I decided since nothing major is happening in this break between spring games and late summer practices leading up to the 2006 season, it is time for a "fun" article. What better way to cause debate and fill the time than ranking current college football coaches and stadiums. Here are the ten best of each, and a short explanation on why they're ranked how they are.
TOP TEN STADIUMS
First things first, the honorable mentions:
Georgia's Sanford Stadium, LSU's Tiger Stadium, Alabama's Bryant-Denney Stadium, USC's LA Coliseum, Oregon's Autzen Stadium, Oklahomas Owen Field, and my personal favorite small stadium (clocking in as the third smallest in Division I football), Peden Stadium of the Ohio Bobcats.
10. Memorial Stadium (Clemson) - The players running down through the fans into this stadium is nearly enough to put it in the top ten, but the crazy ACC football fans put it among the best for sure. You certainly cannot see all the great stadiums of college football without seeing this one.
9. Kinnick Stadium (Iowa) - Despite only holding 72,000 fans, the renovations being completed this summer to the Hawkeyes' stadium make this an even more enjoyable venue to watch a game. This stadium not only will be cutting edge this year, but it will still have the wild atmosphere it has held for many years past. There is not much more enjoyable than hearing I-O-W-A go around the stadium during timeouts.
8. The Rose Bowl (UCLA) - This is a hard choice over other good Pac-10 venues such as Autzen Stadium and The Coliseum, but The Rose Bowl is a gigantic 100,000-plus stadium filled with the best history of college football thanks to its namesake bowl game. When this stadium is full, it is hard to believe anyone in LA coudn't hear the crowd roar. Not being on campus is a drawback to this one.
7. Bever Stadium (Penn State) - Perhaps not the most exciting structure ever since it has been expanded 7 times to try and keep up with The Big House, but they stuff just as many people as Michigan does into this one for big home games. Make no mistake about it, the weather conditions and the nighttime wild atmosphere in this stadium can win games as much as Paterno's boys, just see the Ohio State game last year. There is power in numbers, as proven by this stadium.
6. Ben Hill Griffin Field, The Swamp (Florida) - Called by some as the toughest place to come out of with a win year in and year out, there is no doubt how loud and intimidating the fans in this stadium are to opposing teams. The reason it doesn't rank higher is that the stadium is not all that different from many others in the country, just a little bit bigger and a lot louder on game days.
5. Michigan Stadium (Michigan) - Although this place becomes a tie with number one on OSU-UM games every two years, the atmosphere is not as strong other weeks, and this drops the Wolverines' home down to here. The biggest football stadium in America fits around 107,000-108,000, but the seats are kind of tight and the stadium is not impressive from the outside since it is built into the ground. It does have some charm entering the stadium at row 93 and looking down the staggering set of steps to the field, and I also like how the players enter at the 50 yard line. An experience not to be missed.
4. Neyland Stadium (Tennessee) - Oh Rocky Top all night long... That's what over 104,000 Vols fans do every home football Saturday. This is another stadium located beatifully right beside a river, and the atmosphere for night SEC games is hard to top anywhere else.
3. Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame) - Just like the next stadium on the list, Notre Dame Stadum only holds around 80,000 fans. When those fans are Irish fans, though, it makes a big difference. Touchdown Jesus and "Play Like a Champion Today" are just a part of the greatness of this venue.
2. Kyle Field (Texas A&M) - This stadium is a little smaller than its friends on this list by only holding 80,000 fans, but the 12th man and pregame rituals make this stadium very memorable. Texas has a lot of great places to watch a football game, but I can think of none other I would spend my Saturday in.
1. Ohio Stadium (Ohio State) - Perhaps my five years of seeing this landmark every day on my way to classes has me being a little impartial, but I have been to a lot of college football stadiums and this one is still my favorite. The 2002 renovations may have put a fully-closed end on "The Horseshoe," but it still has a distinctive look from above, more so than most other stadiums on this list. The pagentry and fans surrounding Ohio State games makes this gem on the banks of the river Olentangy my number one stadium in college football.
TOP TEN COACHES
10. Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia) - A darkhorse favorite for the national title the past 3 years, the Mountaineers have quite a coach in Rodriguez. He keeps his guys focused and has them put up amazing results, such as beating Georgia in the BCS game this past January. The Big East might be the "Big Easy," but the Mountaineers prove they belong every year come bowl time, and the main reason is the talent of the coach.
9. Larry Coker (Miami) - Despite a disappointing 2005 season, Miami had a winning streak just as long and impressive as USC's until they ran into a team of destiny in a national title game (sound familiar?). Although he is a great recruiter who gets the best talent in the country, he might not be as good a coach in pressure situations as the other men on this list. He had done well though.
8. Mark Richt (Georgia) - Another younger coach makes the list because this guy has brought results, BCS games, and more excitement to the UF-Georgia rivalry. This coach could become one of the all-time greatest if he keeps it up. He's on my list because I like the guy's coaching style.
7. Pete Carroll (USC) - Of course with Norm Chow helping you to three straight national title appearances, it would be a little easier to make this list. He still dealt with the tough LA media and kept his Hollywood team together long enough to establish an amazing winning streak over the past 3 years. If it were not for a team of destiny last year, Carroll might be higher on the list.
6. Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) - This is only one year, but Notre Dame came awfully close to knocking off the best team in college football (at the time) last season (and some would argue they did beat USC). I think his pro record speaks for itself, and he will make Notre Dame a force to be reckoned with every year from now on, though the complete out-coaching in the Fiesta Bowl is worrisome.
5. Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) - Time will tell if this guy is as great as he seems to be, but he has transformed Iowa from a mediocre Big Ten team to a perennial title contender. In any other conference, this man might be winning league titles every year and perhaps even playing for national championships. He will be a great legend if he brings titles to small-town Iowa.
4. Steve Spurrier (South Carolina) - After a quick run through the pro leagues, Spurrier is back to his domain, and he has already struck fear into the SEC by turning a mediocre USC team into a SEC contender in his first year. He also had tons of success at Florida, and has a system few can consistently defeat.
3. Jim Tressel (Ohio State) - Unlike his predecessors, he knows the value of Michigan and bowl wins and has proven he is a championship caliber coach at all levels, winning four titles with I-AA Youngstown State and one in his first five years at OSU. He has won four of five against Michigan (which at the end of the year is no easy task) and is a last-second field goal in 2001 away from a 5-0 bowl record. This guy is the whole package, and he could be the best in the country if it weren't for...
2. Bobby Bowden (Florida State) - Led previously mediocre teams West Virginia and FSU to great heights never before experienced. Along with the number one coach on this list, he leads all active and all-time wins lists and is a Hall-of-Famer while still coaching. Few can argue with the dominance of the Seminoles in the '90s, and this man was the genius behind it all.
1. Joe Paterno (Penn State) - I have seen few funnier interviews before and after games than the ones by this coach. He is one of the best of all time and won more national championships than Bowden ever will. The style might be a little old, but the coaching talent is still at the top of the pack, as proven last season.
Have a good month, and if you are a true fan of all sports like me, this is a great time as college baseball wraps up, the pro basketball and hockey finals are taking place, the French Open and Wimbledon test the best in tennis, and the best spectacle in worldwide sports, The World Cup, is on everyday for the whole month! What a great time to be a fan.