The LSU Tigers are a highly successful college football program, boasting four national titles, with three of them earned in the last two decades.

Their coaching history is very interesting, featuring the great Nick Saban, who later achieved immense success at Alabama. The LSU football coaching staff has overseen remarkable title-winning seasons, such as the 2019 championship under Ed Orgeron.

This is the LSU Tigers coaching history, and the ten best coaches the program has ever had.

Who is the LSU head coach in the College football football 2023 season?

Brian Kelly is the current Head Coach of the LSU football team. He has done a great job over the past couple of seasons to rebuild the program following the fallout of the National Championship season in 2019.

The LSU football head coach for 2023 has done an excellent job preparing the team to contend with Alabama once more in the SEC West. While they remain a slight underdog in the race for a spot in the SEC Championship game, Coach Kelly is steadily constructing a formidable program. The team gained significant momentum as the 2022-2023 college football season progressed, demonstrating the potential for future success under his leadership. This is a testament to the efforts of the coaches for LSU football as well.

History of LSU Football Coaches

In the rich history of LSU football coaches, four remarkable individuals have guided the program to National Championships. This storied journey began in 1958 and witnessed three additional triumphs, each under the stewardship of a different coach between 2003 and 2019.

Throughout their history, the LSU Tigers have been privileged to have three coaches dedicated to the program for over a decade. These enduring figures include Bernie Moore, Les Miles, and Charles McClendon. Among them, Coach McClendon holds the distinction of being the longest-serving LSU football coaches in history, having led the team through a remarkable 18-year tenure that spanned an impressive 203 games.

Ranking the 10 Greatest Head Coaches in LSU Tigers History

  1. Biff Jones

Biff Jones graduated through the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and had served as a lieutenant in World War 1 in France. When he returned to the U.S. after the war he coached the Army football team, and from there he was assigned to move on and coach the LSU Tigers.

Jones coached for three seasons at LSU from 1932 to 1934, and helped the program to win the SEC Championship in his first season in charge. He coached 31 games, and posted a 20-5-6 record while in charge of the team.

  1. Mike Archer

Mike Archer was the defensive coordinator on the Tigers coaching staff under Bill Arnsparger in the 1980s, and when Arnsparger left Archer took over the head coaching role.

When he took over he was 34 years old, which made him the youngest head coach in Division 1 football. Archer then spent four years coaching the team, resulting in an overall record of 27 wins, 18 losses and one tie.

In his first season in charge in 1987, Archer led the Tigers to a 10-1-1 record, marking their first 10 win season in more than 20 years. His tenure tailed off towards the end, but that first year was a real spectacle in the history of the program.

  1. Gerry DiNardo

Gerry DiNardo had taken Vanderbilt from a team that could barely win a game to a relatively respectable program in the 1990s, and that led to his hiring at LSU, who desperately needed to get out of a slump.

When DiNardo took over, the Tigers lad faced six straight losing seasons, and he promised he would be the guy to turn things around.

In his first season in charge the Tigers were back to 7-4-1, and in the two years that followed in 1996 and 1997 DiNardo coached the program to first place finishes in the SEC West and a combined 19-5 record.

DiNardo had put the Tigers back on the map, and is a respected piece of their history as a result. While the 1998 and 1999 seasons were poor, those two years in the middle of his tenure marked a great turnaround, and therefore a deserving spot on this list as part of the Tigers coaching history.

  1. Bill Arnsparger

Bill Arnsparger’s career in football is one that features several monumental achievements. He was the defensive coordinator under Don Shula in the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins season, and he was also the man who lured Steve Spurrier to coach the Florida Gators.

As the LSU Tigers head coach, Arnsparger kept the program within the top 20 on the AP Polls in all three years. They won at least eight games in all three of those years, and claimed the top spot in the SEC West with a 9-3 season in his final year in charge in 1986. During that season LSU went on the road against Alabama, who were ranked sixth in the nation at the time, and stole a 14-10 win from them in their own backyard.

LSU were a great football team at the time, with a sturdy defense built around the same philosophies that had led the Miami Dolphins to go undefeated 14 years earlier.

  1. Bernie Moore

Bernie Moore was the first Tigers head coach to lead the program for over a decade. He took over from Biff Jones and won the Southeastern Conference in his first two years in charge of the program.

Moore had been with the program as an assistant and a coach of the track team, and was deemed the most qualified to step over into the head coaching role of the football team.

The Tigers were successful early in his tenure, but the Second World War disrupted the program, and the team went through a few rocky years during that time as a result. After the war, Moore got the team back to their winning ways, and they posted another nine win season in 1946.

It was a tough time to coach a football program, and Bernie Moore deserves a lot of credit for seeing the Tigers through it.

  1. Charles McClendon

It feels a little weird to put the winningest coach in LSU Tigers history fifth on their all time coaching list, but each of the five coaches remaining as we go through the rankings had a wealth of success with the program.

McClendon had been an assistant with the program under Paul Dietzel, who singled out McClendon by name as the man he wanted to take over from him as the HC. The former Tigers coach spoke glowingly of McClendon’s abilities, and he was hired in 1962.

In his first year in charge McClendon took the program to a 9-1-1 season and a win over the Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl. As his coaching tenure progressed, the talented coach would go on to win seven Bowl games, including two wins in the Sugar Bowl, two in the Cotton Bowl and one in the Peach Bowl.

In the late 60s and early 70s Charles McClendon had built quite the powerhouse of a program. He was recognized as the SEC Coach of the Year in both 1969 and 1970, and holds the record for the most wins in program history.

McClendon spent 18 years in charge and won 135 games between 1962 and 1979. The only reason he isn’t ranked higher, is because all four of the coaches above him won National Championships at LSU.

  1. Paul Dietzel

Paul Dietzel is a former LSU football coach and was responsible for bringing the very first National Championship to the LSU Tiger. For that he will always be a legendary member in the program's long and rich history. He was one of the most respected past LSU football coaches, and when he passed the team honored him with a helmet sticker for the season.

It took some time for the program to get going under Dietzel. He had inherited a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1951, and had his work cut out to turn things around. Following three losing seasons the Tigers suddenly emerged as one of the best teams in the country, and in 1958 they ran the table.

Dietzel coached the Tigers to their first undefeated season since 1908, and when they beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, they were crowned the number one team in the country and thus, the National Champions. They finished in the top three the following year, and in his final season in charge in 1961 they finished with a strong 10-1 finish.

While his tenure wasn’t as long as the likes of McClendon or Les Miles, Paul Dietzel did pick up a losing program and turn them into a National Championship winning team. As a result, he is one of the best LSU football coaches of all time.

  1. Ed Orgeron

In truth, I switched this top three around multiple times before landing with the current ranking. Saban, Miles and Orgeron all have their incredible moments to add to the history of the Tigers, but each of their journeys is also very different. These are some of the best coaches for the LSU Tigers, and you could make a case for each of them as number one.

I eventually landed on Orgeron in third place because of the best season of college football in the history of the sport, followed by a couple of tough ones. There’s no denying that the 2019 season is unmatched, and that LSU team was astoundingly good.

Led by quarterback Joe Burrow, the Tigers went 15-0 and smashed records as they annihilated teams on their way to a National Championship. It was their most impressive National Championship, and the most recent title in the history of the program.

It was Ed Orgeron that gave Joe Burrow a shot, and a shot that Burrow has emotionally thanked Coach O for at every opportunity ever since. This was an Ohio kid who had fallen out of favor at Ohio State, and came in to take the Tigers to the promised land.

Ed Orgeron picked up where Les Miles left off, and the only reason he’s ranked at number two and not potentially number one is because of the lack of consistency. LSU were incredible in 2019, but that season was so good that practically the entire starting lineup headed for the NFL when it ended, and the program suffered for the two seasons that followed as a result.

Coach O made a couple of questionable hires, and trying to get back to that 2019 form proved impossible. His success was short-lived, but it was tremendous.

  1. Nick Saban

Nick Saban might lose a little credibility with LSU football fans for taking over as the head coach of the rival Crimson Tide (and having so much success there), but the fact is that he was an elite level coach for LSU first. We have him ranked at number two, but he could easily be number one. Nick Saban paved the way for both Les Miles and Ed Orgeron to have success at LSU, and to some fans, that's the most valuable period in the history of the program.

When Nick Saban came to LSU, he had just proven himself by turning Michigan State around, and was now one of the most intriguing coaches in the game.

The team had just suffered a two year slump in the final years of Gerry DiNardo’s reign, and Saban came in with a plan to turn things around in a hurry. In his first year he put the Tigers back in the AP rankings, and just one year later won the Sugar Bowl over a 10-1 Illinois program.

After taking over a losing team in 2000, Nick Saban led the Tigers to a BCS National Championship in 2003. It was the first National Championship they’d won since 1958, and as a result Saban’s tenure set the standard that LSU were going to be a team contending for titles in the modern era.

When he left and headed for the head coaching job of the Miami Dolphins, Saban had spun that struggling team into a perennial contender, and LSU were back in the conversation. He went 48-16 as the team's head coach, and is one of the most impressive Tigers head coaches in team history.

  1. Les Miles

Les Miles was the man who took over Nick Saban’s program when he headed to Miami to coach in the NFL.

There would be an argument that he should rank just below Nick Saban on this list because he inherited a strong program that had a great foundation due to Saban’s hard work. When Les Miles was announced, the team had JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn in the quarterback room and a lot of talent recruited from the National Championship winning success Saban had had in 2003.

Nevertheless, Les Miles held that program to a remarkably high standard. He maintained what Saban had started, and coached three straight 11+ win seasons. In the first two of those he claimed wins in the Peach and Sugar Bowls, and in 2007 he took the program back to the National Championship, and won it all over again.

As the head coach of the Tigers, Les Miles ranks number one with a .770 winning percentage (coaches who coached 30+ games). He kept LSU at the very top of the country's greatest programs throughout his time in charge, and kept the recruiting trail that Nick Saban had started to a very high standard.

During those years LSU had become a repeat pool for NFL talent, and won 10 or more games in seven of his 12 years in charge. LSU never suffered a losing season under Les Miles, and it’s that consistency that ranks him first on this list.

Miles was the most successful coach at LSU for the longest period of time, and thus, we ranked him as the best coach in LSU football history.

Parameters for Rankings

Ranking LSU head football coaches is tough, especially for the top three. We've ranked them based on their success and impact on the future of the program. Nick Saban's role in setting the stage for Les Miles and Ed Orgeron's success is notable.


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