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How Famous NCAAF Coaches Fared in First Year

A head coach in College Football can reach levels of fame that is not possible for others. They often spend years recruiting and building a culture in a program, having their presence affect College Football odds. It often takes time for them to reach that level, but sometimes it is clear right away.

Right now, there are a handful of coaches that affect College Football lines like few others, becoming household names. These are some of the famous College Football head coaches in the sport today and how they did in their first season.

How Famous NCAAF Coaches Fared in First Year
Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs | Sean m. haffey/getty images/afp

Kirby Smart


After spending years serving as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator, from 2008-15, Kirby Smart became the head coach of Georgia in 2016. Since then, they have won the last two National Championships and are favored in College Football betting to win a third this season.

Even in Smart’s first year with the Bulldogs, he would raise the team to another level. It was still a bumpy first season, compared to the rest of his career, going 8-5, with the defense needing more work, which Smart would eventually address. Despite that, he did lead the team to a win in the Liberty Bowl.

Nick Saban


While the legacy of Nick Saban is tied to Alabama, it is not where he got his first head coaching job. Saban started his head coaching career in 1990 at Toledo, where he went 9-2. However, it would only be one season, with him moving on to the NFL as a defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.

Saban would then have stops at Michigan State and LSU, having success, before his trying luck at the NFL again with the Miami Dolphins in 2005. After that didn’t work, he returned to college football, settling with the Crimson Tide in 2007. In his first season with Alabama, he led the school to a 7-6 record, winning the Independence Bowl and starting a program’s eventual domination of College Football picks.

Jim Harbaugh


Jim Harbaugh played quarterback in the NFL for 14 years before retiring in 2000. He took his first head coaching job with Stanford, seven years later. His first season as the head coach of the Cardinal was far from exciting, with the team ending up 4-8. However, when he left in 2010, Harbaugh went 12-1 in his final season and won the Orange Bowl.

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Harbaugh’s success at Stanford earned him a head coaching job in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. It took five years for him to return to College Football in 2015 with Michigan. There was a decent amount of pressure to succeed immediately, and he did, with a 10-3 record, also winning the Citrus Bowl.

Dabo Swinney


Six games into the 2008 season, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden resigned, opening the door for Dabo Swinney to take over. The team had high hopes for 2008, which were not met, and Swinney tried to keep things together going 4-3 in the seven games he was interim head coach. He did manage to keep the team afloat enough to lose in the Gator Bowl.

The following season, 2009, Swinney was brought back to be the head coach of the Tigers and found a decent amount of success, going 9-5 and winning the Music City Bowl. That earned him enough time to build the team how he wanted, leading Clemson to two National Championships.

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