- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The last time I ranked the ACC coaches, former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski was No. 5 and Dabo Swinney was still moving into his office.
It’s time for an update.
Jagodzinski, Randy Shannon, Al Groh, Ralph Friedgen and Bobby Bowden have all since moved on (and with the exception of Jagz, who led the Eagles to back-to-back appearances in the ACC title game, all were ranked in the bottom half of the last ranking).
The coaching carousel in the ACC has continued to spin in recent years, and this offseason was no exception. First-year Miami coach Al Golden and first-year Maryland coach Randy Edsall need time to prove themselves against their peers, which is why you’ll find them at the bottom of the list. And you shouldn’t be surprised to see the league’s veteran at the top.
Based on their records at their current schools, their recruiting, leadership, and overall success on and off the field, here’s a look at how the ACC coaches have stacked up during their tenure in the conference:
1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (198-95-2): He’s the winningest active coach in the ACC and has led the Hokies to four ACC titles and 18 straight bowl games. His record at Virginia Tech is easily the best in school history, and Beamer is the only coach in the country to have led his team to 10 or more wins in each of the past seven seasons.
2. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (10-4): If Fisher builds upon the success he had in Year 1, which included a win over rival Florida, the Atlantic Division title and a win over SEC East champ South Carolina, the ACC will have its national title contender. Fisher has been a home run recruiter and quickly put the program in place to achieve elite status again.
3. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (26-14): In only three seasons, he has led the Jackets to three straight bowl games, their first BCS-level bowl game in more than 40 years, and to the 2009 ACC title. He was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year in two of his first three seasons. The offense works, and he’s got 26 wins to prove it.
4. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest (62-60): Despite back-to-back losing seasons, Grobe has led the Deacs through their most successful decade in school history. His 62 wins in the past 10 seasons are the most of any Wake coach in the ACC era, and his league wins (32) and bowl wins (3) are also more than any other coach in school history. He was the ACC Coach of the Year in 2006 after winning the league title.
5. Tom O’Brien, NC State 25-25: Nothing spectacular yet, but he turned the corner in 2010 with a nine-win season. He is 4-0 against rival North Carolina, and last season was evidence of what he can do with a healthy roster.
6. Dabo Swinney, Clemson (19-15): The youngest coach in the ACC (41) has taken the Tigers to back-to-back bowl games and the ACC championship game in 2009. He has also lured in some of the nation’s top recruits. After back-to-back losses to rival South Carolina and the program’s first losing season since 1998, though, Swinney is under pressure to get back to the title game. There's no question he's a great recruiter, but is he a great coach?
7. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (16-11): He’s led the Eagles to two straight winning seasons and bowl berths, but is still looking for the bowl win and division title. The scholarship numbers have improved through recruiting and so has the depth, but overall, they’re still not quite where they want or need to be yet.
8. David Cutcliffe, Duke (12-24): He’s made noticeable gains at one of the most difficult programs to win. His 12 wins are two more than Duke managed in the previous eight seasons. He’s got an SEC background and knows what it takes to win, he just needs the talent to get there.
9. Butch Davis, North Carolina (28-23): He’s won, and he’s recruited some of the best players in the country, but Davis is also in the midst of an NCAA investigation and has lost to NC State four straight times. The off-field incidents detract from the progress the program has made, and Davis should shoulder some of the blame for it along with the credit he should get for recruiting well enough to make the Tar Heels a contender.
10. Mike London, Virginia (4-8): It’s still too early in London’s career to judge how successful Virginia can be under his watch, but he’s already made improvements and has fared well on the recruiting trail.
11. Al Golden, Miami and Randy Edsall, Maryland (tie) (0-0): Golden has gotten off to a fast start on the recruiting trail, but he needs to find a dependable quarterback if the Canes are going to win the Coastal Division in his first season. Edsall has one of the top returning quarterbacks in the ACC in Danny O'Brien, but he’ll have to find a new favorite target after the early departure of Torrey Smith.