By Jordan Zuniga and Patrick Lynch
When deciding who is the Big Ten’s best coach, it’s hard to look anywhere other than Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer.
While the two are both excellent coaches, I believe that Harbaugh edges Meyer in the conversation of best coach. It’s tough to have a better résumé than Meyer, but résumé alone doesn’t always equal a better coach.
In Meyer’s two most successful campaigns, Florida and Ohio State, he inherited pretty solid teams. He only had to improve them marginally to achieve success.
Harbaugh, however, had to work with a floundering Stanford team, and he turned it into a perennial top-25 team in just four years. Then he headed to the NFL for his incredibly successful stint with the 49ers before heading back to college to coach for his alma mater.
When Harbaugh took the job at Michigan, the Wolverines were struggling in comparison with their glory days with the legendary Bo Schembechler. In the decade before Harbaugh, Michigan finished in AP’s top 15 only twice.
It took Harbaugh just two years to match that total. What makes that impressive is his two successful seasons proceeded two seasons in which Michigan had a combined record of 12-13. Many of the players he used to guide his team to a 20-6 record over two years were on those teams that did so poorly.
While it is true that Harbaugh and his Wolverines had a down year last year, going 8-5, what is important to remember is none of Harbaugh’s recruits have been old enough to have a real impact. This is the year where Harbaugh’s true talents will come into the fold, the first of his top-five recruiting classes will be juniors and start to have a real impact on the field.
This is the year where Harbaugh will prove unequivocally that he is the Big Ten’s best coach.
— Jordan Zuniga
In Big Ten football, there are plenty of good coaches that have had recent success, such as Kirk Ferentz, Jim Harbaugh, and James Franklin, but Urban Meyer’s success at Florida and Ohio State has established him as not only the best coach in the Big Ten but one of the best in the nation.
Since 2001, Meyer has been the head coach for four schools: Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State, progressively turning around all programs during his tenure.
In 2001, when Meyer accepted his first coaching job, at Bowling Green, he led one of the best turnarounds in college-football history. After going 2-9 during the 2000 season, Meyer followed that by going 8-3 and earning conference Coach of the Year.
The following year, Bowling Green went 9-3, which led to the next opportunity for Meyer, accepting the head-coach position at Utah.
There, Meyer earned Mountain West Coach of the Year in just his first season, going 10-2. His second season at Utah ended up with an undefeated campaign, capped with a Fiesta Bowl win over Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Alex Smith was the driving force behind the undefeated season, finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Meyer’s success was led by his spread offense, which often put defenses on edge.
After quick two years at Utah, Meyer moved on to Florida, where he won two national championships. He had success with the same offensive scheme he used at Bowling Green and Utah, resulting in iconic quarterback Tim Tebow winning the Heisman in 2007.
He spent six years at Florida before taking a year off from coaching, then bouncing to Ohio State. In 2012 he won another national championship with his third-string quarterback, which shows how lethal of an offensive coach he is. It’s safe to say Meyer has had a great career and has established himself as the best coach in the Big Ten.
– Patrick Lynch