have the proper guidance, discipline, support, development, and mentorship to take that next step into the NFL.
And that’s often the difference between a good college coach and the best college football coaches of all time. They not only prepare their team to go out there and win each week, but they know how to get the most out of each player and prepare them to win at the NFL level.
Ranking the Best College Football Coaches of All Time
College football dates back to 1869 when Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey (what we now know as Princeton University) squared off against one another. To put that in perspective, the NFL didn’t play its first game until 1920 — more than 50 years later.
Over the past 150+ years, we’ve seen plenty of coaches cement their legacy in this sport. They’ve enjoyed some of the best seasons ever, developed some of the best players ever, breaking records that may never be touched, and defining eras that make this sport so special.
With so many great coaches through the years, it’s tough to make a list of the 25 best college football coaches of all time. In fact, I can name at least 50 off the top of my head that are worthy of a spot on this list, so I already know I’ll be leaving some quality coaches off this list.
Well, you asked for it. Without any further stalling, let’s take a look at our list of the top-25 best college football coaches of all time — starting with a few honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions: Bob Devaney, Steve Spurrier, Larry Kehres, John Heisman, Dabo Swinney, Jim Tressel, Pete Carroll, Frosty Westering, Bernie Bierman, Urban Meyer, John Vaught, Brian Kelly, Jock Sutherland, Darrell Royal
25. Tubby Raymond
Known for his commitment to the Wing-T formation, Harold ‘Tubby’ Raymond enjoyed 35 great years at the University of Delaware. From 1966-2001, his team earned a record of 300-119-3 — a winning percentage of .714. Only 13 other coaches have won more games than Tubby.
Under his leadership, Delaware climbed up the college ranks, reaching the playoffs 16 times and winning three National Championships along the way. What was once known as a small college would eventually be classified as a Division II and finally a Division I-AA college.
Tubby Raymond was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and recently passed away at the age of 92 on Dec. 8, 2017.
24. Vince Dooley
Vince Dooley enjoyed an incredible career at Auburn University as a player-turned assistant coach, but it wasn’t until 1964 that he truly started to build a legacy for himself. That was when he began his head coaching career at the University of Georgia, which lasted 25 years.
Over that time, Dooley led his team to a 201-77-10 record, was featured in 20 bowl games, and even won a National Championship in 1980. He was a part of one of the best four-year stretches ever by a college coach, going 43-4-1 from 1980-1983. He retired as a head coach in 1988.
Dooley would also become the director of athletics at Georgia in 1979 (while he was still head coach) — a position he held until 2004. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
23. Lou Holtz
Unlike the previous two coaches we mentioned, Lou Holtz would coach six college football teams from 1969-2004 — William & Mary, NC State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Over that time, he compiled a record of 249-132-7, a percentage of .651.
He’s one of the most iconic college football coaches of all time. His best years came at NC State (33-12-3), Arkansas (60-21-2), and Notre Dame (100-30-2), but that’s not to say his voice and beliefs weren’t felt at the other three schools — despite a losing record at each of them.
In fact, he’s the only coach to lead four different schools into the Top 20 and won a National Championship with the Irish in 1988. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
22. LaVell Edwards
BYU football wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for LaVell Edwards. He coached the team from 1972-2000, led them to a 257-101-3 record, won 19 conference titles, and was featured in 22 bowl games along the way. Only 22 college coaches have won more games than LaVell.
His leadership and commitment to the passing game helped earn BYU its first and only National Championship in 1984. He helped groom some incredible quarterbacks, including Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, Marc Wilson, Gifford Nielson, Gary Scheide, and Robbie Bosco.
LaVell Edwards was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and passed away at the age of 86 on December 29, 2016.
21. Bobby Dodd
Bobby Dodd was a competitor. He played football, basketball, and baseball in high school, won city championships in contract bridge and tennis, and was one of the best quarterbacks the University of Tennessee has ever seen — winning 27 of the 30 games he played in.
As a coach, it was much of the same. Over a 22-year period from 1945-1966, Robert Lee ‘Bobby’ Dodd earned a 165-64-8 record with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. They won 31-straight games at one point and eight-straight bowl games, despite rarely scrimmaging.
Overall, he spent 57 years at Georgia Tech as a coach, director, and fund raiser. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and passed away at the age of 79 on June 21, 1988.
20. Bo Schembechler
Best known for his commitment to defense, Bo Schembechler was a product of Woody Hayes. He was an assistant coach from 1954-1962, including five years with the Ohio State Buckeyes. In 1963, he earned his first head coaching gig at Miami and went 40-17-3 over a six-year span.
His coaching career continued in 1969 when he was hired to be the new head coach at Michigan University. Over a 21-year career at Michigan, his team went 194-48-5, won 13 conference titles, and was featured in 17 bowl games. His 234 college wins ranks 42nd all-time.
He was also Michigan’s director of athletics from 1988-1990 and was even named the president of the Detroit Tigers (MLB) from 1991-1992. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
19. Earl Blaik
When you think of Army Black Knights football, you likely think of Earl ‘Red’ Blaik. He’s the winningest coach in Army history, with a 121-33-10 record from 1941-1958. He won 3 national championships, won 32-straight games, and coached three Heisman award winners.
Even before his time at Army, Earl Blaik saw success at Dartmouth University, earning a 45-15-4 record from 1934-1940. Between the two schools, Blaik finished with seven unbeaten seasons and had a 166-48-14 record. Not many coaches can live up to Earl Blaik’s legacy.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964 and passed away at the age of 92 on May 6, 1989.
18. Fielding Yost
Known for his ‘point-a-minute’ teams and ‘hurry-up’ offense, Fielding Yost didn’t lose much. He coached six teams from 1897-1926, earning an incredible record of 198-35-12. In fact, 29 of those losses came with Michigan from 1901-1926. Before that, he had a 33-6-2 record.
Under his leadership, Michigan had a 165-29-10 record, won 10 conference titles, and won 56-straight games over a five-year period. His first season with the team ended with an 11-0 record, but even more incredible was the fact that no one scored on them the entire season.
Fielding Yost was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and passed away at the age of 75 on August 20, 1946.
17. Walter Camp
It’s hard to mention anything football-related without bringing up Walter Camp. He’s largely recognized as the ‘Father of American Football.’ He invented the line of scrimmage, downs, the snap at center, and plenty more rules that make the game of football so exciting today.
Not only that, but he was a darn good coach, as well. He started his coaching career with Yale, going 67-2 from 1888-1892 — including going undefeated three of his five years. He then moved on to Stanford, where he continued his success and posted an 11-3-3 record from 1892-1895.
Camp was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and passed away at the age of 65 on March 14, 1925.
16. John Gagliardi
Find me a college coach that won more games than John Gagliardi — hint hint, you won’t. He started his career at Carroll College and earned a 24-6-1 record from 1949-1952, but that was only the beginning. From 1953-2012, he went 465-132-10 with St. John’s (Minnesota).
His 489 college wins is 80 more than the next coach — Joe Paterno. And to think Gagliardi made this all possible without tackling in practice, lifting weights, or practicing for more than 90 minutes. His career ended with 30 national championships and four national championships.
Gagliardi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 (six years before he retired) and passed away at the age of 91 on October 7, 2018.
15. Ara Parseghian
Another product of Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian started his head coaching career at Miami (OH) the year after Hayes left. From 1951-1955, Parseghian led the campus to a 39-6-1 record, including a 9-0 record his final season before heading off to Northwestern University.
Things didn’t go as smooth at Northwestern, earning a 36-35-1 record from 1956-1963, but things took a turn for the better when he was hired by Notre Dame. From 1964-1974, Parseghian led Notre Dame to a 95-17-4 record and two national championships (1966, 1973).
Ara Parseghian was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and passed away at the age of 94 on August 2, 2017.
14. Amos Alonzo Stagg
Only 14 coaches have won 300 or more games at the collegiate level and Amos Alonzo Stagg is one of them. With a 314-199-35 record from 1890-1946, he’s the 10th-most winningest coach (3rd-most losses) in college football history, but his legacy runs much deeper than just that.
Amos Alonzo Stagg is also known for his innovations, including padded goalposts and the lateral — which is still used today. In fact, he was the first head coach to earn a salary, something every coach can thank him for. Some refer to him as the ‘Grand Old Man’ of football for a reason.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and passed away at the age of 102 on March 17, 1965.
13. Barry Switzer
Barry Switzer coached the Oklahoma Sooners from 1973-1988, a time when the competition was extremely high. It wasn’t easy to coach in the Big Eight, but Switzer didn’t care — he beat everyone and never showed mercy. His 157-29-4 record is one of the best in campus history.
Of Oklahoma’s seven national championships, three of them came with Barry Switzer leading the way — including back-to-back championships in 1975 and 1975. He led them to 12 conference titles, had a .837 winning percentage, and a .662 percentage against ranked teams.
Barry Switzer was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and even coached the Dallas Cowboys (NFL) to a 40-24 record from 1994-1997 (including a Super Bowl victory).
12. John McKay
Despite going just 8-11-1 in his first two seasons as USC’s head coach, John McKay quickly turned things around with an 11-0 record in his third season. It was the first of four national championships he would win at USC, enjoying a 127-40-8 record from 1960-1975.
In addition to the national championships, he coached USC to nine conference titles and saw 11 of his players inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Although he didn’t have the same success in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his college legacy remains to this day.
John McKay was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and passed away at the age of 77 on June 10, 2001.
11. Pop Warner
Pop Warner is known for being a winner, competitor, and innovator at the collegiate level. His 319 wins is the 9th-best in college history and he did so with a .730 winning percentage. He coached seven teams from 1895-1938 and had a winning record at every school he coached.
As far as innovations go, Pop Warner is credited with inventing the three-point stance, the single- and double-wing formation, the body-block technique, the screen pass, the bootleg, and the hidden ball trick. He didn’t break rules, but he certainly made decision-makers change them.
Warner won three national championships in his career as a coach. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and passed away at the age of 83 on September 7, 1954.
10. Frank Leahy
Known for his good manners and referring to his players as ‘lads,’ Frank Leahy didn’t like to lose. That’s a good thing because he rarely did. He began his coaching career in 1939 at Boston College and went 20-2 over two seasons — which is when he got the call from Notre Dame.
As head coach of Notre Dame, Leahy went 87-11-9, led his team to four national championships in a seven-year period, and went on a 39-game winning streak from 1946-1950 (three national championships in that span). He put his heart and soul into coaching and it certainly showed.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and passed away at the age of 64 on June 21, 1973.
9. Woody Hayes
Not many college coaches expressed themselves on the sidelines like Woody Hayes did — especially when things weren’t going his way. He might’ve taken things a bit too far at the end of the 1978 season when he punched an opposing player, which ultimately led to his firing.
With that said, he’s still one of the best college football coaches of all time and deserves to be in the top-10 for his 238-72-10 record from 1946-1978. He would end up winning 205 games, 13 conference titles, and five national championships with the Ohio State Buckeyes over 28 years.
Hayes was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and passed away at the age of 74 on March 12, 1987.
8. Bobby Bowden
Only three college football coaches won more games than Bobby Bowden and we’ve already mentioned one of them (John Gagliardi). He led his teams to a 377-129-4 record from 1959-2009, with 305 of those wins coming with the Florida State Seminoles from 1976-2009.
He helped coach two Heisman winners at Florida State, won two National Championships, 12 conference titles in the ACC, and finished in the top-five every year from 1987-2000. He’s also the only college football coach to win 11-straight bowl games, which is consistency at its finest.
Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and passed away at the age of 91 on August 8, 2021.
7. Joe Paterno
Next to John Gagliardi, Joe Paterno is the only other coach to win more than 400 games at the collegiate level. He started at Penn State in 1950 as an assistant coach and spent 16 years in that position. In 1966, he got the call to be the head coach and won the second-most games ever.
From 1966-2011, Paterno led the Penn State Nittany Lions to a 409-136-3 record. He won two national championships, three conference titles, 24 bowl games, and five unbeaten seasons. He knew how to win and he did it often. Paterno was also the athletic director from 1980-1982.
Joe Paterno was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and passed away at the age of 85 on January 22, 2012 — two months after being fired.
6. Bud Wilkinson
We’ve already mentioned one Oklahoma Sooners’ head coach thus far, but Bud Wilkinson is our second. During his 17 years on campus, the Sooners were virtually unstoppable. From 1947-1963, Wilkinson led his teams to a 145-29-4 record, including 3 national championships.
Even more incredible were the winning streaks his teams compiled, which included a 31-game win streak from 1948-1950 and a 47-game win streak from 1953-1957. His 14 conference titles are the most by any Sooners’ head coach — two more than Barry Switzer, who we have at #13.
Wilkinson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969 and passed away at the age of 77 on February 9, 1994.
5. Eddie Robinson
We’ve talked about John Gagliardi, we’ve talked about Joe Paterno, now let’s talk about Eddie Robinson. With a 408-165-15 record with Grambling State from 1941-1997, Eddie Robinson goes down as the third-most winningest college coach in history — that’s right, 408 wins.
He was known for doing a little bit of everything on the field — taping players up, lining the field, directing the band, and getting the most out of his team. In just his second season at 23 years old, he went 9-0 without getting scored on. He was a true legend and will forever be revered.
He would go on to win 9 black college national championships and 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997 and passed away at the age of 88 on April 3, 2007.
4. Tom Osborne
After a short career in the NFL, Tom Osborne was eventually hired as an assistant coach at Nebraska under Bob Devaney. Little did they know they were getting one of the best college football coaches of all time, earning a 255-49-3 record over the next 25 years (1973-1997).
In his final four seasons with the team, he went 49-2 and won three national championships (1994, 1995, and 1997). In fact, he was one play away from winning a fourth championship in 1993, which would’ve marked four championships in five years. It was an incredible run.
Tom Osborne was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and would go on to serve three terms in Congress from 2001-2007.
3. Knute Rockne
Before Knute Rockne, the forward pass was nonexistent in the game of football. Thanks to Knute, it became a staple of the game and is what makes football, well, football. He’s known as a massive motivator, great innovator, and one of the best college football coaches of all time.
He spent 13 years at Notre Dame, earning a 105-12-5 record from 1918-1930. He led his team to five unbeaten seasons and three national championships — including back-to-back wins in 1929 and 1930, despite coaching from a wheelchair at times with an infection in both of his legs.
Rockne tragically and suddenly passed away due to a plane crash at the age of 43 on March 31, 1931 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951. Gone too soon, but never forgotten.
2. Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant
From 1945-1957, Paul Bryant coached Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas A&M to a 91-39-8 record to begin his coaching career. In 1958, he got the call to be the head coach of Alabama, and boy did he prove to be one of the best college football coaches of all time.
From 1958-1982, Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant earned a 232-46-9 record with Alabama. He won six national championships, including back-to-back championships in 1964 and 1965, and again in 1978 and 1979. His 323 wins at the collegiate level are the eighth-most in college football history.
Paul Bryant was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and passed away at the age of 69 on January 26, 1983.
1. Nick Saban
Of all the head coaches we’ve mentioned up to this point, none of them are active coaches. That’s where Nick Saban is different. He started his coaching career in Toledo before moving to Michigan State and LSU, where he saw success at all three alma maters — going 91-42-1.
It wasn’t until he landed at Alabama in 2007 where he truly cemented his legacy as a college coach. He has earned himself a 167-23 record, 8 conference titles, and six national championships. If you add in the national championship at LSU, he has a total of seven.
Nick Saban is showing no signs of slowing down and there’s no telling how many more national championships his team will win. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be named at the top of the best college football coaches of all time.
Active Coaches Climbing Up the Ranks
Next to Nick Saban, there are quite a few active college football coaches that could find themselves on this list by the time their careers come to an end. He’s not the only one finding success these days, although it might seem like he’s the only one winning championships.
Some head coaches to keep an eye on as they continue their careers are Dabo Swinney, Kirby Smart, Lincoln Riley, Dan Mullen, Pat Fitzgerald, Matt Campbell, Ed Orgeron, Gary Patterson, Jimbo Fisher, Jeff Devanney, Les Miles, and K.C. Keeler. They all know how to win at this level.
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For the time being, it’s clear who the GOAT is and it’ll likely be that way for a long time. Who knows if we’ll ever see anyone overthrow Nick Saban at the top of our list of best college football coaches of all time.
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