A Look at Prior HC Experience in the AP Top 25

This is a look at the head coaches of the teams in the latest (11/10/19) AP Poll. Listed is the job they held prior to their current HC position. After that I’ve listed prior head coaching records (at the FCS level or above), if any.

  • Ed Ogeron; DL, LSU; USC (interim) (6-2), Mississippi (10-25)

  • Ryan Day; OC/QB, Ohio State; Ohio State (interim) (3-0)

  • Dabo Swinney; OC, Clemson; Clemson (interim) (4-3)

  • Nick Saban; HC, Miami Dolphins; Miami (15-17), LSU (48-16), Michigan State (34-24-1), Toledo (9-2)

  • Kirby Smart; DC, Alabama; none

  • Mario Cristobal; Co-OC/OL, Oregon; FIU (27-47)

  • P.J. Fleck; HC, Western Michigan; Western Michigan (30-22)

  • Kyle Whittingham; DC, Utah; none

  • James Franklin; HC, Vanderbilt; Vanderbilt (24-15)

  • Lincoln Riley; OC/QB, Oklahoma; none

  • Dan Mullen; HC, Mississippi State; Mississippi State (69-46)

  • Matt Ruhle; HC, Temple; Temple (28-23)

  • Gus Malzahn; HC, Arkansas State; Arkansas State (9-3)

  • Jim Harbaugh; HC, San Fracisco 49ers; San Francisco (44-19), Stanford (29-21), San Diego Toreros (29-6)

  • Paul Chryst; HC, Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh (19-19)

  • Brian Kelly; HC, Cincinnati; Cincinnati (34-6), Central Michigan (19-16)

  • Luke Fickell; Co-DC/LB, Ohio State (interim, kinda) (6-7)

  • Mike Norvell; OC/QB, Arizona State; none

  • Bryan Harsin; HC, Arkansas State; Arkansas State (7-5)

  • Sonny Dykes; analyst, TCU; California (19-30), Louisiana Tech (22-15)

  • Ken Niumatalolo; OL, Navy; none

  • Tom Herman; HC, Houston; Houston (22-4)

  • Kirk Ferentz; OL, Baltimore Ravens; Maine (12-21)

  • Tom Allen; DC, Indiana; none

  • Mike Gundy; OC, OSU; none

A few observations:

Of these 25 coaches, just 7 had no prior head coaching experience when they became a HC at their current school. If you add coaches whose only HC experience was as an interim, that number increases to 9 (or 10 if you count Luke Fickell). Both of those two coaches with interim experience only, Day and Swinney, won the job at the end of their interim HC season.

Of the 7 coaches with no prior HC experience at the Div 1 level or above who got HC jobs, 5 were promoted from within. Smart and Norvell are the only exceptions.

Of the 16 coaches who had prior HC experience (not solely as an interim), six didn’t have winning records as a HC at the time of their hire.

Of all the coaches of current top 25 programs, 10 had winning records as head coaches at other Div 1 or NFL teams when they got their current HC job.

Just 11 of the 25 were working as a HC at another Div 1 school or NFL team when they got their current job. Most were not.

5 coaches who had prior HC experience were not working as head coaches at the time of their hire (none of them had a winning record as a HC).