Thanks to expansion, the ACC’s geographic footprint is now spread from sea to shining sea.

The range of opinion over how to rank the league’s best coaches is nearly as wide. It’s best illustrated by the competition for last season’s Coach of the Year award between Florida State’s Mike Norvell and Louisville’s Jeff Brohm.

Do you judge the rankings based strictly on records? Or do you put more stock in how far a coach’s team exceeded its preseason expectations?

Both factors have been taken into consideration in compiling this list of the ACC’s best coaches as the calendar turns from 2023 to 2024. However, recent performance is given greater weight over career achievement.

Because of that and the fact that 3 new teams have been added into the mix, these rankings are bound to be fluid and could look drastically different by this time next year.

So let’s get started. Let the debate begin as we rank the ACC head coaches entering the 2024 season!

17. Tony Elliott, Virginia

Record overall: 6-16 (3-12), 3 seasons

Elliott’s tenure at Virginia has been marred by an unthinkable tragedy. His leadership in response to the shooting deaths of 3 of his players in November 2022 has been admirable and has helped deflect attention from his team’s performance on the field. The Cavaliers showed signs of progress in 2023 and Elliott has done some good work on the transfer portal. But after only 3 wins in each of his first 2 seasons, he’ll be on the hot seat to start 2024.

16. Fran Brown, Syracuse

First season

Brown has a national championship pedigree from his time at Georgia and a reputation for being one of
the nation’s best recruiters. He’s already using that ability to his advantage by attracting Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord to run his offense and bringing in several transfers from his former school. While he has the potential to shoot up these rankings quickly, he’s still an unknown commodity who has yet to prove himself as a head coach.

15. Justin Wilcox, Cal

Record overall: 36-43 (21-37, Pac-12), 7 seasons

The Bears join the ACC after a 6-7 season that included a trip to the Independence Bowl, which they lost to Texas Tech. It marked only the 3rd time in Wilcox’s 7-year tenure at Cal that his team qualified for the postseason. Both of his 2 winning seasons came before the pandemic – 7-6 in 2018 and 8-5 in 2019.

14. Troy Taylor, Stanford

Record at school: 3-9 (2-7 Pac-12), 1 season
Record overall: 33-17

Taylor’s debut season at Stanford didn’t go well. His Cardinal won only 3 games and gave up 42 or more
points 7 times. His performance at his previous tenure gives a hint of the promise he brings to the ACC. In 3 seasons at FCS Sacramento State, Taylor’s teams went a combined 30-8 with 3 consecutive Big Sky Conference championships.

13. Jeff Hafley, Boston College

Record overall: 22-26 (12-22), 4 seasons

Hafley was on shaky ground at Boston College heading into the season after going just 3-9 in 2022. But an early quarterback change and the emergence of transfer Thomas Castellanos as a dual-threat offensive weapon helped turn things around. He lowered the temperature on his job security by winning 7 games and getting the Eagles back into a bowl. He’ll have to build on that momentum to keep his seat from getting hot again in 2024.

12. Manny Diaz, Duke

First season at school
Record overall: 21-15 (16-9 ACC)

Diaz was solid during his first head coaching tenure at Miami. But that didn’t prevent him from getting fired after just 3 seasons in favor of alumnus Mario Cristobal. He says he’s learned lessons from that experience that will help him be better this time. But he has his work cut out for him to continue the success achieved by his predecessor Mike Elko during the past 2 seasons.

11. Brent Pry, Virginia Tech

Record overall: 10-15 (6-9), 2 seasons

Pry made significant strides in his 2nd season at Virginia Tech, producing a 4-win improvement thanks to some savvy pickups off the transfer portal. He energized an offense that was among the ACC’s worst in 2022 with the additions of dual-threat quarterback Kyron Drones, leading rusher Bhayshul Tuten and top receiver Jaylin Lane while beefing up his defense by bringing in sacks leader Antwaun Powell-Ryland. With most of the Hokies’ key players returning, there’s a chance for further improvement next season.

10. Brent Key, Georgia Tech

Record overall: 11-10 (9-6), 2 seasons

Key and Pry are on similar career tracks. Key gets the higher ranking because of the way he galvanized Georgia Tech’s program as an interim coach in 2022 and helped it recover from the disaster of Geoff Collins’ tenure. The former Yellow Jackets offensive lineman immediately made his team competitive. In his first season after getting the job permanently, he led his alma mater to a bowl victory and winning record. To take the next step, however, he’ll have to improve a defense that was one of the ACC’s worst last season.

9. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

Record overall: 65-50 (43-31), 9 seasons

Narduzzi’s stock has been in a free fall since winning Pitt’s first ACC championship in 2021. It’s a dip directly related to a pair of bad transfer quarterback decisions. Narduzzi was able to overcome Kedon Slovis’ inconsistency to win 9 games in 2022 thanks to a stout defense and the running of Israel Abanikanda. He wasn’t as fortunate last year with Phil Jurkovec and Christian Veilleux. The Panthers’ 3-9 record was their worst since 1998. Narduzzi is under contract through 2030 but will need to show dramatic improvement to survive past the coming season.

8. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Record at school: 63-61 (30-49), 10 seasons
Record overall: 153-141

Like Narduzzi, Clawson also suffered from a bad quarterback decision. Only in his case, it was standing pat with Mitch Griffis rather than bringing in a proven veteran off the portal. The Deacons also struggled on the offensive line and finished with only 4 wins, ending their school-record streak of 7 consecutive bowl seasons. Clawson’s history suggests that 2023 was a temporary hiccup. Only time will tell.

7. Rhett Lashlee, SMU

Record overall: 18-9 (13-3 American Conference), 2 seasons

A former offensive coordinator at Miami under Diaz, Lashlee has continued the success of his predecessor Sonny Dykes during his 2 seasons at SMU. Of the 3 new teams entering the ACC in 2024, Lashlee’s Mustangs are by far the most accomplished. They’re coming off an 11-win season that included an AAC championship. It was a success built on the strength of an offense that ranked 8th nationally at 38.7 points per game and a defense that ranked 11th, allowing an average of only 17.8 ppg.

6. Mario Cristobal, Miami

Record at school: 12-13 (6-10), 2 seasons
Record overall: 74-73

OK, so Cristobal does have his shortcomings when it comes to in-game decision-making and clock management. But he’s proven himself to be an elite evaluator of talent with top-5 national recruiting classes in each of the past 2 cycles. And after winning 73% of his games in 5 years at Oregon, he has made progress in his 2 seasons back at his alma mater – improving from 5-7 in 2022 to 7-5 in 2023 despite some spotty quarterback play.

5. Mack Brown, North Carolina

Record at school: 107-73-1 (64-53-1), 15 seasons
Record overall: 282-149-1

Brown has accomplished what he set out to do in his second act in Chapel Hill by cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor Larry Fedora and making the Tar Heels competitive again. And he’s still as energetic as ever at age 72. His teams, however, haven’t shown nearly as much stamina. They’re 38-27 (24-18 ACC) in his 5 seasons back. But they’ve squandered promising starts by stumbling to the finish in each of the past 2 seasons and failed to take full advantage of the generational talents of quarterbacks Sam Howell and Drake Maye.

4. Jeff Brohm, Louisville

Record at school: 10-4 (7-1), 1 season
Record overall: 76-48

Brohm made an immediate splash in his debut season at his alma mater by taking the Cardinals to the ACC Championship game for the first time. But he’s no flash in the pan. Brohm also took Purdue to the Big Ten title game in his final season, and led Western Kentucky to bowls in each of his 3 seasons there earlier in his career.

3. Dave Doeren, NC State

Record at school: 81-58 (44-46), 11 seasons
Record overall: 104-62

Doeren’s “blue collar, hand-in-the-dirt” personality and coaching style are a perfect fit for NC State, which goes a long way toward how he has made it through 11 seasons with the Wolfpack. That and his ability to make lemonade from lemons, as he did in 2023 while becoming the program’s all-time winningest coach. Although he has yet to deliver a long-awaited championship, his teams have been remarkably consistent. State has won at least 8 games in each of the past 4 seasons, the first time in school history that’s been done.

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Record overall: 170-42 (103-23), 16 seasons

Yes, Swinney’s resume is unmatched in the ACC and perhaps even the nation now that Nick Saban has retired. He’s collected 2 national championships, 6 Playoff appearances, 8 ACC titles, 3 national Coach of the Year awards and more wins than any coach in Clemson history. But until – or unless – Swinney learns to embrace the transfer portal and NIL, his Tigers will be at a disadvantage to both the programs they’re trying to catch up with and those creeping up on them from behind.

1. Mike Norvell, Florida State

Record at school: 31-17 (19-13), 4 seasons
Record overall: 69-32

Norvell rises to the top of the rankings after leading the Seminoles all the way back from the depths of the Willie Taggart era to national relevance. Not only did he guide his team to an undefeated regular season and ACC championship, but he did it by building a program capable of sustaining the loss of a supposedly irreplaceable star quarterback. And thanks to his skilled use of the transfer portal, he’ll have FSU in position to challenge for a title and a spot in the expanded College Football Playoff again in 2024.