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PFB Roundtable: The Big 12 Coach We’d Choose to Build a Program With

You’re starting a brand new college football program. Pick a Big 12 head coach to lead it.



Marshall Scott recently wrote a post including his ranking of the Big 12’s coaches, and it generated plenty of conversation in the PFB Slack chat. So we thought we’d share some of the ramblings that followed.

One question: If you were starting a new college football program, which Big 12 coach would you choose?

Marshall Scott: Is it cheating to say Lincoln Riley?

Kyle Cox: I think you have to go with an up-and-comer or at least a younger coach who has the energy to handle an upstart, recruiting from scratch, etc.

Kyle Boone: I think the obvious answer is Lincoln Riley just because of how he has taken the reins of OU and made it a perennial contender and a recruiting force. But I actually would take — no pandering, no fingers crossed and no B.S. — Mike Gundy.

Scott: Do tell.

Boone: The way he runs the program from top to bottom is something I don’t think he gets enough credit for, and it’s something no other coach in the Big 12 does. From recruiting to strength and conditioning to organizing visits to scouting, he has his hands on everything whereas most coaches only worry about recruiting + coaching or coaching + pandering to boosters. He’s a true CEO figure that runs the whole thing.

Cox: I see that side for sure. You could do much worse than Gundy from an organizational standpoint, and he’s produced a consistent winner.

Scott: I see that and no doubt have respect for Gundy in that aspect. That being said, if I couldn’t go with Riley, I think I’d take Matt Campbell, especially for a new program. He has proven he can take a team that was struggling to an above average level. With what Cox was saying, he’s also young.

Boone: I would argue no coach has done significantly more with significantly less resources at his disposal. He’s probably too old to build another OSU — to take a middling program and build it into what OSU is — but he has the goods on what to implement, how to implement it, who to know, what to know, etc. to build a solid thing from scratch still.

Boone: Gundy’s only 51! You’re acting like he’s riding his donkey, Blackjack, into the sunset!

Cox: So this is your wish list, right? Presuming you’re Louisiana A&M with an unlimited budget and you’re filling out the top of your list.

If so, I’d go Riley, Gundy, Campbell, Rhule.

Boone: Yeah. I’d go Gundy, Campbell, Riley, Rhule.

Cox: After that I think there’s a drop off but some intriguing candidates.

Scott: I’d go Riley, Campbell, Gundy, Klieman.

Cox: We don’t know much about Neal Brown yet but he could have some upside.

Boone: No offense to the Linc, but I’m pretty sure Pat Jones could lead OU to a few Big 12 titles if he also inherited the same roster and talent that Riley did at OU.

Scott: Klieman has proved he can build a winner without a ton of resources in terms of players with the dynasty he created at North Dakota State.

Cox: I like Klieman too.

Scott: Yeah, but Riley has also been an elite recruiter to this point.

Boone: He’s sent a few tweets. Big whoop. Easy to win in recruiting when you’re winning on the field, which I think most coaches could do at OU under the circumstances he inherited.

Cox: So that begs the question. Is Riley that much of a better coach than Bob Stoops? Or did they just get lucky having Baker Mayfield on the back burner. (I know that’s a huge over simplification)

Kyle Porter: My plane is taxiing down the runway (I fly, and I travel, and I’m on tv nbd), but my short take: Zero percent chance OU trades 35-yo Lincoln for 35-yo Gundy. Forget all the other stuff, Riley is just much smarter (at that age and experience level) about running a program.



Cox: The point being, OU got better all around when he took over, almost instantly.

Scott: I’m not sure he is as good as prime Stoops, but I’d say he was better than what Stoops was at the end.

Boone: I think it has been a perfect storm for Riley. He took over when two of the best college quarterbacks were coming in, and at a time when offensive production and creation were more important than anything in football.

Boone: That’s true @porter and probably something Gundy would admit himself. He’s not always been a CEO figure like he is today.

Porter: This is the crazy part! Either Riley was going to be better than the best coach in OU history (plz don’t come at me with WW2 coaches) or OSU was hitting its window. Unfortunately it looks like the former.

Scott: One guy who hasn’t been mentioned yet: Tom Herman. Any hot takes?

Porter: ✈✌

Boone: I think he’ll be gone by 2021.

Cox: It’s hard for me to separate him from his on-screen persona. And I don’t like his on-screen persona.

Scott: I think his situation is very specific to Texas, being an alum and what-not.

Boone: He’s a lot like Harbaugh: set in his ways, wants to win with defense, probably going to go down with the ship in a traditional offense scoring 13.5 points per game.

Cox: If UT makes it to the Arlington every other year, he’ll be fine. But if it settles back to the mean, it won’t matter where he went to school.

Boone: Which is hilarious because Herman was hired because of his offensive innovation. He was Lincoln Riley before Lincoln Riley, and his offenses have been average at best.

Scott: He was good at Houston, but Houston is a good place to be in terms of Group of Five (ask Holgorsen), so I don’t know how effective it could be elsewhere.

Boone: He was awesome at Ohio State, too. Just crushed it. Then went to Texas and thus far has mostly done about what his predecessors have done: not much!

Cox: So mine is 1. Riley 2. Gundy 3. Campbell 4. Rhule 5. Klieman 6. Patterson 7. Wells 8. Herman 9. Miles 10. Brown

Boone: Totally fair. Yikes on Herman. Because I agree.

Scott: I’d move Campbell ahead of Gundy and Klieman ahead of Rhule, and maybe Herman up a spot or two, but for a young program, I’m not sure there is a totally wrong answer with these guys. They’ve made it to the Big 12 for a reason.

Cox: I agree. For all we know Brown is a stud.

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