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Thursday, May 07, 2015

Arizona State's Todd Graham ranks No. 1





By Steven Lassan

May 7, 2015

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking.

Ranking the Pac-12's Football Coaches for 2015

1. Todd Graham, Arizona State
Record at Arizona State: 28-12 (3 years)
Career Record: 77-41 (9 years)

It’s a close call between Graham and Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez for the No. 1 spot among current Pac-12 coaches. The Sun Devils enter 2015 as one of the favorites for the conference title, and Graham has guided the program to 28 wins over the last three seasons. The Sun Devils won the South Division in 2013 and tied for second in '12 and '14. Under Graham’s watch, Arizona State has clearly removed the label of a program that struggles to reach expectations. And the Sun Devils are in the midst of a stadium renovation that will only help Graham and this staff sell a program that has inked back-to-back top-25 signing classes. Graham’s success isn’t just limited to Arizona State, as he helped Rice make a six-game improvement in the win column in 2006, won 36 games in four years at Tulsa and went 6-6 in his only season at Pittsburgh.

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