Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Are You Gonna Get?

Hey, you. Yeah you, the guys at Tennessee who hold the domain rights to "firephillipfulmer.com". And you guys in South Carolina writing in the newspapers about how Steve Spurrier needs to go. And you fans of successful programs who have fallen short these last few years and think, "man, if we just had a different head coach we'd win the championship". That's fine and dandy if you want to fantasize, but aren't you ignoring one major piece of the puzzle - who are you gonna get to be your new head coach?

Sure there's always going to be a coaching carousel, with teams who aren't on the winning side of .500 making changes in an attempt to right their ships. But I'm specifically talking to you fans of programs who win 8-9 games a year but can never quite make it to the top of your conference or the rankings.

Just as the membership in the BCS conferences has stabilized with most (if not all) of the good spots taken by the big schools, a lot of the top coaches in the country have been scooped up by those programs. That isn't to say there aren't any top notch coaches available, or that a mediocre coach won't excel once he gets in a new environment - it happens all the time. There's NFL coaches who do well after switching to the college game, but there's also ones who don't. There's also assistant coaches in either the NFL or college ranks who are looking to move up to head coach. The thing about these coaches is that they're inherently risky. For every Pete Carroll who blows away all expectations after switching from the NFL there's a Bill Callahan who doesn't live up to them. For every Mark Richt who was a coordinator for a long time and matured into a fantastic head coach there's a Chuck Amato who just doesn't cut it.

Our focus here is going to be on coaches that have proven that they can win a lot of games at the college level. Because are you really gonna dump your current above-average coach to go with someone who's unproven?

Let's look at a bunch of them and assess their situations. All of the following coaches have had a 10+win season as a college football head coach, and I've divided them up by situation to make it a bit easier. Also included are the number of seasons they've won at least 10 games (with the most recent year they won 10 games in parentheses) and if they've won any national championships, going back the last 20 years. After that we'll look at specific teams' situations.

Coaches Who Are Firmly Set with their Current Team
These coaches are winners at (mostly) BCS schools that are a good fit for them. Most of them have a good amount of history with their school, whether it's as head coach for a long time or as an assistant coach/student/etc (Brown, Richt, Weis). Those that don't have as much of a history (Saban, Meyer, Miles) are top coaches at ridiculously successful schools - there aren't any other positions open that they'd move to. (Yeah, the whole Miles to Michigan thing - not gonna happen because the Wolverines have Rich Rod now. Let's stay on track.)

Mack Brown: Texas, 10 10+win seasons (2007), 2005 NC
Frank Beamer: Virginia Tech, 9 10+win seasons (2007)
Philip Fulmer: Tennessee, 9 10+win seasons (2007), 1998 NC
Bob Stoops: Oklahoma, 7 10+win seasons (2007), 2000 NC
Pete Carroll: USC, 6 10+win seasons (2007), 2003 & 2004 NC
Jim Tressel: Ohio State, 5 10+win seasons (2007), 2002 NC
Mark Richt: Georgia, 5 10+win seasons (2007)
Gary Pinkel: Missouri, 3 10+win seasons (2007)
Les Miles: LSU, 3 10+win seasons (2007), 2007 NC
Mark Mangino: Kansas, 1 10+win season (2007)
Gary Patterson: TCU, 4 10+win seasons (2006)
Urban Meyer: Florida, 3 10+win seasons (2006), 2006 NC
Jeff Tedford: California, 2 10+win seasons (2006)
Tommy Tuberville: Auburn, 2 10+win seasons (2006)
Charlie Weis: Notre Dame, 1 10+win season (2006)
Jim Grobe: Wake Forest, 1 10+win season (2006)
Mike Riley: Oregon State, 1 10+win season (2006)
Brett Bielema: Wisconsin, 1 10+win season (2006)
Mike Bellotti: Oregon, 3 10+win seasons (2005)
Dan Hawkins: Colorado, 3 10+win seasons (2004)
Frank Solich: Ohio, 4 10+win seasons (2003)
Nick Saban: Alabama, 3 10+win seasons (2003), 2003 NC
Mike Price: UTEP, 3 10+win seasons (2002)
Pat Hill: Fresno State, 1 10+win season (2001)
Tom Amstutz: Toledo, 1 10+win season (2001)
Tommy Bowden: Clemson, 1 10+win season (1998)

Coaches Who Are Just Starting Out with their Current Team
Most colleges would be happy to have these following guys leading their program, but for the most part they're going to be at their current institutions for the next few years. Sure Graham and Petrino are seen as mercenaries and could jump ship at any time, but they're probably not going to because there aren't many positions above their current ones. Maybe in a few years this group will be available, depending on how they do, but for now they're probably not moving.

Dennis Erickson: Arizona State, 7 10+win seasons (2007), 1991 & 1989 NC
June Jones: SMU, 3 10+win seasons (2007)
Rich Rodriguez: Michigan, 3 10+win seasons (2007)
Jeff Jagodzinski: Boston College, 1 10+win season (2007)
Todd Graham: Tulsa, 1 10+win season (2007)
Bobby Petrino: Arkansas, 2 10+win seasons (2006)
Art Briles: Baylor, 2 10+win seasons (2006)
Houston Nutt: Mississippi, 1 10+win season (2006)
Tom O'Brien: NC State, 1 10+win season (2006)
Paul Johnson: Georgia Tech, 1 10+win season (2004)
David Cutcliffe: Duke, 1 10+win season (2003)
Rick Neuheisel: UCLA, 3 10+win seasons (2000)
Butch Davis: North Carolina, 1 10+win season (2000)
Bob Toledo: Tulane, 2 10+win seasons (1998)

Coaches Who Have Been With Their Team Forever (or have recently retired)
These coaches are (were) the face of their institution. They've either retired or they're not going anywhere else.

Lloyd Carr: (formerly) Michigan, 6 10+win seasons (2006), 1997 NC
Joe Paterno: Penn State, 6 10+win seasons (2005)
Barry Alvarez: (formerly) Wisconsin, 4 10+win seasons (2005)
Bobby Bowden: Florida State, 14 10+win seasons (2003), 1999 & 1993 NC
Bill Snyder: (formerly) Kansas State, 7 10+win seasons (2003)
Glen Mason: (formerly) Minnesota, 2 10+win seasons (2003)
Sonny Lubick: (formerly) Colorado State, 4 10+win seasons (2002)
Joe Novak: Northern Illinois, 1 10+win season (2003)

Coaches Who Have Not Had Much Success Recently
These coaches have had success at the college football level. But if your program is winning 8-9 games are year, are you going to get rid of your current coach for one of them? Probably not. They might be able to turn around a program that wins 3-4 games a season and make them respectable, but they're probably not going to take you to the top, and their recent history isn't too positive.

Karl Dorrell: (formerly) UCLA, 1 10+win season (2005)
Mike Shula: (formerly) Alabama, 1 10+win season (2005)
Kirk Ferentz: Iowa, 3 10+win seasons (2004)
Ralph Friedgen: Maryland, 3 10+win seasons (2003)
Bill Doba: (formerly) Washington State, 1 10+win season (2003)
Gregg Brandon: Bowling Green, 1 10+win season (2003)
Chuck Amato: (formerly) NC State, 1 10+win season (2002)
Tyrone Willingham: Washington, 1 10+win season (2002)
Steve Spurrier: South Carolina, 9 10+win seasons (2001), 1996 NC
Gary Crowton: (formerly) BYU, 1 10+win season (2001)
Ron Turner: (formerly) Illinois, 1 10+win season (2001)
Dirk Koetter: (formerly) Arizona State, 2 10+win seasons (2002)
John L. Smith: (formerly) Michigan State, 1 10+win season (2001)
Paul Pasqualoni: (formerly) Syracuse, 3 10+win seasons (2001)

Coaches Who Are A Possibility
So with all those guys in the lists above already accounted and spoken for, here are the coaches who might good bets to move up in the next few seasons.

George O'Leary: Central Florida, 2 10+win seasons (2007)
He's rebounded after that Notre Dame debacle, but would he be worth the risk?

Bronco Mendenhall: BYU, 2 10+win seasons (2007)
Has a really good thing going at BYU, but his roots are out west, limiting him geographically it seems.

Chris Peterson: Boise State, 2 10+win seasons (2007)
Basically the same situation as Mendenhall.

Greg Schiano: Rutgers, 1 10+win seasons (2006)
He brought Rutgers back from the dead, but things aren't going so well, and not necessarily because of him. I can see him moving to another big BCS school (Penn State?), but they'd have to be a top-notch program where he fits in well.

Brian Kelly: Cincinnati, 2 10+win seasons (2007)
Reminds me of Urban Meyer in a few ways - does he want to make the leap to a BCS conference school? He just started at Cincy last year, but I could see him going to a Big10 school (Iowa, Minnesota, etc.).

Larry Coker: (formerly) Miami (FL), 3 10+win seasons (2003), 2001 NC
Larry's been announcing for the last few seasons, but I'd bet he'd like to get back in the game, if only to prove that he wasn't just the recipient of good players and couldn't recruit. In the right situation, he could be solid.

Dennis Franchione: (formerly) Texas A&M, 2 10+win seasons (2002)
We know Coach Fran is a great coach in the right situations. The thing is that he seems to do things that take him out of those situations. If he takes another job, can he stop from sabotaging himself?

Gary Barnett: (formerly) Colorado, 2 10+win seasons (2001)
Barnett has proved that he can adjust to multiple coaching situations, taking both Northwestern and Colorado to new heights. He's been announcing, but I have to think he'd jump at the chance to try to lead another team if the fit is right.

Terry Bowden: (formerly) Auburn, 2 10+win seasons (1997)
Terry has blogged that he'd coach again if the situation was right. Maybe West Virginia, since he has ties there and because the whole Bill Stewart era is starting out really shaky. But he's been out of the game an awfully long time, (and he chose Ohio State to beat USC, even knowing Benie Wells wasn't playing, something he hasn't owned up to yet).

I haven't included coaches from a lot of other categories here, partly because the list is too big, but mainly because I tried to stick with coaches who have proven themselves during the BCS era. So let's check out some individual cases.

Tennessee: Sure Fulmer's had a few down years lately, and he hasn't won a championship (conference or national) in ten years. But he's one of the most successful coaches on the list and is a good bet for 10+wins most seasons. He's the face of Tennessee football and has been for a long time. Are you Vol fans willing to throw all that away? I'd give Tennessee a 5% chance of succeeding as much as they have lately if they change coaches.

South Carolina: The Old Ball Coach ain't what he used to be. But neither are you, Gamecock fans, and that's a good thing. How successful were you before he got there? Sure there were a few good years with Lou Holtz, but do you really think that another coach can take you to the top of the SEC? I'm not saying Spurrier can, but I'm not sure any coach can - the SEC is just too tough right now, especially when you've gotta go up against Richt, Meyer, Miles, and Saban.

Clemson: Tommy Bowden just can't seem to get over the hump, can he? This year was supposed to be his most promising, with possibly his most talented team yet. But his overall record is as good as all the other Clemson coaches. Sure he hasn't won an ACC championship, and the Tigers used to have one of those every now and then. I just think that some Clemson fans' expectations of 10+wins and a championship every season are unrealistic.

So wave your "Fire (insert coach's name here)" signs, post on internet forums about how he needs to go, and blame him when you lose a game. But when you're done ranting and think about it with a clearer head, ask yourself the question...

3 comments:

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john ludwig said...

I don't think D'Antonio would leave michigan state for south carolina or clemson, but would he leave for tennessee? perhaps. He has had success tho short tenures at Cincy and now MSU.

Ed Gunther said...

Ah, but would Tennessee get rid of Fulmer to hire D'Antonio? That's the question. (No, they shouldn't would seem to be the obvious answer, at least to me.)