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Ranking the Eight Coaches left in the FCS Playoffs by Experience

The eight remaining coaches in the FCS playoffs may have a wide range of experience coming into the quarterfinal round but they all have one thing in common: success.

2021 NCAA Division I Football Championship Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

1. John Stiegelmeier - South Dakota State (24 seasons)

South Dakota State v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

No coach in this year’s playoffs has more experience under his belt than South Dakota State’s John Stiegelmeier. Stiegelmeier has been the head man in Brookings for 24 years now and has coached the Jacks to 11 playoff appearances. In those postseason berths, SDSU is 13-10 and has gone as far as the quarterfinals five times. Stiegelmeier coached in his first national championship game last spring where his Jackrabbits came up short against Sam Houston. He, like several others on this list, is still seeking his first title. Stiegelmeier is the all-time winningest coach in SDSU program history with a 184-110 record. Under his coaching, South Dakota State has gone 120-70 in conference games and... perhaps most importantly to fans in the Dakotas... they have won ten Dakota Marker rivalry trophies in that same span. This weekend Stiegelmeier will coach in his 24th playoff game when the Jacks take on Villanova.

2. K.C. Keeler - Sam Houston (8 seasons, 19 total)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Sam Houston State v Stephen F Austin Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Between his time at Delaware and now Sam Houston, K.C. Keeler is as decorated as they come as far as FCS football goes. In his first ever playoff appearance he took the Blue Hens all the way to the national championship and won it back in 2003. 18 years and eight postseason berths later (with both Sam Houston and Delaware) Keeler won his second FCS national title last spring with the Bearkats. He is 24-7 all time in the playoffs and his teams have only lost before the semifinal round one time. Even more impressive than Keeler's overall playoff record, though, is how well his teams have performed at home in the postseason. Sam Houston famously has not lost a playoff contest at Bowers Stadium and Keeler has coached in ten of those games. With Delaware, Keeler's teams went 8-0 at home in the postseason. That's a whopping 18-0 in his own building during playoff football. No coach is better in that department and this weekend Keeler will again be at home as he and Sam Houston welcome Montana State.

3. Bobby Hauck - Montana (11 seasons, 16 total)

Montana State v Montana Photo by Tommy Martino/University of Montana via Getty Images

UM’s Bobby Hauck is also a mainstay in the postseason. Hauck is back for his second stint with the Grizzlies and has only missed the FCS playoffs with them once (excluding the 2020 spring season in which Montana did not participate). He is 13-8 all time in the postseason and has coached in three national championship games. Including his five years (2010-2014) as head coach at UNLV, Hauck has 16 seasons of coaching under his belt and is 123-77 in his career. With the Grizzlies he is 108-28 and is the winningest coach in the program’s history. He has also won three Big Sky Coach of the Year awards. For all he has accomplished, though, Hauck has yet to win a national title and one of the teams he lost to in the championship was the very James Madison team the Grizzlies are preparing to face on Friday night.

T-4. Mark Ferrante - Villanova (5 seasons)

Villanova v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

When Mark Ferrante was named as Villanova’s head coach back in 2017, it was a well-deserved promotion for a guy who had served as an assistant with the program in some capacity dating all the way back to 1985. Ferrante was a running backs coach, offensive line coach and assistant head coach in that span. As the Wildcats head coach he’s put up a 31-20 overall record and is making his second ever FCS playoff appearance this season. He’s 1-1 in the postseason with last week’s narrow victory over Holy Cross serving as his first. Villanova is 10-2 this season and claimed a share of the CAA title this fall making for the most successful season they’ve had with Ferrante calling the shots. The Wildcats are getting ready to face South Dakota State this Saturday.

T-4. Curt Cignetti - James Madison (3 seasons, 5 total)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 16 James Madison at Richmond Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

James Madison has enjoyed tremendous success over the last two decades but Curt Cignetti’s rein is shaping up to be the best in its history. JMU has only lost four games with Cignetti as head coach and three of those came in the playoffs. The only regular season blemish? A one-point loss to a seeded Villanova team this fall. The Dukes are an impressive 32-4 all time under Cignetti and 17-1 against CAA competition. In the postseason JMU has not lost a home contest with him at the helm. Before he joined the Dukes, though, he was the head man at Elon for two seasons (2017 and 2018) and went 14-9 with the Phoenix. Between Elon and JMU, Cignetti’s teams have never missed the FCS playoffs and the Dukes seem well on their way to another deep run with him in charge. JMU will face Montana on Friday evening in what will be Cignetti’s 11th postseason game.

6. Randy Sanders - East Tennessee State (4 seasons)

East Tennessee State v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

ETSU has been coached by Randy Sanders for the last four years and have seen the most success they’ve had in their revamped young history under his guidance. Sanders is 26-16 all time as East Tennessee’s head coach and has now been in the postseason twice with the Buccaneers. In 2018... Sanders’ first year as coach... the Bucs won a share of the SoCon title and this season they won it outright. He has plenty of experience at the FBS level as an assistant and coordinator with the likes of Florida State, Kentucky and Tennessee but ETSU is his first head coaching gig. In his short playoff tenure, Sanders is 1-1 all time with last weekend’s wild comeback victory over Kennesaw State serving as his first postseason win. Sanders and his Bucs team have a tall task in front of them this weekend as they are set to take on North Dakota State.

7. Matt Entz - North Dakota State (3 seasons)

Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Matt Entz may have only coached three seasons at North Dakota State so far but he’s still enjoyed the same success of Bison coaches past. Entz has already won a national championship with NDSU back in 2019. That year he guided the Bison to a perfect 16-0 overall record en route to the title and followed it up with a 7-3 spring campaign in 2020. NDSU has appeared in the postseason all three years Entz has been at the helm and this year they only lost one game and are the current #2 seed in the tournament. He is 6-1 in playoff games and 34-4 overall. Before he was a head coach, Entz served as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at NDSU under Chris Klieman from 2014 to 2018. The Bison are preparing to host East Tennessee State this weekend in the quarterfinals.

8. Brent Vigen - Montana State (1 season)

Montana State v Montana Photo by Tommy Martino/University of Montana via Getty Images

Montana State’s Brent Vigen was the only coach in this year’s tournament with zero head coaching experience before this season but that hasn’t seemed to matter as his Bobcats are just one of eight teams left standing. Vigen came over to replace Jeff Choate at MSU last February. Before that he was with Wyoming where he served as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He noteably tutored Buffalo Bills star Josh Allen during his time with the Cowboys. Prior to that, he served a variety of roles on North Dakota State’s staff from 1998 to 2013. He was part of a three Bison teams that won national championships. Vigen was a finalist for Big Sky Coach of the Year this season at Montana State. He led the Bobcats to 9-2 regular season and won his first playoff game last weekend. With that playoff victory, Vigen secured a 10-win season which ranks as the third most wins by a first-year Big Sky coach in conference history. He will have a chance to build on his already impressive inaugural campaign as MSU will face Sam Houston this Saturday night.