I think we can all admit that most college football coaches don’t have much loyalty when it comes to their schools. Most of them are more than happy to pick up and leave if a better job becomes available. However, among the few exceptions are those who became coaches at their alma mater. There’s no greater pressure in coaching than being at your alma mater and no greater joy than winning at your alma mater. Thus, we decided to check out some of the best coaches who are now leading the school where they once played.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Ever why Gundy has stayed at Oklahoma State for so long? Well, it’s because it’s his alma mater. He was the starting quarterback for most of his four seasons, finishing his career with 49 touchdown passes and nearly 8,000 passing yards. He left as the all-time leading passer in school history and Big Eight history.
He’s now approaching two decades as the OSU head coach, taking the Cowboys to a bowl game in nearly every season. While he hasn’t reached the same level as Oklahoma or Texas, he’s made Oklahoma State one of the Big 12’s most consistent programs.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Fitzgerald played for the Wildcats when they went 10-1 in 1995 and earned an improbable trip to the Rose Bowl. He was also the Big Ten Defensive Players of the Year twice. However, he’s done far more for Northwestern as a coach. He’s cultivated a successful and consistent football program at a school where academics are not sacrificed for the sake of athletics.
He’s made the Wildcats a perennial bowl participant and a team that nobody is surprised to see in the top-25, which is an amazing accomplishment at Northwestern.
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
Chryst was nothing special as a player, but he’s taken the Badgers to another level since taking over at his alma mater in 2015. Wisconsin has become the team to beat in the Big Ten West and is getting accustomed to playing in major bowl games and being a top-10 team.
The Badgers haven’t quite reached the level of being a serious national championship contender year after year, but Chryst is certainly building toward making that happen.
Kirby Smart, Georgia
Unlike most SEC coaches, Smart was an all-conference player in the league as a player. As a defensive back, he snagged four career interceptions for the Bulldogs. Since taking over as the head coach at his alma mater, he’s made Georgia one of the nation’s elite programs.
The Bulldogs have come painfully close to winning the national championship and Smart is poised to do that at his alma mater sooner or later.
David Shaw, Stanford
Few college coaches have as difficult of a job as Shaw. However, he’s motivated to succeed because he coaches at the school where he was a three-sport athlete.
While he had the fortune of following Jim Harbaugh’s success at Stanford, Shaw kept the Cardinal as a top-20 program and perennial Pac-12 contender for nearly a decade after taking over as head coach. That’s not easy to do at Stanford by any stretch of the imagination.