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Best Coaches in the Pac-10
Rich Linde, 10 May 2010

Taken as a unit, our top five coaches in the Pac-10 have the substance to be as good or better than any other comparable set of coaches in college football's BCS conferences. Not too shabby, either, three of the bottom five look to better their ranking this upcoming season.

1. Mike Riley (56) -- Overall 67-47 in 9 years at OSU, 5-1 in bowls. 8-5 in 2009; lost Las Vegas Bowl.

Riley gets more out of his players than any other coach in the Pac-10. Nobody does it better.

2. Jeff Tedford (48) --  67-35 in 8 years at Cal, 5-2 Bowls; 8-5 in 2009, losing Poinsettia Bowl.

Tedford brought Cal back from the brink of oblivion in 2002, turning a 1-10 team (2001) into 7-5 respectively. Prior to his arrival, Cal had posted 8 non-winning years. Since his arrival, Cal has enjoyed 8-straight winning seasons.

Tedford is a tireless worker, sometimes sleeping overnight in his office to get a head start in the morning.

3. Jim Harbaugh (46) -- 46-26 overall, 17-20 over 3 years at Stanford; 8-5 in 2009 plus a loss in the Sun Bowl last year after tying for second in the conference.

Harbaugh has turned the Cardinal into a blue-collar, physical football team in addition to keeping its quarterback tradition alive and well. After Stanford ran up the score on USC last year, former Trojan coach Pete Carroll at midfield asked Harbaugh, "What's your deal?" And now Stanford is using that tepid exchange to sell tickets in a marketing plan.

4. Mike Stoops (48) -- Overall 33-39 and 1-1 in bowls over his 6 years at Arizona. 8-5 in 2009; lost the Las Vegas Bowl.

In 2004, Stoops took over a 2-10 team and turned it into a winner in his fifth year at Arizona. Last season, his Wildcats finished second in the conference in total defense.

Stoops has set a 5-year benchmark for coaching success.

5. Rick Neuheisel (49) -- Overall 77-44, 11-14 at UCLA over last 2 years. Coached 4 years at Colorado (33-14) and 4 years at Washington (33-16). 4-3 in bowls, his 7-6 UCLA team winning the 2009 Eagle Bank Bowl.

The much maligned Neuheisel is the only head coach in the conference to post a victory in the Rose Bowl. Rick is an excellent recruiter, arguably the best closer in the Pac-10, in a league that features coffee for closers and roses for winners.

6. Dennis Erickson (63) -- Overall 167-83-1, with coaching stints at Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Miami, Oregon State, Idaho and Arizona State. At ASU, he is 19-18 over three seasons. ASU lost in the 2007 Holiday Bowl. In 2009, ASU posted a 4-8 season. Overall he is 5-5 in bowls.

His bruising Sun Devils led the league in total defense last season but finished ninth in total offense and ninth in the conference standings. Erickson needs to get the Sun Devils offense off the snide, lest his hot seat be ejected from the coaching ranks. However, this ubiquitous coach is a lock to find another coaching job if, unfortunately, he is jettisoned from the desert.

7. Steve Sarkisian (36) -- 5-7 at Washington last season, in his first year of coaching.

Inheriting a 0-12 team, Sark went 5-7 last season, losing 4 games by 8 points or less. He and his coaching staff have molded QB Jake Locker into a respectable passer and a steady team leader. Jake is a possible first-round NFL draft pick in 2011. Coming off an excellent recruiting season -- the 2010 class ranked eleventh in the country by scout.com -- Sarkisian is off to a fine start in corralling his 2011 class. With some help from defensive coordinator Nick Holt, his biggest challenge comes in plugging in what has turned out to be a perennially leaky defense at Washington, the success or failure of which will likely make or break his career with the Dawgs.

In transmuting the Dawgs' defensive mettle, Holt and Sark need to find metallurgists who will pound the middle and hammer the edges.

8. Chip Kelly (46) -- 10-3 coaching Oregon in 2009; his Pac-10 champions lost in the Rose Bowl, preserving Oregon's 93-year history. Since 1917, Oregon's only victory in the Rose Bowl is a 93-year-old source of reminding and chiding, with the hook thrown in.

Kelly will move higher in our rankings once Oregon's off-field problems have reached resolution and containment, not that he is responsible for them.

9. Lane Kiffin (36) -- the new kid on the block, replacing the legendary Pete Carroll at USC. Coached a 7-6 Tennessee team in 2009, losing the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Had a 5-15 record coaching the Oakland Raiders. Looked more than capable coaching the Trojans during spring football.

Kiffin is looking to restore the age-old conference adage, "Nobody runs on the Trojans." Historically, it's one reason, the Pac-10 is the conference of quarterbacks.

10. Paul Wulff (43) -- overall 56-62; 3-22 coaching Washington State over the last two seasons. Formerly the coach at Eastern Washington from 2000-2007, he compiled a 53-40 record.

Reportedly, he is on the proverbial hot seat this season.


Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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