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The Top 10 College Football Coaches Ranked by All-Time Wins

College football has seen some extraordinary coaches who have led their teams to incredible success. The following list ranks the top 10 college football coaches based on their all-time wins. These coaches not only achieved remarkable records but also left lasting legacies in the world of college sports.

The Top 10 College Football Coaches Ranked by All-Time Wins

1. Joe Paterno, 409 Wins

Joe Paterno is the coach with the most wins in college football history, boasting 409 career victories. He dedicated his entire 46-year coaching career to Penn State. Under his leadership, the Nittany Lions achieved a 409-136-3 overall record. Paterno took the team to an impressive 37 bowl games, winning 24 of them.

He also won two national championships and had five seasons in which his team went undefeated. Remarkably, four of those undefeated teams won major bowl games but didn’t win a national championship. Paterno made history by winning all four major bowl games—Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar—as well as the Cotton Bowl Classic. His teams achieved 10 or more wins in 21 of his 46 seasons.

In 2012, as part of the Freech report regarding his involvement in the Penn State sex abuse scandal, 111 wins were vacated. In 2015, those wins were restored as part of a settlement between the NCAA and the school.

2. Bobby Bowden, 357 Wins

After starting his career at West Virginia, Bobby Bowden took the helm at Florida State in 1976. Under his leadership, the Seminoles won national championships in 1993 and 1999 along with 12 ACC championships after joining the conference in 1991. Bowden’s Seminoles achieved a remarkable streak, finishing as an AP top-5 team for 14 straight years.

His dominance in the ACC was clear, with only two conference losses in his first nine seasons. Bowden’s teams notched 10 or more wins in 18 of his 34 seasons at Florida State. By the end of his career, he held a record of 357-124-4 over 40 seasons.

3. Bear Bryant, 323 Wins

Bear Bryant is known for establishing strong football programs at Texas A&M and Alabama. At Alabama, he spent 25 years coaching the Crimson Tide, where he led the team to six national championships and 13 conference championships.

Before joining Alabama, Bryant coached at Maryland and Kentucky for nine seasons and then at Texas A&M, where he turned the team’s record from 1-9 in his first season to 9-0-1 by his third.

In total, Bryant’s teams finished with 10 or more wins in 15 of his 38 seasons and went undefeated four times. He retired with an impressive career record of 323-85-17.

4. Pop Warner, 311 Wins

Pop Warner was a legendary coach in college football, leading seven different teams between 1895 and 1940. Over his long career, Warner amassed 319 wins, 106 losses, and 32 ties. He had a knack for turning teams into powerhouses. Warner’s teams won four national championships: three with Pittsburgh (1915, 1916, and 1918) and one with Stanford (1926).

Perhaps his most famous tenure was at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where he coached for 13 years and achieved a 113-43-8 record. After Carlisle, he went on to great success at Pittsburgh and Stanford, maintaining winning records at both programs. Warner’s ability to consistently lead his teams to success made him a coaching legend.

5. Nick Saban, 297 Wins

Nick Saban is a name that stands out in the world of college football. Saban led LSU to a BCS National Championship in 2003 and later led Alabama to multiple championships, including BCS National titles in 2009, 2011, and 2012. He didn’t stop there; under his guidance, Alabama also claimed College Football Playoff championships in 2015, 2017, and 2020. Saban’s seven national titles are the most in college football history. Since the College Football Playoff began in 2014, Saban and Alabama made it every season but two, the most of any school.

Besides all those wins, Saban and Bear Bryant are unique as they are the only coaches who have won an SEC championship at two different schools. Over his 27-year coaching career at four different programs, Saban never had a losing season and celebrated 18 seasons with 10 or more wins, resulting in a stunning career record of 297-71-1. Saban retired following the 2023 season.

6. Amos Alonzo Stagg, 282 Wins

Amos Alonzo Stagg was a major figure in college football. He coached at the International YMCA Training School, the University of Chicago, and the College of the Pacific. Over his career, he achieved 314 wins, 199 losses, and 35 ties, giving him a .605 winning percentage. His teams at the University of Chicago were especially strong, with undefeated seasons in 1905 and 1913, which earned them national championship titles.

Stagg was also influential in other sports; he helped develop basketball into a five-player sport. He was honored by being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.

7. Mack Brown, 276 Wins

Mack Brown is currently coaching at North Carolina in his second stint. This season, he led the Tar Heels to an 8-5 record. Brown’s coaching journey started in 1985 at Tulane, and he has achieved a 107-73-1 record at UNC and a 158-48 record at Texas. At UNC, he is the winningest coach in the school’s history.

While at Texas, he ranks second in wins, just 11 shy of the legendary Darrell Royal. One of his crowning achievements was leading Texas to an undefeated season and a national championship by defeating top-ranked USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl, often cited as one of the greatest college football games ever. Over his career, he has a record of 276-144-1.

8. Lavell Edwards, 257 Wins

LaVell Edwards became the head coach at BYU in 1972 and stayed until 2000. Over his 28-year career, Edwards won 257 games and lost 101. One of his greatest accomplishments was leading BYU to a national championship in 1984.

He also coached Ty Detmer, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1990. Before his final game, BYU renamed Cougar Stadium to LaVell Edwards Stadium in honor of his contributions. During his time as coach, the stadium’s capacity grew from 35,000 to over 65,000 seats.

9. Tom Osborne, 255 Wins

Tom Osborne coached at Nebraska for his entire 25-year career. He is known for his I-formation offense and his focus on strength, conditioning, and nutrition. Osborne won 255 games, lost 49, and tied 3, achieving a .836 winning percentage.

His teams won 13 conference titles and three national championships. Osborne coached 53 All-Americans, including the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, Mike Rozier. In his last five seasons, his teams had an impressive 60-3 record, with his final game being a national championship win over Tennessee, 42-17. It was Osborne and Nebraska’s third national title in four years. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

10. Lou Holtz, 249 Wins

Lou Holtz started coaching at William & Mary in 1969. He later coached at NC State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Holtz is special because he took six different teams to bowl games. His 1988 Notre Dame team had a perfect season and won the Fiesta Bowl to become national champions. With Notre Dame alone, his record was 100-30-2. Overall, he won 249 games, lost 132, and tied 7 times. He is the only coach to have four different programs finish in the top 20 rankings.

The Takeaway

The rankings of these top 10 college football coaches by all-time wins illustrate their extraordinary dedication and expertise in the sport. Each coach not only amassed a significant number of victories but also left an indelible mark on their respective programs and college football history. From Joe Paterno’s dominant tenure at Penn State to Lou Holtz’s transformative impact at multiple schools, these coaches have shaped the game in unique ways.

As we look forward to future seasons, fans might start to wonder about the potential of current teams and coaches. For instance, bettors often keep a close eye on the Kansas State Wildcats odds to gauge their chances of success under new coaching strategies and team dynamics. This blend of historical greatness and future potential keeps the excitement of college football alive and well.

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