Welcome to TXHSFB Inside the Numbers — where Dave Campbell's Texas Football take the data that makes up Texas high school football, and try to figure out what it means looking back and looking forward. Today: who is the best coach in Texas high school football today?
One of the things that makes Texas high school football the best anywhere in the world is the depth of coaching. In every corner of the state, you can find some of the best football coaches in America at any level, and that quality is on full display every Friday night in the fall.
But who is the best of the best, the finest coach in Texas high school football today? It's a difficult — perhaps impossible — question to answer, because there are so many factors to consider.
Let's first acknowledge that not all Texas high school football programs are created equal — communities and resources vary widely, and some coaches face immense challenges that other coaches couldn't even fathom. It's possible that the best football mind in the state has never won a playoff game, let alone win a state championship, because of circumstances that are beyond their control. So, in many respects, when we say "best coach", what we're actually talking about is "most successful coach" – it takes a lot of coaching talent and the right circumstances to be successful.
(Also of note: data for six-man coaches is much harder to come by than in the 11-man game. I've tried my best to include as much of the six-man reecords in this study as possible, but it is admittedly incomplete, so if there's something missing, let me know.)
So how do you measure success? That's the tricky question.
Let's first take a look at the most raw form of success: winning games. Who's done it the best?
|NAME||SCHOOLS (Current school bold)||WINS|
|PHIL DANAHER||Corpus Christi Calallen, Hamshire-Fannett, Dilley||480|
|RANDY ALLEN||Highland Park, Abilene Cooper, Brownwood, Ballinger||414|
|REGINALD SAMPLES||Duncanville, Dallas Skyline, Dallas Lincoln||298|
|LARRY HILL||Smithson Valley, Jourdanton||276|
|VANCE JONES||Balmorhea, Garden City, Aspermont, Sanderson, Marathon||276|
|ROSS ROGERS||Bryan, Killeen Harker Heights, A&M Consolidated, Giddings, Waller, Hempstead||256|
|JASON HERRING||Refugio, Sonora, Wall||254|
|HAL WASSON||Corsicana, Southlake Carroll, Keller Fossil Ridge, Liberty Hill, Mexia, Kerens, Pittsburg, San Saba, Italy||250|
There's two guys lapping the field here — Corpus Christi Calallen coach Phil Danaher, once dubbed "The King" by Dave Campbell's Texas Football, and Highland Park coach Randy Allen, whose trademark fedora and standout squads have made him legend. Denney Faith at Albany is the only other active member of the 300-win club, and the only active coach to do it all with one school. But Reginald Samples at Duncanville should become the 14th member of the elite 300-win fraternity in 2021 (and the first Black coach to achieve such a thing).
So that's it then, right? Phil Danaher is the best coach going right now, right?
What if we take another measure of coaching excellence — that is, winning percentage? Let's limit it to coaches with at least 100 games coached in their career...
|JERRY BURKHART||Richland Springs||(234-24-0)||90.6%|
|HANK CARTER||Lake Travis||(135-18-0)||88.2%|
|STEVE LINEWEAVER||Euless Trinity||(259-43-2)||85.5%|
|TOM WESTERBERG||Barbers Hill||(186-34-0)||84.5%|
Only two active coaches with at least 100 games coached have a winning percentage above .900 — Gary Joseph at Katy, and Jerry Burkhart at Richland Springs. Consider this about Joseph: he doesn't just has best winning percentage among active coaches (minimum 100 games)...he has the all-time best winning percentage among all coaches in Texas high school football history. And Burkhart's run at Richland Springs, turning the Coyotes into the state's six-man program of record, is pretty remarkable itself. Chris Koetting somehow remains one of the state's most underrated coaches, while Hank Carter has only continued the spectacular tradition at Lake Travis.
Some other notes here: former Allen coach Terry Gambill (.886) ranked fourth before his retirement last month...if you drop the minimum number of games coached to 50, the list reads: Gary Joseph, Chris Koetting, Mart's Kevin Hoffman (.885), Hank Carter, and Cedar Park's Carl Abseck (.877)...if you entirely remove the minimum number of games from the equation, the list reads: Shiner's Daniel Boedeker (26-1, .963), Grandview's Ryan Ebner (26-2, .929), Gary Joseph, Jerry Burkhart, and Southlake Carroll's Riley Dodge (38-4, .905)...the all-time leader in winning percentage with a minium of 50 games coached: former Aledo coach Steve Wood, who went 75-4 (.949).
But let's try a different measure. What about district championships? Here are the active leaders.
|NAME||CURRENT SCHOOL||DISTRICT TITLES|
|Randy Allen||Highland Park||28|
|Phil Danaher||Corpus Christi Calallen||27|
|Mark Kirchoff||Falls City||15|
|Larry Hill||Smithson Valley||14|
A lot of the usual suspects here, but I thought it was impressive to see Kennedale's Richard Barrett and Longview's John King here, each of whom have put together an impressive résumé.
But what about the big prize? What about state championships?
|NAME||WON TITLES AT...||STATE TITLES|
|Jerry Burkhart||Richland Springs||9|
|Todd Dodge||Austin Westlake, Southlake Carroll||6|
|Randy Allen||Highland Park||4|
|Jason Herring||Refugio, Sonora||4|
|Vance Jones||Balmorhea, Garden City, Marathon||4|
When it comes to hoisting the hardware at the end of the season, think small — Burkhart's nine titles at Richland Springs stand alone among active coaches, and are tied with Gordon Wood for the most all-time. But Scott Surratt is nipping at his heels in Carthage, and Tim Buchanan and Todd Dodge's titles this past year put them in the hunt for all-time supremacy as well.
So, what's the answer? Who is the best coach in Texas high school football today? I suppose it's a matter of what you value. If you want the guy with the most titles in any classification, Jerry Burkhart at Richland Springs is probably your guy. If you want the consistency year-in and year-out, it's hard to beat Gary Joseph at Katy. If you're looking for all-time legends with staying power, Phil Danaher at Corpus Christi Calallen or Randy Allen at Highland Park might be the pick. If you're looking for an 11-man coach with the most titles, it's probably Scott Surratt at Carthage. And personally, I think there's at least a decent argument for pretty much everyone mentioned above...and a handful of coaches who aren't mentioned.
But the truth is, it's a debate that'll never be answered, and proabably shouldn't be. Focusing too much on who the top guy is takes away from the reality of the outstanding depth of quality coaching in Texas high school football.
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