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College Football: Schools With the Most Pro Head Coaches

Posted by Andrew McKillop on July 15, 2011

Site News: Over the next few weeks I’m going to implement some major changes/improvements to SportsDelve.  To start SportsDelve is now on Twitter.  Be sure to follow SportsDelve.  What you will find at SportsDelve’s Twitter page, are highlights from my posts.

Most of my posts can be lengthy, mainly because I like to give people as much information as possible, but I also understand people might not have the time to go through every post.  Starting with today’s post, I will now start each posts with some of it’s highlights.  These highlights will also be posted over on SportsDelve’s Twitter feed.

Post Highlights

  • Stanford has had the most former and/or future pro head coaches (8), serve as their head coach.
  • Over 1/3rd of all pro head coaches, spent time head coaching college football, before and/or after their pro careers.
  • Head coaches at the University of California, have won the most games head coaching in the pros (322-251-5).
  • Hal Hunter had a “cup of coffee” head coaching (interim) both in college football and the pros. He was 1-0 with LSU in 1999, and 0-1 with the Colts in 1984.
  • Both Miami (FL) and Stanford have had stretches, in which they hired five consecutive former and/or future pro head coaches.



This off-season the San Francisco 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh away from Stanford.  Harbaugh is now the 8th Stanford head coach, to now have also been a major professional head coach.  No college football program has had more of their head coaches spend time as professional head coaches, than Stanford.

The list below shows every school that has had two or more former and/or future pro head coaches, serve in the role of head coach at their school.

Legend: Div (Division/organization the school is currently a part of), Coaches (# of total pro head coaches at the school), NFL Yrs (Total number of years the coaches spent in the NFL), W-L-T-W Pct (Combined record coaches attained in the pros), Champ (League champions won in the pros)

The list includes the coaches from the pro leagues: AAFC, AFL, and NFL.

I have also included a link to a list of all-time coaches, for the “top” schools on the list below.  Courtesy of College Football Data Warehouse.

School Div Coaches NFL Yrs W L T W Pct. Chmp
Stanford 1-FBS 8 40 295 279 10 0.514 3
Notre Dame 1-FBS 6 24 117 160 10 0.425 1
Arizona St 1-FBS 5 18 96 152 5 0.389 0
Boston College 1-FBS 5 33 224 236 10 0.487 1
California 1-FBS 5 41 322 251 5 0.561 1
Lafayette 1-FCS 5 13 69 73 5 0.486 0
Miami (FL) 1-FBS 5 37 243 266 7 0.478 4
North Carolina St 1-FBS 5 19 119 78 8 0.600 2
Pittsburgh 1-FBS 5 25 163 161 10 0.503 0
USC 1-FBS 5 26 170 216 1 0.441 0
Michigan St 1-FBS 4 17 97 109 12 0.472 1
Navy 1-FBS 4 7 32 34 1 0.485 0
Northwestern 1-FBS 4 32 211 211 8 0.500 2
Oklahoma 1-FBS 4 14 99 96 0 0.508 1
Oregon St 1-FBS 4 20 103 170 5 0.379 0
Wake Forest 1-FBS 4 8 63 51 1 0.552 0
Alabama 1-FBS 3 14 80 126 1 0.389 0
Arkansas 1-FBS 3 4 7 33 0 0.175 0
Army 1-FBS 3 27 178 173 8 0.507 2
Cincinnati 1-FBS 3 21 132 126 7 0.511 1
School Div Coaches NFL Yrs W L T W Pct. Chmp
Dayton 1-FCS 3 8 30 47 4 0.395 0
Georgia Tech 1-FBS 3 14 107 102 1 0.512 0
Gonzaga Defunct 3 18 107 84 8 0.558 2
Illinois 1-FBS 3 7 49 54 0 0.476 0
Indiana 1-FBS 3 17 99 146 0 0.404 0
LSU 1-FBS 3 6 22 46 0 0.324 0
Maryland 1-FBS 3 27 183 169 10 0.519 2
Nebraska 1-FBS 3 13 83 63 15 0.562 1
New Mexico 1-FBS 3 22 171 129 3 0.569 0
Oregon 1-FBS 3 6 23 43 1 0.351 0
Purdue 1-FBS 3 9 33 60 3 0.359 0
Rice 1-FBS 3 5 10 42 0 0.192 0
San Francisco Defunct 3 14 66 110 4 0.378 0
San Jose St 1-FBS 3 13 78 89 6 0.468 0
Santa Clara Defunct 3 16 112 76 7 0.592 2
SMU 1-FBS 3 24 151 171 1 0.469 0
Texas A&M 1-FBS 3 11 82 78 2 0.512 0
Toledo 1-FBS 3 5 26 39 0 0.400 0
Virginia 1-FBS 3 12 74 50 6 0.592 2
Wash. & Jefferson (PA) 3 3 13 74 64 8 0.534 2
School Div Coaches NFL Yrs W L T W Pct Chmp
West Virginia 1-FBS 3 15 93 63 8 0.591 2
William & Mary 1-FCS 3 19 148 134 0 0.525 0
Air Force 1-FBS 2 31 262 185 6 0.585 3
Arkansas St 1-FBS 2 9 46 85 0 0.351 0
Auburn 1-FBS 2 2 3 17 0 0.150 0
Boston U Defunct 2 4 9 38 0 0.191 0
Catholic (DC) 3 2 2 7 9 1 0.441 0
Cornell 1-FCS 2 12 115 75 0 0.605 2
Detroit Defunct 2 11 50 65 4 0.437 0
Florida 1-FBS 2 4 20 26 2 0.438 0
Harvard 1-FCS 2 3 15 16 2 0.485 0
Hawaii 1-FBS 2 6 36 43 3 0.457 0
Idaho 1-FBS 2 9 57 83 0 0.407 0
Iowa 1-FBS 2 8 57 55 1 0.509 0
Kentucky 1-FBS 2 10 89 53 2 0.625 1
Lake Forest (IL) 3 2 13 88 74 14 0.540 2
Louisville 1-FBS 2 3 7 23 0 0.233 0
Marquette Defunct 2 9 48 48 5 0.500 0
Massachusetts 1-FCS 2 3 10 32 0 0.238 0
Missouri 1-FBS 2 7 37 53 4 0.415 0
School Div Coaches NFL Yrs W L T W Pct Chmp
Montana 1-FCS 2 4 9 23 2 0.294 0
New Haven (CT) 2 2 5 30 50 0 0.375 0
NYU Defunct 2 4 9 22 2 0.303 0
Pennsylvania 1-FCS 2 5 21 29 3 0.425 0
RIT (NY) Defunct 2 22 178 155 5 0.534 1
South Carolina 1-FBS 2 3 15 30 0 0.333 0
St. Louis Defunct 2 5 24 13 2 0.641 1
St. Mary’s (CA) Defunct 2 8 37 57 2 0.396 0
Texas 1-FBS 2 5 32 40 2 0.446 0
Tulane 1-FBS 2 6 33 32 7 0.507 0
UCLA 1-FBS 2 22 155 160 2 0.492 1
UNLV 1-FBS 2 18 129 118 0 0.522 0
UTEP 1-FBS 2 13 93 90 0 0.508 0
Vanderbilt 1-FBS 2 4 9 33 1 0.221 0
Villanova 1-FCS 2 3 9 24 1 0.279 0
Washington St 1-FBS 2 8 51 67 2 0.433 0
West Virginia Wesleyan 2 2 12 73 53 9 0.574 2
Whittier (CA) 3 2 26 227 130 6 0.634 0
Wyoming 1-FBS 2 8 51 67 2 0.433 0



Clemson, Mississippi St, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin are the only major schools to never have hired a head coach, that was a former and/or future pro head coach.


Stanford might have had the most pro head coaches as their own, but former and/or future pro head coaches at the University of California have won the most games in the pros.  Check out the list below.

School Coaches W L T W Pct Chmp NFL Yrs
California 5 322 251 5 0.561 1 41
Stanford 8 295 279 10 0.514 3 40
Air Force 2 262 185 6 0.585 3 31
Miami (FL) 5 243 266 7 0.478 4 37
Whittier (CA) 2 227 130 6 0.634 0 26
Boston College 5 224 236 10 0.487 1 33
Ohio St 1 213 104 9 0.667 7 25
Northwestern 4 211 211 8 0.500 2 32



Air Force and Whittier College have only had two former and/or future head coaches as their own, but what a set of future and/or former coaching stars they had.  Buck Shaw (1956-57) and Bill Parcells (1978) were once the main men at Air Force.  While George Allen (1951-56), and Don Coryell (1957-59) were once at the helm at Whittier College back to back; clearly in the 1950′s, the Poets knew coaching talent when they saw it.


Former Ohio State head coaches, or maybe I should say coach, have won the most titles in the pros.  Paul Brown the former Buckeyes coach, won seven titles as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.  Former coaches at Miami (FL) have won four pro titles; Jimmy Johnson and Lou Saban winning two titles.


Of the 454 pro head coaches listed at Pro-Football-Reference, 172 (38%) of them spent time as a head coach in the college ranks, either before and/or after their pro coaching careers.

Of those 172 coaches mentioned above, 93 of them (54%) coached in the college ranks before becoming  NFL head coaches.  While 35 coaches (20%), took their first college head coaching job after being a head coach in the NFL.  Meanwhile 44 coaches (26%) started in the college ranks, moved to the pros, to only then return to the college ranks.


Remarkably it’s not an uncommon occurrence to see a pro coach, to return back to the college ranks to a school where they coached at before they went to the pros.

Coach  School 1st Stint Pros 2nd Stint
Adam Walsh Bowdoin (ME) 1935-42 CLER/LARM: 1945-46 1947-58
Jim Leonard St. Francis (PA) 1938-41 PIT: 1945 1947
Hugh Devore Notre Dame 1945 GB: 1953, PHI: 1956-57 1963
Lisle Blackbourn Marquette 1950-53 GB: 1954-57 1959-60
Otto Graham Coast Guard (CT) 1959-65 WAS: 1966-68 1974-75
John Robinson USC 1976-82 LARM: 1983-91 1993-97
Bill Walsh Stanford 1977-78 SF: 1979-88 1992-94
Dennis Erickson Idaho 1982-85 SEA: 1995-98, SF: 2003-04 2006
Mike Riley Oregon St 1997-98 SD: 1999-01 2003-10



A few more interesting notes:

  • It doesn’t bode well for Steve Spurrier that national championship winning head coaches that left for the pros, have never won a national championship after they returned back to the college ranks.
  • Both Miami (FL) and Stanford went through stretches in which they hired five consecutive former and/or future pro head coaches.  From 1977-2000 Miami (FL) hired Lou Saban, Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, and Butch Davis.  From 1963-1983 Stanford hired John Ralston, Jack Christiansen, Bill Walsh, Rod Dowhower, and Paul Wiggin.
  • Hal Hunter was a head coach (interim) for just one game in both college and the pros.  He was 1-0 with LSU in 1999, and 0-1 with the Indianapolis Colts in 1984.



Reference: College Football Data Warehouse, Pro-Football-Reference, Wikipedia

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