Washington State

Ranking The Pac-12 Head Football Coaches

Pac-12 Coaches


Ranking the current Pac-12 head coaches who are both a perfect fit at the moment, as well as five years from now.


You’re the athletic director at a Pac-12 school and you need to find a head coach for your football team. You’re only able to look at the head men currently running the other conference teams, and you have to decide who the best fit would be for the next five years and beyond.

Obviously you want to win right now, but your job is to set the course for the next half-decade and build the team into something big. You have to find a guy who can sell a prospect on the idea of continuity – who’s going to be the guy recruits want to have running the show when they’re fifth-year seniors? Who could be a strong coach for the future, while also winning right now? Who’s got the right combination?

Only 29 current head coaches have been around for five years or more, so the chances are overwhelming that most of these guys won’t be manning the post when the current recruiting class exhausts its eligibility.

Going into the 2016 season, here’s the ranking of the Pac-12 coaches to build around, while still trying to win this year.

12. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Colorado needed a massive rebuilding job, and now it’s his fourth year at the helm with the pieces he wants in place.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: He’s a one-hit wonder. In his six seasons as a head coach, at both San Jose State and Colorado, he has just one winning season – 2012 SJSU – and is just 10-27 at Colorado. There won’t be a fourth year in Boulder if he has another losing season.

11. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Still young, he’s only 52 and has a long way to go. Utah State was nothing before he turned it into a WAC champion. He reached a Big Ten championship game at Wisconsin, and now he’s trying to turn around Oregon State.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: After going 2-10 in his first season with the Beavers – and 0-9 in Pac-12 play – he has a long way to go. The Pac-12 North is only getting better.

10. Mike Leach, Washington State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: He’s still as innovative and productive as any offensive coach in football. He never had a losing season in his 10 years at Texas Tech, and in four seasons he turned Wazzu into a winner.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: For all the firepower and all the fun and all the numbers and all the passing yards, he hasn’t won a conference championship in his 14 years of coaching. He also has just one double-digit win campaign. He’ll be on a hot seat with a clunker – he has two 3-9 campaigns in his first four seasons with the Cougars.

9. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: It took a little while to get Utah used to life in the Pac-12, but he appears to have the right formula with his tough defensive style and power running game working. Most impressively, in his 11 years as the head man he’s won eight of his nine bowl games – he’s growing into a Utah legend.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: He’ll be 62 in the 2021 season. While he won 19 games in his last two seasons, before that he came up with two 5-7 campaigns – he won’t be fired with another, but the program can’t start slipping.

8. Sonny Dykes, California

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Only 47 this season, he’s still just getting rolling. He turned Louisiana Tech into a winner again, and in three years got a sleeping Cal team to eight wins, all while growing his reputation as a quarterback guru.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: He had the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft at quarterback and still struggled to get to get to eight wins. He has two losing seasons in his first three in Berkeley – but he might be destined for a bigger gig if he has any real success.

7. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: You know exactly what you’re getting from the Arizona offense. His attack is going to rock, as always, and he’s going to have the Wildcats in the hunt for the Pac-12 South title – his teams are always competitive. He has 11 winning seasons in his last 13 – the two losing seasons came at Michigan.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: You know exactly what you’re getting from the Arizona defense. If the offense isn’t dominating at the highest of levels, there’s a hard ceiling on what RichRod’s teams can do. He lost five games or more in three of his four years in Tucson and in six of his last seven seasons as a head coach.

6. Todd Graham, Arizona State

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Turning 52 this December, he’s a young head man who built up the ASU street cred with two 10-win seasons before going 6-7 last year. He has some rebuilding to do, but he’s dealt with worse – he has five double-digit win campaigns in his last nine years as a head man.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: Arizona State isn’t known as a patient place when things start to go wrong for its head coaches. One losing season was okay, but another will put the pressure on.

5. Clay Helton, USC

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Energy, energy, energy. Turning 44 this summer, he’s the type of head man who’ll bring the combination of personality and fire the program needs, especially when it comes to hitting the recruiting trail. He was able to go on a run last year to get USC to the Pac-12 Championship Game, and he’s got enough talent in place to take another Pac-12 South title.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: It’s the USC job which means he … can’t … lose. Not a big name for a program that has its pick of the litter, if he’s not winning Pac-12 championships and getting into the national title debate, he’ll be politely left off the bus.

4. Jim Mora, UCLA

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: He has UCLA really, really close to being fantastic. He’s recruiting well, he won the Pac-12 South in his first season, and he has absolutely everything in place for the program to take off and become something amazing. A pro coach at the college level, he was a big-name get for UCLA four years ago, and he continues to be a big national figure.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: 37-16. He has two 10-win seasons, and his team was hit by a ton of injuries last year, but he hasn’t won a Pac-12 championship yet and hasn’t done enough with all the pieces he has in place. UCLA is a sleeping giant, but Mora has to wake it up. And then if he does, he might be back in the NFL.

3. Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Going 33-8 in three years with a national title appearance isn’t a bad way to start things out. Only 43 years old this football season, he’s a rising superstar head coach able to keep the Chip Kelly-era fun going – but with an emphasis on actually having fun with this. The system still works, and even with last year’s blip, this is still a superpower under his watch.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: Kelly set an impossible standard to keep up. When you go 9-4 and the pressure is on – relatively speaking – there won’t be much room for any true disasters. He won’t be fired if he goes 7-6, but Oregon has to win 10 games or more. On the flip side, if he can get the Ducks back to the College Football Playoff, he’ll be seen as a next-level coach who can do all the things everyone wants, only without the Chip Kelly vibe.

2. David Shaw, Stanford

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Shaw took what Jim Harbaugh created and ran with it. Only turning 44 this summer, he’s one of the brightest young head coaches in all of football, winning four Pac-12 North titles, three conference championships and two Rose Bowls. You don’t just go 54-14 at Stanford with four seasons of 11 wins or more.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: Yeah, he’s one of the brightest young head coaches in all of football. He’d be the No. 1 coach in the Pac-12, but he’s not going to be on The Farm in 2021 – the NFL is going to take him very, very soon. If you’re drafting coaches, you want a guy who’s proven, elite, and is going to be around for a while, which is why …

1. Chris Petersen, Washington

Why He’s The Head Coach For Right Now: Taking national titles out of the equation, there are few more accomplished head coaches in college football. Petersen went 92-12 at Boise State with five conference championships, seven 10-win seasons, and two Fiesta Bowls – he was a terrific get for Washington. Only turning 52 this football season, he’s the right age, entering his coaching prime, and now he’s building up the program with his first recruiting classes showing the potential to create a superpower.

Why He Won’t Be The Head Coach Five Years From Now: He lost 12 games in seven years at Boise State, and he lost 12 games in two seasons at Washington. His defenses have been fantastic, and he’s done a nice job in his first two seasons recreating Washington, but a third straight six-loss season will get Dawg fans grumbling and put the pressure on in 2017.