With the NCAA tournament brackets out, I wanted to look at a cross-sport topic that covers both college hoops and college football. The idea for today's entry comes from a Mike Bianchi column I read this morning, saying that Billy Donovan, not Bobby Bowden, is the state of Florida's greatest college coach. That kinda surprised me, and I'd still go with Bowden at this point, but Bianchi makes his case.
He has created an elite program out of nothing. But unlike Bobby, he's done it in a sport that for far too long has been treated as a second-class citizen in this football-fanatical pigskin peninsula.
Some states you just think are overwhelmingly one or the other. Kentucky, for example, is a basketball state, while Alabama is a football state. But picking the top college coach in the state's history doesn't always follow suit. Bob Knight won three national titles at Indiana and is truly an iconic figure in the coaching world, but Notre Dame's Knute Rockne might be an even bigger figure. During just 13 seasons at ND, his teams went 105-12-5 and won five national titles. Rockne was also credited with several coaching innovations in the sport before he died in a plane crash at 43.
Anyhow, if you try to pick the greatest college coach of all time in each state's history between basketball and football, you can get some pretty heated debates all around. (I'm keeping it to hoops and football, not adding gymnastics, women's soccer, wrestling, golf or other sports, and I'm trying to limit it to coaches who spent the majority of their time at one school.) I'm pretty sure I've probably accidentally omitted some legendary coach at a smaller school in their state.
To read Bruce Feldman's list of the best NCAA coaches of all time in each state, you must be an ESPN Insider.