In a sport as competitive as college football, it is not easy to go from a doormat to a champion. So the few programs that are able to do so deserve notable recognition. They stayed ahead of the curve, embraced the future, ditched the past and bet on themselves. Turnaround programs may not have the tradition of a Alabama or Texas, but they have something else: The knowledge of what it takes to go from the bottom to the top. Here are seven:
Baylor: Long an afterthought in the old Southwest and Big 12 Conferences, Baylor's fortunes changed with the hiring of coach Art Briles, who brought his up-tempo, spread offense from Houston and, along with it, a special recruit in Robert Girffin III. RGIII won the Heisman Trophy and Baylor won two straight Big 12 titles shortly after that.
Kansas State: Nobody has done it better than Bill Snyder. When he arrived in the late 80s, KSU faced some challenges. Snyder, a tireless worker, has built a program over 25 years that occasionally wins conference titles but, more than anything else, has revitalized the university.
Oregon: The Ducks were never a terrible program, but they went through a prolonged stretch of mediocrity from 1960 through 1994, when the Ducks returned to the Rose Bowl. Since then, Oregon has used fancy Nike uniforms and a cool, speedy offense to blast its way into the top ten. From 2010-2014, Oregon finished in the top ten at the end of each year.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks had been fairly unimpressive until they hired Steve Spurrier – fresh off a failed stint in the NFL – to take over the program. Wise move. Under Spurrier, South Carolina won 11 games for the first time in school history – three years in a row.
Wisconsin: When Barry Alvarez took over the Badgers in 1990, Wisconsin had won just nine games in the previous four seasons. Alvarez won just one in his first year. By 1993, he'd won his first of three Rose Bowls. The program has remained successful through three head coaches since Alvarez moved into the athletic director's chair, but only Alvarez has a statue outside of Camp Randall Stadium.
TCU: The Horned Frogs played in just three bowl games from 1960 through 1995. Since 2000, TCU has missed just two postseasons and had a perfect 13-0 season in 2010 thanks to dominating defense under coach Gary Patterson.
Virginia Tech: In the first 92 years of the program, the Hokies had never won ten games in a season. Frank Beamer – who by then was in his ninth season at Virginia Tech – changed that. The Hokies dominated the ACC over the last 20 years.
Turning around a program is not an easy task. It takes patience, understanding and strong motivational and communication skills to get the players, coaches and the entire organization on board. These seven teams show that it can be done and done well.