I want to use today's Breakfast to address something that has been on my mind over the past few weeks. More importantly, something people should be be talking about from now until the National Title Game on Jan. 10.
Loyal reader Mr. P sent me an email in reponse to my plea for questions you would like answered. It had 20 questions on it. Strong showing by Mr. P, to say the least.
Here's the one you asked that I have been meaning to talk about.
"12. Why in the world would you have hope for next year?"
If you follow this blog at all, you know I love numbers. I love the matter of fact nature with which you can spot trends and allow the past to inevitably repeat itself.
There is no greater sign of that then looking at the recent upward trend of second-year head coaches.
The first-year coaching transition is difficult. This news from the tell-me-something-I-didn't-just-live-through file.
However, across college football, a rash of success typically occurs from the first season to the second season. The reasons are many: Players used to the new leaders, coaches able to develop their type of guys, coaches better understanding what they will get from their talent.
Point being -- it is most definitely happening.
Take a look at the National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Oregon. Two second-year coaches. Remember when Auburn hired Gene Chizik? The program hadn't been relevent for years in the SEC. People were calling for the firing of AD Jeff Jacobs before he even landed at the airport from meeting with Chizik.
Say what you will about Cam Newton being the entire team, but Chizik's team lost five games last year in his first season. This year, 12-0, possible national title.
Oregon's Chip Kelly took over for a successful predecessor in Mike Bellotti. Kelly even had Oregon at 10-2 last season before losing to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
In his second season, they ascended to a new level and will play for the national title.
These two cases could be proven to have nothing to do with UC considering how the team dropped to 4-8 last year. You can easily say, Paul, this program obviously has larger problems than those two, they had winning records in Year 1 and both improved from the predecessor.
True and true. But the point of this post will not be that UC is going to win the national title next year. Rather, the odds point to them being significantly better. Why? Because Oregon and Auburn are far from alone.
Let's take a look at all the new coaches from the 2009 season.
The rise in winning percentage from Year 1 to Year 2 is not coincidence, it's an undeniable trend.
There are some serious success stories in here folks (B stands for playing in an upcoming bowl game):
School 2008 coach record 2009 coach 2009 2010
Army Stan Brock 3-9 Rich Ellerson 5-7 6-5 B
Auburn Tommy Tuberville 5-7 Gene Chizik 8-5 12-0 B
Ball St. Brady Hoke 12-1 Stan Parrish 2-11 4-8
B.College Jeff Jagodzinski 9-5 Frank Spaziani 8-5 7-5 B
BowlGreen Gregg Brandon 6-6 Dave Clawson 7-5 2-10
E. Michigan Jeff Genyk 3-9 Ron English 0-12 2-10
Iowa State Gene Chizik 2-11 Paul Rhoades 7-6 5-7
Kansas St. Ron Prince 5-7 Bill Snyder 6-6 7-5 B
Miami (OH) S. Montgomery 2-10 Mike Haywood 1-11 9-4 B
Miss. St. Sylvester Croom 4-8 Dan Mullen 5-7 8-4 B
New Mex. Rocky Long 4-8 Mike Locksley 1-11 1-11
New Mex. St. Hal Mumme 3-9 DeWayne Walker 3-9 2-10
Oregon Mike Bellotti 10-3 Chip Kelly 10-3 12-0 B
Purdue Joe Tiller 4-8 Danny Hope 5-7 4-8
San Diego St. Chuck Long 2-10 Brady Hoke 4-8 8-4 B
Syracuse Greg Robinson 3-9 Doug Marrone 4-8 7-5 B
Toledo Tom Astutz 3-9 Tim Beckman 5-7 8-4 B
Utah St. Brent Guy 3-9 Gary Andersen 4-8 4-8
Washington Ty Willingham 0-12 Steve Sarkisian 5-7 6-6 B
Wyoming Joe Glenn 4-8 Dave Christensen 7-6 3-9
TOTAL 85-158 (34%) 87-149 (36%) 117-123 (48%)
Observations about the data
--- Among the 21 coaching changes:
12 improved from year 1 to 2
11 will be in an upcoming bowl game
5 got worse
4 stayed the same
--- The significant rise in winning percentage should tell all you need to know about the trend. It stays about the same the first season, then rises significantly over the course of the next year. Even more so, if you take away the perenielly awful programs like New Mexico, New Mexico St. and Eastern Michigan their record would be 112-90 for a 55% win total in Year 2.
Of course, Chip Kelly has built on Mike Bellotti's success in a way you don't need me to tell you about, but certainly saw marked improvement from Year 1 to 2.
--- More along the lines of UC's situation would be the coaches that inherited programs with winning records. Of those, the numbers aren't as confidence-inducing. Brady Hoke's strong Ball St. team has been successfully tanked by Stan Parrish. Though, they did win a few more games in Year 2.
Frank Spaziani has kept BC around the same level it was prior to Jeff Jagodzinski leaving. Kelly is the other.
--- The 2009 season isn't the only one to see this trend, take these for example.
--- Georgia Tech won the ACC and played in a BCS bowl last season under second-year head coach Paul Johnson.
--- Alabama went from Mike Shula's drowning of the program to the SEC title game under second-year coach Nick Saban. Obviously, Bama won the national title the next year. What was Bama's record the first year under Saban? 7-6 with four consecutive losses to close the regular season.
--- In 2006, Florida won a national title under second-year coach Urban Meyer. They were 5-3 in the SEC his first season.
--- Perhaps the change we should be paying the closest attention to was the changeover from Brian Kelly to Butch Jones at Central Michigan. CBJ went 8-6 in his first year replacing BK. He was 8-5 in the second season with a six-game win streak mid-year.
--- The difficult first season under new managment has resonated across college football. Of the 23 new coaches last season, only five have winning records. Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, Lane Kiffin at USC, Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech, Skip Holtz at USF and Jimbo Fisher at Florida State (which really wasn't a coaching change at all considering Fisher was essentially running the program).
Only Fisher and the Lane Train have more than seven wins.
--- All of these numbers and statistical analysis are nice, but probably still leave you with doubts considering the rapid nature of the Bearcats fall from 12-1 to 4-8. You can't look at it that way. Every year is different in college football and none are more different from one season to the next than when a new coach arrives.
BK and CBJ are different coaches. They employ different tactics and win differently. Do you think BK would have been able to turn this defense with eight sophomores and three juniors into a winning one? Maybe, but probably not.
--- The bottom line is the numbers prove what people who know football are already aware of, that there is an incredible difference in comfort level from both players to coach and coach to players during the second year. That's particularly so when players were so used to the success of a coach like BK.
And think about next season -- you have all 11 starters and most contributing backups returning on defense. Sure, the defense was bad this year. But can they get worse? Can you really tell me that these 11 guys won't improve with a year experience under their belt and a season in the strength and conditioning program?
You return a senior quarterback who -- while didn't live up to some of the lofty expectations -- played pretty well. He has a lot to work on, but the guy lives, eats and breathes football and is a proven winner. It's hard to imagine him not having a monster senior year.
You return a 1,000-yard rusher (who missed two games), DJ Woods and star transfer WR Kenbrell Thompkins. The offensive line holes will need to be addressed, but that's something a year in strength and conditioning can only help.
--- This year didn't exactly exude confidence in the direction of the program. But, Mr. P, in the longest way possible to answer your simple question, why in the world would you have hope for next year?
There you go.