Maybe necessity is the mother of re-invention.

I think it’s a common feeling amongst the Bulldawg faithful that sooner or later a Richt-coached team will play in and win a BCS title game.  Programs that win roughly eighty percent of their games don’t grow on trees and you have to figure that a level of success like that pays off eventually.

But after you read this column by Bruce Feldman, it may give you some pause for thought about that.  College coaches like Richt may be facing the football equivalent of the ticking biological clock.

… Almost all the coaches who have won BCS titles have done so in their first four years at their programs. Look at the list:

  • 2009 Florida: Urban Meyer’s 4th year
  • 2008 LSU: Les Miles’ 3rd year
  • 2007 Florida: Meyer’s 2nd year
  • 2006 Texas: Mack Brown’s 8th year
  • 2005 USC: Pete Carroll’s 4th year
  • 2004 LSU: Nick Saban’s 4th year
  • 2003 Ohio State: Jim Tressel’s 2nd year
  • 2002 Miami: Larry Coker’s 1st year
  • 2001 Oklahoma: Bob Stoops’ 2nd year
  • 2000 FSU: Bobby Bowden’s 24th year
  • 1999 Tennessee: Phil Fulmer’s 7th year

You will notice that the coach on that list with the most seniority is Richt’s mentor, at 24 years.  But from there, the amount of time spent as head coach drops significantly, as no other man on the list had a decade of service under his belt before winning the title game.  Mark Richt, as we all know, is entering his ninth year as the Georgia head coach.

Feldman goes on to speculate as to some reasons why the spoils tend to go to the recently hired victors.

… To me that is reflective of a couple of factors: 1.) Coaches who come in bringing a new energy to a program can have huge success; 2.) In many cases they’ve inherited situations with programs that have the talent base but are eager for a change in direction. (Some players initially will respond better to a hard-line staff. Others to a “players’ coach”. Either way, the shift can be the key.) 3.) Successful coaching staffs can get stale over time and players/recruits, just like fans, can be swayed by the next new thing around and they want to be part of a fancy turnaround project.

That sounds like what the UT athletic director tells himself every night before he falls asleep.  On the other hand, see if any of this resonates with you:

… That also leads to the flip side to this thing. I’ve always thought that coaches, like most other professionals, get better with added experience, but there are certainly other elements that can fly in the face of that: People do tend to get complacent; the message might no longer be fresh; maybe a coach’s enthusiasm isn’t quite what it once was when there was more determination to prove you belong.

Hi there, 2008!  That being said, Richt ain’t no dummy, and when you read stuff like this

…His idea to fix things is going back to the same attitude he had when he was a first-year coach at Georgia. No detail is too small. No practice is too physical and no mistake is too minor.

In other words, no cutting corners.

“In a lot of ways, we just want to make sure we have a focus on detail,” Richt said. “I remember the very first practice here. We took the coaches and the trainers and the managers, and we went onto the practice field and got the clock going and the horn blowing and we stood where we were going to be for flex and then the horn blew and we transitioned to where we were going to be next and the managers transitioned and the trainers transitioned.

“So when the kids came out, we were organized. We were ready. We’ve got to get that kind of mentality back, not leaving any detail for chance.”

… it makes you think that he’s already reached the same conclusion that Feldman did.  And is determined to do something about it.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Maybe necessity is the mother of re-invention.

  1. Oneviewdawg

    Without going into the long discussion about what makes this relevant,

    1980–Vince Dooley– 16th year

    talent, commitment, money? who knows, but there are other parallels.

  2. cookinandsmilin

    Feldman has a point, but it is not really a “point”… I think what oneviewdawg was refering to, is that statistically speaking, this is a very small sample size, we don’t have any ‘other’ numbers to use (such as the average tenure of a head coach), etc.. To many folks ‘look’ at a couple of numbers and ‘see’ TRENDS and then make an ‘analysis’…

    Look further in his article, and he ‘defers’ to “expert” OPINIONS… but he is clearly looking at VEGAS ODDS… These are not driven by “experts”, but by average Joe’s dropping dimes this way and that, thereby ‘stearing’ Vegas…

    Just my .02

  3. KCDawg

    Senator,

    It’d be interesting to see how long those guys had been head coaches prior to winning the big one. In fact, think I’ll do that:

    Meyer – 6th
    Miles – 7th
    Brown – 18th (8th Texas)
    Saban – 10th (4th LSU)
    Tressel – 6th (Youngstown Div. 1AA; 2nd OS)
    Coker – 1st
    Stoops – 2nd
    Fulmer – 7th
    Bowden – 28th (1993 – 18th at FSU); 34th (1999 – 24th at FSU)

    Perhaps length of time as a head coach, combined with the right situation, is what makes it happen. All that said, Richt’s second year, at 13-1, is the equivelent of Miles’, Saban’s, Carrol’s (2003), Bowdon’s (1993) and both of Meyer’s National Championship records. Based on the above, Coker and Stoops are the outliers, with Richt just slightly north of the median time to acieve the MNC. Just another way to look at it.

    • cookinandsmilin

      KCDawg, thanks for doing more research… and the conclusion of Coker and Stoops being outliers, kinda goes against the earlier ‘analysis’…

      But what we all have to remember, is that no matter how we break down the numbers, there are SO MANY OTHER things that go into winning a MNC… to look at one statistic, especially this almost trivial one IMO, and draw ‘conclusions’ is INSANE…

  4. Daniel

    I’d be curious to see how the average tenure for a coach who has not won a NC has changed over the last 40 years. I think the biggest factor here is that schools get impatient, which skews the data.

    To illustrate the extreme – if your policy is to give a coach 5 years to win an NC before you fire him, then no coach will ever win his first NC after his 5th year.

    Obviously the policies aren’t quite that stringent, but there is no doubt that consistent success is required of a new coach at the top schools.

    Richt is an outlier, I think, precisely because he has had the type of consistent success that would normally result in at least an NC bid. The performances of 2002 and 2007 would likely have been championship caliber in 2003 and 2008 respectively – which is just bad luck.

  5. KCDawg raises a very good point. The 13-1 record that Richt posted in 2002 was a record that was good enough for Urban Meyer to get to the Title game twice, and better than Les Miles’ record in 2007. Furthermore, does anybody really doubt that had DJ Shockley not been injured and unable to play in the 2005 Georgia-Florida game that we would not have gone undefeated in the regular season, and likely had our title shot that year? I don’t think injuries make a coach “stale.” The numbers might show a trend, but numbers rarely tell the whole story.

  6. HamDawg11

    Richt will get his, I have no doubt.

  7. Bryan Carver Dawg97

    I’ve said it a bunch – at this point just I wonder if Coach Richt has the killer instinct to win it. I know about getting the lucky breaks, 2002, 2007, etc. etc. but take a look at how Carroll, Saban, Stoops, and Meyer basically go for the throat. I think they help make some of their own breaks. Look, I don’t think its even complacency. Coach Richt is getting things done the right way. More often than not, I think he brings in character kids, coaches them up and teaches them the right way to do things. Ultimately, we aren’t going to get a coach of Carroll, Saban, Stoops, or Meyer’s quality anyways. So would we really take a chance on some midmajor coach when Richt has already proven he can build a program?

    Aligator called us a regional power. That’s fine. But while Richt has been here, we have been a pretty consistent top 10 program. Richt’s belief is that, rather than being an arrogant prick, that ultimately things will finally just bounce the right way. That’s fine for him to believe in that and we certainly have a program to be proud of. But that is going to mean as Dawg fans, in terms of a NC, we are also going to have to have that same faith, possibly for the next 25 years.

  8. 69Dawg

    Until there is a playoff the BCS Title is a beauty contest with the human polls voting the winner. I would hate to see us have an Auburn 13-0 season only to be voted Miss Congeniality.

  9. JL

    The statistics do not paint the whole picture. Only 3 schools that have won national championships in the last 20 years won their first widely recognized national championship since 1925. (Colorado, FSU, UF) See http://collegefootball.about.com/od/nationalchampions/a/champions-list_2.htm
    Further, no team has won its first national championship since 1925 in the last ten years.

    Considering this, there is likely at least an 85% chance that any national champion in the next ten years will come from the group of schools that have already won at least one “widely recognized” national championship since 1925.

    Of those 31 schools, only two, Florida State and Penn State have a coach who has been at the school more than 10 years. (I may have missed one.) Only 8 of these schools have a coach whose tenure began before 2004, (FSU, PSU, Texas, USC, UGA, Iowa, Maryland, and TCU).

    So only 25% of the schools that are likely to win the next MNC have a coach that has over 5 years at his current school.

    The statistics cited may say more about the length of tenure at schools competing for national championships than the effectiveness of a coach in his first few years.

  10. JL

    Make that 10, accidentally left out OU and OSU. Still, that makes it only a 1 in 3 chance that a coach with over 5 years wins and a 1 in 15 chance that a coach with over ten years wins it in 2009.