It’s the time of year when we usually talk about the coaches who flopped on their way out the door of their respective schools. But there are many who did remarkable jobs in their first seasons as FBS head coaches. We look at the Top 10 from 2011 based on expectations, results and the program’s history.
10. Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois)
Doeren inherited an 11-win team that was the best in the MAC in 2010 despite not winning the conference title. A year later, the Huskies won 10 under Doeren but, this time, hoisted the conference trophy with a win over Ohio in the championship game. They will take on Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Sunday. With 11 starters returning – including senior QB Chandler Harnish – we commend Doeren for helping NIU get over the top but know that he had a lot with which to work.
9. David Shaw (Stanford)
Listen, we think that Shaw is going to have a very good career at Stanford. It’s never easy to win 11 games at 39-years old in your first season as a head coach. The Cardinal earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl and lost in overtime to high-powered Oklahoma State. But when Andrew Luck – the most-heralded college quarterback in more than a decade – is your meal ticket, life is pretty good. With a coach on the field, this is the most praise we will give Shaw for his performance on the sideline – especially after he received lots of blame for the BCS bowl loss.
8. Pete Lembo (Ball State)
Lembo equaled the win total of his predecessor, Stan Parrish, in just one season. Parrish went 6-19 in two-plus campaigns with the Cardinals, who have never won a bowl game in their history. Lembo has the team dreaming of doing so at 6-6, but we would have him higher on this list if he had a winning season or if the Big Ten team Ball State beat were anyone but Indiana. Sorry, Hoosiers fans.
7. Steve Addazio (Temple)
Addazio has a history as an assistant coach that dates to 1995; most recently, he was maligned as the offensive coordinator at Florida. His only previous head-coaching experience came from 1988-94 at Connecticut’s Cheshire High School. Not exactly a resume without holes. But taking his cue from Al Golden – who moved on to Miami (FL) – Addazio guided the Owls to nine wins, their first bowl victory since 1979 and the second in school history. Not bad for an FBS head-coaching newbie.
6. Bill Blankenship (Tulsa)
It looked as if Blankenship had inherited an incredible situation, taking over Todd Graham’s 10-win team that was returning 18 starters. But Blankenship lost star receiver Damaris Johnson, the NCAA’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards, who was arrested for felony embezzlement in August. In addition, the Golden Hurricane were able to navigate a a grueling non-conference schedule – bouncing back from losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State – to earn an eight-win season. Not an easy accomplishment.
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