CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 7 Bobby Bowden, Florida State
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 7 Bobby Bowden, Florida 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.
Bobby Bowden, Florida State (CFN Era 1998-2009)
A large bulk of Bobby Bowden’s legendary career came before 1998, with 11 straight 10-win seasons, a national title, and six straight ACC titles – there would’ve been more but FSU didn’t join the conference until 1992.
And Bowden was on a decent bowl run, too, going 14-1-1 in the post-season before 1998.
Keeping it all going wasn’t an issue early on, continuing the run of ACC titles taking it in 1998 through 2000 with a national title throw in there just for good measure.
But the program started to slip. It was all relative, but instead of an automatic 11-win season, FSU was coming up with eight and nine-win campaigns. The ACC titles were still rolling in – winning three more from 2002 to 2005 – but that was about it.
The final four seasons were pedestrian, going 29-22 with just one division title and no ACC championships, but Bowden kept winning bowls going 3-1.
Taking into account the lifetime body of work, Bowden belongs in the discussion of the greatest of all-time, and he probably deserves to be higher when ranking the coaches over the last 20 years, too.
Biggest Moment: 2000 Sugar Bowl
Bowden had plenty of amazing moments and tremendous coaching performances over the years, but since 1998, his big, crowning achievement came in New Orleans for his second national title.
His first one in the 1993 season was a wee bit controversial – considering FSU lost to Notre Dame earlier in the year and both the Noles and Irish finished with one loss – but there wasn’t any questioning his one and only unbeaten team.
Everyone came away from the 46-29 win over Virginia Tech gushing over Michael Vick’s stellar performance, it was Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick who took over the game.
Weinke threw for 329 yards and four scores, with Warrick coming up with six grabs for 163 yards and two scores and Ron Dugans coming up with two touchdown grabs.
Virginia Tech went into the fourth quarter with a 29-28 lead, but two Weinke scoring passes and a Sebastian Janikowski led to 18 unanswered points – and a national title.
Bobby Bowden’s Best Season: 1999
That national championship-winning 1999 team wasn’t quite as beloved as the 1993, Charlie Ward-led title winner, and there were others under Bowden with more personality and pizzazz, but it was Florida State’s greatest team until Jameis Winston and the 2013 squad took things to another level.
There were a few close-call hiccups along the way – struggling to get by Georgia Tech in a 41-35 early season shootout, and sputtering with a 17-14 win against a mediocre Clemson tam – but the offense rolled, the defense allowed just 203 points on the year, and it went coast-to-coast unbeaten.
The Seminoles started out the season No. 1 in both polls, started out the BCS rankings on top, and they never left. Penn State got some first place votes along the way, as did Virginia Tech, but outside of the Peter Warrick controversy, it was about as stress-free a run to a national title as possible.
Bobby Bowden’s Worst Season: 2006
Everything started out fine, and it all finished with a bang, but in the end, it was Bowden’s first six-loss season since going 4-7 at West Virginia in 1974.
To put this into perspective, Florida State lost just 11 games over a nine-year stretch from 1992 to 2000.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden couldn’t quite get the offense moving, but the Seminoles still managed to start the season with a win at Miami and another over a good Troy team. But a 27-20 loss to Clemson in the Bowden Bowl – Bobby vs. Tiger head coach and son, Tommy Bowden – started a trend of close call defeats.
The Seminoles started the season 5-4 with all four losses by a touchdown or less, with most of the wins coming against the weak and the sad.
And then the bottom dripped out with a 30-0 loss to Wake Forest. At home.
Another close loss – 21-14 to Florida – ended the regular season with a thud, but FSU dominated UCLA 44-27 in the Emerald Bowl to finish 7-6.
Or 0-6, if you’re the NCAA – all the wins were vacated after the team got nailed by the NCAA for academic fraud.
CFN Era Coaching Record: 119-46 in 11 seasons
2006 College Football Hall of Fame
1999 National Champion
1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 ACC Champion
2011 Amos Alonzo Stagg Award
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell