The CFSL’s Coaching Trees: Season 19

Ryan Moreland · November 9, 2023


By: Ryan Moreland (@ryanmoreland)

Back in April, I released an article on the Coaching Trees in the league. With all of the new ADs starting in Season 19, I thought we could take a look at how these trees have grown and changed. Let’s dive in.

A few notes before we start: The goal of this was to travel back only using active and current members. There are other branches one could draw to connect others to certain trees, but if it wasn’t a live branch (so to speak) then it could not be grown off of.

Also, there were a few disputes about where people should belong. For this article, the last AD you worked under before you became an AD or MAC head coach is the tree you belong under. The idea was to try to put people where they deserve to be, not necessarily where they want to be.

Interim ADs or ADs that are no longer in the league were not included.

Total wins and losses may not be completely accurate (people vacating leadership roles midseason makes it difficult to count), but they are as close as I could reasonably get them.

The Frosty Tree

Frosty Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .541 (264-124)
National Championships: 4
Conference Championships: 7

Many things make this tree remarkable. The Frosty Tree has remained the largest and oldest active tree in the CFSL. They also are tied with the Grin Tree for the most active ADs. This tree has won more National Championships than any other and is tied for the most Conference Championships. They also have the second-highest winning percentage of any tree.

This tree has enjoyed plenty of success on the field and that doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. Former successful ADs Ware and 14rDavis have returned to the AD ranks. Gunn, Syrok, and Vennom have all proven themselves to be great ADs. Two new faces (850Cane and Tiny) join the AD ranks out of this tree as well. This group is bound to continue its run of fantastic success.

The potential of growth from this tree has never been better. The evidence of that is the new growth we have seen this year. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have proven coaching mentors back in action. This tree is in a great place to continue growing. This is bad news for me, as I am running out of room in the graphic already.

The Clutch Tree

Clutch Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .536 (214-185)
National Championships: 3
Conference Championships: 7

The second-largest tree in the CFSL sprouts from Boise State AD Clutch. They have enjoyed plenty of on-the-field success. The Clutch Tree is tied for the most conference championships. They also have the second-most National Titles and third-best winning percentage. It is safe to say that this tree has been great.

The future success of this tree seems assured. Clutch is a proven winner and Championship-winning AD. Stephens and dthall both had fantastic seasons with their respective programs. Both Notre Dame and Illinois should be back strong in Season 19. SilentNinja and Jonesy may be unproven at the AD level, but the pair both have great coaching resumes. The potential is there for them to be great leaders.

The opportunity for growth seems strong, as well. Clutch is a proven mentor. He is one of only two ADs to develop four ADs under him. Time will tell if any of the other active ADs will produce future leaders. However, given their on-the-field success, it feels like that is only a matter of time.

The Grin Tree

Grin Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .529 (117-104)
National Championships: 1
Conference Championships: 4

The Grin Tree is certainly unique. As you can see, this is by far the largest tree to have all of its members be active ADs. And these ADs have produced. The Grin Tree has the fourth-most conference titles and National Titles. They also rank fourth in win percentage as well. They are very close to moving up those rankings and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it happen.

Grin’s success has spoken for itself. Many of this tree’s accomplishments were achieved by Grin. However, Aaron Ike, jbayse, and BeardonBlast have already proven themselves to be talented leaders. Given more time in these roles, you have to imagine those accomplishments will grow. The new ADs will need to prove themselves. With that said, they have come from great coaches and that has been a proven way to win.

No tree in the CFSL is in a better position to grow. Every member is active, which means they can continue to groom more coaches. This is proven by the three new ADs on this tree. No other tree has that many new ADs. Grin is tied for the most ADs developed by any AD and jbayse has proven himself to be a great mentor. This tree has truly limitless potential.

The Houston Tree

Houston Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .569 (99-75)
National Championships: 2
Conference Championships: 5

The fourth-largest tree in the CFSL has enjoyed plenty of success. They not only have the best winning percentage but are also third in National and conference titles. This started with Houston’s (aka OKST56) success at Oklahoma State and has grown from there. ThatGuy, who took over at Oklahoma State, has helped grow these accomplishments.

The future success of this tree relies on ThatGuy’s success, as he is the only active AD on the tree. While that doesn’t leave them with many options, the tree is still in good hands. In his three seasons at Oklahoma State ThatGuy has won 27 of his 33 games, two conference titles, and a National Championship.

The future growth of this team will also depend on ThatGuy (unless one of the former ADs comes back). As we have seen, success on the field is normally a good indicator for growth. This means that despite having only one active branch, the future still has promise.

The Mears Tree

Mears Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .422 (35-48)
National Championships: 0
Conference Championships: 1

The Mears Tree started in Season 9 at Texas A&M. While Mears was only the AD of the Aggies for three seasons, he was able to mentor a pair of future ADs that still call the CFSL home. There were no active branches on this tree until it was announced that smittytj would be taking over Penn State.

This tree is similar to the Houston Tree. Both are relying on a Smith brother for its future success. Smitty spent five seasons at Florida and has shown he has a mind for offensive gameplanning and recruiting. After spending the last few seasons coaching under his brother, he is ready to jump back into the AD chair.

The future growth of the tree is also squarely on Smitty’s shoulders as well. However, he has proven in the past that he has the ability to cultivate coaches. Flying Platypus was a coach under him and went on to be a MAC Head Coach for Ohio. It is hard to say any tree is poised for great growth potential with only one active branch. However, this is one I wouldn’t bet against either.

The Konvict Tree

Konvict Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .405 (17-25)
National Championships: 0
Conference Championships: 2

The Konvict Tree in the last article was nicknamed the LSU tree, given its start and early growth. Now, however, the Oregon tree seems to be a more apt title.

VinnyTrill is the sole active member of the tree, but he has shown much promise. Vinny spent one season at Oklahoma, but quickly turned them into a contender and B1G Champions. If he can do the same for an Oregon team that failed to win a game last season, then the future of this tree will be strong.

As for future growth, we will have to play wait and see. Vinny hasn’t been in the AD role long enough for those outside his program to truly know what kind of mentor he will be. However, the old rule is success breeds growth. So far Vinny has proven himself to be a successful.

The Murph Tree

Murph Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .308 (16-36)
National Championships: 0
Conference Championships: 0

Starting in Season 19 there are two new trees that a begun to sprout. The first is the Murph Tree. Murph has been the leading man at WVU since they came into the league in Season 13. West Virginia has had an up and down existence, but has recently reached new heights this season. To match their on-the-field success, the tree is growing for the first time as well.

The future success of this tree is hard to know. Murph seems to have found his footing in Morgantown and I suspect WVU will continue to improve. We don’t really know what to expect from Jacobb yet, so time will tell. However, USC has enjoyed success on-the-field before in the CFSL. Perhaps he can tap into that tradition and make the Trojans a powerhouse once again.

The future growth of this tree is limited, due to its size, but still solid. Both coaches are current and look to be around for awhile. This at least gives them the opportunity for growth. Also, Murph has now proven West Viriginia to be a valuable learning experience for aspiring ADs. Again, we will have to wait and see, but the outlook appears optimistic.

The Cole Tree

Cole Tree-Season 19

Total Win Percentage: .265 (9-25)
National Championships: 0
Conference Championships: 0

The Cole Tree is the second new coaching tree that saw growth this offseason. Cole is the only AD to appear on any tree that was never a coach. This will always make is tree feel unique. Now with Braden bringing the Baylor Bears into the CFSL, this tree has life.

The future success of this tree is murky. While Cole has certainly fielded competitive teams, the Auburn Tigers have yet to have their breakout season under his guidance. However, this feels more like a question of when, not if. Auburn has a fantastic history in the CFSL and many believe they will climb back to those ranks. Braden and the Bears are both unproven in the CFSL. This is another game of wait and see.

As for the potential growth, it is slightly higher in my opinion. Cole has many talented coaches under him. Braden is just the first to step out on his own. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this tree develop quickly over the next several seasons. And that is to forget that Braden will surely be looking to develop future ADs of his own.

The Treeless

Last time I wrote this article this was a rather big group. Several names (like Murph and Cole) found themselves treeless because they had yet to develop ADs out of their coaches. Now their is only two AD in the CFSL that finds themselves without a tree. That is Clemson’s Loki Gunderson and Colorado’s Skyballr.

Gunderson has been training coaches of his own, however. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a tree in the near future.

Skyballr has been around the league for a long time. He was the AD of Oregon in Season 2-4. He had no shortage of success then. If he can repeat that performance then this might be another AD to carry his own tree in the future.


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