Ranking the 12 major head coaches from worst to first

With Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12, along with several new schools entering the league, it’s time to update the conference’s head coaching rankings.

Note: records from FCS, DII or DIII are not included.

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October 7, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; ASU Sun Devils head coach Kenny Dillingham shouts from the sidelines as his team plays the Colorado Buffaloes at Mountain America Stadium. / Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY

Current school record: 3-9 (.250)
Career record: 3-9 (.250)

Dillingham is leading a tough rebuild in the state of Arizona. I don’t know if he will change the program anytime soon, but if they give the young, smart, offensive mind time, it could work out.

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October 1, 2022; Laramie, Wyoming, USA; San Jose State Spartans head coach Brent Brennan before the game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. / Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 34-48 (.415)
Career record: 34-48 (.415)

I was really surprised that Brennan ended up being the guy for Arizona. He didn’t have as much success at San Jose State, posting just three winning seasons in seven years. We will see.

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March 30, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Colorado Buffaloes football head coach Deion Sanders before the game between the Arlington Renegades and the Birmingham Stallions at Choctaw Stadium. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 4-8 (.333)
Career record: 4-8 (.333)

What Deion did at Jackson State was nothing short of amazing. Being a Power Four head coach, however, is a different beast. The Buffs need to build depth on both sides of the ball before they can be taken seriously in the Big 12. They can win the portal every year, but they can’t live in it.

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Scott Satterfield blows the whistle during spring football practice, Monday, March 4, 2024, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Current school record: 3-9 (.250)
Career record: 75-49 (.605)

I’ve never been that big on Satterfield, even when he first got the Louisville job. I’m afraid he’s the coach they needed to help Cincinnati transition to the Big 12, and nothing more.

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November 11, 2023; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Dave Aranda watches during the fourth quarter against the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. / Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 23-25 ​​(.479)
Career record: 23-25 ​​(.479)

Just a few years ago, Aranda became a hot name for some of the bigger fish in college football after going 12-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl in year two at Baylor. It’s all been downhill since then and the 2024 season starts on the hot seat.

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Texas Tech head football coach Joey McGuire pauses during a drill during spring football training, Thursday, March 21, 2024, in the Sports Performance Center. / Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY

Current school record: 15-11 (.577)
Career record: 15-11 (.577)

Injuries at QB have held back the Red Raiders in McGuire’s first two years on the job. That being said, they have still been able to win 15 games and win a few bowl games in that span. His strong ties to Texas high schools could eventually take Tech from slightly above average to a serious contender in the Big 12 on a more regular basis.

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December 6, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars football head coach Willie Fritz is interviewed during the game against the Rice Owls at Fertitta Center. / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Record at current school: 0-0
Career record: 72-54 (.571)

I don’t believe Fritz will change Houston right away, but I don’t think it will take that long. He has a strong recruiting bed to work with and the man can be a real coach.

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October 12, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown watches during the second half against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. / Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 31-29 (.517)
Career record: 66-45 (.595)

Neal Brown coached his way from the hot seat to a contract extension. Are the Mountaineers actually climbing or was 2023 an anomaly? I don’t believe it’s the latter. He has built a strong culture and identity that will help them win in Morgantown.

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Iowa State Cyclones football head coach Matt Campbell reacts during Spring Football at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Ames, Iowa. / Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA

Current school record: 53-48 (.525)
Career record: 88-63 (.583)

The only reason I have Campbell higher than Neal Brown is because ISU was in a much worse situation when he took over. At the time, the Cyclones had six straight losing seasons and nine losing seasons in ten years. While they’ve certainly disappointed at times, Campbell has at least put them in a position to be competitive – something they’ve been far from for more than a decade.

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September 16, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; BYU Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake during the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. BYU won 38-31. / Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 61-41 (.598)
Career record: 61-41 (.598)

Sitake has done a respectable job at BYU as an independent, but life in the Big 12 may not be so rosy. They will always have a tough, physical brand of football that only a few others in the conference can match, but depth and athleticism could be a sore spot for them compared to others.

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November 11, 2023; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; TCU Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes argues with a referee after a penalty flag on a play during the game against the Texas Longhorns at Amon G. Carter Stadium. / Aaron E. Martinez-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 18-9 (.667)
Career record: 89-72 (.553)

It’s tough to win at Cal and Dykes has experienced that firsthand. He returned to SMU and went on to take the Horned Frogs to the national championship his freshman year. It was a big step back in 2023, but he will get them back on track. He has too good an offensive mind not to do that.

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December 22, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; UCF Knights head coach Gus Malzahn reacts during the second half of the Gasparilla Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Raymond James Stadium. / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 24-16 (.600)
Career record: 101-54 (.652)

Sure, Malzahn hasn’t returned to a major bowl game since Cam Newton, but he still won a respectable number of games, including a 10-win campaign in 2017. He’s had more success at the Power Four level than most in the Big 12 and he is now in charge of a sleeping giant in UCF.

Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal/USA TODAY

Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman walks the sideline before the game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium. / Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY

Current school record: 39-24 (.619)
Career record: 39-24 (.619)

Klieman went 69-6 and won four national titles with North Dakota State. Just insane. Since taking over at K-State, he has been able to keep them in the conversation almost every year. The Wildcats were ranked in the top 20 of the latest top 25 poll the last two years and, on paper, appear to have his best team in 2024.

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October 28, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Lance Leipold walks onto the field after the win over the Oklahoma Sooners at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 17-21 (.447)
Career record: 54-54 (.500)

The record still doesn’t look great, but if you inherit the junk from a show Leipold did, it looks nice and shiny. The worst news for the Big 12 is that Kansas is only just beginning to scratch the surface. As long as Leipold is the head coach, the Jayhawks will be a problem one way or another.

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December 27, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy on the sidelines before the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at NRG Stadium. / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 166-79 (.678)
Career record: 166-79 (.678)

The Big 12’s longest-serving coach is its most consistent. Mike Gundy always finds a way to exceed everyone’s expectations, putting his team in contention for the conference title every year.

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November 25, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham on the sideline against the Colorado Buffaloes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. / Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

Current school record: 162-79 (.672)
Career record: 162-79 (.672)

Two losing seasons in twenty years. TWO. Many, including myself, thought Whittingham and the Utes wouldn’t see the same success in the PAC 12, but we were all wrong. It took a few years to adapt and then he just won. The Utes produced four 10-win seasons in the PAC 12 and won two conference titles. They will continue that success in the Big 12.

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