The Sporting News has decided this spring that they're going to rank the coaches in every conference. Well, today, they finally got around to the Pac-12 and place Kyle Whittingham fourth on their list - behind Chip Kelly, Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin.
While the top coach is a no-brainer, as Kelly has easily proven himself one of the best coaches in the country, I am a bit perplexed why Leach is ranked 2nd. I think he's a very good coach, clearly, and he very well may grow into the 2nd best coach in the conference - but he's still not coached a game yet in the Pac-12. And while he had flashy offenses and exciting teams at Texas Tech, what has he done to be placed above Whittingham?
I guess that's my question. I think Leach is deserving of a high ranking, but I question placing him that high. He did do great in 2008, guiding the Red Raiders to an 11-2 season - but that's the only ten-win season he's ever had as a coach and his overall winning percentage, 66-percent, doesn't exactly have greatness written all over it.
I know, I know! But he did it in Lubbock! And if you've been to Lubbock, you'd know how difficult it is to pull in recruits and win there. I get that. I respect that. Hell, I agree with it. The fact he was able to sustain winning in Lubbock shows just how great of a coach he is and I'm not disputing that. He's a great coach and I expect he'll continue being a great coach in a similarly tough place to coach - Pullman, Washington.
Still, this is about besting Whittingham and I just don't see it. Whittingham has the better overall winning percentage, more ten-win seasons, a better bowl record and, more importantly, something that seems to be often ignored by many when compiling these lists, an undefeated season.
Whittingham's best season also came in 2008, when he guided Utah to perfection, a number two ranking nationally and a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. Leach, for all he's done, still could not get Texas Tech to a BCS bowl game and maybe that's solely because of where he coached and not necessarily about his skills. But, in the end, Whittingham has done it - Leach hasn't.
So, where do you come down on this debate? I think Whittingham is the second best coach in the conference and will probably put him there when I do my annual rankings later this season. I can, however, see the justification for putting Kiffin at number two based on what he did last year. But putting Leach above Whittingham seems to be done only because of this unreasonable legend status he attained in the wake of his firing at Texas Tech. I get it. Leach is a fun guy. He's awesome. He's great all around - but on resume, on wins and losses, bowl success, top-25 success, BCS success, none of that matters. At least, it shouldn't. There, plain old boring Whittingham wins.