Who of the old guard coaches will retire first?
And, more importantly, how will that impact their respective schools?
I define old guard by meaning coaches who have had an impact at their school or conference over the last 10 years or more and who have helped establish a program. Many coaching names are associated with a program, and they often define the college football team for which they represent.
For instance, Nick Saban would not yet be included on this list of old guard coaches in the SEC as he not only defected, but he commenced his true college coaching career at Michigan State. I remember this specifically because he defeated Spurrier and the Gators in the Capital One Bowl before becoming coach at LSU. However, he resurrected the football program at LSU after it had remained dormant during the 1990s. And, he has now done the same at Alabama. Given he sticks around, he will certainly make the list.
ACTIVE OLD GUARD COACHES
- 1. Joe Paterno, Penn State University
- 2. Bobby Bowden, Florida State University
- 3. Steve Spurrier, University of South Carolina
- 4. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
- 5. Mack Brown, University of Texas at Austin
- 6. Mike Bellotti, University of Oregon
I may be missing someone from this list or someone whom you think qualifies. If so, please let me know, and I will include them.
The two winningest coaches in college football are still active today, and we are fortunate to witness the crowning achievement in coaching at the college level. Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno remain at their schools, and both of their schools are rising in the rankings as they extend FAR past their prime age of the college coach. If they were to meet in a bowl in a couple of years, it would be the Battle of the Geriatrics! My cane is bigger than yours.
Both established their programs, and you cannot assume that the schools which they represent would even be relevant without their tenure. FSU was mediocre when Bobby Bowden took over, and during the 80s and 90s, he maintained a streak of 14 consecutive seasons with a top 5 ranking. Joe Paterno has been at Penn State so long, most of us were born after he started coaching there. It is inconceivable that another coach could assume the leadership role he maintains at College Station.
Steve Spurrier of Gator fame (both as a Heisman trophy winner in the 60s and as a legendary coach with 7 SEC Championships and the school's first National Championship) is entering his 5th year as coach of the Fighting Gamecocks. I added the fighting thing because of Lou Holtz, the mascot of the Fighting Irish. Spurrier's growing dissatisfaction with the South Carolina program and his mixed success in the historical bottom-dweller of the toughest conference has led to speculation that he may retire. We do not know what the Ole Ball Coach has up his sleeve (besides multiple wideouts, over the middle passes, and the perfect fade pass), but it is certain the University of South Carolina would slip into oblivion (see Kentucky) in his absence.
Frank Beamer elevated the Hokies from an obscure member of the Big East who periodically played sibling engineering school Georgia Tech to a powerhouse in the ACC, consistently in bowl games and challenging for the ACC title (which they won last year). Even breakout quarterbacks with poor treatment of ferocious dogs hail from the program.
Mack Brown shocked Texas back to live with the proverbial ER paddles after John Mackovic left the Longhorns in a sideline collision daze that made him wonder, is that really Ricky Williams, or did I catch some sidestream smoke? The third most wining program in college football has been left in the hands of the UNC defensive genius for 10 years with one national title and multiple 10+ win seasons. Unlike Frank Beamer and Joe Paterno, he made plans in naming his successor years before his departure in Will Muschamp.
It's in to be "coach in waiting."
....but how long must you wait.
If you are Jimbo Fisher, you could be waiting two more years while Bowden holds off the bed pans for one more 10 win season and an ACC Championship. Perhaps another BCS bowl bid might help eclipse the Paterno football wins record he so long coveted.
My speculation is that Brown will retire in the next two years, likely after the 2009 season, leaving Muschamp with a new quarterback and a fresh start on offense. Texas will be loaded, so I doubt the Longhorns will miss a beat in the Big 12.
If FSU can hold onto Fisher throughout Bowden's quest to be the oldest coach alive, I believe the Noles can again reach the top of the ACC and enhance the end of season rivalry with hated rival Florida...especially if this coincides with Florida's own coaching dilemma. (This is an innocuous allusion. You can't hold me to it.)
Not to leave out Oregon...what about Coach Bellotti? He has established an explosive offense, recruited top talent, and emerged as the only credible challenger against USC's PAC-10 supremacy. Rumor has circulated about his impending retirement or perhaps his ascension to the AD post at University Nike. The real question is who could Phil Knight buy next? And, I don't mean players....this isn't USC.
What will become of the football programs at these now established universities? I applied the status to the coaching listings below.
OLD GUARD LEGACY
- 1. Joe Paterno, Penn State University - Uncertain
- 2. Bobby Bowden, Florida State University - Secure
- 3. Steve Spurrier, University of South Carolina - Dim Outlook
- 4. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech - Uncertain
- 5. Mack Brown, University of Texas at Austin - Secure
- 6. Mike Bellotti, University of Oregon - Uncertain
While some teams have a successor plans in place, some schools of the changing guard are ill prepared for the next generation.