- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel has come out with his 10 best and five worst head coaches heading into the 2013 season, and the news is not good for Illinois and Iowa.
The Big Ten claims 40 percent of the worst coaches list as Illinois' Tim Beckman and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz make appearances. The "worst" coaches were listed alphabetically instead of in numerical order. Here is what Mandel wrote about each:
Beckman: "I may be jumping the gun here, but Beckman -- hired at Illinois following a pair of eight-win seasons at Toledo -- has done little to inspire confidence either on the field (2-10 in 2012) or on the recruiting trail with the Illini."
Ferentz: "The 2009 Orange Bowl proved an aberration in Ferentz's otherwise unimpressive recent tenure. Take away that one 11-2 season and the Hawkeyes are 47-41 since 2005 under their $3.6 million-per-year coach."
Joining those two in Mandel's worst coaches ranks are USC's Lane Kiffin, Kansas' Charlie Weis and Eastern Michigan's Ron English, the latter of whom is a former Michigan defensive coordinator.
It's an interesting if debatable perspective. Ferentz was No. 3 on Mandel's list of best coaches in 2006. Has he gotten that much worse in just seven years? The results haven't been great, but you could make a much more convincing argument that Ferentz has the worst contract in college football rather than he is one of the worst coaches. And Beckman understandably receives much flak for his disastrous debut season last year, but he was a hot coaching commodity less than two years ago. It just shows you how quickly perception can change with the won-loss record.
In rosier news, Mandel ranks Ohio State's Urban Meyer at No. 2 on his best coaches list, just behind -- who else? -- Nick Saban for the top spot. He writes of Meyer:
"While the brash and often outspoken 48-year-old certainly has his share of critics, it's hard to argue with his résumé. Meyer has gone 116-23 (.828) at four different schools, posting undefeated seasons at both Utah (2004) and Ohio State (2012) to go with a pair of BCS titles at Florida (2006 and '08). While initially viewed as a spread-offense guru, he is now renowned for his unique ability to charm and connect with both recruits and players, something that's produced consistent success."
No other Big Ten coaches crack the top five. Mandel lists former Wisconsin and current Arkansas coach Bret Bielema among five coaches who just missed the top 10. And in his group of "five coaches who could be on this list in three years," he includes Michigan's Brady Hoke and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald. I'm surprised not to see Penn State's Bill O'Brien mentioned anywhere, though he does only have one season as a head coach under his belt.
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