Two days after competing for the national championship, coaches Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban will be pitted against each other once more. On Wednesday, they’ll be among the eight coaches recognized at the American Heart Association’s Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston.
Below are the finalists, in addition to former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, a lifetime achievement recipient.
Bill Clark, Alabama-Birmingham
In November, Clark became the highest-paid football coach in Conference USA. In December, just three seasons after the program’s return from its 2014 termination, his team won the conference title. In January, he could add another accolade to his mantel following his team’s 11-3 season in which it routed Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl. The 2018 C-USA title is the program’s first.
Josh Heupel, Central Florida
A month after taking the Nebraska job, former UCF coach Scott Frost was named last season’s Bryant Award winner following his team’s undefeated campaign.
A year later, Heupel could win this year’s Bryant Award after a 12-1 season in which his team’s only loss came at the hands of LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
After winning four games in 2016, Kelly and Notre Dame have won 22 in the last two years. This season, the Fighting Irish were knocked out of the College Football Playoff semifinal by eventual champion Clemson.
Jeff Monken, Army
Army’s 2018 season under Monken was made all the more impressive by a historic 70-14 thrashing of the University of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl. In the process, the school set a program record for wins (11-2) as well as tying bowl records for points and margin of victory.
Nick Saban, Alabama
Saban’s Crimson Tide have lost four games in the last four years following Monday’s championship defeat. His team had won 16 straight games before Monday.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson University
Clemson opened the week by winning its second national championship in the last three seasons. In 2018, the Tigers finished undefeated for the first time under Swinney.
Jeff Tedford, Fresno State
Two seasons removed from a one-win campaign, Fresno State has won 22 games in the last two years under Tedford. The Bulldogs had one of the best seasons in school history in 2018, winning 12 games.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Beamer was named the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award after retiring as the winningest collegiate coach in his NCAA division in 2015. He coached the Hokies for 29 years and led the team to seven conference championships and 23 consecutive bowl appearances.