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Tom Osborne, Bob Devaney Make ESPN’s Top 150 Coaches In 150 Years of College Football

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ESPN released their list of the The 150 greatest coaches in college football’s 150-year history as picked by their blue-ribbon panel of 150 voters that includes media members, administrators, and former coaches and players. I know you’re curious, but I was not asked to be part of the blue-ribbon panel, a huge oversight on the part of ESPN.

Two Alabama coaches, Paul “Bear” Bryant and Nick Saban, garner the top two spots. As much as it pains me, I cannot argue with this. It’s nice to know that our own Bob Devaney beat the hell out of Bryant’s team to win Nebraska the 1971 national title.

Will Scott Frost ever get a shot at Nick Saban? Time will tell. I will remain hopeful. Tom Osborne got his shot at Saban when Nick was at Michigan State. Osborne smashed him, but that’s really not a fair comparison. Saban was starting out, Osborne was well-established.

Coming in at #3 is Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne. You might hate the Domers, but Rockne put them on the map. It’s interesting to note that college football in the time of Rockne was VERY regional; teams rarely traveled to play each other outside their own region. It’s because of Rockne that Notre Dame has its national reputation and remains fiercely independent.

Our beloved Tom Osborne comes in at #4. He deserves to be #3, but I guess you have to give credit to history. You know Osborne’s history; a part of five national titles, his 60-3 record over his last five years, his 25 years of coaching while never winning less than 9 games a season and never losing more than 3.

Bud Wilkinson comes in at #6. Wilkinson had a 31-game unbeaten streak from 1948-1950, then another one of 57 games from 1953-1957. Apparently bored, he retired from coaching at the age of 47 and went on to become a broadcaster. These days we’d think he was a freak job.

Joe Paterno comes in at #7. No matter what he does, he will never live down being part of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. That’s a damned shame, because Paterno had five undefeated seasons and got screwed out of multiple national titles. Still.

It’s a great list of college football history. Bobby Bowden. Woody Hayes. That cheating bastard Barry Switzer at #13. Bo Schembechler.

Bob Devaney checks in at #26. Not sure how he finishes below LaVell Edwards or that piece of dung Lou Holtz, who left every program he coached under NCAA sanctions, but I am a biased guy about our beloved Devaney.

I probably would have put Darrell K Royal from Texas higher (remember those guys with the Wishbone swinging head fake). Bill Snyder coming in at #55 seems almost criminal. Barry Alvarez at #90 seems low as well, for the same reason as Snyder – taking over programs that were horrible, terrible terrible and making them legitimate winners.

Heyoooooo! Further down the list at #104 is Dana X. Bible. Bible coached at Nebraska from 1929-1936, going 50-15-7. If I remember correctly, he left for Texas because the school wouldn’t pay him more than a professor.

Also of note:

Illinois’ Robert Zuppke, who invented the huddle, long-snapping on punts, and the flea-flicker. He also had some guy named Red Grange play for him.
Clark Shaughnessy, who invented the T-formation. He coached for Stanford when they beat Nebraska in the 1940 Rose Bowl. He’s also the reason why we use the word “blitz” as he studied military history. I did a story in 2007 on this about the “Nazi Influence in College Football” that appears to have been deleted.

So…. what do you think of the list?

Who got screwed? Who got a higher ranking than they were worth?

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Author:

Jon Johnston

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