CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 14 Mark Richt, Miami & Georgia
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 14 Mark Richt, Miami & Georgia
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.
Mark Richt, Miami (2016), Georgia (2001-2015)
Richt has been known as the head coach who’s been able to get really close do doing really big things – but not the biggest thing.
While he appears to be building Miami back up into a powerhouse, can he take it into the College Football Playoff? Can he get it into national title contention?
Year after year after year, Richt came into the season with a great-looking Georgia team, and year after year after year, he kept coming up short.
Part of his problem was bad luck.
His 2002 Georgia team that went 13-1 with an SEC title would’ve been in a College Football Playoff – had there been one back then – and the 2005 team that won the SEC with a 10-2 pre-bowl record would’ve been close, and the 2012 squad that lost to Alabama in a thriller of an SEC championship would’ve had a case.
But nope. Richt has yet to take a team to a national championship, and it’s been a long time since he won a conference title, but few coaches have been as consistently successful over the last 20 years.
Don’t blow this off – he’s 16-for-16 going into 2017 when it comes to getting a team to a bowl game. Also as important, he wins them, with an 11-5 post-season mark.
But a lot of those bowl wins proved to be a tad empty.
Yeah, winning the 2008 Sugar to finish No. 2, and taking the 2013 Capital One to finish No. 4, and taking down the 2003 Sugar to end up third was all nice, but he’s way overdue to finally get a shot at the biggest of prizes.
There’s something to be said for consistent greatness, though, as an SEC head coach. Richt suffered just one losing season as a head man, and that came after losing the Liberty Bowl in 2010.
With two SEC championships, six SEC title game appearances, eight top ten finishes, five New Year’s Six-level bowl appearances, and an average of 9.6 wins per year, he’s doing something right.
Add in the personality, the way he handles a program, and the integrity that brought nothing but respect as he left/got fired by Georgia and was snapped up by Miami, he’s been everything you could want in a head coach.
Except for the massive wins.
But at just 57 going into the 2017 season, he’s got plenty of chances left to – as he put it with the Bulldogs – finish the drill.
Biggest Moment: 2005 SEC Championship
Les Miles brought a terrific LSU team into the SEC title game.
His Tigers were 10-1 with an early loss to Tennessee, winning nine straight highlighted by a great win at Alabama and tough, close wins over Florida and Auburn.
The national championship was all but out – it was the year of Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush USC vs. Vince Young Texas – but with a win, there was an outside shot of catching a break if the Trojans and/or Longhorns gagged on Championship Saturday.
But Georgia ended any and all speculation in a hurry.
D.J. Shockley threw two touchdown passes to Sean Bailey, and the defense came up with a pick-six to control the game throughout in the 34-14 win.
Georgia lost to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl, but that came after Richt’s last SEC championship – and one of his team’s best performances on the big stage.
If this wasn’t his biggest moment, it happened in …
Mark Richt’s Best Season: 2002
Richt had a nice 8-4 first season, but he put it all together in Year Two, with a loaded Bulldog team that caught fire early, and didn’t stop until it close out in dominant fashion.
QB David Greene had a good year, RB Musa Smith ran for 1,324 yards and one score, and David Pollack and the defense had a phenomenal season, allowing an average of just 15 points per game.
It took a fight to get by Clemson in the opener, and Pollack’s classic sack-strip-and-score play to beat South Carolina, and then the team couldn’t seem to lose.
It got by Alabama in a 27-25 thriller, pushed past Tennessee for an 18-13 win, and got out to an 8-0 start – and then came Florida.
It was the year after Steve Spurrier, but Ron Zook managed to get his mediocre Gator squad to rise up in the Cocktail Party in a 20-13 win for Georgia’s only blemish.
Richt got his team to bounce back with a terrific 24-21 win at Auburn – it was one of the best games of the year – on the way to the SEC title game.
After blowing away Georgia Tech, the Dawgs dominated Arkansas for a 30-3 win for the SEC Championship, and closed out with a good 26-13 victory over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
On the year, the 13-1 Bulldogs won five games by six points or fewer, and it was the only season of Richt’s career with more than 12 wins.
Mark Richt’s Worst Season: 2010
Georgia just couldn’t get the season going.
It started out fine with a 55-7 tune-up against Louisiana-Lafayette, but it was followed up by close loss after close loss, going down in four straight games on the way to an 0-3 SEC start.
The Bulldogs rallied for three straight wins – highlighted by a 41-14 takedown of Tennessee – but a 34-21 loss to Florida ended the run.
With a loss to Cam Newton and the eventual national champion Auburn Tigers, and the 10-6 clunker of a Liberty Bowl loss to UCF, 2010 became Richt’s only losing season.
CFN Era Coaching Record: 9-4 in one year at Miami, 145-51 in 15 years at Georgia
2002, 2005 SEC Coach of the Year
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell