CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 17 Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 17 Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, so we’re looking back on the greatest players, games, coaches and more since we first kicked things off back in 1998.
Wins and losses are certainly a part of it all – okay, a massive part of this – but it’s also about who came up with the biggest coaching performances over the long haul. Consistency matters, championships matter, and personality plays a role, too.
Who are the 20 coaches who defined college football since 1998?
One note, accomplishments before 1998 don’t count, other than when it comes to a coach’s legacy and overall status.
Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin (in CFN era 1998-2015)
This is sort of a tough one since Alvarez has done more as a bigger overall personality in the college football world over the last 20 years than just be a football coach.
He’s become like an Emperor of the Big Ten – still involved as the Wisconsin athletic director who’s been able to not only keep the Badger football program rolling, but has overseen the rise of the hoops team to national prominence, too.
Throw in his involvement with the College Football Playoff, and his reach has extended far beyond the sidelines.
The other difficult part is leaving out what he did before 1998.
If Howard Schnellenberger did the greatest building job of any coach in modern college football history – taking Miami from nothing to an all-timer of a powerhouse – and Bill Snyder is close behind at Kansas State, then what Alvarez did at Wisconsin is at least in the discussion.
The Badgers went 3-19 in the two years before Alvarez arrived, went 1-10 in his first season, 5-6 in his next two campaigns, and then it all kicked in with a 10-1-1 1993 run to the Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin was just okay for the four years following the breakthrough ’93 campaign, but then Alvarez fielded two straight killers, winning the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl in both 1998 and 1999.
But that was about it.
The Badgers never finished higher than third in the Big Ten in Alvarez’s final six years, and they even finished eighth twice and seventh one other time.
Bret Bielema took Wisconsin to more Rose Bowls than Alvarez did.
But over the last 20 years, yeah, it all has to factor in. Being Barry Alvarez became more than just wins and losses – but those weren’t all that bad, either.
In his seven years from 1998 and beyond, he won 70 games, two Rose Bowls, a Capital One, a Sun, and an Alamo.
He came out of the office to coach the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl after Bielema left – and lost – and returned one more time for the 2015 Outback against Auburn – and won.
Biggest Moment: 1999 Rose Bowl
Winning the Rose Bowl in the 1993 season was a big, giant deal that came from out of the blue, but after failing to finish higher than fourth in the Big Ten in any season over the next four years, the first run to Pasadena seemed like a one-off.
But the Badgers managed to roll through the 1998 season with a 6-1 Big Ten start, and with a win over Penn State – and a nice break with a Michigan loss to Ohio State – they were off to the Rose Bowl to deal with a UCLA team that came within a loss to Miami away from playing for the national title.
In a blast of a shootout, Ron Dayne ripped through the Bruins for 246 yards and two scores, but the Badger defense had a nightmare of a time holding down Cade McNown and a UCLA passing game that rolled for 418 yards.
But early in the fourth quarter, Jamar Fletcher broke on a McNown pass taking it 46 yards to put the Badgers ahead by ten. It wasn’t over against the high-powered Bruins.
Down seven late, McNown had one last shot, but defensive tackle Wendell Bryant busted through, came up with the sack, and Alvarez had his second Rose Bowl win.
Barry Alvarez’s Best Season: 1999
That Badger team that closed things out with the Rose Bowl also gave Alvarez his only 11-win season.
The offense revolved around a huge season from Dayne and a defense that suffocated everyone through an easy first part of the schedule. The Badgers allowed just 28 points over the first month before surviving a rocky date against a mediocre Indiana team.
The schedule turned out to be the big break. Ohio State was fantastic, but it wasn’t on the UW schedule. Meanwhile, after beating San Diego State to start the season, the Badgers had no problems rolling through an easy slate up until a date vs. Drew Brees and Purdue.
Brees went wild, throwing for 350 yards along with 85 yards and two scores, but Dayne took over in the 31-24 win with a 222-yard day, and Fletcher nailed Brees with a key pick-six.
9-0 and with a shot at making a true national splash, everything came to a crashing halt with a 27-10 loss at Michigan. Fortunately, with a 24-3 win over a strong Penn State squad – and Michigan’s loss to Ohio State – it was off to Pasadena.
Barry Alvarez’s Worst Season: 2001
His 1-10 first year in 1990 was the biggest dud, but that was obviously before 1998.
The 2001 team was coming off a strong 9-4 season that closed out with five straight wins and a Sun Bowl victory over UCLA.
After a win over Virginia, the Badgers gave a Joey Harrington Oregon team all it could handle in a 31-28 Duck win. Oregon would go on to finish 11-1.
A loss to David Carr’s Fresno State squad and a stunning 63-32 demolishing from Indiana meant a 3-3 start, but it looked like things would turn around with a road win over Ohio State.
The Badgers went on to lose four of their last five games, dropping a 42-31 rivalry game at Minnesota to finish 5-7 and miss out on a bowl.
The Accolades (in the CFN era)
CFN Era Coaching Record: 70-33 in eight years and two extra bowl games
College Football Hall of Fame selection in 2010
6-3 in bowls from 1998 on, winning two Roses, an Outback, a Capital One, a Sun and an Alamo
1998 Big Ten Coach of the Year
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell
Photo Credit: University of Wisconsin