“Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.” — Nick Fury
Yeah, it’s not the most-quotable moment from “The Avengers.” If you’re like me, despite having seen the movie somewhere between 15-20 times, you could vaguely remember that line as one from Fury, but lacked the context or setting that accompanied it. Heck, I had to verify which movie it was actually in.
(It’s in the first few minutes of the movie, when Agent Hill is catching Fury up to speed that the Tesseract is unstable.)
It’s a quote that certainly applies to college sports, and therefore college sports media, at this time. I don’t know if games will get played. Thankfully, I don’t have to make that decision.
What I do know is that I’m going to do my job as long as the Journal employs me — and that entails acting as though the college sports world intends to spin on until, well, we have another day like March 12 and everything comes to a screeching halt that we all can see coming, and yet are completely taken aback.
So now that that’s out of the way, a blog about a Top 25 poll as we beat on, boats against the current …
The Associated Press is putting in some contingency plans if there isn’t a college football season this fall. That includes some Top 25 polls for offbeat topics, like this one:
Here is my ranking of the top 25 of coaches who never won a national championship and some thoughts:
1. Bo Schembechler, Michigan | 234-65-8 career record, 27 seasons
My take: I didn’t have much of a preconceived notion of who would be No. 1 when I started doing this, but Michigan’s legendary coach stood out pretty early.
Schembechler had early success at Michigan, with a five-year stretch of 50-4-1 from 1970-74. And then a stretch of 48-12 from 1976-80. The Wolverines never finished better than third in the final AP poll of those seasons though — just unable to get over the hump.
The final point I’ll make is one of the things I tried to keep in mind was which coaches had the ability to adjust to changing styles of play in their careers. Because every one of these coaches at least had a hand in multiple eras of college football. Were they able to reinvent themselves and adapt?
Schembechler, after some lean years in the early 80s, guided Michigan to a 10-1-1 season in 1985 and No. 2 ranking in the final AP poll, and to an 11-2 season in ’86.
That’s what sealed it for me.
2. Frank Beamer, VT | 238-121-2, 29 seasons
My take: Virginia Tech is in the middle of nowhere and Beamer, after going 5-17 in his first two seasons, turned the program into a nationally relevant program. Plus, for the longevity aspect, he had double-digit win seasons in three decades, including eight straight from 2004-11.
3. Wallace Wade, Alabama/Duke | 171-49-10, 24 seasons
4. Frank Thomas, Alabama | 115-24-7, 15 seasons
My take: Two former Alabama coaches who did most of their work before World War II, but their .765 and .812 winning percentages, respectfully, are hard to ignore.
Wade nudged above Thomas for a few reasons: He preceded Thomas at Alabama, and I took that to mean Thomas’ success was in part because of the foundation Wade laid; Wade was a winner at two schools; and Wade had three undefeated seasons at Alabama, including back-to-back seasons (1925-26).
5. Bill Snyder, Kansas State | 215-117-1, 27 seasons
6. Chris Petersen, Boise State/Washington | 147-38, 14 seasons
My take: Ya know, I actually thought both of these guys coached for longer than they did.
Snyder’s run was remarkable and — chalk this up to age — I didn’t realize how much of a staying power in the AP top 10 he had the Wildcats in the 90s.
Petersen, I mean my word, Boise State was never going to make the BCS championship game, but he was 92-12 there. Recruiting to Boise, flipping, Idaho.
7. Bobby Dodd, GT | 165-64-8, 22 seasons
8. Fritz Crisler, Princeton/Michigan | 116-32-8, 18 seasons
9. Mark Richt, Georgia/Miami | 171-64, 18 seasons
10. Gary Patterson, TCU | 172-70, 20 seasons
My take: OK, I won’t list reasoning for every coach.
Michigan and Alabama are the only two programs with two coaches in my top 10; one of them has 11 national championships and one has, well, two.
Richt’s only losing season in 18 years was a 6-7 slate in 2010, and he bounced back with 22 wins in the next two years.
My first active coach rounds out the top 10; Patterson has had double-digit wins in 11 of his 19 full seasons as coach (granted, some of those weren’t in the Big 12).
11. Pat Dye, ECU/Auburn | 153-62-5, 19 seasons
12. John Vaught, Ole Miss | 190-61-12, 25 seasons
13. John Cooper, Tulsa/Arizona State/Ohio State | 192-84-6, 24 seasons
14. Frank Kush, Arizona State | 176-54-1, 22 seasons
15. Fisher DeBerry, Air Force | 169-109-1, 23 seasons
My take: You won’t find any coaches from Wake Forest, North Carolina or N.C. State on this list … but you will for East Carolina. Weird.
Some longtime coaches from the west coast here. I bumped DeBerry higher than some others who had better records because of his success at an academy.
16. Don Nehlen, Bowling Green/West Virginia | 202-128-8, 30 seasons
17. Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin | 118-75-4, 18 seasons
18. Gary Pinkel, Toledo/Missouri | 191-110-3, 25 seasons
19. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati/ND | 145-59, 16 seasons
20. Red Sanders, Vanderbilt/UCLA | 102-41-3, 15 seasons
My take: The AP sent us a list of suggestions in making our lists, and the highest addition I made is in this chunk — have you seen what Wisconsin was before Alvarez? Again, blame my age here, but I would’ve thought Wisconsin has always at least had a respectable program. I was educated in making this ranking; they had maybe six good seasons between World War II and 1990, when he arrived.
I didn’t think Pinkel’s record was as good as that.
21. R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M | 123-47-2, 14 seasons
22. Terry Donahue, UCLA | 151-74-8, 20 seasons
23. Charles McClendon, LSU | 135-61-7, 18 seasons
24. Mike Leach, Texas Tech/Washington State | 139-90, 18 seasons
25. Hayden Fry, SMU/North Texas/Iowa | 230-180-10, 37 seasons
My take: Leach is here more because of the impact the air raid offense has had on college football than he’s actually been close to winning a title.
For what it’s worth, Tommy Prothro, former Oregon State and UCLA coach, was the last one I bumped out of the ranking.