It is hard for non-Americans to understand the passion and dedication that the USA has for college sports. Any fan of sports in the USA will have undoubtedly seen at least a couple of college games, and even non-fans are at least aware of their state’s college team. Many fans even prefer college sports over the professional leagues, citing the passion and drive of the athletes as a reason.
And of course, in the country where football is the uncontested most popular sport, college football would thrive. The college football season is one of the most watched and beloved sports seasons in the country. Fans gather to watch and cheer on their state’s team, and the athletes do what they can to get noticed and recognized by the professionals.
And while most often college players move on into the NFL, the opposite can be true of NFL coaches. There are quite a few cases where a coach has left the professional league, and thrived in the college scene. In this article, we are going to take a look at a few coaches who have gone from the pros and changed the game in college.
Often considered the greatest college football coach of all time, Nick Saban began his career as an assistant coach at several schools around the country in the late 70s and early 80s. By the end of the 80s, he took the head coach role in Toledo, and was already proving his mettle.
In 2004, many thought that Nick Saban had reached the peak of his coaching career, as he took the position of head coach for the NFL team, the Miami Dolphins. In his debut game, the Dolphins went up against the Denver Broncos, and won in a spectacular 34 – 10. However, from then on, it was a struggle.
Nick Saban spent three years with the Miami Dolphins. His time with the NFL team was marked by ups and downs. The team suffered some severe injuries, narrowly missed their playoffs, and lost some major games. It might have been these factors that might have led to Saban returning to college football.
In 2007, Nick Saban took a job as head coach at the University of Alabama. He holds this position to this day. During the 15+ years serving as Alabama’s head coach, Saban has elevated the team into the top ranks, and has gained the respect of his peers and fans as one of the greatest coaches in college football history.
It isn’t rare or strange for a retired player to take on the job as a coach or manager. Not just in football, but other sports as well. That is the story of Steve Spurrier, who began playing football in high school. His high school and college years of playing eventually led him to the professionals, and he was first recruited by the San Francisco 49ers.
Unfortunately, during his time with the 49ers, Spurrier could not show his stuff, in large part due to John Brodie’s dominance. Brodie was the 49ers’ ace, and one of the greatest quarterbacks of his time. He often carried the team, making them one of the most popular NFL teams to bet on during this time. Today, betting odds have changed significantly, and the 49ers are not the dominant force they once were.
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After his stint with the 49ers, Spurrier played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for. By the end of his playing career he had quite the resume, having played in over 100 games, and 40 touchdowns. His success on the field led him to try his hand off the field. Throughout his career as coach, Steve Spurrier has served both college and professional teams. His most notable contributions to coaching include his stint with the University of Florida, and the University of South Carolina. He also coached the Washington Redskins between 2002 and 2003.
Another example of player-turned-coach, Lou Holtz is the last big name we are taking a look at today. Unlike Spurrier though, Holtz’ football career is hugely eclipsed by his coaching career. He took on his first head coaching job in 1969. Serving as head coach of the William & Mary College, a year into his career he already led the team to the Southern Conference title.
From William & Mary, Holtz moved to the North Carolina State University. He quickly became one of the school’s top coaches of all time, and placed his first three teams in the Top 20 rankings. One of these placings included a final top 10 ranking, in 1974.
His achievements at the North Carolina State University got him noticed by the pros. In 1976, Holtz took his first and only dive into the professional world, serving as the head coach of the New York Jets. Within ten months, Holtz resigned as head coach of the Jets, claiming that he was not put on this earth to coach the pros.
From there, he returned to the college scene, serving as head coach of Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and South Carolina. He retired from coaching in 2004. Throughout his career he has published 10 books and has worked as the college football analyst for CBS Sports. Today, he is still regarded as one of the best college coaches of all time.
While the aforementioned three coaches are some of the greatest of all time, they are not the only ones worth paying attention to. The world of college football has seen some fantastic coaches who have dabbled in the professional scene. Among them, names to remember are Pete Carroll, Bobby Petrino, and Dennis Erickson, among others.