Is the second year still the charm?

I noted a few days ago that the second-year coaching bump effect is off to a somewhat rocky start in 2019.  Bud Elliott, in his Banner Society newsletter, speculates about a possible cause for that.

For whatever reason, though, the bump doesn’t appear to be happening with this year’s sophomore coaching class.

Let’s acknowledge that a two-week sample set is far too small to draw meaningful conclusions. Let’s also acknowledge that it is also possible that this group of coaching hires was simply poor…

As Banner Society’s recruiting writer, I try to think about everything in CFB as it relates to recruiting. And a very important recruiting thing happened in 2018: the first Early Signing Period for college football recruiting. Prior to 2018, when a coach was hired in late November or early December, he had about 10 weeks to assemble his staff and put together a recruiting class by the traditional National Signing Day, the first Wednesday in February. It wasn’t easy, really, to catch up on relationships with existing verbal commitments, evaluate the class, and target new recruits to bring in to the class.

As you might expect, the first abbreviated recruiting classes signed by coaches typically had a high wash-out rate and were not as good as the classes put together once the head coach and his staff had a full year or more within the program.

But with the advent of the Early Signing Period, which now happens a week before Christmas, coaches had only about three weeks between Thanksgiving and ESP to get their staff together and sign their prospects. And while waiting for the traditional National Signing Day date in February was technically an option, it wasn’t a realistic one, as more than 90% of FBS recruits signed in the Early Period.

There is not enough early data to prove this, but anecdotally, some of the recruiting classes signed by these programs in such short order are worse than what you would normally expect to see with an abbreviated class. It’s just a natural consequence of having so little time to put together the class. Some of the quality athletes who were “available” to be signed were likely available because they had character or competitiveness red flags that established staffs identified and stayed away from, while new staffs had to roll the dice in an effort to get some sort of talent injection.

The early period also set back some staffs in their second year. The major, successful programs who did not make coaching changes had most of their class wrapped up well before the Early Signing Period, and had already moved on to making contacts for the next class (in this case, 2019). Meanwhile, the new staffs hired during the Early Signing Period were having to recruit for the Early Signing Period and, thereafter, survey the landscape to try and fill out their class on the traditional NSD from the leftovers who did not sign in the ESP. This effectively gave the programs who did not make a coaching change a 100-day head start on the 2019 class. While new staffs were hosting official visitors for the class of 2018, existing staffs were hosting junior days, where the class of 2019 was checking out their program.

While not fatal, this did put the new staffs at a disadvantage for the 2019 class, which was to be their first “full” class.

Bud goes on to note that, except in cases like, say, Georgia Tech, where the administration realizes the rebuild is going to take time, new coaches need to hit big with that first class and that usually there’s a decent chance they will because of the excitement and a new direction surrounding their hires, neither of which has been tainted by disappointing on the field results.

Yeah, it’s way too soon to draw any substantive conclusions, but Bud says at the end exactly what I was thinking as I read his piece:

Could the mad dash to make something out of the first Early Signing Period have caused a snowball effect that is seeing coaches fail to meet expectations and show progress? I’m not ready to say yet, but I’ll be watching. And as time goes by, if more data supports that theory, it has some fascinating ramifications for the CFB hiring calendar.

In other words, ADs will panic earlier than they do now, even though hiring or firing based on a recruiting class is generally a mug’s game.  What do you guys think?


Filed under Recruiting

13 responses to “Is the second year still the charm?

  1. Hobnail_Boot

    Gut reaction says we may start seeing a “year 3 bump” while also knowing that ADs and fans probably won’t have the patience to see it out.


  2. St. Johns Dawg

    Just one opinion but as I remember it with UGA and other programs that have experienced the Year 2 bump … there was in most cases a very good team already on the roster when the new coach arrived …. They were underachieving for whatever reason(s). The trick was to get the talented players to 1) stay if productive and 2) buy into the new system/culture/coaching as a path to winning championships.
    Using Pruitt and UT as an example, he didn’t have nearly enough good talent on his team to get the Year 2 bump … which seems obvious now after 2 games.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Biggus Rickus

    On what is he basing the idea that the transition classes were worse than usual? Florida’s and Tennessee’s fell roughly in line with Urban’s and Saban’s transition classes, for example, and those are the poster children of the year two bump. As to being crippled for the second year classes, I don’t buy that at all. It certainly didn’t hurt Fisher at A&M.

    It seems to me the column should have just stopped at two games being too small a sample. The rest of it is just bullshit conjecture. For what it’s worth, I’m leaning towards some of the hires being crappy, while others will see some kind of uptick by the end of the season that could be considered a year two bump.


  4. There’s a little truth in all of it.
    1) Some of the hires are proving they weren’t ready (Pruitt) or transition is harder than they thought (Chip Kelly).
    2) The ESP has pushed the entire calendar forward 45 days or so … right into the middle of hiring/firing season.
    3) I would probably suggest the focus on the following year’s class isn’t as big of a deal. Many of these coaches probably already know/knew the players in the following year’s class.

    It would be interesting to think about what would UGA have done in 2015 if the current system were in place. Would Jacob Eason have given Kirby a chance? I tend to say yes since he was an early entrant.

    I agree with others that the 2nd year bounce may be more of a function of the upperclassman talent level and buy-in than anything else. Does anyone believe we would have been in Pasadena if Chubb, Michel, Carter and Bellamy had decided to fly the coop? I don’t.


    • Bulldog Joe

      Agree. The incoming coach’s familiarity with the university, and the program, and the local landscape can bring instant credibility with the team, the recruiting class, and those still deciding where to sign.

      The early signing period is a factor, but not as large as the recent transfer portal and the grad transfer rules. You have to sell yourself to those who are already there first. If done well, they will help you sell to others.

      I am more interested in what the year 4 bump can bring, with the depth of four full recruiting classes providing equal footing with the elites.


  5. practicaldawg

    By all accounts, the early signing period has done nothing but widen the gap between the haves and have nots. It heavily favors elite teams with inertia and large recruiting budgets and further penalizes struggling teams with coaching turnover. The recruiting class gaps only compound through the years to magnify the effect.


    • Jared S.

      Interesting point. One might have thought expanding the signing period may have led to more parity, but it’s having the opposite effect.

      Programs with larger budgets/staff benefit from an expanded/earlier Signing Period.

      Think about it, not only does it mean the “Have” teams have more resources to dedicate toward recruiting than the Have-nots, it means they have more resources to take care of other, more directly-football-related stuff that’s going on concurrently with the ESP. At the end of the day the “Have” teams can presumably put together better early signing classes AND ALSO put together a better on-field product leading up to and during the ESP, which enhances/reinforces the disparity.


  6. Go Dawgs!

    So ADs are more likely to hit the panic button sooner to ensure a better shot at a strong class on the early signing day?

    Boy, the hits just keep coming don’t they, Jeremy Pruitt?


  7. FlyingPeakDawg

    A “Rocky” start…heh.


  8. Warthen

    So California cannot allow students to get paid because only Congress can regulate interstate commerce, but the NCAA can prevent an Auburn player from getting paid for appearing in a Columbus car dealer’s commercial. Yes, I’m aware of the Constitutional law vs. membership bylaws argument, but those two events just don’t go together.


  9. LowcountryDawg

    With Tennessee specifically, they could have mitigated this problem by canning Bootch after Georgia destroyed them 41-0. Instead, they inexplicably waited another month to do what should have been done before the Life Champ reached the locker room.