Who are the most influential college coaches? According to a CBSSports.com 12-member voting panel of people who work in the college sports industry, they are the highest-profile coaches who recently won big.
Who are the most influential college athletic directors? Based on the same panel’s votes, these ADs tend to be those who are on powerful committees and/or tend to freely speak their mind.
What is telling about the vote -- and sure, it’s a subjective vote -- is no coach or AD cracked the top 10 list of the Most Influential People in College Sports. The power of a coach tends to be far more local than national. The opinions of Mike Krzyzewski, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and John Calipari usually result in more action at their respective universities than on the national landscape. Calipari, for instance, has been complaining for years that the NCAA and schools weren't allowed to pay for family travel to games. The NCAA created a pilot program this year once Meyer spoke out publicly and Ohio State AD Gene Smith and Oregon AD Rob Mullens worked behind the scenes to get it done.
One notable coach who didn’t crack the coaches’ top 10 but we believe should have made it: Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. When you’re a basketball coach, no matter the gender, and win as many NCAA titles as John Wooden while being as outspoken as Auriemma, you’ve got influence. Only Auriemma would criticize the style of play in men's basketball during the women's Final Four and get as much attention as he got. Auriemma received only one vote, perhaps speaking to how much college sports' influence is tied to the revenue-generating sports.
I suspect if we did this project again in a couple years there would be an AD or two who cracked the top 10 of the overall list. Athletic directors are starting to gain more power in NCAA decisions and as the Power Five conferences create their own legislation. Plus, they're serving on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, which will continue to be a lightning rod in college sports based on which teams make the four-team field and if the playoff should expand to eight teams.
|Most influential college coaches|
|T-1||Mike Krzyzewski, Duke men's basketball|
|T-1||Urban Meyer, Ohio State football|
|3.||Nick Saban, Alabama football|
|4.||John Calipari, Kentucky men's basketball|
|5.||Tom Izzo, Michigan State men's basketball|
|6.||Roy Williams, North Carolina men's basketball|
|7.||All Power Five conference football coaches|
|8.||Jim Harbaugh, Michigan football|
|9.||Bill Snyder, Kansas State football|
|10.||Mark Richt, Georgia football|
|Voter on John Calipari: “Though some may point to only one national championship as well as the (Final Four) banners that were removed, it is hard to point to anything other than jealousy for a fair amount of the grief Calipari gets. He just thinks of things first, and is smart and stubborn enough to figure them out first as well.”|
|Voter on all Power Five coaches: “In today’s competitive collegiate environment, most FBS head football coaches will receive anything he feels is necessary to compete and win.”|
|Voter on Jim Harbaugh: “He has the capacity to prompt change and discussion, such as his social media use and the satellite camps issue.”|
|Voter on Mark Richt: "He's the only coach on the new and influential Football Oversight Committee and cares about the good of the game."|
|Most influential athletic directors|
|Ranking||Athletic director, school|
|1.||Jeff Long, Arkansas|
|2.||Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame|
|3.||Jim Phillips, Northwestern|
|4.||Pat Haden, USC|
|5.||Jeremy Foley, Florida|
|6.||Gene Smith, Ohio State|
|7.||Kevin White, Duke|
|8.||Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma|
|9.||Dan Guerrero, UCLA|
|10.||Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky|
|Voter on Pat Haden: “Spoke out in favor of gay rights when most other ADs were safely silent.|
|Voter on Gene Smith: “Though it has been several years since he last chaired a high-profile committee, Smith's voice in matters of every kind transcends title. With a cautious, strategic take on nearly any topic in the business, Smith still carries weight that matters to those in the business, and is likely to leave a legacy of administrators to the business who learned the wisdom of the “steady hand" from Smith for generations to come, much to the benefit of intercollegiate athletics.”|
|Voter on Kevin White: “He’s progressive thinking and student-athlete oriented. He has led three Power Five programs and influenced by placing associates in over 30 Division I programs.”|
|Voter on Dan Guerrero: “UCLA is one of the two big kahunas in the Pac-12, and Guerrero has earned his stripes working through the ranks of the system, serving in any variety of roles in college sports (including chair of the men's basketball committee) while remaining true to passions, including minority recruitment in college athletics. The combination of the vital importance men's basketball plays to the survival of the NCAA and accomplishments of Guerrero to date give him firepower to watch.”|