Best head coach hires in college football over the past five years: Luke Fickell, Ryan Day and more

After false alarms at Michigan and Auburn, the 2021-22 college football coaching carousel has stopped spinning for good. The end to a wild cycle provides the opportunity to examine the coaching hires from the recent past.

Borrowing an NFL idea from colleague Bill Barnwell, I will rank the top 10 college coaching hires from the past five seasons. The era of long-tenured coaches and slow builds to success is largely over in college football, where everything seems to be moving faster. Some of the sport's hottest coaches have been hired since the end of the 2016 season, or even more recently.

A lot can happen to a coach in five years. Ed Orgeron landed LSU's permanent coaching job, led the program to a perfect season and a national title, and lost his job, all within a span of four years, 10 months and 22 days. When 2017 began, Ryan Day was the quarterbacks coach for a 2-14 San Francisco 49ers team. He's now one of the top coaches at one of college football's premier programs (Ohio State).

Both Orgeron and Day make the list below, but where do they place? Who else will join them? The context around candidates is important. While Day and Lincoln Riley took over surging, blueblood programs and made upgrades, other coaches entered much tougher situations and engineered improvement. I wanted to find the coaches who truly changed the trajectories of programs, whether through scheme, recruiting or just plain winning.

As a reminder, only coaches who made their debuts in permanent roles in 2017 or later are eligible, so strong hires such as Georgia's Kirby Smart, Iowa State's Matt Campbell and UCF's Scott Frost are not included. Some who just missed the cut for the top 10 include: Baylor's Dave Aranda, Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin, SMU's Sonny Dykes, Minnesota's P.J. Fleck, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher and Liberty's Hugh Freeze.

Let's begin with No. 10 and work our way down to the top coaching hire in the past five seasons.