HOUSTON, October 26, 2021 — Twenty-one college football coaches have been named to the American Heart Association’s 2021 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award watch list, a list of coaches in consideration for the top honor. The award is given annually 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 research to eradicate cardiovascular disease and stroke, leading causes of death globally. The football coaching legend died from a heart attack in 1983.

The Coach of the Year will be announced live from Houston’s Post Oak Hotel on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, during the awards ceremony with proceeds benefiting the American Heart Association. The Coach of the Year award is voted on by the National Sports Media Association, current NCAA College football coaches, former Coach of the Year Award winners, the Bryant Awards’ Executive Leadership Team and the Bryant Family. The award is the only college coaching honor selected after all postseason bowl games and the National Championship have been played.

The 2021 Watch List includes (in alphabetical order):

Atlantic Coast Conference

  • Dave Clawson – Wake Forest University
  • Dave Doeren – North Carolina State University
  • Pat Narduzzi – University of Pittsburgh

Big 10 Conference

  • Ryan Day – Ohio State University
  • James Franklin – Pennsylvania State University
  • Jim Harbaugh – University of Michigan
  • Mel Tucker – Michigan State University

Big XII Conference

  • Dave Aranda – Baylor University
  • Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State University
  • Lincoln Riley – University of Oklahoma

“Group of Five” Conferences

  • Jamey Chadwell – Coastal Carolina University
  • Sonny Dykes – Southern Methodist University
  • Luke Fickell – University of Cincinnati
  • Dana Holgorsen –University of Houston
  • Jeff Traylor – University of Texas at San Antonio

Pac 12 Conference

  • Mario Cristobal – University of Oregon
  • Jonathan Smith – Oregon State University

Southeastern Conference

  • Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M University
  • 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 program will also present Conference Coaches of the Year Awards from each of the “Power Five” collegiate athletic conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10, Big XII, 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). The 2021 award cycle marks the second year that the individual conference coach recognitions have been granted.

In addition, as previously announced, coaching legends John Robinson and David Shaw will also be recognized at the awards event. Coach Robinson will receive the 2022 Paul “Bear” Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston,  and Coach Shaw will receive the 2022 Heart of a Champion Award.

Marathon Oil Corporation, an independent exploration and production company based in Houston, has served as the presenting sponsor of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards for more than a decade, underscoring the company’s commitment to health and wellness and supporting initiatives that promote the well-being of workers and their families in the communities where they operate. 

“These coaches inspire and lift hearts on the field of play and in everyday life. We congratulate them on being named to this exceptional and elite list,” said Lee Tillman, Marathon Oil chairman, president and CEO. “Alongside the Bryant family, we are pleased and proud to support the lifesaving mission of the American Heart Association while carrying on the enduring legacy of Coach Bear Bryant.”

Fans can follow Paul “Bear” Bryant Award finalists, track progress of the awards and be among the first to know who is named Coach of the Year at facebook.com/bryantawards or twitter.com/bryantawards. To attend the exclusive, VIP experience for the Bryant Awards, contact 832-918-4009 or visit bryantawards.org.


About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For Media Inquiries:

Stacy Christian, Senior Director of Community Revenue and Engagement



For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and strokeassociation.org