Badgers' Bo Ryan can serve as model for Big Ten football coaches


Not everyone in coaching can be Urban Meyer, fortunate to take over a school positioned for success and supremely driven enough that it likely wouldn't matter if the program he inherited enjoyed little of Ohio State's illustrious history. He would win big anyway.

Some coaches ascend through more unconventional methods -- a reality reinforced Monday by the announcement that Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan would retire after next season. Ryan took over the Badgers at age 53 and has coached 14 seasons, transforming a mediocre program into a four-time Big Ten champion that represented the league at the Final Four in each of the past two seasons.

His accomplishments, no doubt, are admired among football coaches inside and outside the borders of Wisconsin.

So turning the conversation to football, who in the league possesses the characteristics to excel in a way similar to Ryan? Here are my top three picks, in no particular order:

Kyle Flood: The fourth-year Rutgers coach is young. At 44, his path to a major-college coaching job hardly resembles Ryan's track. But Flood is a fit at Rutgers for the same reason that Ryan works so well in Madison; he just fits in. A New York native, Flood understands the fan base at Rutgers. His coaching and playing background are rooted in the region he now recruits extensively. Flood is often overlooked in his home market and is certainly underpaid. Rutgers overachieved last year in its first season as a Big Ten member. Like Ryan in his early days at Wisconsin, Flood merits watching. Ignore him at your own risk.

Jerry Kill: The 53-year-old Minnesota coach took over four years ago, so he got a jump on the Ryan path. Like Ryan, Kill paid his dues at the lower levels, working at Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois before his arrival in Minneapolis. His deliberate style, with an emphasis on defense, resembles Ryan's coaching blueprint. And similar to Ryan, who failed to get past the second round of the NCAA tournament in his first three trips at Wisconsin, Kill is winless in three bowl games with the Gophers. Perhaps a breakthrough is coming.

Mark Dantonio:He broke through at Michigan State in his fourth year at age 54, finishing 11-2 and tied for the league title in 2010. Ryan, at 57, advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in his fourth year. Then after a dip in year five -- for Dantonio, it came in year six -- the program took flight under Ryan. Sound familiar? MSU football is 24-3 over the past two years with a pair of top-five finishes and bowl wins over Baylor in the Cotton and Stanford in the Rose. Dantonio lives for defense. And his intensity is something to behold. He suffered a heart attack in the aftermath of a big win in 2010 -- and it hardly slowed him. Ryan must appreciate that.