In a world where coaches jump from job to job frequently, finding someone to stick around is a rarity in college football. So, who are the guys that buck that trend and find themselves as the longest-tenured college football head coaches? We dive into that below.
Longest Tenured College Football Head Coaches
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (1999)
What’s turned into a model of consistency didn’t start that way. When Ferentz took over as the Iowa Hawkeyes‘ head coach, it was a rocky start. After going 4-19 in the first two seasons, it would have been easy for fans to be worried. Fortunately, he’s gone 186-97 since then.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (2005)
From his “I’m a man. I’m 40,” rant to some of the most explosive offenses in college football, Mike Gundy has provided stability to the Oklahoma State Cowboys‘ program. The “Pokes” have trailed off recently, but their head coach still boasts a career 158-77 record in Stillwater.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah (2005)
The Utah Utes haven’t gone more than two seasons without winning eight or more games under Kyle Whittingham, and recently, they won back-to-back Pac-12 titles in 2021 and 2022. His Utes continue bucking trends while producing some of the best defenses in the country. In his 19 years with Utah, Whittingham has gone 158-75.
Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee (2006)
Winning at Middle Tennessee hasn’t been easy, but Rick Stockstill continues navigating the storm as well as anyone. There have been years where many thought he was on his way out, but he bounced back with an eight-win season. He currently holds a 110-107 record with MTSU.
UPDATE: Not tenured anymore, Rick Stockstill was fired following the 2023 season. After 18 seasons in Murfreesboro, Stockstill is out.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force (2007)
Due to the allure of the Army-Navy rivalry, Air Force is often the forgotten service academy. All Troy Calhoun has done is crank out 126 wins in his time with the Falcons. He has five double-digit win seasons to his name.
Nick Saban, Alabama (2007)
Nick Saban is a decent ball coach who’s been fairly successful in Tuscaloosa with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He hasn’t won fewer than 10 games since 2007 — his first year with the program. He has won six national championships as a head coach of the Tide, and he holds a 198-28 record with Alabama.
There’s no debate if he’s one of the best college football head coaches ever. He is the best.
UPDATE: Nick Saban retired from Alabama’s staff on January 10, 2024, ending his 17-year career at the helm of the Crimson Tide.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson (2009)
There was plenty of skepticism when Dabo Swinney was hired as head coach, and that didn’t go away for a few years. In his first three seasons, he went 19-15. Since then, he rattled off 12 double-digit win seasons and brought two national championships to the Clemson Tigers. Overall, he’s 164-41 with the program.
Dave Doeren, NC State (2013)
Dave Doeren has a winning formula, and he keeps deploying it every single year. In his 11 years with the NC State Wolfpack, he’s only produced two losing seasons on his way to a 75-56 record. Take those two losing seasons away, and his record jumps to 68-31.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky (2013)
Mark Stoops owes his agent a lot for the incredible contract he holds, but he also deserves a ton of credit for creating a consistent winner with the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky has gone to seven straight bowl games prior to 2023, and Stoops has a 71-59 record since coming to Lexington in 2013.
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest (2014)
Finding ways to win at Wake Forest presents plenty of challenges, but it appears that Dave Clawson has found his answer with his unique offense. Despite being unable to recruit the same talent as others in the ACC, the Demon Deacons have thrived under Clawson.
He’s led them to a 62-54 record since arriving. They even made it to the ACC Championship Game in 2021.
James Franklin, Penn State (2014)
While his work at Vanderbilt was exponentially more impressive, James Franklin has done a good job of keeping the Penn State Nittany Lions competitive in one of the toughest divisions in college football. He’s currently 83-36 in Happy Valley, and he’s proven that he can recruit and compete with the likes of Michigan and Ohio State since coming to campus.
K.C. Keeler, Sam Houston (2014)
Sam Houston entered the FBS ranks in 2023, but K.C. Keeler’s been running the program since 2014. He led the Bearkats to an FCS national championship in 2021 and an 85-27 record before making the jump to Conference USA.
Jeff Monken, Army (2014)
Long drives and stout defense have been a staple of Jeff Monken’s time with the Army Black Knights. The Black Knights know their strengths and limitations well, and Monken’s staff continues to churn out winners. Thanks to a 66-51 record with Army, he continues to be a name that pops up when coaching searches begin, thanks to his consistent success.
Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan (2014)
It’s safe to say the Eastern Michigan Eagles‘ program was a disaster before Chris Creighton took over the program. Before his arrival, EMU hadn’t finished with a winning record since 1995. He’s produced four winning seasons since 2014 and led the Eagles to the second-most wins in school history last year with a 9-4 record.
Chuck Martin, Miami-OH (2014)
The Miami RedHawks may not always be in the race for a MAC title, but they’re in a stable place, thanks to Chuck Martin. While his career record of 49-60 with the program isn’t super impressive, he’s made this team tough to beat.
Craig Bohl, Wyoming (2014)
Craig Bohl is considered one of the best college football head coaches at any level. After turning North Dakota State into an FCS powerhouse, he took on a new challenge in Laramie. While he hasn’t sustained the success of his previous stop, he’s accumulated a respectable 56-57 record with the Wyoming Cowboys.
Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh (2015)
Pat Narduzzi’s work as defensive coordinator with Michigan State landed him this job, and he’s done well to elevate the Pittsburgh Panthers in the ACC. They won the ACC in 2021, thanks to Kenny Pickett, and they’ve only finished with a losing record once since he arrived.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (2015)
Jim Harbaugh returned to the college game when his alma mater came calling, and he’s given the Michigan Wolverines someone who can elevate them to a national contender. He’s 79-25 in Ann Arbor, and the expectation is to win a national championship now that he’s running the program.
Willie Fritz, Tulane (2016)
After taking Georgia Southern to the FBS level, Willie Fritz took on a new challenge in the Tulane Green Wave. His turnaround from a 2-10 team in 2021 to a 12-2 team in 2022 is one of the most impressive one-year turnarounds that we’ve seen in college football history.
He’s also produced a 47-46 record at a school where the requirements to get in make recruiting difficult.
Kalani Sitake, BYU (2016)
Taking over for Bronco Mendenhall wasn’t going to be easy, but Kalani Sitake embraced the challenge head-on without hesitation. He’s produced six winning seasons, including double-digit wins in 2020 and 2021.
His success continues making him one of the most underrated college football head coaches in the country. Sitake currently sits at 60-35 with the BYU Cougars.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State (2016)
One of the best coaches in Toledo football history got his shot at the Power Five level when Iowa State came calling. Matt Campbell’s led the Cyclones to a 48-45 record, which already puts him second in program history for career wins. He also won Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2017, 2018, and 2020.
Mike Neu, Ball State (2016)
It took a few years for Mike Neu and the Ball State Cardinals to get their footing, but they’ve got the right formula to win games in place now. He produced the second-highest single-season winning percentage in program history when the Cardinals finished 7-1 in 2020. They haven’t won less than five games since 2018.
Jason Candle, Toledo (2016)
Taking over for Matt Campbell wasn’t going to be easy, but Jason Candle’s done a solid job of keeping the Toledo Rockets relevant in the MAC. He’s gone 58-33 since taking over as head coach, and they won their second MAC championship under Candle in 2022.
Kirby Smart, Georgia (2016)
Currently in the middle of a quest to win a third-straight national championship, the Georgia Bulldogs are thankful they were able to get Kirby Smart. Georgia’s always been right there in the SEC in terms of competing for titles, but Smart found a way to take them to another level. He’s currently 86-15 during his tenure in Athens and is one of the best coaches in the sport.