Friday, June 24, 2011

2010-11 NCAA Football Family Atmosphere Rankings

Greg Schiano
Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano with Eric LeGrand's mother.
The fourth release of College Football Live’s! Family Atmosphere Awards recognizes a new program at the top of the list. This year’s top program encouraged team unity, supported academics, exhibited loyalty, and prepared athletes for a life after football. They also lost their final six games of the season proving winning isn’t a requisite for fostering a football family atmosphere.

There was more movement in the Top 10 than previous years. Programs like Texas, Ohio State and Georgia tumbled out of the rankings, while programs like Iowa made their first appearances.

It’s hard not to respect the examples set by University of Texas Head Coach Mack Brown. He is charitable off the field and leads with integrity, but the UT Administration doesn’t believe in family when it comes to the Big Twelve Conference. The Longhorns will tear apart the Big Twelve Family if it suits the bottom line, just ask Nebraska.

No program tumbled from glory more than Ohio State. Few people will argue that Jim Tressell doesn’t have good intentions, but his lack of leadership left fans feeling empty.

In a season where controversy and poor judgment from coaching staffs was the norm, there are staffs that deserve credit for fostering unity, leadership and academic success. Most of these programs are even winners on the field.

College Football Live! recognizes programs that provide student-athletes supervision, generate loyalty, inspire team unity, and infuse 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 2010-11 season.


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.

Head of the Family: Greg Schiano
2010 Ranking; #3
2009 Ranking: #6

Greg Schiano has a long list of Humanitarian Awards and blends tough love with a soft side to lead his Scarlet Knights. Schiano cares about winning, but he cares more about the well-being of his athletes. The Athletic Program and Rutgers Community rallied around injured Defensive Tackle Eric LeGrand. Although he’s not on the field, LeGrand will forever be a part of the program, and the Coaches and Administration have made his recovery a priority.

Head of the Family: Frank Beamer
2010 Ranking; #7
2009 Ranking: #7

This is the highest we’ve ranked Head Coach Frank Beamer’s program. Beamer’s team had a shaky start, but it’s a testament to the strength of his staff and athletes that they could finish with 11 straight wins after an emotional loss to Boise State and a shocking loss to James Madison. Beamer’s staff is a loyal crew, and their athletes were a reflection of them in 2010.

Head of the Family: Mike Riley
2010 Ranking; #1
2009 Ranking: #1

Oregon State isn’t number one this year, but nobody is more respected by his head coaching peers than Mike Riley. He continues to develop great athletes and individuals that are grateful for his guidance on and off the field. The Beavers continue to be among the cleanest programs in the country according to the Sports Illustrated feature ‘College Football and Crime’ and they boasted academic success finishing behind only Stanford on the Pac-10 All-Academic Team.

Head of the Family: Ken Niumatalolo
2010 Ranking; #11
2009 Ranking: #NR

What Niumatalolo does not do is promote himself. He's a soft-spoken man who puts faith and family before football but still has been able to win consistently with a program that operates at a tremendous recruiting disadvantage compared with most other Division I teams. He has already secured his third straight eight-win season and has been named a semifinalist for the first annual Joseph V. Paterno Coach of the Year Award.

Head of the Family: Chris Petersen
2010 Ranking; #5
2009 Ranking: #NR

There aren’t many programs that have as tight a family as Chris Peterson. The Boise State Head Coach makes it a priority as soon as the season is complete. “One of the priorities of the winter and spring is to build that family atmosphere and feeling of working with each other”.

Head of the Family: Joe Paterno
2010 Ranking; #6
2009 Ranking: #2

Despite having a close-knit reputation Joe Paterno’s program has been a magnet for off-field issues, and their figure head’s role is diminishing. Penn State’s drop in the Family Atmosphere Rankings reflects the issues, but if any program on this list deserves the Lifetime Achievement Award it’s Penn State.

Head of the Family: Gary Patterson
2010 Ranking; #NR
2009 Ranking: #NR

Gary Patterson’s program is the new face of Family Atmosphere in the Lone Star State. Patterson is a class act, produces high graduation rates, and handles himself with integrity on and off camera. “I want to teach my guys that every day they have to get up because the world is hard. Not just the football game; the world is hard. Athletes simply leave his program as better individuals and win a lot of games.

Head of the Family: Rick Stockstill
2010 Ranking; #9
2009 Ranking: #NR

Rick Stockstill oozes loyalty and paternal instincts. He’s had offers for more money to coach in stronger conferences, but he’s on a mission at Middle Tennessee State. Former players rave, “He is honest and treats you like a son”. Even Stockstill admits, “I just feel like I'm impacting these kids' lives and I feel like I'm having a positive effect on them. So the money will come. But that stuff does not drive me."

Head of the Family: Bronco Mendenhall
2010 Ranking; #NR
2009 Ranking: #NR

How many coaches can say they were carried off the field by their team last year? After a dismal start the team won five or their last six games. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall summed up the family bond at BYU, "Myself and this team ... we have just formed a very unique bond, and I won't ever forget it." BYU’s strict Code of Conduct should be worth something in College Football’s chaos.

Head of the Family: Gene Chizik
2010 Ranking; #NR
2009 Ranking: #NR

No program in 2010 did more on the list to build a football family atmosphere than Gene Chizik. ESPN suggested Chizik borrowed a page from Texas Head Coach Mack Brown, and that formula works. Auburn made it official with a 2-day “Big Cat Weekend” in May that created a unique feeling among 20 recruits and sold that college town family feeling. The rest of the season saw the athletes bond and achieve the ultimate goal.

H O N O R A B L E - M E N T I O N

11. WAKE FOREST: Jim Grobe uses Reaganomics to reach his players. Grobes staff is instructed to lead by example and provide a fair and inspiring environment within the athletic facilities at Wake Forest. This trickle down method is passed from class to class, and there are few programs with a tighter knit team than Grobe’s staff. It doesn’t hurt that Grobe has boxes full of Humanitarian Awards.

12. IOWA HAWKEYES: There aren’t many compliments better than a comparison to Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno, but that’s the company with whom Kirk Ferentz is bundled. In terms of longevity, both coaches have been at their respective schools longer than any other Big Ten coaches. Ferentz’s offensive and defensive coordinators have remained the same since his arrival, and Ferentz recently signed an extension to stay in Iowa through 2020 signifying a family that will stay together for much longer. Iowa would have finished higher if their roster didn’t have the most athletes charged with crimes according to SI.

13. TULANE: Few programs graduate a higher percentage of athletes and promote a stronger family atmosphere than Tulane Head Coach Chris Scelfo and his staff. His philosophy sounds simple, but it’s effective. "As a college coach, you're involved in every aspect of a student's life. As a coaching staff, our goal is to make sure we give each player the support he needs to be successful, academically, athletically and spiritually."

14. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Bo Pelini earned a reputation this year as an emotional coach who gets carried away with referees and at times his players. He still cares about his Husker family – a lot. The Husker Staff has rebuilt the Nebraska Family that was undermined after Tom Osborne left his post. It’s an attitude that has persisted since the Husker program was just a kernalkernel, and if they hadn’t divorced their abusive Big Twelve Family they would rank higher this year. The Big Ten is a much happier family so NU will thrive.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2009-10 NCAA Football Family Atmosphere Rankings

This is the third release of College Football Live’s! Family Atmosphere Awards. The Awards recognize programs that encourage team unity, support academics, exhibit loyalty, and prepare athletes for a life after football.

Countless modern day coaches subscribe to a win-at-all-costs philosophy, sacrificing the guidance that gives student-athletes an advantage after college football. However, winning football games and creating a family atmosphere aren’t mutually exclusive. Most programs on our list are winners in every sense of the word, and ultimately their student-athletes have the most gratifying experiences.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Head of the Family: Rick Stockstill
2009 Ranking: #8
2008 Ranking: Not Ranked

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.

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

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.

Friday, August 21, 2009

CFBLive! Fan Ranking Index

This is the ninth year in a row that CFBLive! and FBFans have pooled resources and created the Fan Ranking Index. We’ve done the research and crunched the numbers, and there was significant movement throughout the rankings in 2008-2009.

Gator fans climbed into the top place on the index this year, and their fans had plenty of reasons to cheer. Penn State, Oklahoma, and Texas made the largest jumps within the Top 25. It’s no surprise that these programs all performed well. Their teams gave them a reason to cheer and travel, and all three programs have accomplished alumni centers.
Conference Points
SEC 90.29
Big Ten 88.23
Big 12 87.99
ACC 85.42
Pac 10 85.05
Big East 83.91
Mountain West 80.03
WAC 77.92
Conference USA 77.23
Sun Belt 74.03
Mid-American 73.13
While neither program showed up in the Top 50, Temple fans made the largest drop mostly due to attendance figures (31 spots) and Ball State fans climbed 17 spots due to a strong season.

The best fans outside the major conferences were Notre Dame followers. They led the way for three programs in the west: BYU, Utah, and Boise State. The latter programs are establishing themselves for years to come.

Overall the fan bases in the SEC, Big Ten, and Big Twelve dominate the index. The ACC struggled this year and the Pac-10 held steady. The Big East has the most variance. Mountain West fans were the only non-major conference to achieve an average ranking of over 80 points.

Many readers are interested in the formulas we use for the Index. We combine categories based on objective and subjective rankings. Only the Top Fifty programs are displayed. If you would like to know where other programs are ranked or see programs listed by conference you can make a request in the comments section.

Attendance: (Sell-Outs and Capacity): This category considers the capacity of the stadium though most of the points are awarded based on how close the fans come to filling it. The formula rewards fans that sell out their stadiums.

Noise Production: Fan Noise gauges the level of disruption and intimidation caused by fans during the game. This is not necessarily based on crowd size, so large stadiums with thousands of mellow fans will not rate as high as a smaller stadium with more exuberant fans. Stadiums with student sections located at mid-field and close to the action are given higher ratings. This year home winning percentage is taken into considering as a bonus.

Loyalty: (Reputation & Sportsmanship) Even when the home team is in a slump, the loyal fans still come out to support them. Faithful fans remain until the clock runs to zero, and you rarely see them file out of the facilities at halftime. This has historical influence, but it's also based on the current and past season. Spring game attendance is another objective measurement value for loyalty.

Travel: This is measured by the willingness of fans to travel during the regular and post season to show support for their beloved team. If fans have to travel greater distances to play opponents then this is taken into consideration as well. Selling out travel allotments is also a good measuring tool. Tailgating and game day atmosphere are taken into consideration here.

* This year Merchandising was removed from the formula because those figures aren't released until the following year. The results often combine overall merchandise which includes basketball and other sports.

Feedback Appreciated: Your feedback is appreciated, especially when backed up with first hand accounts of stadium visits or facts/figures.

2008-09 CFBLive! Fan Ranking Index
Fan IndexTotalAttendanceNoiseLoyaltyTravel
2Penn St.95.3029.6128.069.138.50
3Ohio St.95.1029.5928.068.888.58
4Louisiana St.94.9828.6629.159.008.18
13Texas A&M93.4127.5328.819.008.08
15Virginia Tech91.6426.1628.068.758.68
16Southern Cal91.4127.5327.788.008.10
17Notre Dame91.4127.2826.488.888.78
18S. Carolina90.8727.2826.778.758.08
19Michigan St.90.1726.9126.998.138.15
22Florida St.89.4727.0326.868.257.33
24W. Virginia89.4125.1627.958.138.18
31Oregon St.87.2623.8827.208.008.18
33Texas Tech86.7624.9126.817.757.30
35Boston College86.4223.4127.347.887.80
36Kansas St.85.8923.6626.217.638.40
37Boise St.85.8422.0427.758.008.05
39Oklahoma St.85.7023.2826.857.887.70
40N. Carolina85.5825.1625.357.757.33
44Arizona St.85.3125.1625.807.386.98

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2008-09 NCAA Football Family Atmosphere Rankings

The top two spots remain the same in the second annual CFBLive! Football Family Atmosphere Rankings. The Football Family List becomes more dysfunctional beyond these paternal programs. Due to head coaching changes and academic penalties based on the APR (Academic Progress Rate), a host of programs disappeared while others made their debut.

Recognition for building strong character and unity in student-athletes doesn’t have to come at the expense of winning. In fact, most of the programs in the 2008-2009 rankings reflect the best of both worlds. We’ve identified key elements to define the intrinsic family feeling created in college football.

Family atmosphere begins with the head coach and his staff. Their guidance, integrity, and personality set the stage for their athletes and employees.

The staff’s leadership bolsters individuals and teams, whether they are facing adversity or handling success. Using input from across the country, we’ve built a list of programs that foster family atmospheres.

Family atmosphere plays a major role in an athlete’s integration with the school and team. This occurs during a time when young athletes are making the transition from home to college. In the end, the football family bond ensures teammates feel included, complete coursework, and aren’t distracted by acts that would otherwise get them grounded. Like any other family, these athletes are given the support to lead successful lives.

Camaraderie shared between athletes can carry a program through challenging times, as evidenced by the many programs on this list that seem to get stronger as the season progresses. Athletes that build trust within one another are more likely to experience success and accomplish their goals.

Recruiting student athletes with these values before they arrive on campus contributes to a healthy atmosphere. However, it’s athletes with troubled pasts that often reap the greatest rewards.

Young student-athletes leaving home for the first time want a comfortable destination that can make their college transition easier. A well-adjusted athlete performs better in school and on the gridiron. This aspect is often overlooked within sports programs, yet it has a significant impact on the long term well being of both the individual and the program as a whole.

Programs going through head coaching changes this year were not eligible for this list. Those that don’t meet the minimum Academic Progress Rate are not qualified for the rankings either. Most of the programs listed below have had their core coaching staff in place for multiple years, but this is not a prerequisite. Data for determining the top programs was collected after January 2007.

Last season West Virginia (Rich Rodriguez), University of Hawaii (June Jones), Auburn (Tommy Tuberville), and Army (Stan Brock) all made the Top 10. This year those coaches and programs are going in another direction and four other programs have replaced them.

Head of the Family: Mike Riley
2008 Ranking: #1
2007 Ranking: #1

Whether the offense is growing beards as a sign of solidarity or the athletes are raising money and awareness for underprivileged children, head coach Mike Riley is the person setting the foundation. Coaches around the league send transfer players to Riley because of the person he is. One of the big stories in previous years was the kidney transplant that graciously went from the offensive coordinator to the offensive line coach’s wife. She’s doing well in 2009…

Head of the Family: Joe Paterno
2008 Ranking: #2
2007 Ranking: #2

Joe Paterno has cultivated an atmosphere of family and trust in State College, PA. The loyalty of defensive coordinator Tom Bradley over the last 29 years illustrates the family aura. In simple terms Bradley explains, “There's just a unique family atmosphere between the staff, the players and the community.” Paterno and Bradley are known for taking immediate corrective action when athletes find trouble off the field and making sure they don’t stray.

Head of the Family: Mack Brown
2008 Ranking: #3
2007 Ranking: #9

The Texas program has enjoyed over a decade of strong leadership and coaching from head coach Mack Brown. Brown ensures his athletes avoid off-field distractions in a place where football players are treated with reverence. In addition, Brown is an advocate to several causes including the Texas Council on Family Violence.

Head of the Family: Jim Grobe
2008 Ranking: #4
2007 Ranking: #13

There aren’t many coaches more respected for their (I THINK it’s “their” and not “his”… not entirely sure) integrity and ability to mold youth than Jim Grobe. Grobe has passed up more glamorous head coaching positions to stay at Wake Forest and signed a long term contract. He’s proof that nice guys can finish on top because his staff and athletes persevere through tough times using teamwork and trust.

Head of the Family: Mark Richt
2008 Ranking: #5
2007 Ranking: #6

Mark Richt uses religious values, weekly ‘Family Nights’, and individual accountability to instill a family atmosphere. Richt’s personal lessons came while playing at the University of Miami when off field troubles derailed his career. Since then his coaching style leads his student-athletes to make smart choices on and off the field.

Head of the Family: Greg Schiano
2008 Ranking: #6
2007 Ranking: Not Ranked

The term family atmosphere is easy to apply to Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have more siblings playing in their program than nearly every major conference program. During recruiting visits, most recruits admit the primary theme they discovered was the family atmosphere. Greg Schiano extended his contract through 2016, and his pledge to his athletes that he’ll stay for them carries more weight than many other well-respected coaches in the business.

Head of the Family: Frank Beamer
2008 Ranking: #7
2007 Ranking: #4

It’s been over a year since the tragedy on Blacksburg’s campus. Head Coach Frank Beamer has helped his student-athletes move past the horror and recommit themselves to school and football. His closest friends describe him as feisty and fatherly in the same sentence. Not everyone learns life lessons under Coach Beamer. Ask the Vicks. But overall Beamer is still one of the best at establishing a family feeling among his staff and players.

Head of the Family: Pete Carroll
2008 Ranking: #8
2007 Ranking: #8

Head Coach Pete Carroll lands on this list for a different reason than most. His charismatic, class act approach is a testament to a school located between downtown Los Angeles and Compton. The distractions are high, but Coach Carroll has regularly discussions with his players about accepting accountability and keeping the annual hype in perspective. Perhaps the biggest compliment comes from former athletes that maintain a brotherhood years after leaving the program.

Head of the Family: Skip Holtz
2008 Ranking: #9
2007 Ranking: #12

Skip Holtz may have learned a trick or two from his father (Lou Holtz) about creating team unity and setting an example for athletes. His finest season of coaching occurred this year when his team struggled to a 3-3 start. Holtz didn’t change the playbook. He repaired the cohesiveness of the athletes and instilled an “us-against-the-world” mentality that led to the Conference Championship and Conference USA Coach of the Year Award.

Header of the Family: Bo Pelini
2008 Ranking: #10
2007 Ranking: Unranked

It’s not often a first year coach cracks the Top 10 list, but Bo Pelini has a long list of advocates on his behalf. He started off his first press conference by saying he would bring back Cornhusker tradition and the signature family atmosphere that had evaporated under the two prior regimes. Once the family atmosphere was restored at Nebraska, it was easy to get players to buy into Pelini’s other two ingredients toward winning: Effort and Attitude.

Honorable Mention List:

11) Ohio State: Jim Tressel isn’t the epitome of cool, but he’s created a program based on old-fashioned values, trust and loyalty. Ohio State’s family atmosphere is founded on those values. (2007 Ranking, #11)

12) Louisiana Tech: It all begins with Head Coach and Athletic Director Derek Dooley. In just two seasons Dooley’s leadership has produced team unity that has led to unprecedented wins on the field and in academics. (2007 Ranking, unranked)

13) Ole Miss: When Houston Nutt resigned at Arkansas he took his ability to create team unity and a belief in winning to Ole Miss. Few recruits leave their official visits without mentioning the family atmosphere that surrounds his programs. (2007 Ranking, unranked)

14) Oklahoma: Bob Stoops isn’t a touchy-feely coach, but his former athletes give testimonials that he creates a setting where his athletes feel like family. (2007 Ranking, unranked)

15) Stanford: Jim Harbaugh began molding his coaches and players into a family by handing out gas station uniform shirts with the purpose of building a blue-collar bond throughout the team. (2007 Ranking, unranked)