Much has been made of college football head coaching rankings this week. From one columnist’s misguided attempt to figure out which ACC and SEC coaches were best, to CBS Sports’ annual list, and Athlon’s coaching job rankings (a different idea entirely), the internet’s been all over this conversation.
If you ask the Post & Courier’s Gene Sapakoff, the Syracuse Orange’s Dino Babers is the 12th-best coach in the ACC and SEC. CBS Sports says Dino’s up to 27th — 21 spots above where he was last year. Athlon’s list actually drops the SU job two spots from 56th to 58th; something that makes little sense given the 10-win season last year and recent investment in a long-term extension for Babers. Still, it does seem like there’s little consensus.
So where would you rank Babers compared to his peers?
Admittedly, I said I wasn’t going to do this. And really, I’m not going to rank these coaches one by one. Rather, I’m just sorting out a few tiers to see where Dino, in particular, would fall. CBS did something similar with their own coaching tiers (even if I usually object to the term “blueblood” because of its widespread misuse by this point). But mine probably looks a little different.
(in no particular order within tiers)
Tier 1: Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Nick Saban (Alabama), Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Chris Peterson (Washington), Gary Patterson (TCU)
Tier 2: Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), James Franklin (Penn State), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Dan Mullen (Florida), Mike Leach (Washington State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
Tier 3: Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), David Shaw (Stanford), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Tom Herman (Texas), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Bryan Harsin (Boise State)
Tier 4: Ed Orgeron (LSU), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Bronco Mendenhall (Virginia), Jeff Monken (Army), Dave Clawson (Wake Forest), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Dino Babers (Syracuse), Dave Doeren (NC State), Jeff Brohm (Purdue), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Scott Frost (Nebraska), Matt Rhule (Baylor)
That would put Dino somewhere between 24th and 35th in the country. Tier four here is clearly bigger than the rest, so there’s a shot you could even break off a few of these names to start tier five if you really wanted. But I don’t think Dino’s on that list for the lower portion.
As you get further down the list, it gets increasingly tough to differentiate coaches due to a variety of criteria. Some notable names not included above are Chip Kelly and Les Miles — retreads who had a lot of success at previous stints, but for other reasons (poor returns at UCLA and struggles at the end of his time at LSU, respectively), it’s harder to project them to be included among this fourth tier. Meanwhile, it’s also tough to ignore names like Neal Brown (West Virginia), Scott Satterfield (Louisville) and Matt Wells (Texas Tech), who have found a ton of success at the G5 level already and are cashing those chips in at P5 schools for the first time.
I’m happy to take some critiques on the above, as there’s a case for most of the coaches in tiers two through four to go up or down a peg. But speaking to our original question: where would you place Dino Babers on the list?