CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 5 Jim Tressel, Ohio State
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 5 Jim Tressel, Ohio State
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.
Jim Tressel, Ohio State (2001-2010)
It all ended in such bizarre fashion, and the greatness of the Urban Meyer era has been so fantastic, Jim Tressel’s accomplishments on the field seemed to get blown off over time.
In the end, Tressel got in trouble for not helping the NCAA enforce a stupid rule – players can’t sell or trade their own stuff.
It all came crashing down because QB Terrelle Pryor and some other players traded some Ohio State swag given to them for playing in a bowl game in exchange for some tattoos.
It was a case of the cover-up being far, far worse than the crime, but it ended up leading to the end of one of a fantastic run of Ohio State football.
Tressel came to Columbus after making Youngstown State a D-IAA superpower with four national titles and regular trips into the playoffs.
After one mediocre 7-5 season, Tressel took the ultra-loaded Buckeye team to the national title, running the table and finishing up with a controversial classic win over Miami.
The expectation was national-title-or-bust from then on, and Tressel at least got the Buckeyes to two more BCS Championships – getting obliterated by Florida in a stunning end to the 2006 season, and getting outclassed by LSU a year later.
Before all the drama, Tressel won at least a share of seven Big Ten titles, six bowl games – two of the bowl losses were in the BCS Championship – and won 106 games in ten seasons.
Biggest Moment: The 2003 Fiesta Bowl 4th-and-1 Stop
If it wasn’t the greatest college football game of all-time, it was in the team photo.
Ohio State and Miami went back-and-forth in a wild -and-crazy BCS Championship highlighted by several big plays – a Maurice Clarett strip of a recovered fumble, a bomb of a Miami field goal to force overtime, a horrific knee injury suffered by Willis McGahee, and countless other emotionally exhaustive mood swings.
In the first overtime, both teams traded touchdowns, with Ohio State’s coming on a one-yard run after getting a new life on a fourth down pass interference call that Miami fans will never, ever admit happened.
With the score tied at 24, Ohio State took the lead on a five-yard Clarett touchdown run and needed just one defensive stop to pull off the national championship.
All the Buckeyes had to do was hold on a 4th-and-3 from its own 18, but Ken Dorsey hit Kellen Winslow Jr. for a seven-yard gain, and the game was still on.
Helped by an OSU penalty, the Hurricanes got down to the Buckeye one, but Dorsey got rocked on an incomplete pass. After a third down stop by the Ohio State run defense, it came down to one play.
The Buckeye defense got into the backfield and hurried Dorsey, who misfired on his desperation pass, and that was it. Tressel and Ohio State got the improbable W over the supposedly unbeatable Canes to complete the dream season.
Jim Tressel’s Best Season: 2002
The dream season ended with the all-time classic against Miami, but it took a whole slew of other wild moments just to get to Tempe.
It started with a bang as true freshman Maurice Clarett ran for three touchdowns to beat Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech on national TV. After a few easy wins – including a 25-7 victory over a Washington State team that went to the Rose Bowl – it took a minor miracle to get by Cincinnati.
Down 23-19, the Bearcats were driving for a possible game-winning score, but OSU’s Will Allen came up with a pick in the end zone to get out alive.
There weren’t any problems over the next three games, but it took a fourth quarter score to get past Wisconsin 19-14 in Madison, followed up by a brilliant defensive performance to beat Penn State 13-7.
10-0 and rolling along, there wasn’t supposed to be too much of a problem at Purdue, but the offense wasn’t working. Im a surprising defensive slugfest, the Boilermakers held a 6-3 lead late, when OSU QB Craig Krenzel found Michael Jenkins for a 37-yard score on 4th-and-1 with just over two minutes to play.
But that wasn’t it for the close calls, needing overtime to beat Illinois 23-16, and a brilliant fourth quarter drive to get by Michigan 14-9 to finish 13-0.
And then the fun really started in the Fiesta.
Jim Tressel’s Worst Season: 2004
The 7-5 first season under Tressel was bad, but it was a rebuilding year and the Buckeyes still finished third in the conference.
By 2004, OSU had won a national title and two Fiesta Bowls – the program was used to being in the national title hunt.
Instead, after battling to go 3-0, the Buckeyes couldn’t pull up out of a nosedive, losing at Northwestern, at home to a strong Wisconsin team, and getting dropped by Iowa 33-7 for a 3-3 start.
The season picked up a bit with three straight wins over mediocre teams, but a 24-17 loss wasn’t the way to go into the Michigan game. However, the Buckeyes stomped Michigan 37-21 and destroyed Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl 33-7.
It was a good end to an 8-4 season, but it only went to show how good the team could’ve been.
CFN Era Coaching Record: 106-22 at Ohio State in ten seasons
2015 College Football Hall of Fame
2002 BCS Championship
2006, 2007 BCS Runner-Up
2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 2009, 2010 Big Ten Champion
2011, 2015, 2016 ACC Champion
2002 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell
Photo Credit: Ohio State University