Skip to content

Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

How they got there: The road to “Top 25 coaching hires”

A coaching search is always filled with twists and turns, especially ones that start before the season is over and likely won’t end immediately. The pool of names being considered shifts, has additions, subtractions–littered with wishful names that seem impossible, as well as names we’d rather throw out and pretend we never heard. One of the interesting aspects of a coaching search is where the school intends to pluck the desired new head coach from. Do they make the move from a current head coaching job to Kentucky, perhaps to join the SEC, rake in a higher pay check, or try to build a program? Do they leave a coordinator role at an already-established program to test their wings as a head coach for the first time? Do they leave the ranks of the NFL to try their hand at a college coaching career? Or do they perhaps return back to a place where they once called home, a place where they have coached at some capacity once before? With the names Kentucky is projected to be considering for their infamous “list,” the current destinations of these coaches– or where they would be making their move from to come here– is anything but the same across the board. The perceived candidates come from a number of different situations. The variety sparked my curiosity. I decided to take a look at the other Top 25 teams (as ranked before last night’s flurry of upsets)  in the country to see how their current head coaches wound up where they are now. What was their previous job? How had they fared while there? Take a look at the results…

Apologies in advance for the length…

#1 Kansas State — Head Coach: Bill Snyder

Bill Snyder returned to Kansas in 2009 to lead the program to one of the most historic rebuilding efforts of all time. Although Kansas State lost to Baylor last night, they were in position late in the season to play in the national title game. Snyder was the head coach at Kansas State from 1989-2005.

#2 Oregon– Head Coach: Chip Kelly

Kelly was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire before arriving to be the coordinator for the Ducks’ offense in 2007. In 7 of his 8 seasons in charge of New Hampshire’s offense, the team averaged 400 yards of total offense or better. He was named the College Assistant Coach of the Year in 2005.

#3 Notre Dame– Head Coach: Brian Kelly

Kelly arrived by way of leaving as head coach of the Cincinnati program. Kelly was Cincinnati’s head coach from 2007 to 2009. He compiled a 34-6 record in that time, and won two outright Big East Conference titles that led to two BCS bowls for the program.

#4 Alabama– Head Coach: Nick Saban

Saban took over the Alabama program following a two-year stint in the NFL at the helm of the Miami Dophins. The Dolphins struggled to take big steps under Saban, but did improve under his guidance. His team capped his final season with a 6-game winning streak. Prior to his run with the Dolphins, Saban spent 5 seasons as LSU’s head coach where he won a national championship and two SEC championships.

#5 Georgia– Head Coach: Mark Richt

Richt came to Georgia in December of 2000 following an impressive 15-year service to the Florida State football coaching staff. Richt worked his way up the ranks at FSU, but spent the final 7 seasons with the Seminoles as the offensive coordinator. In his 7 seasons as the OC for FSU, his teams finished in the top 5 in scoring offense 5 occasions.

#6 Florida– Head Coach: Will Muschamp

Muschamp arrived in Gainesville as the previous head-coach-in-waiting at the University of Texas. Muschamp had a number of stops in the SEC as a coordinator, most of which were very successful. Muschamp spent time as the Auburn defensive coordinator from 2006-2007. In 2007, he was a finalist for the Broyles Awards as the nation’s top assistant coach. He was a defensive coordinator during two national championship games, one for LSU and one for Texas. In 5 seasons in the SEC as a defensive coordinator, his teams ranked among the top 10 every season.

#7 LSU– Head Coach: Les Miles

Les Miles arrived at LSU following a 4-year head coaching stint at Oklahoma State. In four short years, Miles turned Oklahoma State into a competitor in the national picture. He was the first head coach in OK State history to post wins over Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same year. Miles led the Cowboys to three straight bowl appearances. After going 4-7 in his first season, he led the Cowboys to records of 8-5, 9-4 and 7-5. His record during the 4-year period was 28-21.

#8 Texas A&M — Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin

Sumlin arrived to A&M after a successful run as the head coach of the University of Houston. He led the Cougars to a school-record 12 victories and the program’s highest finish in the BCS standings in 2011. At UH he posted an overall record of 35-17, leading the Cougars to three straight bowl games. In his final season as the head coach, the Cougars raced to a perfect 12-0 mark before losing in the C-USA Championship game. The Cougars led the nation in passing, total and scoring offense, etc.

#9 South Carolina — Head Coach: Steve Spurrier

Spurrier returned to the sidelines at South Carolina after a one-year hiatus from coaching. Before the year off, he was the head coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

#10 Florida State– Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher

Fisher was the product of a “coach-in-waiting” situation at Florida State behind Bobby Bowden. Fisher spent 22 seasons as a college assistant, including three as FSU’s offensive coordinator. Fisher developed a reputation as one of the best play-callers, as well as a great developer of quarterbacks. By the end of his first year as an offensive coordinator under Bowden, Fisher was named to be his successor when the time came.

#11 Clemson– Head Coach: Dabo Swinney

In 2008, Swinney was named the interim coach, replacing Tommy Bowden. After going 4-2 in his interim position, the tag was removed. Swinney had been an assistant coach at Clemson since 2003, slowly working his way up the ranks. At 42, Swinney is the youngest coach in the ACC.

#12 Oklahoma– Head Coach: Bob Stoops

Stoops arrived at Oklahoma after a successful 3-year run as Steve Spurrier’s defensive coordinator at Florida. The Gators won a national championship with his defense in 1996, and the spotlight immediately began to shine on Stoops as one of the top assistants in the country.

#13 Stanford– Head Coach: David Shaw

Before taking the head coaching job at Stanford, Shaw’s most recent position was within the staff already. Shaw was the offensive coordinator for Stanford for 4 years. Before that he was one of the top wide receivers coaches in the country at San Diego State.

#14 Nebraska– Head Coach: Bo Pelini

Pelini was hired away from LSU, where he led the Tigers defense as it’s coordinator to the 2007 BCS national championship. Pelini spent 3 years at LSU in charge of the defense. Pelini had previously had a one-year stop in Nebraska as the defensive coordinator in 2003.

#15 Texas– Head Coach: Mack Brown

Brown arrived at Texas after rebuilding a North Carolina football program into a contender. Brown had just come off of an 11-1 season at UNC when Texas hired him away. His Tar Heel team was ranked #4 in the nation at the conclusion of the season.

#16 Oregon State– Head Coach: Mike Riley

Riley actually returned to Oregon State after a departure in 1998 where he left to become the head coach of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. He spent 4 years in the NFL before returning to Oregon State after a brief 1-year stop as an assistant for the New Orleans Saints. 

#17 UCLA — Head Coach: Jim Mora

Jim Mora spent most of his coaching career in the NFL. Mora spent time as an analyst before coming to UCLA. Before his arrival, he was the head coach of both the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks. He led both teams to winning records in 2 of the 3 seasons. Almost all of Mora’s coaching experience comes from the NFL, either as a head coach or an assistant. 

#18 USC– Head Coach: Lane Kiffin

Left Tennessee in shambles. See: Derek Dooley

#19 Louisville– Head Coach: Charlie Strong

Strong came to Louisville with a track record as one of the hottest assistant coaches in the college game. Strong spent 27 years as an assistant, 2 of which resulted in a national championship at Florida. Strong also coached in a total of 20 bowl games as an assistant coach. Strong was considered to be one of the top defensive coordinators in the country while at Florida.

#20 Louisiana Tech– Head Coach: Sonny Dykes

Dykes won the 2006 Mike Campbell top assistant coach award. Dykes arrived at Louisiana Tech after completing 3 years as the offensive coordinator for Arizona. Dykes’ offense led Arizona to an 8-5 record and a Holiday Bowl appearance. 

#21 Michigan– Head Coach: Brady Hoke

Hoke was a former assistant at Michigan from 1995-2002. Before being hired for the Wolverines, Hoke was the head coach at San Diego State from 2009-2010. While at the helm there, he compiled a 13-12 record. 

#22 Rutgers– Head Coach: Kyle Flood

Flood was a top assistant for Rutgers for 7 seasons before being named the head coach when Greg Schiano resigned to become the Tampa Bay Bucs head coach. In 16 of Flood’s 17 seasons as an assistant coach, his teams finished with winning records. 

#23 Texas Tech– Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville

Tuberville arrived at Texas Tech following a 10-year career at Auburn in which he compiled 85 wins. Tuberville led Auburn to 7 straight bowl appearances. 

#24 Oklahoma State– Head Coach: Mike Gundy

Gundy returned to his alma mater as one of the most decorated quarterbacks in the program’s history. Gundy was the offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State when he took the head coaching job. 

#25 Washington– Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian

Sarkisian’s stint at Washington has been anything but smooth. After posting a winless first season, the re-build was a slow moving process. Sarkisian arrived at Washington following a stint as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at USC. In his final season as offensive coordinator with the Trojans, his offensive contributed to a 12-1 overall record. 


From what background will Kentucky’s next head football coach come from?

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

27 Comments for How they got there: The road to “Top 25 coaching hires”

  1. dimeforepps
    8:07 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    you forgot a big one, although on probation, OSU hiring Urban Meyer appears to be a home run. One more home game against rival Michigan, coupled with a Notre Dame loss, makes them the only undefeated team in the country. UM seems to be a great fit in columbus, lve to see the cats get someone like him.

  2. BPsycho
    8:13 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    “Apologies in advance for the length…”

  3. Matt Jones
    8:13 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Great job Ally

  4. On The Other Hand
    8:17 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Joker Phillips was supposed to be our Urban Meyer. UM’s an Ohioan through and through, and couldn’t wait to coach the Buckeyes.
    Only problem is, Joker didn’t have the experience UM had, and didn’t have the success. UM was a home run cause he’s a “home” guy.
    This didn’t work out well for us at all. ‘Really sucks, too.

  5. Griffin
    8:21 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Yeah no kidding.. I’d love to see john gruden but we are talking about Kentucky. Adjust your sights.

  6. Grammar Jerk
    8:45 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Way to use ‘from’ at both ends of that sentence. Your Freshman Comp. professor must be so proud.

  7. nassau65
    8:47 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    That had to be a ton of work Ally, thanks!

  8. UKBlue
    8:50 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Big money Tennessee alumni are apparently putting together a $10 – $15 Million dollar packaging to go after Gruden & word is Petrino isn’t on UT list.

    Word in Southern Cali is that Kiffin will soon be in the unemployment line.

  9. bluewolf79
    8:55 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    we need to move on a major hire or we will the bottom feeder for several more years.Tennessee now has their chips in the pot or is it their players that have the pot ,i get the two confused alot. My season tickets are on the line on this one

  10. UK grad 67
    9:03 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    It’s sad not seeing the best option not on the list “Bobby Petrino” the type of background that a coach will have that UK will hire, will be a safe hire for Mitch, a coach from a sh!t conference, Dooley or Dykes, Hell! either one are the same or a retread, Mitch doesn’t have the ball! to make a great hire, Mitch is slowly losing the fan base, if a retread or another Dooley is brought in, my 20 years as a season ticket holder will end, I will focus my time to fishing.

  11. njCat
    9:10 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Let Cal recruit the next coach. Better yet, let Cal be the AD. He can hire Mitch as the Associate AD of non-revenue sports so Cal can focus on bball and getting football facilities upgraded.

  12. bluewolf79
    9:15 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    sorry ! i left out be before “the bottom feeder”,bring on either Cowher or Smart but not retread Fulmer

  13. Big Dog
    9:16 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    It will be funny IF Gruden gets in to coaching again. He will be exposed for what kind of coach he actually is. He was handed a winning team from Tony Dungee and played his old team in the SB that hardly changed the playbook. He proceded to run the team into the ground with his draft picks and attitude. He was constantly trying to find a good quarterback-refusing to play Brad Johnson who won a SB. Also constantly tinkering with different running backs while seldom using Mike Alstott. It will be a very expensive failure for some team if they get suckered into Gruden.

  14. UKBlue
    9:25 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Petrino can win, but at what price !! From a just wanting to win & the hell with everything else standpoint, hiring Petrino is a no brainier & would be awesome at UK. From a reality & legal/moral risk standpoint, Petrino should be wrapped up in police caution tape. Any college AD of any credibility is scared of risking his or the colleges reputation along with his job on Petrino, especially when Petrino has done nothing to show that as a man he isn’t a total disaster.

  15. Bbn maniac
    9:27 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    An ESPN worthy article. We need a coordinator mentored under a hall of fame coach

  16. BBN
    9:57 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    #14: Football coaches are hired to win football games. They are evaluated based on wins and losses. Nothing else should matter as long as the coach does not break the law or get the university sued. Moral, hurt feelings and little devils and angels on your shoulders should not matter. Point Blank Period! Mitch Barnhart needs to grow a pair of stones and hire Petrino.

  17. BBN
    10:00 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Hiring Bobby Petrino is a small price to pay to reverse 50 years of losing. He will get sh*t right in a hurry.

  18. dave
    10:07 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    UT AD dave hart commenting on next potential coach:
    “We want somebody with integrity. We don’t have a margin for error. We have to have a culture of compliance.”

    so the obvious question is, does that automatically exclude petrino or was hart only referring to compliance/violation history?

  19. booger
    10:22 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Jim Mora Sr!!!!! How bout that one? Or maybe Jimmy Fiex? I’m sure they will suck whomever it is. Kentucky? What? Kentucky? LOL

  20. BPsycho
    10:26 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    #16 Ye uh!

  21. BBB
    10:27 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink




    KSR has dropped the ball on this one guys. Should be publicly joining Joe B in endorsing Petrino.

  22. UKalum
    10:42 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    Read an article that speculated that either Arkansas or UK contacted tony dungy about getting back into coaching. But he has no interest, knowing Barnhart he probly wouldn’t have to balls to even try to make such a reach. If bobby petrino isn’t on the table and kirby smart isn’t interested. Barnhart should go through the nfl coaching ranks before he even looks at sonny dykes or some other half proven mid major coach with a gimmick style. Personally josh Mcdaniels could do a lot for our offense but if Rex Ryan gets canned Barnhart should offer him whatever he wants to coach here. Every school/ nfl team that Ryan has been a defensive coordinator at has had great defenses( Oklahoma 1999, Kansas state 2000-2004, Baltimore ravens under billick and Harbaugh and the jets with this season the only exception where the jets weren’t in the top 5 in defense)

  23. G-Unit
    10:51 pm November 18, 2012 Permalink

    8 – Nope, USC’s AD Pat HAyden basically promised that Lane keeps his job but had to get rid of daddy…

  24. goUKats
    12:06 am November 19, 2012 Permalink

    When you look at list of coaches and the success they have enjoyed,you have to consider the talented athletes they inheritied and the support they got from their respective schools.And when you compare that with UK,you can see why it may really be difficult to bring a successful coach in.

  25. Dr. Tom
    12:07 am November 19, 2012 Permalink

    The next UK football head coach was the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M whose quaterback won the heisman trophy as a freshman.

  26. huck
    8:08 am November 19, 2012 Permalink

    Very nice read, thanks.

  27. _Blackhawk_
    8:48 am November 19, 2012 Permalink

    #25 – Dr. Tom he looks good on paper but are we really going to gamble on an OC with 2 years experience just because of his QB? Did he recruit the QB or just draw up plays? I think we should go with a guy who has either more experience as a OC or a 2-3 year HC guy that is on the way up and lock him in with a huge buyout clause to see if we can get him to stay. All this Petrino talk is just that. The guy doesn’t want to come here….he’s been lobbying for a better job and we would be the left overs, which means after 2 years he’d leave for somewhere else and I’m not convinced he can turn it around as quickly as many who want him think.