Rating the Mountain West Coaches Part III

I guess this is turning into an annual event here, since so much changes over the course of a year. In the summer of 2007, I originally rated the coaches and did a follow up last April.

Since my first rankings, only Gary Patterson, Bronco Mendenhall, Kyle Whittingham and Mike Sanford remain (Calhoun had not made the cut in my original rankings). That's a pretty small number and shows just how staggering the instability was for the Mountain West -- especially last year. 

But I expect there to be a bit more calm, at least for the next couple of years. Maybe the 2010 and beyond rankings won't be as turbulent. 

So we begin by reviewing 2008's rankings:

1. Bronco Mendenhall

2. Gary Patterson

3. Kyle Whittingham

4. Rocky Long

5. Troy Calhoun

6. Joe Glenn

7. Chuck Long

8. Mike Sanford

Steve Fairchild was left off the list, since 2008 marked his first season with Colorado State. 

Now looking at the 2008 rankings, you see just how many coaches don't belong anymore. Rocky Long, Joe Glenn and Chuck Long all were essentially fired from their jobs. Mike Sanford -- the guy most thought would get the boot before the season began -- returned. 

My first reaction is that the bottom-half is pretty accurate. Outside of Calhoun, who had only coached one season, the rest performed well below average last season. That's why most aren't returning for the 2009 season. 

Before I move to the 2009 rankings, it's important to note I won't include coaches who are beginning their first year with a Mountain West team. That means Steve Fairchild will be added, but three other coaches will be taken off the list. 

Now that I have this all cleared up, here are the 2009 rankings...

1. Kyle Whittingham (4 seasons, 37-14):

Whittingham was third in last year's rankings, but shot up the list with a 13-0 campaign. The Utes not only went undefeated, they broke into the BCS and won the 2009 Sugar Bowl over 4th ranked Alabama. That was a huge victory for the Utes -- program defining, in fact. That season provided Whittingham something no other coach can claim in the conference and until another does, it's hard to put any of them ahead of him. 

2. Gary Patterson (9 seasons, 73-27):

Patterson is a good coach and has done a wonderful job at TCU, but he's still yet to get them to a BCS bowl. Entering his tenth season, this may be the last chance the Frogs have of doing just that and if they come up short again, just being good might be all Patterson can hope to attain. 

3. Bronco Mendenhall (4 seasons, 38-13):

Even though his record is essentially identical to Whittingham's and he owns one more conference championship, there does seem to be a growing gap between the two. His Cougars have only managed to defeat one ranked opponent since he arrived there: TCU in 2006 (who Utah also beat). They're only 2-2 in bowl games and with everything seemingly going their way prior to last year, they failed to not only bust the BCS, but finish with one memorable victory over a good team. With that said, Bronco can regain control of this list if he gets the Cougars to a BCS bowl game this season. If he doesn't and it's another 11-2 or 10-3 campaign, a ceiling may have been hit in Provo.

4. Troy Calhoun (2 seasons, 17-9):

Calhoun burst onto the stage with an impressive 9-win season in 2007. While the Falcons took a bit of a step back last year, they still managed to play in a bowl game (another loss) and put together two straight winning seasons for the first time since earlier this decade. Can Calhoun take it to the next step and actually win a conference championship at Air Force? Well that's the unknown question, but I wouldn't bet against him. 

5. Steve Fairchild (1 season, 7-6):

It wasn't an impressive season by any means. The Rams didn't get any major win over a BCS team or contend for the Mountain West championship, but they still won enough games -- and their bowl game -- to finish with a winning record. That was a surprise, since Fairchild inherited a team lacking talent. 

Take note Mike Sanford, turning around a program can be done if you win the games you're supposed to and that's exactly how Fairchild did it in his first year. CSU didn't pull any upsets, but they beat the lower-level teams on their schedule and that was enough of a starting point to what could be a quick turnaround in Fort Collins.

6. Mike Sanford (4 seasons, 11-36):

Even though Mike Sanford got the Rebels to 5-wins (3 more than in any season since arriving there), I can't help but think he's just twisting in the wind. It became obvious when the Rebels were a victory away from notching a bowl berth and they not only lost to the woeful Aztecs, but got pounded by the woeful Aztecs. You don't lose a must-win game that can finally get your team back to postseason play -- especially if the opponent is terrible.

This season might be it for Sanford, as another losing campaign probably means we'll have one less person on our list next year. 

Mike Locksley (New Mexico), Brady Hoke (San Diego State) and Dave Christensen (Wyoming) all begin their first seasons with their new teams this year and will make next year's list. 

That's it. Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

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