Monday, June 04, 2007

Ranking Coaches I: Longevity

Intro here. Sporting News' Rankings Here.

I readily admit that length of service at a BCS college, on its own, isn't the best measure of how good a coach is. It clearly represents accomplishment, but doesn't necessarily state an advantage in coaching ability when compared to other coaches. The extended entry has the full list and some commentary.

The list is how many years these coaches have served as the head of BCS programs. Coaches who no longer serve as the head coaches of BCS teams aren't listed (no Mike Price, no Larry Coker). Also, years serving as coach at a non-BCS-automatic-qualifying aren't included (for example, Dennis Franchione's years at TCU don't count). One exception, though: if a coach has served as coach at the same spot, and that team has joined a BCS conference, all years count (for example, Jim Leavitt at USF).

Longest Tenure (Years at BCS conference programs)

1. Joe Paterno (41)
2. Bobby Bowden (37)
3. Rich Brooks (22)
4. Frank Beamer (20)
5. Mack Brown (19)
6. Steve Spurrier (17)
7. Phillip Fulmer (14.5)
8T. Mike Bellotti (12)
8T. Lloyd Carr (12)
8T. Dennis Erickson (12)
8T. Al Groh (12)
8T. Tommy Tuberville (12)
8T. Tyrone Willingham (12)
14T. Jim Leavitt (10)
14T. Tom O'Brien (10)
14T. Nick Saban (10)
14T. Joe Tiller (10)
18. Houston Nutt (9)
19T. Tommy Bowden (8)
19T. Randy Edsall (8)
19T. Kirk Ferentz (8)
19T. Bob Stoops (8)
23. Mike Leach (7)
24T. Pete Carroll (6)
24T. Butch Davis (6)
24T. Dennis Franchione (6)
24T. Ralph Friedgen (6)
24T. Jim Grobe (6)
24T. Les Miles (6)
24T. Guy Morriss (6)
24T. Gary Pinkel (6)
24T. Mark Richt (6)
24T. Mike Riley (6)
24T. Rich Rodriguez (6)
24T. Greg Schiano (6)
24T. Jim Tressel (6)
37T. Chan Gailey (5)
37T. Bobby Johnson (5)
37T. Mark Mangino (5)
37T. Jeff Tedford (5)
37T. Ron Zook (5)
42T. Bill Doba (4)
42T. Karl Dorrell (4)
42T. Ted Roof (4)
45T. Bill Callahan (3)
45T. Sylvester Croom (3)
45T. Mark Dantonio (3)
45T. Mike Stoops (3)
49T. Mike Gundy (2)
49T. Terry Hoeppner (2)
49T. Urban Meyer (2)
49T. Ed Orgeron (2)
49T. Greg Robinson (2)
49T. Dave Wannstedt (2)
49T. Charlie Weis (2)
56T. Bret Bielema (1)
56T. Pat Fitzgerald (1)
56T. Dan Hawkins (1)
56T. Ron Prince (1)
60T. Tim Brewster (0)
60T. Gene Chizik (0)
60T. Jim Harbaugh (0)
60T. Jeff Jagodzinski (0)
60T. Brian Kelly (0)
60T. Steve Kragthorpe (0)
60T. Randy Shannon (0)


This list is a good (though not perfect) gauge of accomplishment as a coach. The guys at the top are, for the most part, legendary coaches. But if the inevitable goal is to find objective criteria to compare coaches, simply looking at how long he's been around doesn't go far enough. If I were choosing a coach today, I'd prefer a guy who isn't going to retire in the next few years, even if a younger guy has only a fraction of a chance at becoming a legend. Plus, with the energy and commitment required to make a major college program work, fresher legs are also preferable. Here are a few quirks in the data:

  • Anyone else surprised that Rich Brooks is third on this list? And you'll be even more surprised when the rest of the data gets posted. His number of titles, winning percentage, and comparative winning percentage stand out for the longest-term people - and not for good reasons.

  • Al Groh has as many years heading BCS programs as Lloyd Carr. Might be surprising, because he had those early years at Wake Forest that are probably meaningless.

  • Guys with 6 years' service might be the future legends. Carroll, Tressel, Richt, Schiano, Rodriguez, Friedgen, Grobe and even Miles and Davis. All of them may end up iconic at their respective programs.

  • Before last season, I remember someone writing about how Houston Nutt had the longest tenure at BCS conference schools who had never won a conference title. Not true! Jim Leavitt has served a year longer without a conference title.
How does longevity seem to play into Dienhart's rankings? Not much, it seems. And that's probably OK. He downgrades Paterno and Bowden from their spot up high. He (rightly) discounts Rich Brooks. He lifts several of the 6 year guys up high. The guy he's lowered the most appears to be Tyrone Willingham (8th highest by longevity, 54th on Dienhart's list). Urban Meyer gets the biggest lift (49th by longevity, 12th on Dienhart's list). Of the guys with no experience, Dienhart seems to consider most of them under the "incomplete grade", listing 5 of the 7 rookies among the bottom 9 on his list. Only Brian Kelly (36th) and Steve Kragthorpe (27th) avoided the depths - and both are the only rookies at BCS schools who had experience at other Division 1-A schools. Dienhart's assumption that Kelly and Kragthorpe will be solid at BCS schools seems (to me) to be a little strong. Considering that he rates both ahead of two coaches with multiple BCS appearances (Weis, Miles), or a guy with experience at a BCS school who has the highest winning percentage of any coach in America (Bielema). Dienhart has high hopes for those two.

Tomorrow night, National and Conference Titles.


Anonymous said...

Hey, three days later, it looks like College Football News thought this was a swell idea, too: