By one metric, Florida State's Bobby Bowden stands alone among college coaches

By one metric, Florida State's Bobby Bowden stands alone among college coaches

College football lost an icon on Sunday when former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden passed away at 91. The stories flowing in a vast and plentiful for a man who was beloved, colorful and one of the most successful the sport has ever seen.

Yes, he “only” won two national championships. There are a handful of coaches who rung up more than that. But by one metric, Bobby Bowden stands alone among the fraternity of legendary college football coaches.

From 1987-2000, his Seminoles finished in the AP top five every season. No one comes even close to that type of sustained success. At 14 straight years with a top-five team, he doesn’t just stand alone, he laps the field.

Here’s another way to put Bowden’s run in perspective: Alabama’s Bear Bryant, universally considered one of the sport’s top coaches, had 12 top-five finishes spread over his 23 years in Tuscaloosa. He never had more than three straight. Neither did Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Urban Meyer, Jimmy Johnson, Joe Paterno and a host of other greats

MORE: Tributes from Deion Sanders, more, pour in after Bowden passes away at 91

Here’s the list of coaches with at least four consecutive top-five finishes in the AP Poll era:

NameCollegeStreakYears
Bobby BowdenFlorida State141987-2000
Pete CarrollUSC72002-09
Bud WilkinsonOklahoma71952-58
Dabo SwinneyClemson62015-20*
Nick SabanAlabama52014-18
Ara ParseghianNotre Dame5966-70
Steve SpurrierFlorida41995-98
Dennis EricksonMiami41989-92
Barry SwitzerOklahoma41973-76
Darryl RoyalTexas41961-64
Frank LeahyNotre Dame41946-49

*still active

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is in position for his seventh straight top-five finish this year, which would put him halfway up Mount Bowden and would tie Pete Carroll’s remarkable run at USC. And the Tigers have shown no signs of slowing down, either on the recruiting trail or on the field, so maybe Swinney will match the heights of the Florida State legend.

But for now, Bowden’s run stands alone.