The Oklahoma Sooners shocked the college football world this past week. First, Bob Stoops stepped down as the head coach of the Sooners with just over two months to go before the season begins. Then, Oklahoma replaced Stoops with the youngest head coach in college football in Lincoln Riley. There has been a dramatic shift over the years when it comes to the minimum experience a college head coach must have under their belt. Only time will tell if the decision to go with younger head coaches will work out for these programs. Here is a look at the four youngest head coaches in college football.
Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma Sooners
Age: 33 Years Old
Riley became the youngest head coach in the college ranks when he took over for Stoops at just 33-years-old. Riley had thrived as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and it seemed like only a matter of time before he became a head coach somewhere. The fact that the Sooners made it happen and so suddenly is what caught everybody off guard. The Oklahoma offense ranked 10th in the country in passing yards and third in total yards from scrimmage a year ago. Riley has worked closely with quarterback Baker Mayfield to develop his talents and the program clearly felt continuity was key to their continued success. The Sooners have the potential to contend on the national stage this season. It will be very interesting to see if Riley can succeed from the outset in place of Stoops.
Mike Norvell, Memphis Tigers
Age: 35 Years Old
Norvell was the youngest head coach in college football a year ago when he led Memphis to an 8-5 record. He didn’t need to overhaul the roster that former Tigers head coach Justin Fuente built but he did need to put all of the pieces together to get the most out of his roster. Norvell had a successful first season in Memphis. As the second-youngest head coach in college football he will still be in the spotlight in 2017.
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan Broncos
Age: 36 Years Old
Western Michigan finally broke through last season with a MAC conference championship. After back-to-back 8-5 seasons, the Broncos went 13-1 including an 8-0 record in conference play. Fleck’s recruiting success, development and coaching has elevated Western Michigan to MAC champions in just four seasons. Fleck is still the third-youngest head coach in college football and his success has helped paved the way for the next wave of young college football head coaches.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State Cyclines
Age: 37 Years Old
Campbell has worked his way up the ladder in the coaching ranks. He started in Division II, doing good work with Mount Union. That’s a team that accomplished quite a bit under his watch. After that, he coached at Bowling Green and Toledo. In 2012, he moved up to head coach of the Toledo Rockets. They enjoyed four successful seasons under him, compiling a record of 35-15.
He did a great job recruiting in the MAC too. He picked up the No. 1 class twice in his time and even brought in a fairly strong recruiting class in his first year at Iowa State too.
The Cyclones had a rough start to the 2016 campaign and only finished with three wins, but there were plenty of positives. They won two of their final three games – including a 66-10 drubbing of Texas Tech. And in the two weeks before that, they pushed No. 14 Oklahoma (only lost by 10) and challenged a quality Kansas State team (lost by five). They also only lost by a touchdown at Oklahoma State and by three home to No. 13 Baylor. This is a team that’s on the rise in the Big 12.
Jason Candle, Toledo Rockets
Age: 37 Years Old
It didn’t take long for Candle to establish Toledo as a legitimate contender in the MAC. The Rockets went 6-2 in conference play and finished with a 9-2 record overall en route to placing second in the MAC West division. At just 37-years-old, Candle is still one of the youngest head coaches in college football. He has Toledo headed in the right direction and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Candle-led Rockets contend for a MAC championship in 2017.
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