The Michigan Wolverines are one of the most famous teams in college football, with more wins than any other university. Coming into the 2023 season, Michigan’s 991 wins are 38 more than that of their Big Ten rivals, Ohio State, who sit in second place.

Amongst these 991 wins, the team have won 11 national championships and 44 conference championships, stewarded by 20 different head coaches since their inception in 1879. This article will look back at some of the most influential coaches during this time and will rank the top 10.

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

Fresh off two Big Ten titles, Jim Harbaugh is enjoying his best run of form as the Michigan Wolverines head coach. He joined the university after a four-year stint in the NFL as the head coach of the 49ers, where he had an impressive 44-19-1 record. His 49er team won the NFC Championship game in their 2012 season, before losing in the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens.

Harbaugh started with success as Michigan’s head coach, winning the Citrus Bowl in 2016. Unfortunately, there would be no further accolades until 2021, which was the first of back-to-back Big Ten titles for the Wolverines.

During his tenure so far, Harbaugh has racked up 74 wins (prior to the 2023 season starting), which puts him 4th on the list of all-time wins at Michigan. The team have been knocking on the door of a national championship in recent years, and Michigan football fans will be hoping their time will come again soon.

History of Michigan Football Coaches

As the team with the most wins in college football, there is, unsurprisingly, a rich history of past Michigan football coaches. Many of their biggest names have made their way into the College Football Hall of Fame, including Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler, Lloyd Carr and more.

Special mentions go to their two longest-serving members, Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler, who also sit in the College Hall of Fame. Both of these coaches served for two decades or longer, and have the most wins in Michigan school history. Schembechler leads the way with 194, but it is Yost who has the better win percentage, achieving a .833 percent success rate as the head coach.

Ranking the 10 greatest Head Coaches of Michigan Football History

  1. Bump Elliott (1959-1968)

Overall record: 51–42–2 (.547 win percentage)
Titles won: 1 Big Ten title (1964)

Following a playing career as a fullback, Bump Elliott went on to become the Michigan Wolverines’ head coach between 1959 and 1968. His 51-42-2 record gets him the lowest win percentage of any of the coaches on this list (.547), but he did have 10 years at the helm.

His best year came in 1964 when the team won the Big Ten title and defeated Oregon State in the 1965 Rose Bowl. Elliott’s reign ended in 1968, preceding Bo Schembechler’s impressive two-decade stint.

  1. Gustave Ferbert (1897-1899)

Overall record: 24–3–1 (.875)
Titles won: 1 Western Conference title (1898)

Gustave Ferbert enjoyed one of the shorter tenures on this top 10, but he is the man responsible for coaching Michigan to their first-ever conference title in 1898. During this season, the team had an undefeated 10-0 record.

Across his three seasons, Ferbert’s team only lost three games, enjoying a winning percentage of .875, which is tied for second-best in Michigan football coaches history.

  1. Jim Harbaugh (2015-present)

Overall record: 74-24 - entering the 2023 season (.755)
Titles won: 2 Big Ten titles (2021, 2022)

Jim Harbaugh is the Michigan football head coach in 2023, which is his ninth season in the role. The last two seasons have been his best, with the team winning the Big Ten title in both 2021 and 2022.

His overall wins of 74 already put him as the 4th winningest coach in Michigan football history, and the team’s recent success suggests that more could be on the way. The only knock on Harbaugh’s career is his record in bowl games. After winning the Citrus Bowl in his first season with Michigan, the Wolverines have lost all of their next 6. Still, his .755 win percentage and recent Big Ten success gets him onto this list.

  1. Gary Moeller (1990-1994)

Overall record: 44–13–3 (.758)
Titles won: 3 Big Ten titles (1990, 1991, 1992)

Taking over from Bo Schembechler was always going to be a challenge, but Gary Moeller did so admirably. He was Michigan’s head coach for 5 seasons, in which the Wolverines reached a Bowl Game in every one.

His 44-13-3 record gets him an impressive win percentage of .758, and his Michigan teams were conference champions or co-champions three times. Moeller picked up exactly where Schembechler left off, maintaining Michigan’s place as one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

  1. Bennie Oosterbaan (1948-1958)

Overall record: 63–33–4 (.650)
Titles won: 1 National title (1948) and 3 Big Ten titles (1948, 1949, 1950)

Bennie Oosterbaan was already a legend at Michigan, thanks to his accomplishments that saw him recognized as an All-American in basketball and football, as well as an All-Big Ten baseball player.

He appeared to have a magic touch at whatever he turned his attention to, and the same can be said for coaching. Oosterbaan was head coach of the Michigan football team for 11 seasons, winning the 1948 national title and 3 Big Ten titles between 1948 and 1950.

The 1948 national championship was an especially impressive feat when considering that it was his first year as head coach, taking over a team that had just achieved the same feat in Fritz Crisler’s final season. The team struggled to live up to the success of Oosterbaan’s early years, but he is very deserving of being on this list.

  1. Fritz Crisler (1938-1947)

Overall record: 71–16–3 (.806)
Titles won: 1 National title (1947) and 2 Big Ten titles (1943, 1947)

Fritz Crisler took over a team that had undergone a disappointing few years under Harry Kipke. After accumulating a 10-22 record between 1934 and 1937, Crisler came in and shook up the whole system.

Crisler achieved an .806 win percentage as the head coach of the Wolverines, and in 1945 he changed the course of Michigan football. Crisler was known as the father of ‘two-platoon football’, a system that he developed whilst at Michigan. It involved separating out players into offensive and defensive groups, reflecting the type of football that we see today.

The system proved to be successful, as the Wolverines won a national championship and a Big Ten title in 1947. During this season, they were dubbed the ‘mad magicians’. This nickname came as a result of the complicated schemes that Crisler used to help Michigan win their games, proving what an innovative coach he was.

He finished with a record of 71-16-3, also winning a Big Ten title in 1943, which was the team’s first in a decade.

  1. Harry Kipke (1929-1937)

Overall record: 46–26–4 (.632)
Titles won: 2 National titles (1932, 1933) and 4 Big Ten titles (1930-1933)

Harry Kipke’s nine years as the head coach were a tale of two halves. Like many at the top of this list, he started strong, reeling off four straight Big Ten titles between 1930 and 1933. His 1932 and 1933 seasons were the highlights of his career, as the team won two national championships, going undefeated both years.

Unfortunately, the team’s fortunes turned in the 1934 season, shocking everybody by finishing with a 1-7 record in tenth place as defending champions. The team continued to struggle after this and Kipke eventually resigned in 1937. It is a confusing tenure, yielding so much success but also so much disappointment. Perhaps a story of what could have been.

As a final contribution to the school, Kipke managed to convince his recruit, Tom Harmon, to stay at Michigan even after Kipke left. Harmon would go on to become the first-ever Michigan Heisman Trophy winner in 1940.

  1. Lloyd Carr (1995-2007)

Overall record: 122–40 (.753)
Titles won: 1 National title (1997) and 5 Big Ten titles (1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004)

Lloyd Carr had already spent 15 years within Michigan football's coaching staff before he got his chance to lead the team. He was promoted from Assistant Coach to Head Coach in 1995 and would go on to become one of the most successful figures in Michigan football coaches history.

With Carr at the helm, the Wolverines made a Bowl appearance every single year, finishing in the top 3 of the conference in all but one. The highlight of his career would come in 1997 when his team beat Washington State to earn a share of the 1997 national championship.

Following this success in 1997, the team would go on to win four consecutive bowl games between 1998 and 2001, making Carr the first-ever Michigan coach to achieve this feat. Add in his .753 win percentage and the 5 Big Ten titles that the team won during his tenure, and Lloyd Carr is comfortably one of the best in the history of Michigan football coaches.

  1. Bo Schembechler (1969-1989)

Overall record: 194–48–5 (.796)
Titles won: 13 Big Ten titles

The top two names on this list unsurprisingly coached the most games at Michigan. Bo Schembechler’s 247 games between 1969 and 1989 get him the record for most games coached, and his 194 make him the winningest coach in Wolverine history.

Schembechler was the head coach for Michigan football for 21 seasons, and the team achieved 10 or more wins in 11 of those seasons, which is nearly double the next best achieved during Lloyd Carr’s tenure, with 6. After spending several years with the Miami Redhawk program, Schembechler joined Michigan in 1969, taking the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl in his first year.

Schembechler’s impressive career as Michigan football Head coach, unfortunately, didn’t include a national title, but he still has many impressive accolades to his name. Under his stewardship, the team won 13 Big Ten titles and appeared in 15 consecutive bowl games starting in 1975. He was recognized as coach of the year six times and will go down as one of the best Michigan football coaches of all time.

  1. Fielding Yost (1901-1923, 1925-1926)

Overall record: 165–29–10 (.833)
Titles won: 6 National titles (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918, 1923) and 10 Western Conference titles

There is only one coach that could be considered as Michigan’s greatest of all time, and that is Fielding Yost. Yost operated as the head coach for the Wolverines right at the beginning of the 20th Century, securing an incredible 6 National titles.

It didn’t take long for Yost’s coaching quality to be on show, with the team outscoring opponents by 550 to 0 across the season. The 1901 season featured the first-ever Bowl game, which Yost’s team won 49-0, polishing off one of the most remarkable seasons to ever take place.

Yost achieved a higher win percentage than any other Wolverine head coach to stay longer than three seasons, and during his outstanding tenure, Michigan won 6 national titles and 10 Western conferences. They were a truly dominant team, winning consecutive titles between 1901 and 1904. Yost is one of the biggest names in Michigan school history and he was inducted into the college hall of fame in 1951. There is little doubt that he is the best coach in Michigan football history.

Parameters of Rankings

Coaches rankings take into consideration the length of their tenure and the success they had in it, including titles and win percentage.


Bet on College Football Odds at Betway

Find season-long college football odds on the Betway sportsbook. You'll find all the latest spreads, totals, moneylines, and college football futures. Or call it how you see it with our live betting in-play. All your NCAAF betting needs are covered at our online sportsbook.

Visit Betway’s college football picks page for picks and predictions throughout the season.