Some of the great offensive inventions develop in the most unlikely places.
After stints as an assistant at West Texas State and UTEP (in which he became enamored with BYU legend LaVell Edwards and spread passing attack), as well as a couple of high school head coach coaching jobs in Texas, Hal Mumme (with assistance from Mike Leach) put his high octane Air Raid offense into practice in college football at tiny Iowa Wesleyan.
The pair then rode a wave passing records to Valdosta State and then Kentucky.
Around the same time, 1990 to be exact, Rich Rodriguez was hired as the head coach at Glenville State following a coaching career that included two seasons as a defensive assistant and one as the head coach at Salem College, and a year coaching outside linebackers at West Virginia.
It was at Glenville State that Rodriguez developed the zone read – one of the most significant plays of our generation, if not football history. The play helped turn the Pioneers into a winning NAIA program and caught the attention of Tulane head coach Tommy Bowden, who hired Rich Rod to run his offense in 1997.
The following year, the Green Wave went undefeated, Bowden was hired at Clemson and brought Rodriguez along. Two more years and Rodriguez was hired as the head coach at West Virginia, his alma mater.
Rodriguez quickly became one of the hottest coaches in the nation, utilizing his zone read and spread option offense to rack up wins and rushing yards. In seven years with the Mountaineers, he was 60-26 overall, won at least a share of the Big East four times and won ten games or more in each of his last three seasons.
Things didn’t go so well once Rodriguez was hired as the head coach at Michigan in 2008, but it was the Wolverines’ defense (in addition to the fact that Rodriguez just wasn’t the right fit in Ann Arbor) that led to his firing three years later.
While Mumme is still considered among the most influential college football coaches of all-time, as the head coach at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi it’s difficult to place him among today’s best. Rich Rod, on the other hand, is back at the peak of his profession.
Hired as the head coach at Arizona prior to the 2012 season, Rodriguez immediately jumpstarted the Wildcats into the nation’s top ten with 526 yards per game. Two years later, Rich Rod is the reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year after he led the Wildcats to a 10-4 record, the Pac-12 South title and a spot in the conference championship game for the first time.
Earning a salary of $3 million, which makes him the best bargain in college football according to ESPN.com’s Travis Haney, the Wildcats scored 34.5 points and averaged 464 yards per game last season.
Next: Art Briles