<
>

Big Ten leads Power 5 in head coaches at alma mater

play
Fewer alumni hired as head coaches (1:37)

Jim Harbaugh is only the seventh of 65 Power 5 coaches to have graduated from the college at which he works. ESPN college football reporter David Ching explains the downward trend. (1:37)

With the hirings of Paul Chryst and Jim Harbaugh this offseason, the Big Ten now has more head coaches leading their alma mater than any other Power 5 conference.

The B1G has three such head coaches -- Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Chryst (Wisconsin), Harbaugh (Michigan) -- while the rest of the Power 5 combines for just four.

No, this isn't the start of a trend or a shift in what B1G athletic directors demand. But the numbers here are still interesting. Thanks to exhaustive research by ESPN.com's David Ching, we've come to learn a few other things about the B1G and its head and assistant coaches:

  • 101 different schools are represented by the current head coaches, coordinators and assistants of the Big Ten. The schools most responsible for producing B1G coaches are Ohio State and Wisconsin, who can both lay claim to four coaches apiece in the conference.

  • The only non-Power Five school to contribute more than two coaches to the Big Ten is Mount Union (Ohio). It counts the following as alumni: Minnesota assistant Jim Zebrowski, Minnesota assistant Jay Sawvel and Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warinner.

  • Nationally, eight Big Ten schools rank within the top 25 of producing Power 5 coaches. Iowa is second in the country with 11 coaches (behind only Texas Tech's 13). Overall, the B1G has produced a Power 5-leading 70 coaches.

  • Iowa is tied for first in producing head coaches with three. Other schools that have produced three include Alabama, BYU and Texas Tech. (Michigan is right behind and is tied with Kent State by producing two.)

  • Eleven of 14 Big Ten schools have at least one coach who works at his B1G alma mater, and four schools have at least two. Wisconsin has the most with three coaches, while the trio of schools who count no alumni among their staffs include Maryland, Nebraska and Purdue.

Overall, the numbers are interesting -- but, at least on the surface, there doesn't appear to be anything truly surprising. (Well, maybe, outside of Mount Union producing three Big Ten coaches.)

Sure, the B1G is responsible for three out of seven of the Power 5 coaches working at their alma mater. But that's not a result of the conference emphasizing those ties above other conferences. Last season, there was just one such coach after all.

Big Ten programs have actually gone out of their way to explain how they're not pigeon-holed into picking an alum. Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett famously said he wanted to get rid of the word "Michigan Man," after all, while Nebraska didn't bow to the pressure of some alumni and passed over the likes of Scott Frost in favor of current coach Mike Riley.

This isn't a new phenomenon. Iowa fans clamored for an alum to lead the football team after the 1949 season, and it wound up picking a coach with just two years' experience in Leonard Raffensperger. (He lasted two seasons and went 5-10-3.)

Hiring alumni isn't always a positive but, sometimes, the fit is just natural. Chryst was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin from 2005 to 2011. Harbaugh was a coveted coach who could've stuck with the NFL. And Fitzgerald not too long ago was mentioned in the same breath as the USC job.

There are obviously inherent advantages to being an alum -- understanding of expectations, culture and history -- but it's more of a bonus than a deal-breaker. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said it would take several years for him to become fully acclimated with Penn State, for example, and he later added it was also "very important" to bring in another assistant with PSU ties in cornerbacks coach Terry Smith.

Historically, coaches working at their alma maters have happened in cycles. In 1990, the Big Ten had just one such head coach (George Perles -- Michigan State), while schools that make up today's Power 5 boasted 11 altogether. Those numbers have reversed a bit now and -- in the future -- could reverse again.