"Patience is a virtue."
According to a quick internet search, that saying has been around since the 14th century, or roughly when Joe Paterno began his head coaching career at Penn State. Ironically, Nittany Lions fans didn't need much patience when Joe Pa took over. After going 5-5 in his first season, Penn State went 30-2-1 in his next three.
Mark Dantonio won't match those numbers, but UC fans will soon be rewarded for their patience.
Last week's game at Louisville provided the best evidence yet that the Bearcats are making huge strides under Dantonio. Trailing by 6 with 2:37 to go, they drove from their own 8 yard line to the Louisville 16, before falling just short of upsetting the 7th-ranked Cardinals on their home field (where Louisville has won 15 straight).
That came after the Bearcats led 10th-ranked Virginia Tech going to the 4th quarter in Blacksburg and gave top-ranked Ohio State a battle before running out of gas in the final quarter in Columbus.
Still, as we all know, "coming close" only matters in horseshoes, hand grenades and rancid body odor. Nobody will be satisfied until the Bearcats start winning on a regular basis.
Forget about Paterno, let's look at three other coaches who were able to turn around struggling programs.
In my freshman year at Syracuse, former Cincinnati assistant coach Dick MacPherson took over as head coach of the Orange. In his first six years, SU went 30-36-1 and one of the most frequent chants at the Carrier Dome was "Sack Mac." In year seven, Syracuse went undefeated.
In Bill Snyder's first year at Kansas State, the Wildcats went 1-10 and he finished with losing records in three of his first four seasons. Beginning in year five, the Wildcats won at least eight games for the next nine years.
It took Frank Beamer seven years to turn around Virginia Tech. After his first six seasons, Beamer was a whopping 16 games under .500! But the Hokies have been one of the nation's elite programs since, going to bowl games in each of the last 12 seasons.
In all three cases, patience paid off.
I can't promise that Coach Dantonio will have the success that MacPherson, Snyder and Beamer enjoyed, but the future looks bright for these reasons.
1. Young talent. The quarterback is a sophomore, the top three running backs are juniors, and 10 of the 12 players who have caught at least one pass will return next season. On defense, eight of the 12 leading tacklers will be back in 2007.
2. Coaching stability. After the one-and-done coaching carousel of the Rick Minter years, there has been minimal turnover under Dantonio. While losing the occasional assistant coach is normal, losing three or four a year makes everything more difficult.
3. Recruiting. It's not rocket science. Get good players and you'll have good teams, and it's obvious the talent is getting better. Membership in the Big East and impressive new facilities are bound to help.
So keep one more expression in mind when evaluating Coach Dantonio and the Bearcats. This one comes from the 18th century.
"Patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet."