Big 12 Sports Articles

Big 12 Football: Head Coaching Grades for the 2021 Season

campbell gundy sarkisian

With college football ending soon, it is time to go back and review how these head coaches did this past season. I was never much of a student myself, but I am familiar with how grading works. Instead of being the student, I will be the one handing out grades this year, and let me just say, some of these coaches in the Big 12 need some help.

Baylor HC Dave Aranda

Record: 11-2

Grade: (A+)

Who in the world saw this coming? Like a dummy, I slept on the Bears before the season and picked them to finish eighth in the Big 12 Conference. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but it is time to give Dave Aranda some credit. The man did wonders in Waco and did it coming off a bad 2-7 season in 2020. Baylor finished the 2021 season with an 11-2 record and a Big 12 championship. It doesn’t get much better than that and they have a chance to win a NY6 game against Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.


Oklahoma State HC Mike Gundy

Record: 11-2

Grade: A

Much like Baylor, nobody was talking about Oklahoma State before the season started. Behind a great defense and a solid running game, the Cowboys powered their way through the schedule and finished with the best conference record. The only reason Mike Gundy didn’t get an A+ is that the Pokes fell a few inches short of winning a Big 12 title. Other than that, it has been a great season in Stillwater, and they can cap it off with a big win in the Fiesta Bowl.

Kansas State HC Chris Klieman

Record: 7-5

Grade: B-

Kansas State started the season hot with a 3-0 record before cooling down as they lost their first three conference games. However, they did manage to bounce back reeling off four straight wins before losing their final two games of the year. I am not one to make excuses, but I do believe if Skylar Thompson were fully healthy this could have been an 8-4 or a 9-3 team but that didn’t happen. With that said, 7-5 wasn’t all that bad this season given the circumstances.

Kansas HC Lance Leipold

Record: 2-10

Grade: C+

I know the overall record doesn’t show it, but this football team was actually competitive this season. The Oklahoma game was the turning point for them and they had a shot to knock off the Sooners at home. Then in their last three games, they played their best football of the season and even knocked off the Longhorns down in Austin. There is still a ton of work to do with this program, but Lance Leipold has this thing going in the right direction.


Former Oklahoma HC Lincoln Riley

Record: 10-2

Grade: C+

He is lucky I am not grading him for running to USC because he would get a failing grade but for his sake, this grade reflects his on-the-field performance. There’s no easy way to say it but Lincoln Riley didn’t do his best job this past season. In fact, it was his worst season as a head coach as the Sooners didn’t even reach the Big 12 title game for the first time in years. Oklahoma was not only supposed to win the Big 12 for the seventh year in a row but also compete for a national title. Neither one of those happened and now Lincoln is off in Los Angeles.

Iowa State HC Matt Campbell

Record: 7-5

Grade: C

Much like Oklahoma, this was supposed to be the year where Iowa State made that next jump by winning a Big 12 championship. The Cyclones were able to make it there in 2020 and fall short in the title game. With everyone coming back, getting there should not have been an issue and it was. Iowa State stumbled too many times this season and was just wildly inconsistent.

West Virginia HC Neal Brown

Record: 6-6

Grade: C

Some people were expecting West Virginia to take that next step forward this season and it just never happened. The Mountaineers have some good core pieces but lack in some key areas. The offensive line has been an issue for a while and so has the quarterback position with Jarret Doege. Making a bowl game is good but it still isn’t good enough for year three of the Neal Brown era. I am still waiting on this program to get back to eight- or nine-win seasons.

Texas HC Steve Sarkisian

Record: 5-7

Grade: F

While it may be the first year under Steve Sarkisian it would be foolish of me to say that this past season wasn’t a disaster of epic proportions. Texas started the year with a 4-1 record and then finished the rest of the way going 1-6. During that stretch, the Longhorns lost six games in a row which hasn’t happened since the 1950s. Missing a bowl game at Texas is inexcusable and is flat-out embarrassing.


Former TCU HC Gary Patterson

Record: 3-5

Grade: F

Longtime head coach Gary Patterson didn’t even finish the 2021 season before he resigned. This program was stuck in the mud for the last four years and after eight games, Gary’s season was over. The defense had fallen to levels that they haven’t been at in a long time and Gary was trending in the wrong direction for a while now. When you get canned, you get a failing grade in my book and while he did resign, I am pretty sure his time would have ended sooner rather than later in Fort Worth.

Former Texas Tech HC Matt Wells

Record: 5-3

Grade: F

The crazy thing is that I don’t think Matt Wells was doing a terrible job this past season and it shocked me to see him get fired after winning five of his first eight games of the year. However, it did help Tech get Joey McGuire in the door and for that reason, I am fine with the decision to move on from Matt Wells. Just like I said earlier, when you get fired, you fail.

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