College Football
Michigan's 10 best first-year coaches: Can Sherrone Moore crack the list?
College Football

Michigan's 10 best first-year coaches: Can Sherrone Moore crack the list?

Updated Jun. 12, 2024 8:22 p.m. ET

Sherrone Moore is entering a unique situation in his first season as the head coach of Michigan.

The first-year coach is taking over a national championship-winning squad, becoming the first Division I college football head coach to do that since Frank Solich replaced Tom Osborn at Nebraska in 1998. He replaces Jim Harbaugh, who oversaw a Michigan team that went 40-3 over the last three years, and will oversee a Wolverines squad that lost the majority of its leaders and key contributors from last season.

As expectations and pressure mount on Moore, he won't let any of that get to him.

"It doesn't weigh on me that much," Moore said on "The Joel Klatt Show: Big Noon Conversations." "I mean, I think about it, but I'm not going to let it put pressure on me. I just want to get better every day. That's it. Just work on this process.


"We talk about that still with the players. I'm not going to let it drain me or try to think about that too much. I'm just going to try to work, trying to get better at what I can do every single day to make this team the best they can."

[Sherrone Moore reveals promise Jim Harbaugh made before becoming Michigan's coach]

So, what would it take for Moore's first season as Michigan's head coach to be considered a success?

 Let's take a look at the 10 most successful seasons for a first-year coach in Michigan football history. 

10. Lloyd Carr (1995)

Record: 9-4 (.692) 
Big Ten record: 5-3 (.625)
Bowl result: Loss to Texas A&M in Alamo Bowl
Career record at Michigan: 122-40

Carr became the head coach of the Wolverines in May 1995, replacing Gary Moeller, who resigned following his arrest at a Michigan restaurant. 

After serving as Moeller's assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for five seasons, Carr's first season was consistent with his predecessor's tenure. The Wolverines were one of the best teams in the Big Ten, but they fell short of national championship contention.

Carr's Michigan squad lost at home against eventual Big Ten champion Northwestern before losing at Michigan State and at No. 19 Penn State. But Carr ended the regular season on a high note, beating undefeated No. 2 Ohio State at home, 31-23, preventing its top rival from a Big Ten title.

The 1995 season was the start of one of the best head coaching tenures in Michigan history. Carr led Michigan to a national title in his third season as the Wolverines won at least eight games in all but one season in his time as their head coach.

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9. Bo Schembechler (1969) 

Record: 8-3 (.727)
Big Ten record: 6-1 (.857)
Bowl result: Loss to USC in Rose Bowl
Career record at Michigan: 194–48–5

Schembechler ushered in one of the best eras in the program's history after being hired in 1969. While Michigan had a pair of decisive losses against Missouri and Michigan State early in the season, the team was dominant for much of Big Ten play. It upset ninth-ranked Purdue before beating No. 1 Ohio State in its regular-season finale, clinching a share of the Big Ten title and a berth to the Rose Bowl.

The Wolverines won at least nine games in 15 of Schembechler's 21 seasons as head coach, making the Rose Bowl eight more times after his first season.

T5. Gary Moeller (1990)

Record: 9-3 (.750)
Big Ten record: 6-2
Bowl result: Win over Ole Miss in Gator Bowl
Career record at Michigan: 44-13-3

After serving as Schembechler's offensive coordinator for the previous three seasons, Moeller had some early struggles in his first season as the head man. 

Michigan lost a close battle to No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend to open Moeller's tenure. After three straight wins propelled the Wolverines to the No. 1 ranking in the country, they lost back-to-back games at home against Michigan State and Iowa to drop to 20th in the Associated Press poll.

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Moeller's team found its groove after that, defeating No. 19 Ohio State in Columbus, 16-13, before demolishing 15th-ranked Ole Miss, 35-3, in the Gator Bowl to finish the season ranked seventh. Moeller led Michigan to two top-six finishes in the following two seasons before a pair of consecutive 8-4 seasons prior to his resignation in May 1995.

T5. Fritz Crisler (1938)

Record: 6-1-1 (.750)
Big Ten record: 3-1-1
Bowl result: Didn't play in a bowl game
Career record at Michigan: 71-16-3

Crisler immediately turned the Wolverines around after Harry Kipke struggled in his last four seasons as head coach, going 10-22 over that stretch.

While Crisler wasn't able to end Michigan's four-game losing streak to Minnesota, he ended its four-game losing streak to its other top rivals: Michigan State and Ohio State. He led Michigan to a 14-0 win over Michigan State in his debut before recording an 18-0 win over Ohio State on the road. 

Michigan slowly got better over Crisler's 10-year career in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines finished ranked in the top 10 in his last eight seasons with the program before going 10-0 to win a national title in his last season.

T5. Tad Wieman (1927)

Record: 6-2 (.750)
Big Ten record: 3-2
Bowl result: Didn't play in a bowl game
Career record at Michigan: 9-6-1

Wieman led Michigan to a pair of 21-0 wins against its top rivals, Michigan State and Ohio State. However, the Wolverines ended the season with a loss against Minnesota to lose the Big Ten title. 

Michigan went 3-4-1 in the following season and Wieman was ousted as the school's head coach due to his reported tension with athletic director Fielding H. Yost. 

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T5. George Little (1924)

Record: 6-2 (.750)
Big Ten record: 4-2
Bowl result: Didn't play in a bowl game
Career record at Michigan: 6-2

Little had a one-year stint as Michigan's head coach after he succeeded Yost. He led Michigan to wins against its top rivals at the time, defeating Minnesota, 13-0, and Ohio State, 16-6.

But the Wolverines weren't able to overcome a 39-14 loss to Illinois in order to win the Big Ten title. Little left Ann Arbor on his own accord at the end of the season, departing for Wisconsin to be its head coach and the school's athletic director.

4. Jim Harbaugh (2015)

Record: 10-3 (.769)
Big Ten record: 6-2
Bowl result: Win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl
Career record at Michigan: 86-25

After Michigan went 5-7 in 2014, Harbaugh turned the Wolverines into a 10-win team and one of the best in the Big Ten. While he lost to Utah to open his Michigan tenure, Harbaugh quickly put together a five-game winning streak. But that ended with a brutal loss at home against Michigan State, when Michigan botched the snap on a punt on the game's final play that led to a Spartans touchdown.

Harbaugh led Michigan to a four-game win streak after that, but his team got blown out at home against Ohio State, marking the first of five straight losses for him against the school's top rival.

Harbaugh eventually got his revenge against Ohio State, defeating the Buckeyes three straight times in his final three seasons with the program. Of course, Harbaugh led Michigan to a title in his final season with the program.

Can the Michigan Wolverines prove they’re still contenders next season?

3. Brady Hoke (2011)

Record: 11-2 (.846)
Big Ten record: 6-2
Bowl result: Win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl
Career record at Michigan: 31-20

The start of the Brady Hoke era in Ann Arbor showed great promise.

Michigan got out to a 6-0 start under Hoke before losing to rival Michigan State and Iowa over a three-week span. Those were the only blemishes though in the season, as the Wolverines defeated Ohio State, 40-34, to pick up their first win over their archrival since 2003. 

The loss to Michigan State ultimately got in the way of Michigan playing in the first-ever Big Ten Championship Game. Still, Michigan found itself in a BCS Bowl, defeating Virginia Tech in overtime in the Sugar Bowl. 

Hoke's time in Ann Arbor got worse with each season after Year 1, bottoming out with a five-win year in 2014 before being fired.

T1. Bennie Oosterbaan (1948)

Record: 9-0 (1.000)
Big Ten record: 6-0
Bowl result: Didn't play in a bowl game
Career record at Michigan: 63-33-4

Oosterbaan is one of two Michigan coaches to lead the Wolverines to an undefeated season in his first year at the helm.

The Michigan icon, who played for the program and also coached the school's basketball team, coached the Wolverines to a dominant season en route to being named a consensus national champion in 1948. They shut out five of their opponents, allowing just 44 points all season long. They scored at least 27 points six times. 

However, not everyone was immediately impressed with Oosterbaan. After a 13-7 win over Michigan State, the New York Times wrote that the team "lacked most of the precision" Michigan had from its national title-winning squad a year prior.

Michigan closed out its season with a 13-3 win over Ohio State. That ended up being the high mark of Oosterbaan's time as Michigan's head coach though, failing to win more than seven games in a single season after that.

T1. Fielding H. Yost (1901)

Record: 11-0 (1.000)
Big Ten record: 4-0
Bowl result: Defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl
Career record at Michigan: 165-29-10

Yost began his dominance in Ann Arbor the moment he stepped on campus.

Michigan ran right through its schedule in 1901, beginning the "Point-a-Minute" era by putting up record-scoring numbers. The Wolverines scored at least 50 points in a game five times, including an 89-0 win and a 128-0 win. Additionally, Michigan shut out every opponent that season en route to beating Stanford, 49-0, in the first-ever college football bowl game. 

The 1901 season was the first of four straight national title seasons for Michigan and the first of Yost's six national titles as head coach in Ann Arbor.

What would Sherrone Moore need to do to crack the top 10?

Michigan would, presumably, need to win at least nine games in 2024 in order for Moore to crack the top 10 of this list. Unless Michigan nosedives in Year 1 of the Moore era, it'll almost certainly play at least 13 games (12 regular-season, at least one postseason). 

Nine wins could also get Michigan into the College Football Playoff as the field expands to 12 teams in 2024. Michigan suddenly turned into a perennial contender in Harbaugh's final three seasons with the program. If Moore can build on that success after the team lost a program-record 13 draft picks, this season would almost certainly be viewed as a success. 

But the path to nine wins might be more difficult in 2024 than it's ever been in Michigan's history. With the Big Ten expanding to 18 teams, Michigan will have games against USC, Oregon and Washington, who are all conference foes now. Michigan also takes on Texas, who's expected to be ranked in the preseason top five, in a non-conference battle in Week 2.

Can Ohio State snap their three-game losing streak to Michigan?

More importantly, Ohio State appears to have its best roster in the Ryan Day era. The Buckeyes were the No. 1-ranked team in FOX Sports national college football analyst RJ Young's post-spring top 25 rankings. They hold the second-best odds (+450) to win the national title heading into the 2024 campaign.

So, even if Michigan doesn't win nine games in 2024, it would almost certainly take some solace in Moore beating Ohio State. History is on his side, with first-year Michigan coaches going 10-3 all-time against Ohio State. Oh, and Moore already has a win over Ohio State, leading Michigan to a dramatic 27-24 win last year during his interim stint.

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