CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 3 Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 3 Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
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.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma (1999-2016)
Yes, he wasn’t able to win another national championship after taking the college football world by storm in 2000, and his teams came up just short in several of the biggest games, but in terms of longevity over the BCS/CFP/CFN era of the last 20 years, and when it comes to consistent greatness, a reasonable argument could be made that Bob Stoops belongs in the No. 1 spot on this list.
Of course, Stoops doesn’t have the all-timer-level top-line resume of a Nick Saban or Urban Meyer, but those two don’t have as many conference titles.
Not only did Stoops win the 2000 national championship in just his second year at the helm, but he won ten Big 12 titles, came in second one other time, made it to the College Football Playoff, and coached – and lost – in three other national championships.
How’s this for an 18-year run? 13 BCS/New Year’s Six-level bowl appearances, 12 top ten finishes, seven top five finishes, 14 seasons with double-digit wins, and just one season – his first campaign – with fewer than eight.
At one of the most successful programs in college football history, he won more games than any other coach, including Barry Swtizer and the legendary Bud Wilkinson. And then – just like that – he decided to walk away from a team almost certain to be deep in the mix for yet another conference title with a great shot at the College Football Playoff.
Just 38 when he began his run with the Sooners, he was always the shining example of a coach who could potentially win 300 games or a whole lot more – and he still might – if he decided he wanted to hang around long enough.
But that’s not Stoops. While he’s always been among the most intense and driving coaches in the business, he’s also the type who could just walk away when he needed a break from it all.
One of the few coaches to ever willingly leave when on top – or close to it – Big Game Bob restored the glory to a legendary program, and in a lot of ways, made it better and stronger.
Ask Nebraska, Miami and Tennessee how hard that is to do.
Biggest Moment: 2001 Orange Bowl vs. Florida State
It was the perfect performance.
Florida State suffered a loss early in the season, but it came roaring into the 2001 Orange Bowl as the favorite to take its second straight national title. The Seminoles were loaded with NFL talent on both sides of the ball, relied on a veteran Heisman-winning quarterback in Chris Weinke, and was more than used to playing on the biggest of games on the biggest of stages.
Oklahoma was just getting back to form. Just two years earlier, the Sooners went 5-6 and hadn’t come up with a winning season since 1993. Stoops was able start putting the pieces in place in his first season – closing out with a 7-5 season and a bowl loss to Ole Miss – and then everything clicked.
The high-powered passing offense cranked up the attack to record-setting levels for a program used to the wishbone running game, while the defense was a brick wall throughout the 12-0 run to the Big 12 Championship.
But even as an unbeaten team, OU was seen simply as a nice story – it was FSU’s national championship for the taking.
Instead, the defense pitched a shutout – the only Seminole points came on a late safety for field position – while two Tim Duncan field goals and a Quentin Griffin touchdown run would be all the points OU would need for Stoops lone national title.
Bob Stoops’ Best Season: 2000
Obviously, 2000 was his best season because of the unbeaten campaign and the national title, but even with a blowout loss to USC in the Rose Bowl for the national championship, the 2004 team was fantastic and his final season – going 9-0 in Big 12 play with a blowout win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl – was fantastic, too.
But everything was magical in the 2000 run. The crushing 63-14 win over a great Texas team set the tone that it would be a good year, and following it up with a 41-31 thriller over a fabulous Kansas State squad confirmed it. After taking down a Nebraska team that would end up 10-2 in a 31-14 stomping, the expectations shot through the roof.
It wasn’t easy the rest of the way, with a fight against a mediocre Texas A&M squad on the road, and a 12-7 clunker of a win to a bad Oklahoma State, but those seemed to toughen the team up for what was coming.
The Sooners got by Kansas State again for the Big 12 title, took down Florida State, and Stoops became a legend before his career really got going.
Bob Stoops’ Worst Season: 2014
Even the 1999 7-5 season under Stoops finished with a second place finish in the Big 12 South, and the 8-5 dud in 2009 had a few moments as OU finished with a shutout win over Oklahoma State and a Sun Bowl win over Stanford.
The 2014 season just came to a crashing thud.
The Sooners started out 4-0 with a great 34-10 win over Tennessee, and fought hard in a tough loss to a special TCU squad that ended up losing just once.
They even beat Texas.
But after collapsing in a 38-35 loss to Oklahoma State, the rivalry game turned out to be a disaster – OU finished tied for fourth in the conference – and closed it out with a total nightmare, not showing up against Clemson in a 40-6 Russell Athletic Bowl loss.
The Sooners rallied just fine after this, going 22-4 over the following two seasons under Stoops with two Big 12 championships.
CFN Era Coaching Record: 190-48 in 18 seasons
2000 season national championship
Big 12 Champion: 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)
National Coach of the Year: (AP and Walter Camp) 2000, (Walter Camp) 2003
Big 12 Coach of the Year: 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2015, 2016
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell