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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Top 5 College Football Coaches of All Time

The Top 5 College Football Coaches of All Time

The Greatest Coaches ever!
Publish Date: 12/17/2021
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
13 Aug 1997: Coach Eddie Robinson of the Grambling State Tigers stands on the field during Media Day in Grambling, Louisiana.

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Today, we will look at the greatest coaches in College Football history. This will not be limited to division one programs, and National Championships will not be the most significant factor in these rankings. The biggest factors in these rankings will be how good a coach the coach was, which means he put his players first and won the right way. Of course, that means guys like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino etc… will not be included. Maybe I can make this simpler by saying if you have ever cheated to win or were just a flaming hypocrite(Dabo Swinney) you won’t make this list either!


5) Roy Kidd, Eastern Kentucky

Kidd spent 39 seasons at the helm of the Eastern Kentucky program. He won two NCAA I-AA (now FCS) titles. Inducted the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, Kidd led the Colonels to 16 Ohio Valley Conference titles and a national record 17 NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances. When he retired following the 2002 season, Kidd was the sixth all-time winningest coach in NCAA history with 314 victories.

4) Eddie Robinson, Grambling

You know you are a great coach when the coach of the year award carries your name! Eddie Robinson won 17 championships in his conference (SWAC) and established a staggering streak of 27 consecutive winning seasons from 1960 through 1986. Robinson was the first college coach to win 400 career games. Robinson retired with 408 wins, 165 losses and 15 ties. More than 200 of Eddie Robinson’s players went on to play in the National Football League.

3) Ken Sparks, Carson Newman

You may have never heard of Coach Sparks, but the man is an absolute legend in College Football. Sparks spent his entire career at Carson-Newman (TN) from 1980 to 2016. He won five NAIA Division I titles during that time. Sparks is currently the record-holder for the most wins in NCAA Division II history. His Carson–Newman Eagles won five NAIA Championships (1983–1984, 1986, 1988–1989) and were three times runners-up in the NCAA Division II playoffs.  Sparks favorite saying was if football can be used as a tool to bring people to the Lord, then “it has done something. If it hasn’t, we haven’t done a thing, no matter how many games we won.” Sparks knew that the most important job a coach has is to positively affect the lives of the young men that played for him.

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2) John Gagliardi – St.Johns(MN)

Gagliardi coached at Carroll (MT) and St. John’s (MN) during his career; he took home four national titles in the process. Gagliardi spent 60 years coaching the St. John’s (Minn.) football team (and four before that coaching at Carroll College in Montana) and went 489-138-11 over his career. Yes, he won 77 per cent of his games. His teams won 27 conference titles and four national championships. What made Gagliardi different from every other coach? He did not allow tackling in practice, had no playbook, and did not require his players to participate in strength and conditioning workouts. There was no yelling, no tackling dummies and no whistles. His quarterbacks called most of the plays. Gagliardi also insisted that everyone call him John instead of Coach. He banned what was common practice elsewhere, and it worked. Gagliardi was indeed one of a kind.

1) Larry Kehres, Mount Union

Kehres was responsible for turning Mount Union (OH) football into one of the most storied programs in the history of College Football. During his 27 seasons at Mount Union, he won an incredible 11 NCAA Division III national titles. Kehres has the highest winning percentage (93 percent) in college football history and an unmatched 21 undefeated seasons. Kehres set an NCAA record for most consecutive victories after winning 55 from 2000-03. Kehres’ Purple Raiders appeared in 16 national championship games and led the OAC in total offense and total defense every season from 1999-2009. Kehres lost only nine home games and 24 games overall in 27 seasons.

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