Thursday, July 12, 2012
The Big 12's longest-tenured coaches
By David Ubben
The Big 12 hasn't done a great job when it comes to membership longevity, but the guys on the sidelines in a headset? Few leagues have been better when it comes to the game's longest-tenured coaches.
The two coaches who have been in the league the longest? They're the guys who happen to be among the best and among those blessed with the greatest amount of resources, too.
Mack Brown came to Austin as John Mackovic's replacement in 1998. The former North Carolina coach had a solid pedigree as the head Tar Heel, and set out to man one of college football's sleeping giants.
A year later, a young whippersnapper named Bob Stoops left his post as defensive coordinator on Steve Spurrier's staff to grab the reins of another sleeping giant in college football: Oklahoma. Not bad for a guy who'd never been a head coach before, eh?
Both inherited losing teams and quickly turned them into contenders. More than a decade later, they're still doing it.
Along the way, each collected a national championship (and a loss or two in the title game). Stoops conjured up some Sooner Magic for an unbelievable turnaround in 2000, winning a national title after going just 7-5 in his first season. His quarterback from that team? Stoops has been around long enough to see Josh Heupel climb the coaching ranks and become his co-offensive coordinator and playcaller.
In 2005, it was Texas' turn. Transcendent star Vince Young, the greatest player to put on a jersey in Big 12 history, carried the Longhorns to Brown's only national title, but he did it in the middle of one of the most impressive stretches in college football history. From 2001 to 2009, Texas won at least 10 games every year in the midst of a growing league that also boasted powers like Nebraska and Oklahoma.
They've been around the block a few times, but only two coaches in all of college football have been at their current posts longer: Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and Troy's Larry Blakeney.
Care to get less than technical about the issue? Kansas State's Bill Snyder trumps them both, having held his post for two decades, the only head-coaching job he's ever held since leaving Hayden Fry's staff at Iowa back in 1989. Snyder retired in 2005, but returned to "calm the waters" at K-State after a rocky three seasons with few highs and more lows under Ron Prince.
His first time around, Snyder did the impossible, turning "the worst job in America" (according to a now infamous Sports Illustrated story) into a place you could win a Big 12 title and play in BCS bowls. Snyder did the former in 2003, upsetting Stoops' highly favored Sooners, and played in the Fiesta Bowl in 1997 and 2003.
Snyder's break technically disqualifies him for the title of longest-tenured, but everyone knows what he's done for the program.
Stoops, Brown and Snyder have proved over the better part of the past two decades that you can make a comfortable, secure home in the Big 12. No other league in America has a better, more durable trio of coaches who have become the faces of their respective programs.