Thursday, January 04, 2007

Middle Schoolers Have No Frame of Reference

Upon request by occasional commenter The Dagger, it is my duty to comment upon the fact that Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game in forever, though huge payout bowls keep beckoning, like a mistreated spouse.

How to put in perspective the nine game, 13 year stretch of losses for the Irish? I was thinking about listing any number of historical milestones that have come and passed since January 1, 1994. Rather focus things to football.

Since 1994...

  • 87 different teams have won at least one bowl game. (and there's a chance for two more if Western Michigan and Ohio win their bowls this weekend)
  • 30 teams have won at least FIVE bowl games.
  • 6 teams have won SIX bowl games (Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, USC, and... Colorado).
  • 4 teams have won SEVEN bowl games (FSU, Penn State, Texas, and... Utah)
  • 6 teams have won EIGHT bowl games (Boston College, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Nebraska and Wisconsin)
  • 28 teams from non-BCS-automatic-qualifying conferences have won a bowl game. (and two more potentially this weekend)
Consider, too, that there are FOURTEEN more bowls today than there were in 1994. More opportunities to make a bowl than there used to be. And about the bowls, look at how things have changed:

The following bowls have become defunct at some point since ND last won a bowl game:

Freedom Bowl (in Anaheim)
Carquest Bowl, later the MicronPC Bowl (Miami)
Seattle Bowl
Silicon Valley Classic (San Jose)

The following bowls have changed their names since ND last won a bowl game:

Copper Bowl (now Insight)
Hall of Fame Bowl (now Outback) Bowl (now Texas)
Florida Citrus Bowl (now Capital One)
Peach Bowl (now Chick-Fil-A)
The Aloha Classic and the Oahu Bowl have sort of merged to form the Hawaii Bowl

In 1994, Connecticut, Idaho and Troy were Division 1-AA teams. Each has won a bowl.
In 1994, South Florida did not have a football team at all. The Bulls have won a bowl.
In 1994, Boise State and Marshall were both in Division 1-AA. Both have won FIVE BOWLS!!!

The reason for ND's poor bowl performances that makes the most sense is that the Irish are favored by bowls and TV networks, and that means that ND typically has ended up in better bowls than they probably deserved, against opponents that have more likely "earned" their spot in the bowl from performance. I think that's a reasonable position, though I think it's probably impossible to prove empirically terms like "deserve" or"earn".

Are there other reasons for ND's inadequacies in bowls? How about coaching continuity?

Notre Dame has had 4 different full-time coaches since 1994. Add an interim coach for one bowl game (end of Bob Davie's term) and the George O'Leary debacle, and one could argue that ND has had 6 coaches since 1994. In 1994, Lou Holtz was coaching the Irish.

[[Aside: Lou Holtz isn't the only odd name you see among coaches when you look at college football in 1993-4. Here are some others: Bill Curry (Kentucky), Curley Hallman (LSU), Gary Gibbs (Oklahoma), Bill Walsh (Stanford), Dennis Erickson (Miami), Howard Schnellenberger (Louisville), Billy Brewer (Ole Miss), Gary Moeller (Michigan), and freaking George Perles at Michigan State!]]

Back to the Irish... 4 different fulltime coaches is clearly a disadvantage. But the Irish aren't the only team to suffer such a fortune. 15 other programs have had at least 4 fulltime coaches and still won a bowl game:

Alabama: 4 coaches (plus Mike Price and Nick Saban), 4 bowl wins
California: 4 coaches, 3 bowl wins
Colorado: 4 coaches (plus an interim coach), 6 bowl wins
Kentucky: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win
LSU: 4 coaches, 8 bowl wins
Louisville: 4 coaches, 3 bowl wins
Michigan State: 4 coaches (plus an interim coach and Dantonio), 2 bowl wins
Mississippi: 5 coaches, 5 bowl wins
Oklahoma: 4 coaches, 4 bowl wins
Oklahoma State: 4 coaches, 2 bowl wins
San Jose State: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win
Stanford: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win
Washington: 4 coaches, 2 bowl wins
Wyoming: 4 coaches, 1 bowl win

And then there's Boise State. Since 1994, when the Broncos were a Division 1-AA team, Boise State has had SIX different coaches that were there for at least a year. They've still won five bowls.

So what about the teams that are in Notre Dame's position, as in having no bowl wins since 1994?

Including ND, (and excluding WMU and Ohio, since they might win over the next few days), there are 30 teams that haven't won a bowl game since 1994.
  • 13 teams haven't been to a bowl since 1994 (Baylor, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Indiana, Kent State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, SMU, Temple, Vanderbilt)
  • 12 teams have only been to one bowl since 1994, which they lost (Akron, UAB, Arkansas State, Army, Ball State, UCF, Duke, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Rice, San Diego State, Utah State)
Notre Dame is 0 for 9. Here are the other teams that have been to multiple bowl games but haven't won one:
  • Northwestern (0 for 5)
  • New Mexico (0 for 5)
  • Houston (0 for 4)
  • UTEP (0 for 3)
There's the comparable group. Man.

I feel sad for Irish fans.