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Thursday, January 21, 2010
The Big 12's top coaches of the decade

By Tim Griffin

Only two coaches who started the decade coaching in the Big 12 were still in their jobs at the end of it.

Bob Stoops has helped turned Oklahoma into a consistent national power and Mack Brown has done the same with Texas. Both won national championships during the decade and also took their team to bowl games each season.

Their stability and staying power are the major reasons the Longhorns and Sooners have dominated the Big 12 during the decade.

The rest of the conference wasn't quite as fortunate.

Stoops
Bob Stoops won three straight Big 12 titles from 2006-08.
Here's my list of the top-10 coaches of the past decade in the Big 12.

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: Stoops and Brown have the same number of victories (110) during the decade. Texas actually has a better winning percentage. But Stoops gets the nod because of his consistent coaching excellence with six Big 12 titles over the decade, a national championship in 2000 and an unprecedented three-peat of conference championships from 2006-08.

2. Mack Brown, Texas: Brown had the best winning percentage and is tied for the most wins with Stoops during the decade. He's won two Big 12 titles in three trips to the championship game. Most importantly for his job security, he's turned around his slump in the Red River Rivalry after an earlier five-game losing streak to Stoops. Texas has won four of the last five games against the Sooners as Brown has boosted his program to arguably its highest point in history.

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: People forget how dominant the Wildcats were in the early part of the decade, when they won at least 11 games in three of the first four seasons. That run was punctuated by the 2003 Big 12 championship team that was memorable in that Snyder overcame an early-season three-game losing streak. Snyder came back rejuvenated and appears to be ready to continue his career after taking the Wildcats into unexpected North Division title contention in 2009. And he's headed to College Football Hall of Fame after his career ends.

4. Mike Leach, Texas Tech: Before his abrupt firing before the Valero Alamo Bowl last month, Leach had taken the Red Raiders to a bowl game every season in his career there. The Red Raiders never advanced above the Cotton Bowl in the Big 12’s pecking order and earned a share of one South Division title. But he sure made things interesting when he was coaching, and was the main figure in the Big 12's transformation into a cutting-edge passing conference.

5. Gary Barnett, Colorado: At the time of his firing, he had taken the Buffaloes to four Big 12 title games in five seasons, including the 2001 championship. Colorado has made one bowl trip since Barnett’s demise. I'm still surprised he hasn't gotten another opportunity after his dismissal.

6. Gary Pinkel, Missouri: After a slow start, he’s averaged nine wins over the last five seasons, and twice taken the Tigers to the Big 12 title game. In the process, his players have said the death of former player Aaron O’Neal has helped transform him into a more caring, compassionate leader -- a marked contrast from some of the recent events in coaching at other schools in the conference and beyond.

7. Mark Mangino, Kansas: Made history by taking the Jayhawks to back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history, including a 12-1 season in 2007 that earned him national coach of the year honors. The seven-game losing streak at the end of the 2009 season doomed his program's chances and led to his resignation.

8. Bo Pelini, Nebraska: In two-plus seasons with Nebraska, he’s already won three bowl games and taken the Cornhuskers to the Big 12 title game. More importantly, he’s reawakened the passion of Nebraska fans with a crowd-pleasing defensive style.

9. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Has led Oklahoma State to the exact same winning percentage -- .571 -- as his predecessor, Les Miles. Gundy gets the edge because he’s claimed two bowl victories while Miles won one. Both whiffed in every game against Texas.

10. Dan McCarney, Iowa State: Before he was fired after the 2006 season, McCarney had turned around fortunes for the long-struggling Cyclones program. In the process, he won the 2000 Insight Bowl -- the school’s first bowl victory -- among a run of five bowl trips in six seasons. And he might have taken the Cyclones to their elusive first division championship if they had a more reliable kicker.