Why College Football 2012 Was the Year of the Coach

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterDecember 4, 2012

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin
Texas A&M head coach Kevin SumlinThomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

2012 finally fleshed out what college fans have been waiting for.

The Year of the Coach.

This year's Eddie Robinson Award for Coach of the Year had nine finalists: Gary Anderson (Utah State), Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Will Muschamp (Florida), Bill O'Brien (Penn State), David Shaw (Stanford), Bill Snyder (Kansas State) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M).

How do you choose the Coach of the Year when so many deserve that honor?

Alabama's Nick Saban, winner of two BCS Championships in three years (and one at LSU in 2003), didn't even qualify as one of the nine finalists despite his Crimson Tide playing for this season's BCS Championship.

Either there is some serious Saban fatigue or the bar has been raised to include overcoming not only adversity but underachieving talent and poor prior performances from a team. These coaches all scored major points in at least one of those categories. 

Utah State head coach Gary Anderson had one heck of a year. His Aggies went 10-2 and were crowned the 2012 Western Athletic Conference champions.

But Anderson's coaching wasn't just reflected in the conference—his team handled some big boys as well. The only two losses of the year came against BYU (16-14) and Wisconsin (6-3), both on the road. For comparison purposes, Nebraska allowed Wisconsin to score 70 points on it during the Big Ten championship game. 

Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren has his Huskies in the Discover Orange Bowl. A Mid-American Conference team BCS bowling? Yes, and with a 12-1 record to boot. Doeren's team's one loss came in the first week of the season against Iowa—Northern Illinois lost 18-17. Doeren, after just two years and a 23-4 record at Northern Illinois, has accepted the head coaching job at North Carolina State. 

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has already delivered what Irish fans have been longing for since 1988: a shot at winning a national championship.

With great defense and a more physical style of play Kelly has fixed what has been plaguing Notre Dame football for a long time. Notre Dame beat Stanford and USC in its 12-0 journey to becoming the No. 1 team in the nation. 

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer threw himself back into coaching after a short stint as a college football analyst for ESPN. Meyer's Buckeyes were sanctioned by the NCAA with a one-year post season ban due to his predecessor's NCAA violations.

How does a coach motivate a team to play well with no bowl game as incentive? Meyer managed to coach up his team to a 12-0 record and bring excitement back to Columbus, OH, all in his very first year at Ohio State.

Will Muschamp was feeling some serious pressure after only one year as the Florida Gators' head coach. After going 7-6 last year, Muschamp turned the program around to an 11-1 program and put his Gators in the AllState Sugar Bowl. Four of his team's victories were over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State. The Gators are baaaack. 

Penn State's football program was in complete disarray in the spring due to the ensuing fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. New head coach Bill O'Brien stepped into a tumultuous situation and somehow, managed to keep this young team focused despite devastating and unprecedented sanctions from the NCAA.

Despite starting out 0-2, the Nittany Lions finished off the season 8-4. 

David Shaw stepped into some big shoes when then-head coach Jim Harbaugh left to go coach for the San Francisco 49ers. Most pundits saw a future of mediocre Stanford football, especially after quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin went on to play in the NFL.

But Shaw did the unthinkable in only his second year: He beat the same team twice in six days (UCLA) and has his Cardinal in the Rose Bowl. 

Bill Snyder is a legendary coach who seems to defy aging. His calm, cool and collected manner has done wonders for his 11-1 Wildcats.

This year Snyder has coached up quarterback Collin Klein to become a Heisman finalist. Kansas State will be playing Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the school's second BCS berth.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin knew he was going to be thrown in a hornet's nest when his school left the Big 12 and joined the SEC this year. Who knew this coach's team would be one of only six total teams that has beaten the Tide at home during the Saban era? Moreover, Sumlin did this in his first year as the head coach at Texas A&M.