Ranking The Coaches Of Conference USA
By Dan Harralson
1) Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina: McNeill is the Bob Stoops of Conference USA. McNeill was a defensive back as a player and a defensive assistant coach. Much like Bob Stoops, as a head coach, McNeill has turned his focus to the offensive side of the football. Also like Stoops, Ruffin has his team consistently competing for the conference championship.
2) David Bailiff, Rice: Bailiff's work was cut out for him in 2007 when he took over the program. The Owls had only been to eight bowl games in its history and Bailiff has a 2-0 bowl record since. The Owls are in contention for a conference championship down the stretch this year and will be bowling once again.
3) Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio: For whatever reason it did not end the way it was supposed to end at Miami for Coker. The national championship head coach has built the UTSA program from scratch. Now three years removed from the Roadrunners' first-ever football practice, Coker has his team one win away from going to a bowl.
4) Dan McCarney, North Texas: McCarney was impressive at Conference USA media days. He is a football coach and a motivator. The former Iowa State head coach is now atop the current C-USA West standings and has the Mean Green at seven wins with losses to Ohio, Georgia and Tulane.
5) Doc Holliday, Marshall: Holliday knows how to adjust to his personnel. Having quarterback Rakeem Cato has adjusted the more conservative Holliday to run more spread to fit Cato's strengths. Any coach that lacks stubbornness and plays to his players' strengths knows how to compete.
6) Curtis Johnson, Tulane: What more can you say about how Johnson has Tulane playing in year number two? Bringing in players like Nick Montana has helped the Green Wave become bowl eligible for the first time since 2002.
7) Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State: Rankings Stockstill down at No. 7 seems low. MTSU has made the transition from the Sun Belt to Conference USA smoothly and the Blue Raiders may celebrate Christmas on the islands of Hawaii.
8) Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech: Holtz is in search of a quarterback and that seems to be the only thing holding back the former East Carolina head coach and two-time Conference USA champion.
9) Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: Your guess is better than mine in why defending C-USA champion Tulsa is currently 2-7 and 1-4 in conference play. Blankenship brought his key players back from a year ago and maybe the sight of the Golden Hurricane moving to the American Athletic Conference next year has the reigning champions distracted.
10) Garrick McGee, UAB: There has been no improvement from year one to year two for McGee and the UAB program. However, the instinct is that the former Arkansas offensive coordinator can still turn it around in Birmingham. It appears McGee has full support within UAB's athletic department and the fan base is still behind him to get the Blazers football program in bowl contention soon.
11) Ron Turner, Florida International: The brother of San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner is slowly building his program in South Florida. Losing to teams such as Bethune-Cookman does not help his cause for a fast turnaround, but the turmoil going on within the Florida Atlantic football program helps Turner have an upper leg against FIU's arch-rival.
12) Sean Kugler, UTEP: Kugler has entered a tough situation in El Paso. It's tough to compete in recruiting against other Texas schools, but Kugler is a UTEP alum and knows the surroundings.
13) Todd Monken, Southern Miss: Monken wants to instill the offense he coordinated so well at Oklahoma State the last two seasons, but it hasn't shown on the scoreboard yet in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are 0-9 and are riding a 21-game losing streak.
14) Brian Wright, Florida Atlantic: It's tough to place Wright on this list due to him being thrown into the fiasco that FAU and former head coach Carl Pelini have created in Boca Raton. Wright eventually will install the offenses he ran as offensive coordinator at Montana and Youngstown State, if he is able to become the Owls' permanent head coach.
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