Ever since the College Football Playoff was created, and debated, the game as we know it has been controlled by the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers. After all, the two teams have met four-straight years in the CFP and look poised to meet again with two Heisman Trophy hopefuls at quarterback. What that also means is the list of active college football coaches with national titles will remain rather small.
With Urban Meyer walking away from the Ohio State Buckeyes, Gene Chizik enjoying life after Auburn, and legends like Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden long retired, there is only a handful of active leaders who have hoisted a national championship trophy and still pace the sidelines today.
Two of them are obvious and a couple have snuck back into the mix after leaving football for a few years. So let’s take a look at the five NCAA college football coaches who fit that criteria:
Nick Saban (Alabama)
All anyone can say here is DUH! The 67-year-old Nick Saban has dominated his profession for years now and has made it all happen while coaching in the powerful SEC. Saban won his first national championship with the LSU Tigers back in 2003, but has taken it to a completely different level in guiding the Crimson Tide to titles in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017. Nick Saban is a living legend.
Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years, this is the other obvious choice. Dabo Swinney has made the ACC look like child’s play over the last few seasons and has national titles in 2016 and 2018 to prove it. In many ways, the 49-year-old is the only man who can currently hold a candle to Nick Saban.
Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M)
The Texas A&M Aggies gave Jimbo Fisher a national championship plaque before he even coached a game. That’s why he got paid the big bucks to move to College Station. The Aggies are looking for the same magic Fisher brought to the Florida State Seminoles back in 2013 when he won the BCS National Championship game. There’s no doubt it could happen.
Mack Brown (North Carolina)
After resigning following the 2013 season, Mack Brown has returned to college football to lead the North Carolina Tar Heels back to national prominence. Although it was well over a decade ago, the now-67-year-old Brown has shown a coaching prowess to win big games, including the greatest college football game ever between the Texas Longhorns and USC Trojans back in 2005. This new task won’t be easy, but his return to the game certainly adds another big name to the list.
Les Miles (Kansas)
Much like Brown, Les Miles took some time off after coaching LSU before returning to the game. But after winning the national title with the Tigers in 2007, don’t expect it to happen anytime soon with his new gig. The Mad Hatter has taken over the lowly Kansas Jayhawks football program, where Big 12 wins and simply reaching bowl games are acceptable.
Needless to say, Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly, Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart, and Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley have a much better chance than Miles to help their football teams reach the promise land.
Still, he’s part of an elite FBS list that only a few active coaches are a part of right now in college football today.