The field for the Maxwell Coach of the Year Award has been narrowed to three, with Duke coach David Cutcliffe, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel named as finalists for the award on Tuesday.
All three finalists led their respective teams to a conference championship game, and two of the finalists will share the field on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game between Auburn and Missouri. Duke will be representing the ACC Coastal against Florida State, winning the division outright and finishing with 10-wins for the first time in program history.
The reoccurring theme with all these coaches has been a turning around a program and ascending to unpredicted levels of success in 2013. Malzahn, in his first year as head coach, brought new talent and frustrated veterans together to bounce back from a 3-9 showing (with zero SEC wins) to becoming SEC West champions by knocking off Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
Missouri battled through injuries during its first season of SEC play, and critics doubted Pinkel's longevity in Colubmia before the Tigers knocked off the powers in the SEC East and won the division outright by slowing Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.
Cutcliffe's rebuilding campaign has been more gradual, but no less impressive. Duke's bowl appearance in 2012 was the program's first since 1994 and on Saturday the Blue Devils will be competing for its first conference title since Steve Spurrier earned a share of the ACC title in 1989.
The award is given annually by the Maxwell Football Club in addition to Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year), Bednarik Award (College Defensive Player of the Year) and others.