Commentary

Carroll, Tressel helped define first 10 years of BCS era

Updated: May 22, 2008, 10:59 AM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

The first 10 years of college football's BCS era were defined by great plays and great players.

Texas quarterback Vince Young's burst into the end zone against USC. Boise State's hook-and-lateral and Statue of Liberty. Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett's stripping the football from Miami's Sean Taylor.

But players come and go annually.

The men who stand on college football's sidelines are the ones who usually stand the test of time (unless your school hired Bobby Petrino). Here's a look at the coaches who defined the first 10 years of BCS football:

1. Pete Carroll, Southern California

It's still hard to believe Carroll, a twice-fired NFL coach, was USC's fourth choice when the Trojans sought to replace fired Paul Hackett after the 2000 season.

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesPete Carroll has enjoyed a remarkable run at USC.

After going 6-6 in Carroll's first season in 2001, the Trojans have gone 70-8 in the six seasons since. They've played in a record six consecutive BCS bowl games during his watch, winning five times. After breaking through the BCS barrier with a 38-17 victory over Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl, the Trojans claimed a share of the national championship the next season, beating Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl and finishing No. 1 in the final AP Top 25 poll. USC won the 2004 national championship outright when it blasted No. 2 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl 55-19 the most lopsided score in a BCS bowl game. Carroll's only blemish during the BCS era? Late in the fourth quarter of the 2006 Rose Bowl, with the Trojans leading Texas 38-33, Carroll gambled on fourth-and-2 from the Longhorns' 45. The Longhorn defense stuffed tailback LenDale White, leading to Texas quarterback Vince Young's game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play in a 41-38 victory. No one is perfect.

2. Jim Tressel, Ohio State

Maybe it's time for Tressel to change his signature clothing. A one-sleeved sweater vest might be more appropriate after he reversed Ohio State's slide against rival Michigan, beating the Wolverines six times in his seven seasons with the Buckeyes. The only hole in Tressel's résumé? An 0-3 record against SEC teams in bowl games, including blowout losses to Florida and LSU in each of the past two BCS championship games. Tressel's teams have otherwise been stellar on college football's grand stage. In Tressel's second season after leaving Division I-AA Youngstown State, he directed the Buckeyes to a 14-0 record and an improbable 31-24 double-overtime upset of No. 1 Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, becoming the Big Ten's first consensus national championship since 1968. Ohio State beat Kansas State 35-28 in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl and Notre Dame 34-20 in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.

3. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

After its past four BCS bowl games, Oklahoma might be confused by college football's most controversial acronym.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesBob Stoops and OU have struggled to find bowl magic in recent seasons.

A more apt definition for the Sooners might be: Better Change Something. Stoops guided Oklahoma to victories in each of his first two BCS games, including a 13-2 victory over Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl, which capped a 13-0 season and the school's seventh national championship. But after beating Washington State 34-14 in the 2003 Rose Bowl, the Sooners have suffered nothing but heartache and embarrassment. LSU beat Oklahoma 21-14 in the 2004 Sugar Bowl, which cost Stoops a second national title. The following season, Oklahoma was taken to the woodshed by No. 1 USC in a 55-19 rout in the 2005 Orange Bowl. The Sooners also were on the wrong end of Boise State's late-game magic in a 43-42 overtime loss in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Last season, Oklahoma was routed by a motivated West Virginia team in a 48-28 loss in the Fiesta Bowl.

4. Urban Meyer, Florida

Meyer was the only coach to lead two different schools to BCS bowl games during the past 10 years. During the 2004 regular season, Meyer led Utah to an 11-0 record. The Utes became the first team from a non-BCS conference to crash the BCS party. They were rewarded with the worst opponent in BCS history, as the No. 6 Utes crushed No. 21 Pittsburgh 35-7 in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl to finish unbeaten. After Meyer left Utah for Florida, he led the Gators to an SEC championship in his second season in 2006. The Gators edged Michigan for the No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings and earned the right to play No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS championship game in Glendale, Ariz. The Gators were sizable underdogs against the Buckeyes, but won the game 41-14 to win their second national championship in 10 years.

5. Mack Brown, Texas

Brown, the coach who couldn't win big games for much of the decade, finally won when he lobbied his team's way into the 2005 Rose Bowl. After losing to Oklahoma for the fifth straight time during the 2004 season, Texas was shut out of the Big 12 championship game because the Sooners finished unbeaten. Brown lobbied more than a politician in November, urging voters in the AP and coaches' polls to rank his team high enough to receive an at-large berth into a BCS bowl game. Brown's ploy worked: Texas overtook California in the final BCS standings and was invited to play in the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns beat Michigan 38-37 in their first appearance in Pasadena. The following season, Brown didn't have to lobby voters after Texas finished 12-0 during the regular season. The No. 2 Longhorns ended No. 1 USC's 34-game winning streak with a 41-38 victory in the most exciting BCS championship game to date.

6. Bobby Bowden, Florida State

The current BCS format began near the end of the 1990s, which also marked the end of Florida State's reign as college football's dynasty.

Bobby Bowden
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesBobby Bowden and Florida State haven't enjoyed much BCS success recently.

The Seminoles played in each of the first three BCS championship games, losing to No. 1 Tennessee 23-16 in 1999, beating No. 2 Virginia Tech 46-29 in the 2000 Sugar Bowl and losing to No. 1 Oklahoma 13-2 in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Bowden, who is major college football's all-time winningest coach with 373 victories, led the Seminoles to six BCS bowl games during the past 10 years. But FSU lost each of the past four times and has played in a BCS bowl game only once in the past four seasons. One of the most memorable BCS moments came after the 2005 season, when Bowden met Penn State's Joe Paterno in the Orange Bowl. The Nittany Lions beat the Seminoles 26-23 in three overtimes.

7. Larry Coker, Miami

Coker, a former Miami assistant who replaced Butch Davis, guided the Hurricanes to a 12-0 record during his first season in 2001. The No. 1 Hurricanes blasted Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl to win the school's fifth national championship. The following season, the Hurricanes again finished the regular season with a 12-0 record. The No. 1 Hurricanes took a 34-game winning streak into the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against No. 2 Ohio State. But after a controversial pass-interference call went against Miami in overtime, the Buckeyes won 31-24 in double overtime in one of the biggest upsets in recent college football history. Coker directed Miami to an 11-2 record in 2003, beating Florida State 16-14 in the Orange Bowl. Coker never got the Hurricanes back to a BCS bowl game, however, and was fired after compiling a 59-15 record in six seasons.

8. Chris Petersen, Boise State

The first-year Broncos coach introduced Cinderella to Lady Liberty in the Broncos' thrilling 43-42 overtime upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and forever changed public opinion about teams from non-BCS conferences. Trailing the Sooners 35-28 in the final minute, the Broncos scored on a 50-yard hook-and-lateral play, on fourth-and-18 no less. After Oklahoma went ahead 42-35 in overtime, Boise State faced fourth-and-2 at the Sooners' 5. Petersen went to his bag of tricks once again, calling a halfback option pass that went for a touchdown. Instead of going for a tying extra-point kick, Petersen went for two points and the win. He called a Statue of Liberty play, with quarterback Jared Zabransky handing the ball behind his back to tailback Ian Johnson, who ran into the end zone for the improbable victory. Boise State went 13-0 in its first season under Petersen and finished No. 6 in the final coaches' Top 25 poll.

9. Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin

[+] EnlargeBarry Alvarez
Reinhold Matay/WireImageBarry Alvarez won back-to-back Rose Bowl games at Wisconsin.

The man who resurrected Wisconsin's floundering program became the first Big 10 coach to win back-to-back Rose Bowl games. The Badgers played in the Rose Bowl in each of the first two seasons under the BCS format, beating No. 5 UCLA 38-31 in 1999 and Stanford 17-9 in 2000. Alvarez inherited a program that had only five winning seasons in 27 years. In his third season in 1993, he led Wisconsin to a 21-16 win over UCLA in the 1994 Rose Bowl, the Badgers' first New Year's Day bowl victory.

10. Mark Richt, Georgia

Richt has led the Bulldogs to three Sugar Bowl appearances after they went two decades without playing in New Orleans. Georgia beat No. 16 Florida State 26-13 in 2003, lost to No. 5 West Virginia 38-35 in 2006 and routed No. 10 Hawaii 41-10 last season. Richt was Florida State's offensive coordinator when the Seminoles played in the first three BCS championship games, helping them beat No. 2 Virginia Tech 46-29 in the 2000 Sugar Bowl. The following season, Florida State fans criticized him for the offense's poor performance in a 13-2 loss to Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Richt had already accepted the Georgia job and some fans accused him of spending too much time with the Bulldogs.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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