Ranking the Pac-10 Coaches

Yes, Carroll has a lot of advantages coaching at USC. He has a ton of local talent to recruit from, and the program has a lot of history. But you can’t dismiss seven straight Pac-10 titles, and there are two facts to put that achievement into perspective: In the 11 years before Carroll arrived, under three coaches, the Trojans won two conference crowns; and UCLA has the same recruiting base as USC, yet the Bruins have won three conference titles in the past 22 years, including none since 1998.

Winning at USC is not simply a matter of standing aside and watching it happen, so there’s no arguing with Carroll’s success, even if this is a down year. But who is the next-best coach in the Pac-10?

That’s the point of this post: To trumpet Mike Riley and the remarkable job he has done at Oregon State. Riley’s Beavers are 7-3 in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. That follows seasons of 10-4, 9-4, and 9-4. The program that once took more than 17 years to win 35 games has matched that total in less than four seasons.

Winning on a consistent basis at Oregon State is akin to turning Nickelback into a listenable rock band. It’s darn near impossible.

Sure, OSU is not that same program that once had 28 straight losing seasons. The Beavers have greatly upgraded their facilities, especially the stadium, and they have made a financial commitment to being competitive. But in a sport that often is defined by its inequities, Riley has Oregon State in the Rose Bowl race in mid-November for the second straight year.

So, here’s one man’s rankings of the Pac-10 football coaches:

1. Pete Carroll, USC

2. Mike Riley, OSU

3. Jim Harbaugh, Stanford: He hasn’t been there that long, but we’ll take the Cardinal’s success as a new standard of performance rather than a fluke. At least as long as Harbaugh stays.

4. Jeff Tedford, California: Once the Golden Boy of the conference, now regarded as an annual disappointment. But the fact that Cal is ever considered as a conference contender is a testament to Tedford. Now in his eighth year, he has clinched his eighth winning season, has two 10-win seasons, and has won a share of a conference title. That conference title was the Bears’ first since 1975 — six coaches ago.

5. Chip Kelly, Oregon: With injuries and the LeGarrette Blount escapade, this season could have been a disaster. But the Ducks are in first place, and that offensive scheme is frightful.

6. Dennis Erickson, ASU: We’ll rank him here for now, but ASU is 5-7 and 4-6 the past two years.

7. Steve Sarkisian, Washington: Might turn out to be a great head coach. But it’s too early to place him any higher.

8. Mike Stoops, Arizona: He’ll move up if Arizona actually wins the conference. We aren’t counting on it.

9. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA: He’s now been a head coach in the Pac-10 for six years at two programs that should be competitive, and he has a Rose Bowl victory. But his teams rarely factor into the conference race.

10. Paul Wulff, WSU: Impossible job, and a 3-20 record probably was to be expected. But the 20 losses have been by an average of 35 points.

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