Wednesday, January 27, 2010
2009-10 NCAA Football Family Atmosphere Rankings
Money, egos, and poor decisions can derail the Football Family Atmosphere. Unfortunately, this year featured more dysfunctional families than usual. Mike Leach and Mark Mangino didn’t receive many ‘Coach of the Year’ votes, and Lane Kiffin bolted in the night after one year on the job.
While negative headlines captured the media attention, there were more than a dozen programs and coaches developing their athletes for football and beyond.
We’ve recognized the programs that provide student-athletes leadership, loyalty, team unity, and integrity. College Football Live! spent the last year collecting and maintaining a database of positive examples and incidents that demonstrate Football Family Atmosphere traits.
Our panel of experts from across the country conducted independent searches, and researched as many examples as possible before voting on this year’s Football Family Atmosphere Awards. We use the previous year’s list as a guide, but the majority of voting is based on events in the 2009-10 season.
2009-10 TOP FAMILY ATMOSPHERE PROGRAMS
Programs going through coaching changes this year were not eligible for this list. Most of the programs listed below have had the core coaching staff in place for two or more years. Data for determining the top programs was collected after January 2009.
1. OREGON STATE BEAVERS
Head of the Family: Mike Riley
2009 Ranking; #1
2008 Ranking: #1
Even the powerful Southern California Cartel wasn’t able to pull apart the 2009 Beaver Football Family. Head Coach Mike Riley reportedly rejected overtures from USC in order to finish what he’s started in Corvallis, OR. Riley’s staff is equally loyal and has stayed together despite interest from other programs. The Beavers epitomized a football family with five sets of brothers on the roster (most in NCAA football). The direct family ties illustrate that Corvallis has become a football hotbed where players are happy and willing to advocate the program to their siblings.
2. TEXAS LONGHORNS
Head of the Family: Mack Brown
2009 Ranking; #2
2008 Ranking: #3
Head Coach Mack Brown battles a packed schedule and still finds time to include charities such as his Mack Brown’s Women’s Clinic. Some of Brown’s biggest supporters admit he wasn’t a natural role model when he came to Texas in 1998. He’s adapted and evolved his style, and uses his position to guide his athletes and assist those that have nothing to do with football. He understands there’s more to life than football. Brown preaches to his players that their football accomplishments should only be springboards, and that the lessons they learn at Texas should propel them toward better things when the games are over.
3. RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS
Head of the Family: Greg Schiano
2009 Ranking; #2
2008 Ranking: #6
Greg Schiano is a former winner of the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award, given to the coach who best demonstrates sportsmanship, integrity and responsibility on and off the field. This year he was the recipient of a humanitarian award for supporting the Deborah Heart and Lung Center and its ongoing charitable mission. Accolades aside, Schiano continues to develop all players on his roster without giving preferential treatment. Rutgers athletes learn to lean on each other and cliques that are found in other programs rarely develop under Schiano. Despite his caring reputation, Schiano totes around a hard side when athletes need focus.
4. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Head of the Family: Jim Tressel
2009 Ranking: #3
2008 Ranking: #11
Head Coach Jim Tressel’s approach to creating a Football Family is different than most modern day coaches. He invests in his athletes and expects them to be successful on and off the field. While other coaches measure their success by their salary, Tressel actually requested that part of his paycheck be tied to the success of his athletes’ grades and graduation rates. Tressel is a throwback coach who is popular with his staff and players.
5. BOISE STATE BRONCOS
Head of the Family: Chris Peterson
2009 Ranking: #4
2008 Ranking: not ranked
The Broncos Family Atmosphere begins with bonding, and usually center around activities that aren’t related to football. Head Coach Chris Peterson is a master at taking individuals and molding them into a unified team that achieves beyond expectations. Peterson explained his secret to success, “To me, team building is as important as anything we do, and we probably do something every day.” This year Peterson organized home-run derbies with tennis equipment, a chili cook off, rafting trips, and many other activities. To drive the point home freshman Chris Roberson admitted, "I've never heard family preached so much in my entire life.”
6. PENN STATE NINTANY LIONS
Head of the Family: Joe Paterno
2009 Ranking: #5
2008 Ranking: #2
Head Coach Joe Paterno is the Grandfather of the country’s Football Families. He implements tried-and-true principles to lead his program based on equity and discipline. In 2009 his athletes were among the leaders in community service and graduation rates. Paterno’s philosophy on teamwork is explained by his now famous statement, “The name on the front of the jersey is what really matters, not the name on the back.” The Nintany Lions are also bolstered by the leadership and discipline of defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. The only downside to the Nintany Lion Family is numerous suspensions over off-field incidents.
7. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES
Head of the Family: Frank Beamer
2009 Ranking: #6
2008 Ranking: #7
The second half of the decade was dramatic for Virginia Tech's Head Coach Frank Beamer. He endured the on-campus shootings in 2007, watched Michael Vick’s fall from grace, and finally cut the cord with the younger Vick after a series of embarrassing issues both on and off the field. Through it all, Beamer’s sterling reputation among his athletes and other coaches validates his place on the list. This year the team rallied around Beamer en route to a 10-3 season and a bowl victory over Tennessee.
8. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
Head of the Family: Bo Pelini
2009 Ranking: #7
2008 Ranking: #10
The Cornerhusker Family has become stronger under the guidance of Head Coach Bo Pelini. There is a special bond among current and former athletes in Lincoln, NE. Former players return to volunteer their time at camps and charitable events. The statement “Once a Cornhusker, Always a Cornhusker” rings true. Pelini isn’t shy about motivating current athletes either. It’s not uncommon for his players to find cue cards with specific quotes in their lockers. These messages offer focus and direction. Pelini’s intense personality keeps his players motivated on and off the field.
Few teams are more united in support of their staff than Middle Tennessee State. Head Coach Rick Stockstill leads his Blue Raider flock through words and backs them up with actions. After stating his long-term plan at Middle Tennessee, Stockstill found himself with several job interviews and head coaching offers. Other coaches in the great state of Tennessee broke promises and left their Football Family before their goals were accomplished. That’s not Stockstill’s style. He entertained potential promotions at East Carolina and Memphis and politely passed on the opportunities. Close friends admit it was out of honor and commitment to his Blue Raider family.
10. GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Head of the Family: Mark Richt
2009 Ranking: #9
2008 Ranking: #5
Mark Richt uses integrity to guide his athletes, but the Bulldogs behavior off the field has slipped over the last two years. Few coaches are more adamant about the way they run their program, and Richt will tell anyone who listens that he instructs athletes, “To work hard, put the team first and have a very strong respect for authority and people around them.” While the message is clear, his athletes have still found ways to earn suspensions. Richt reportedly lowered his tolerance for off-field issues and had fewer problems during this season. Richt still creates a team bond that is surpassed by few programs.
H O N O R A B L E M E N T I O N
11. NAVY MIDSHIPMEN
Perhaps the most intriguing addition to the Family Atmosphere Awards is Ken Niumatalolo and the football program at Navy. Niumatalolo’s Football Family has an advantage because his athletes are located at an Academy already entrenched with camaraderie and honor. Niumatalolo incorporates integrity, character, and a strong work ethic into his coaching. Building leaders is a personal goal. "I love the leadership part of it, and hopefully helping them grow as men, as husbands, as fathers, as leaders in the Navy and the Marine Corps. Anyone can teach people football.”
12. WAKE FOREST: Too many coaches need to feed their egos. Head coach Jim Grobe isn’t one of them. Throughout the years, Grobe’s contagious philosophy is passed to his assistants. They feel their program should be models for children in the stands and students on campus. Grobe believes in two traits that his players should respect: responsibility and accountability. It’s no wonder he’s often on the list for both coaching and humanitarian awards.
13. UTAH: Most head coaches are born leaders, but Utah’s Kyle Whittingham has the papers to prove it. He earned a Master’s degree in “Leadership”. Whittingham’s personality may not exude warmth, but he creates an environment where his athletes want to make each other better. Whittingham pulls from his internal beliefs to build an environment where every athlete is given an opportunity to succeed, and no player is left behind whether they are highly recruited or walk-on. Visiting recruits comment on the Family Atmosphere and lack of egos.
14. OLE MISS: Houston Nutt continues to create a family atmosphere by employing a coaching staff that believes players should be treated like their sons and held accountable for their actions. This feeling extends to recruiting visits. When the coaching staff makes in-home visits, the student-athletes identify the Family Atmosphere as a feeling from their first impression.
15. MIAMI: Yes, we were just as shocked as you to see the Miami Hurricanes make Honorable Mention. This Football Family has re-invented itself over the last three years under the guidance of Head Coach Randy Shannon. Shannon recruits athletes that want to be coached, and he’s been successful on many levels. Randy Phillips, who once personified the thug image with dreadlocks and a gold grill, changed his attitude, outlook, and appearance. Why? Phillips did it because Shannon inspired him.