Friday, January 22, 2010

NC Sports clients: Four of top 10 Big Ten coaches of the decade

Big Ten coaches of the decade

By Adam Rittenberg

January 22, 2010

It's time to look back at the best Big Ten coaches of the decade. The top choice was a no brainer. After that, it gets interesting.

Here's a looksie:

1. Jim Tressel, Ohio State: Other than USC's Pete Carroll, no coach dominated a major conference this decade like Tressel dominated the Big Ten. Since 2001, Tressel has won a national title, six Big Ten titles (outright or shared), five bowls and four BCS bowls. He owns a 94-21 record at Ohio State, and, perhaps more impressive, a 59-13 mark in Big Ten play. This was unquestionably the decade of The Vest.

2. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: Ferentz revived a struggling Iowa program this decade and restored the Hawkeyes among the Big Ten's elite. Since 2002, he has guided Iowa to two Big Ten championships, four seasons of 10 or more victories and eight bowl games, winning five of them. Iowa owns four top-10 finishes this decade under Ferentz, who gets a slight edge over Lloyd Carr.

3. Lloyd Carr, Michigan: It seems like a while since Michigan last won a Big Ten title, but Carr's teams claimed three of them (two shared, one outright) in the first half of the decade. Michigan finished first or second in the league in seven of the eight years Carr coached this decade. He struggled against Tressel and in the Rose Bowl, but Carr's accomplishments shouldn't be overlooked.

4. Joe Paterno, Penn State: Paterno is right up there with Tressel in the second half of the decade, winning two Big Ten championships and averaging 10.2 wins per season between 2005-09. Four losing seasons in the first half of the decade sting a bit, but JoePa is getting better with age!

5. Joe Tiller, Purdue: Tiller won his only Big Ten title in 2000, and Purdue reached bowl games in the first seven years of the decade. Purdue's all-time coaching victories leader made the Boilers into a consistent upper-half Big Ten team in the aughts.

6. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin: Bielema probably hates being listed ahead of his boss and predecessor, but his record in the past four years speaks for itself. He owns a 38-14 record at Wisconsin (20-12 Big Ten) and has taken the Badgers to bowl games each year. Bielema coached Wisconsin's best team of the decade in 2006, a squad that went 12-1 and finished seventh in the final AP Poll.

7. Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: Alvarez was arguably the Big Ten's Coach of the 1990s, and he kept the program among the league's elite until he stepped down following the 2005 season. He had three seasons of eight or more victories and won three bowls during the decade. Alvarez's best season this decade came in his last, as Wisconsin went 10-3 and beat Auburn in the Capital One Bowl.

8. Glen Mason, Minnesota: Mason coached Minnesota to six bowls in seven years until his dismissal after the 2006 Insight Bowl. He oversaw one of the nation's top rushing attacks this decade as backs Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III piled up yardage. Mason had a 10-win season in 2003, but his inability to get Minnesota to the next level led to his firing. He went just 24-32 in Big Ten play this decade.

9. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: Dantonio has stabilized a Michigan State program that really underachieved for most of the decade. The Spartans have reached bowls in each of Dantonio's three seasons as head coach. Dantonio owns a 13-11 mark in Big Ten play, which is much better than his predecessors.

10. Pat Fitzgerald and Randy Walker, Northwestern: The two Wildcats coaches share this spot after bringing consistency to a program that reached historic lows before 1995. Walker won a Big Ten championship in 2000 and took NU to three bowls in six years this decade. Fitzgerald, who took over after Walker's sudden death in 2006, owns 17-9 record (10-6 Big Ten) in the last two seasons. Expect him to be much higher on this list in the next decade recap.

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