Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Awards Announce 2023 College Football Coaches Watch List


Twenty-six active college football coaches make up the American Heart Association’s 2023 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award watch list, a list of current coaches in consideration for the annual top honor. The award is given each January to a college football coach for contributions that make the sport better for athletes and fans alike by demonstrating grit, integrity and a winning approach to coaching and life – both on and off the field.

The American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives for all, and the Bryant family present this award annually to celebrate Bear Bryant’s legacy and raise awareness and critical funds for scientific research to eliminate needless suffering and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke, the leading causes of death globally. The football coaching legend died from a heart attack in 1983.

Now in its 38th year, the Coach of the Year award winner will be announced live from Houston’s Post Oak Hotel on Wednesday, January 10, 2024, during an awards ceremony presented by Marathon Oil. The watch list, finalists and Coach of the Year recipient are voted on by the National Sports Media Association, the Bryant Awards’ Executive Leadership Team and the Bryant Family.

The 2023 Watch List includes (in alphabetical order):

Atlantic Coast Conference

  • Jeff Brohm – University of Louisville
  • Mack Brown – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Mike Elko – Duke University
  • Mike Norvell – Florida State University

Big Ten Conference

  • Ryan Day – Ohio State University
  • James Franklin – Pennsylvania State University
  • Jim Harbaugh – University of Michigan
  • Mike Locksley – University of Maryland

Big 12 Conference

  • Lance Leipold – University of Kansas
  • Steve Sarkisian – University of Texas at Austin
  • Brent Venables – University of Oklahoma

Group of Five Conferences

  • Troy Calhoun – United States Air Force Academy – Mountain West Conference
  • Curt Cignetti – James Madison University – Sun Belt Conference
  • Jamey Chadwell – Liberty University – Conference USA
  • Willie Fritz – Tulane University – American Athletic Conference
  • G.J. Kinne – Texas State University – Sun Belt Conference 

Pac-12 Conference

  • Kalen DeBoer – University of Washington
  • Dan Lanning – University of Oregon
  • Lincoln Riley – University of Southern California
  • Deion Sanders – University of Colorado
  • Jonathan Smith – Oregon State University

Southeastern Conference

  • Eliah Drinkwitz – University of Missouri
  • Lane Kiffin – University of Mississippi
  • Nick Saban – University of Alabama
  • Kirby Smart – University of Georgia
  • Mark Stoops – University of Kentucky

In addition to the Coach of the Year, the Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards will also present Conference Coach of the Year Awards from each of the Power Five collegiate athletic conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference) and one from the Group of Five conferences (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference).

As previously announced, coaching legend Lloyd Carr, former University of Michigan head coach, and Archie Manning, former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints quarterback, and his wife Olivia will also be recognized at this year’s awards event. Coach Carr will receive the 2024 Paul “Bear” Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, and Archie and Olivia Manning will receive the 2024 Heart of a Champion Award presented by St. Luke’s Health in Houston.

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