Pennsylvania High School Alumni Coaching FBS Programs

Last week, I took a look at Pennsylvania high school graduates who have led NFL teams as head coaches. This week’s post will focus on those who currently serve as head coaches in the NCAA, specifically at the FBS level. In stark contrast to the 28% of NFL jobs held by Pennsylvanians, only three of the 130 FBS positions (or 2.3%) belong to Keystone State grads. Those three coaches are James Franklin (Neshaminy → Penn State), Kirk Ferentz (Upper St. Clair → Iowa) and Randy Edsall (Susquehannock → UConn).

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James Franklin as a quarterback at Neshaminy. Image from PennLive.com: https://www.pennlive.com/pennstatefootball/2016/12/how_james_franklins_playing_pa.html

Here’s a clipping of Edsall’s high school days from 1975. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a picture of Ferentz playing for Upper St. Clair’s football team. However, I did come across an unexpected article that mentions him playing hockey and scoring a goal against the old Armstrong High School in 1973.

As of the end of the 2019 season, Franklin (including his time at Vanderbilt) holds a career record of 80-38 (.678). In 21 years at Iowa (plus three at Maine), Ferentz has gone 174-125 (.582). Edsall, who has coached a pair of stints at UConn and one at Maryland, is 98-127 (.436).

We could probably spend a lot of time discussing why there is such a disparity between the number of Pennsylvanians serving as coaches at football’s two highest levels, but I think it’s likely just a statistical blip, if anything. I can’t think of many logical reasons why the NFL has three times as many coaches from our high schools as the FBS despite having a quarter as many teams, so I think it’s just an oddity without a real explanation or reason as to why it exists. Perhaps you could follow the line of thinking that Pennsylvania produces a lot of high-quality coaches and they view coaching in the NFL as the ultimate goal, leading many of them to take the professional route. I’m not certain that I’m sold on that theory, though.

A more wide-ranging post on Pennsylvania grads coaching at major college programs throughout history will be coming at a later time. Instead, I wanted to take time to briefly point out some trends in FBS coaching backgrounds as they stand today, now that Hawaii’s vacancy has been filled by Todd Graham and his Garth Brooks-style headset microphone.

  • Pennsylvania’s three current head coaches are tied for 12th among all states. The other states with three are Wisconsin, Utah, New Hampshire, Kansas and Arkansas. When comparing the historical clout of high school football in each of these states, it becomes more clear how low Pennsylvania’s number currently sits as opposed to what one may expect.
  • The state that can claim the most graduates as FBS head coaches? Ohio, with 13 (or exactly 10 percent of all coaches at that level). California (11) is second and Texas (10) is third.
  • Ten states do not have a current representative at the FBS level. These fall into two camps: the not-surprising and the fairly-surprising, at least to me. Vermont, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Maine, Delaware, Nevada and Alaska? Sure, those make sense. But Maryland, Michigan and (especially) Virginia? I don’t think I would’ve guessed that those three states would’ve been skunked by this survey.
  • Another surprise for me is the fact that the three teams tied for 8th are Georgia (not shocking) along with West Virginia and Indiana (more shocking). West (enter your chosen expletive) Virginia has some pretty good firepower, too, with a roster of Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher and the solid but lesser known Doc Holliday joining newcomer Shawn Clark of Appalachian State. Indiana can’t match that lineup, but Kevin Sumlin, Tom Allen, Thomas Hammock and Mike Neu still represent more Hoosiers than I would’ve guessed.
  • The full table can be seen below:
BY STATE
OH 13
CA 11
TX 10
FL 8
OK 7
IL 6
TN 5
AL 5
WV 4
IN 4
GA 4
WI 3
UT 3
PA 3
NH 3
KS 3
AR 3
SD 2
SC 2
OR 2
NJ 2
NE 2
NC 2
MS 2
MN 2
LA 2
KY 2
IA 2
WY 1
WA 1
NY 1
NM 1
MT 1
MO 1
MA 1
ID 1
HI 1
DC 1
CT 1
CO 1
AZ 1
VT 0
VA 0
RI 0
NV 0
ND 0
MI 0
ME 0
MD 0
DE 0
AK 0

Take a look at these and feel free to drop any other observations in the comments.

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