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?