Who is the best all-time NCAA college football coach? That's a tough question. There are lots of candidates; lots of great coaches. But, one stands out.
The greatest college football coach ever stands out, not only because of what he accomplished on the football field, but also because of what those accomplishes meant to his entire state. That coach was:
Alabama Crimson Tide Football is, and forever will be, highly regarded by football fans, of every stripe, from Coast to Coast. Alabama football fans have Bear Bryant to thank for that.
Alabama football fans - both young and old - recognize the man with the infamous houndstooth hat and stern gaze. In a state where college football is king; Bear Bryant is still king of college football.
In 25 years coaching at Alabama, Bryant led his teams to
Alabama football will forever contentedly rest in the great shadow of Bear Bryant. Indeed, the Tide's great stadium, "Bryant-Denny", is named after him as well as a high school and major street on the University of Alabama campus.
The one and only Paul W. "Bear" Bryant. Thanks to Historic Photos of University of Alabama Football for this picture. You can purchase the book at:
But, for Bear Bryant, there was life even before Alabama.
He started at Maryland; later coached at Kentucky, and then at Texas A & M -- all before Alabama. At each stop, Coach Bryant got the most out of the talent he had to work with. [If you are interested in Bear Bryant's record vs Kentucky (his alma mater) as well as the records of other college football coaches vs their alma maters, check out Coaches Record vs Alma Mater.]
At the University of Maryland, he took on the head coaching job in 1945, and in his only season, led the team to a 6-2-1 record. Of the four college football teams Bryant coached, this was the only school he didn't win a championship with. Of course he was only at Maryland for one year.
Following his short-lived stint with the Terrapins, Bryant coached the University of Kentucky for eight seasons. During that time, the Wildcats made their first bowl appearance in 1947 and brought home their first, and only, SEC title in 1950 (and beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl).
In 1954, Texas A & M became Bryant's next home where he was both head coach and athletic director.
In 38 years as a head coach for four teams; Bear Bryant only had one losing season. That season was his first year at Texas A & M (1954) when the Aggies went 1-9. However, Bryant led them to a 7-2-1 season the next year. Then, in 1956, the Aggies went 9-0-1 and were crowned Champions of the Southwest Athletic Conference.
At the end of the 1957 season, Bear Bryant returned to coach his alma mater, the Alabama Crimson Tide. He had played end for the University of Alabama football team while in college, and was part of Alabama's 1934 national championship team. Upon his return, Bryant was named head football coach and athletic director.
As had been the case at Texas A & M, Bryant's first year at Alabama, was his toughest. The Tide went 5-4-1 and 3-4-1 in conference play in 1958. But, that was a dramatic improvement for Alabama which had won a combined total of only four games the previous three years! For Bama fans, Bryant brought an end to losing records.
In 1959, the Bear forever won the hearts of Bama fans with a win over Auburn and an appearance in a bowl game. Neither of these things had happened for Alabama in over half a decade.
And, that was just the beginning. Bryant led the Tide to 24 straight winning seasons. Most of those years the Tide were at the top of the SEC, if not the Nation. In fact, incredibly, in the majority of those years, the Tide lost no more than 2 games. They went undefeated overall three times and undefeated in the SEC numerous times.
The Bear completely turned the Alabama football program upside down (well, right side up) with his tough love and endearing personality. During those years, Alabama fans enjoyed quarterback, Joe Namath; the wishbone offense; and 24 straight bowl appearances. Bryant's Alabama teams also captured a total of six National Titles (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979).
The Bear retired in 1982 with a career record of 323-85-17 (.780). At the time of his retirement he had won more college football games than any coach in the history of college football.
As good as Bear Bryant was for Alabama football; it has been tough for the coaches who have followed in his footsteps. It's tough to fill the shoes of a legend. It's impossible to fill the shoes of Bear Bryant - the greatest all-time college football coach.
Nick Saban -- best of luck!
You can find LOT'S more stats about Bear Bryant and other top all-time SEC football coaches at Best All-Time SEC Football Coach. And, some are beginning to make the case that another Alabama football coach, Nick Saban, could soon be considered the best ever.
You might be interested in our take on the Top Ten Current College Football Coaches. To read more about Bear Bryant check out Bear Bryant Biography. You can read a bit about Bear Bryant and other great SEC coaches at:
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Best All-Time NCAA College Football Coach
Best All-Time NCAA College Football Coach
Best All-Time NCAA College Football Coach
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