College Football: Best coaches for a team turnaround

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /
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When athletic directors hire college football coaches (and most other sports as well) at the top of their selection criteria is hiring a proven winner. That is not quite as easy as it sounds. One reason why is, there are many programs, where it is hard to win. The head coaches of those teams have deflated resumes.

Sometimes, ADs roll the dice and go with a proven assistant, with no head coaching track record. They do so despite knowing some great OCs and DCs don’t make great head coaches.

Another way to build the list of potential future hires is to look at turnarounds. As in the head coaches who have out-performed the history of the programs they have led.

As an exercise in offseason diversion, a review of school and head coach records lead to a conclusion every AD should have five certain names on their potential, future hire list. In every case, they have produced turnarounds, beating the historical success of programs.

Note: Team records below were taken from the NCAA and do not include vacated wins and ties.

College Football Top Turnaround Head Coaches

Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State Cowboys

As a program, the Cowboys have won 52.4% of their games. In 17 seasons for the Cowboys, Mike Gundy’s teams have won 68.3%. Some counter-opinion might argue, Les Miles and Jimmy Johnson were successful in Stillwater before Gundy. Oklahoma State won 53.5% under Johnson and 57.1% under Miles.

The only Oklahoma State coach to out-produce Gundy (in a minimum of five seasons) is Pappy Waldorf, from 1929-1933.

Bill Clark – UAB Blazers

Clark makes this list despite his recent retirement announcement. Hopefully, his health situation can be resolved so he can return to coaching.

Not only did Clark produce winning success for UAB – he literally saved the program from extinction. UAB has a winning record of 48.2%. Under Bill Clark, UAB won 65.3% of its games.

Mark Stoops – Kentucky Wildcats

Like the two previous coaches, Stoops has improved upon his program’s winning history. His winning percentage results are modest, with the Kentucky program winning 50.2% of its games historically and the production increasing to 52.7% under Stoops.

Stoops makes this list for another reason. Throughout Kentucky football history, the Wildcats have won 10 games in a season three times and 11 games once. Two of the three 10-win seasons were with Stoops as the head coach. More on the 11-win season comes at the end of this post.

Coaches with less than five head coaching seasons at a school were not considered for this list, with one exception. The exception produced impressive results over five seasons but at two different schools.