Forty percent of Big 12 football teams will have a first-year head coach in 2019, the highest rate in conference history. Will Chris Klieman, Les Miles, Matt Wells, or Neal Brown prove to be one of the best hires in conference history?
Here are the 10 best head-coaching hires by Big 12 teams in the last 25 years:
Honorable Mention: Bill Snyder (2009) and Frank Solich
Bill Snyder cleaned up the Ron Prince mess and, with last year's retirement, left Kansas State in a similar position to his first retirement. Frank Solich was the right guy to succeed Tom Osborne and was the victim of an impatient administration with Osborne-sized expectations.
10. Chris Klieman
The only first-year coach on the list, Chris Klieman will prove to be one of the best head-coaching hires in Big 12 history.
He took North Dakota State to a new dominant level, and while Kansas State will never reel off national titles, the 51-year-old midwesterner found a perfect fit in a similar territory.
9. Matt Rhule
One of the most important hires in college football history, Matt Rhule has, in only two years, proven to be a magnificent fit for a broken program. His NFL flirtations suggest he might not remain in Waco long, but he's already done a remarkable job on and off the field.
8. Mike Leach
Mike Leach would be higher if he inherited a worse situation at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders weren't competing for Big 12 titles when Leach arrived in 2000, but they were a good, stable program that won at least six games in 11 of the previous 14 seasons. It was a strong hire at the time, prying an up-and-coming playcaller away from a comfortable Oklahoma coordinator job, and remained a strong hire throughout his run in Lubbock.
7. Mark Mangino
Two years after Bob Stoops lost Leach to Texas Tech, he lost Leach's replacement, Mark Mangino, to another Big 12 foe, Kansas.
Kansas had seven total wins in the two seasons before Mangino's arrival and had two bowl appearances in the last 20 seasons. They were a middling program on the verge of falling into the depths of futility until Mangino arrived and engineered the best run in program history.
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6. Matt Campbell
When Matt Campbell arrived in 2016, Iowa State had eight total wins over the last three seasons, hadn't been ranked in the AP top 25 since 2005, hadn't won more than seven games since 2000 and was an annual bye-week opponent for several Big 12 opponents.
Now, the Cyclones have back-to-back eight-win seasons for the first time in four decades, back-to-back seasons with AP rankings for the first time since 1980-81 and are a serious contender for the Big 12 Championship.
5. Gary Pinkel
Larry Smith led Mizzou to 15 wins, back-to-back bowl games and back-to-back AP top 25 appearances in 1997-98, but this was still a subpar program when longtime Toledo head coach Gary Pinkel arrived in Columbia in 2001.
After a couple of warmup years (nine total wins from 2001-02), Mizzou won at least eight games in nine of the next 12 seasons. He has five of the six double-digit-win seasons in program history, including the only 11- and 12-win seasons, and led a remarkably smooth SEC transition.
4. Lincoln Riley
Lincoln Riley is a hard one to rank. Like Matt Campbell, he could prove to be the conference's best hire in the last 25 years. For now, the 35-year-old third-year head coach sits just behind the conference's all-time hires after two outstanding seasons.
3. Mike Gundy
Mike Gundy is one of the most underappreciated head coaches in college football history. His constant job flirtation and bouts of pettiness ruffles feathers, but he was a great hire in 2005 and remains a great hire in 2019.
While Les Miles laid the foundation for the Cowboys' turnaround, Gundy made the program nationally relevant and a near-annual conference title contender. They had three 10-win seasons before his arrival; he has six in the last nine years.
2. Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops wanted the Iowa job in late 1998. He played for the Hawkeyes and coached under Hayden Fry before stops at Kent State, Kansas State, and Florida made him the most sought-after assistant in the country.
Instead, he landed at Oklahoma and transformed a downtrodden program reeling from poor hires (Howard Schnellenberger, John Blake) into a national champion.
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1. Mack Brown
Mack Brown earns the razor-thin edge.
He inherited a slightly better situation than Stoops, though Texas was still bobbing between four- and 10-win seasons and couldn't find high-level consistency until his arrival in 1998. Brown won at least nine games in each of his first 12 seasons and delivered the program's first title in 35 years.