Friday, June 24, 2011

2010-11 NCAA Football Family Atmosphere Rankings

Greg Schiano
Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano with Eric LeGrand's mother.
The fourth release of College Football Live’s! Family Atmosphere Awards recognizes a new program at the top of the list. This year’s top program encouraged team unity, supported academics, exhibited loyalty, and prepared athletes for a life after football. They also lost their final six games of the season proving winning isn’t a requisite for fostering a football family atmosphere.

There was more movement in the Top 10 than previous years. Programs like Texas, Ohio State and Georgia tumbled out of the rankings, while programs like Iowa made their first appearances.

It’s hard not to respect the examples set by University of Texas Head Coach Mack Brown. He is charitable off the field and leads with integrity, but the UT Administration doesn’t believe in family when it comes to the Big Twelve Conference. The Longhorns will tear apart the Big Twelve Family if it suits the bottom line, just ask Nebraska.

No program tumbled from glory more than Ohio State. Few people will argue that Jim Tressell doesn’t have good intentions, but his lack of leadership left fans feeling empty.

In a season where controversy and poor judgment from coaching staffs was the norm, there are staffs that deserve credit for fostering unity, leadership and academic success. Most of these programs are even winners on the field.

College Football Live! recognizes programs that provide student-athletes supervision, generate loyalty, inspire team unity, and infuse integrity. College Football Live! spent the last year collecting and maintaining a database of positive examples and incidents that demonstrate Football Family Atmosphere traits.

Our panel of experts from across the country conducted independent searches, and researched as many examples as possible before voting on this year’s Football Family Atmosphere Awards. We use the previous year’s list as a guide, but the majority of voting is based on events in the 2010-11 season.


Programs going through coaching changes this year were not eligible for this list. Most of the programs listed below have had the core coaching staff in place for two or more years. Data for determining the top programs was collected after January 2009.

Head of the Family: Greg Schiano
2010 Ranking; #3
2009 Ranking: #6

Greg Schiano has a long list of Humanitarian Awards and blends tough love with a soft side to lead his Scarlet Knights. Schiano cares about winning, but he cares more about the well-being of his athletes. The Athletic Program and Rutgers Community rallied around injured Defensive Tackle Eric LeGrand. Although he’s not on the field, LeGrand will forever be a part of the program, and the Coaches and Administration have made his recovery a priority.

Head of the Family: Frank Beamer
2010 Ranking; #7
2009 Ranking: #7

This is the highest we’ve ranked Head Coach Frank Beamer’s program. Beamer’s team had a shaky start, but it’s a testament to the strength of his staff and athletes that they could finish with 11 straight wins after an emotional loss to Boise State and a shocking loss to James Madison. Beamer’s staff is a loyal crew, and their athletes were a reflection of them in 2010.

Head of the Family: Mike Riley
2010 Ranking; #1
2009 Ranking: #1

Oregon State isn’t number one this year, but nobody is more respected by his head coaching peers than Mike Riley. He continues to develop great athletes and individuals that are grateful for his guidance on and off the field. The Beavers continue to be among the cleanest programs in the country according to the Sports Illustrated feature ‘College Football and Crime’ and they boasted academic success finishing behind only Stanford on the Pac-10 All-Academic Team.

Head of the Family: Ken Niumatalolo
2010 Ranking; #11
2009 Ranking: #NR

What Niumatalolo does not do is promote himself. He's a soft-spoken man who puts faith and family before football but still has been able to win consistently with a program that operates at a tremendous recruiting disadvantage compared with most other Division I teams. He has already secured his third straight eight-win season and has been named a semifinalist for the first annual Joseph V. Paterno Coach of the Year Award.

Head of the Family: Chris Petersen
2010 Ranking; #5
2009 Ranking: #NR

There aren’t many programs that have as tight a family as Chris Peterson. The Boise State Head Coach makes it a priority as soon as the season is complete. “One of the priorities of the winter and spring is to build that family atmosphere and feeling of working with each other”.

Head of the Family: Joe Paterno
2010 Ranking; #6
2009 Ranking: #2

Despite having a close-knit reputation Joe Paterno’s program has been a magnet for off-field issues, and their figure head’s role is diminishing. Penn State’s drop in the Family Atmosphere Rankings reflects the issues, but if any program on this list deserves the Lifetime Achievement Award it’s Penn State.

Head of the Family: Gary Patterson
2010 Ranking; #NR
2009 Ranking: #NR

Gary Patterson’s program is the new face of Family Atmosphere in the Lone Star State. Patterson is a class act, produces high graduation rates, and handles himself with integrity on and off camera. “I want to teach my guys that every day they have to get up because the world is hard. Not just the football game; the world is hard. Athletes simply leave his program as better individuals and win a lot of games.

Head of the Family: Rick Stockstill
2010 Ranking; #9
2009 Ranking: #NR

Rick Stockstill oozes loyalty and paternal instincts. He’s had offers for more money to coach in stronger conferences, but he’s on a mission at Middle Tennessee State. Former players rave, “He is honest and treats you like a son”. Even Stockstill admits, “I just feel like I'm impacting these kids' lives and I feel like I'm having a positive effect on them. So the money will come. But that stuff does not drive me."

Head of the Family: Bronco Mendenhall
2010 Ranking; #NR
2009 Ranking: #NR

How many coaches can say they were carried off the field by their team last year? After a dismal start the team won five or their last six games. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall summed up the family bond at BYU, "Myself and this team ... we have just formed a very unique bond, and I won't ever forget it." BYU’s strict Code of Conduct should be worth something in College Football’s chaos.

Head of the Family: Gene Chizik
2010 Ranking; #NR
2009 Ranking: #NR

No program in 2010 did more on the list to build a football family atmosphere than Gene Chizik. ESPN suggested Chizik borrowed a page from Texas Head Coach Mack Brown, and that formula works. Auburn made it official with a 2-day “Big Cat Weekend” in May that created a unique feeling among 20 recruits and sold that college town family feeling. The rest of the season saw the athletes bond and achieve the ultimate goal.

H O N O R A B L E - M E N T I O N

11. WAKE FOREST: Jim Grobe uses Reaganomics to reach his players. Grobes staff is instructed to lead by example and provide a fair and inspiring environment within the athletic facilities at Wake Forest. This trickle down method is passed from class to class, and there are few programs with a tighter knit team than Grobe’s staff. It doesn’t hurt that Grobe has boxes full of Humanitarian Awards.

12. IOWA HAWKEYES: There aren’t many compliments better than a comparison to Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno, but that’s the company with whom Kirk Ferentz is bundled. In terms of longevity, both coaches have been at their respective schools longer than any other Big Ten coaches. Ferentz’s offensive and defensive coordinators have remained the same since his arrival, and Ferentz recently signed an extension to stay in Iowa through 2020 signifying a family that will stay together for much longer. Iowa would have finished higher if their roster didn’t have the most athletes charged with crimes according to SI.

13. TULANE: Few programs graduate a higher percentage of athletes and promote a stronger family atmosphere than Tulane Head Coach Chris Scelfo and his staff. His philosophy sounds simple, but it’s effective. "As a college coach, you're involved in every aspect of a student's life. As a coaching staff, our goal is to make sure we give each player the support he needs to be successful, academically, athletically and spiritually."

14. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Bo Pelini earned a reputation this year as an emotional coach who gets carried away with referees and at times his players. He still cares about his Husker family – a lot. The Husker Staff has rebuilt the Nebraska Family that was undermined after Tom Osborne left his post. It’s an attitude that has persisted since the Husker program was just a kernalkernel, and if they hadn’t divorced their abusive Big Twelve Family they would rank higher this year. The Big Ten is a much happier family so NU will thrive.


  1. Well deserved ranking for Rutgers.

  2. Auburn at 10? I guess you could say they keep their kid well fed and their pockets insulated.

  3. Rutgers is alarmingly well versed to gain a rank. Its the real time innovation.

  4. Schiano is a class act. Number 2 in APR as well.

  5. This is a really good post. Must admit that you are amongst the best bloggers I have read.
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