I can always tell when we're mired in the depths of the offseason. There are no games to watch on TV. News is slow or nonexistent. Bloggers fantasize about their conference's constituents going on spring break. Writers get desperate for content.
Sometimes the last of the previous three items leads a writer to throw together a "best" list. Tim Griffin is ranking the 40 best players in the Big 12. This week, Rivals' Tom Dienhart got in on the act by ranking the best football coaches in the Big 12.
Or at least that's what he purported to do. I guess that's what he intended to do when he wrote that he was "[r]anking the Big 12 coaches". But pretty much everything that follows that line in the linked article is anything but an actual ranking of the best Big 12 coaches.
Now to be fair, Dienhart didn't set forth his criteria. He didn't say if he was using some sort of complicated formula to measure success and coaching prowess, or if he was going by winning percentage, or ability to hit on women at a bar, or what. Given the list's results, he may have put each coach's face on a dart board, downed a fifth of Rebel Yell, and started firing darts. Amazingly, he hit Bob Stoops and Mack Brown first, which is plausible.
After Brown, though, the complete randomness begins. Somehow, someway, Dienhart squeezes Mark Mangino into the third position among conference coaches. Apparently, Dienhart believes a coach who has never even won what has been the weaker of the conference's two divisions recently (no KU fans, you didn't win it in 2007, no matter what the Big 12 says) is hot on the heels of two coaches who have two national titles and seven conference championships. To date, Mangino has had one good season, and that was a season in which he scheduled four certain nonconference wins and missed Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech out of the South. Following that season, KU took a minor step up in nonconference scheduling (and lost to USF) and were fairly well blitzed by the South division powerhouses. Also, I take serious issue with the assertion that "everyone" will have KU as their preseason North favorite. I know Tim Griffin disagrees.
Dienhart goes on to make a couple more or less plausible rankings (Mike Leach fourth, Gary Pinkel fifth) before he takes a trip back to the twilight zone by dropping Baylor's Art Briles in at sixth. Even Leach, for all the glitz and glamour, has never even won his division, something Bill Snyder did three times back when the North was actually a tough division to win.
Getting back to Briles, Dienhart says, and I quote:
Briles is knee-deep in a rebuilding project at Baylor following a 4-8 debut that has many around Waco thinking big.
Some places, a coach goes 4-8 (or 5-7) and gets fired. In Waco, such smashing success is reason to think big!
Anyway, Briles may well be a good coach. He was pretty successful at the University of Houston prior to jumping on Highway 6 for Waco. But whatever success he had at UH must come with the caveat that he was competing in Conference USA, not exactly home to football's powerhouses. Further, he managed only one conference title - and that came in a game at home - and never won a bowl game with the Coogs. Then he goes to Baylor, brings an all-world athlete in at quarterback, goes 4-8, and is suddenly among the top half of Big 12 coaches.
Next up is Nebraska's Bo Pelini as the seventh-best coach in the conference. I probably wouldn't have much of a problem with the pure number of this ranking, but given a couple coaches behind this guy, I cannot figure out what Dienhart was thinking. We'll get into more depth on this subject in a minute, but he has Bill Snyder behind Pelini. For the moment, I'll just note that in one head-to-head matchup, when Pelini was Nebraska's defensive coordinator in 2003, Snyder's Wildcats amassed 561 yards and 38 points. In Lincoln.
Further, what in the hell is Mike Gundy doing in eleventh? He's behind Mike Sherman, who was an impressive 4-8 in College Station last season, and Dan Hawkins, the best coach who has accomplished absolutely nothing in a major conference. I'm fully aware that Gundy is only a few games over .500 in his career at Okie State, but he's now been in three straight bowl games and went 9-4 last season. Surely that's better than Hawkins, who is 13-24 - not a misprint - in three seasons in Boulder and has only one bowl game to his credit.
OK, now for the whole point of this post. Ranking Bill Snyder as the eighth-best coach in this conference is an unconscionable crime. I'm not entirely certain how anyone who has paid any attention to college football for the last 20 years can make a straight-faced argument that Snyder is worse than seven Big 12 coaches.
I don't care what your metric is. Snyder's teams have three division titles to their credit. That's more than everyone except Stoops and is tied with Brown. He has one conference championship. That's one more than Mangino, Leach, Pinkel, Briles and Pelini have...combined. His teams have gone to 11 bowl games, including two BCS games, and won six of those contests. He is widely considered one of the great offensive coaches of the last 20 years. He did it all at a school that had the worst football program in the nation prior to his arrival, and he avoided serious NCAA violations while doing so, certainly more than Mangino can say.
All that is not to say that those of us at BOTC don't have our doubts about Snyder's ability to "succeed" in his second stint at K-State. He is stuck with a program in deplorable condition after Ron Prince's three-year tenure. Snyder failed to get, or in some cases retain, top assistant coaches, with the notable exception of Vic Koenning. This experiment hatched by Jon Wefald and Bob Krause may well blow up in our faces and in some ways hurt Snyder's reputation.
But putting all that aside, there is no means of measurement I can think of that would rank Snyder as low among Big 12 coaches as Dienhart does. He is one of the best, period, end of story.