How many currently active head football coaches were lucky enough to witness a major change in on-field performance by the second year of their program?
I compiled a list of the top current and active college head football coaches in the land and recorded their career record to-date at that school, winning percentage at current school, and their team records in Year 1 and Year 2. I then looked for the largest delta in number of victories between Year 1 and 2 for each coach.
I counted 22 individual cases where the new and currently active head football coach demonstrated:
A. A greater number of football victories from year 1 to year 2 (+1 win or more)
B. The ability to get to a post-season bowl in Year 2
This approach excludes some pretty good coaches and some good football teams (like an LSU, Tulsa, Boise State) that may have had a brilliant 11-2 record in year 1 and a good 10-3 record in year 2, as an example. They’d be excluded from the count because they did not technically “improve” in the win column the second year.
Also, what I am showing only takes into consideration active head coaches at their current head coaching positions, not past jobs the coach might have held. Therefore, Rich Rodriguez’s 3-8 to 9-4 miracle work between 2001 and 2002 at West Virginia is excluded here because his current job is at Michigan.
Here's what I found (sorted by highest delta in year 2 victories):
|Coach||Team||Year 1||Year 2||Year 2 Win Delta|
|Jim Tressel||Ohio St.||2001: 7-5 Lost the Outback Bowl||2002: 14-0 Won the Fiesta Bowl (NC)||7|
|Bobby Stoops||OU||1999: 7-5 Lost Independence Bowl||2000: 13-0 Won Orange Bowl (NC)||6|
|Pete Carroll||USC||2001: 6-6 Lost Las Vegas Bowl||2002: 11-2 Won Orange Bowl||5|
|Mark Richt||Georgia||2001: 8-4 Lost Music City Bowl||2002: 13-1 Won Sugar Bowl||5|
|Bobby Bowden||FSU||1976: 5-6||1977: 10-2 Won Tangerine Bowl||5|
|Bronco Mendenhall||BYU||2005: 6-6 Lost Las Vegas Bowl||2007: 11-2 Won Las Vegas Bowl||5|
|Nick Saban||Alabama||2007: 7-6 Won Independence Bowl||2008: 12-2 Lost Sugar Bowl||5|
|Urban Meyer||Florida||2005: 9-3 Won Outback Bowl||2006: 13-1 Won BCS NCG||4|
|Gary Patterson||TCU||2001: 6-6 Lost Galleryfurniture.com Bowl||2002: 10-2 Won Liberty Bowl||4|
|Chris Ault||Nevada||2004: 5-7||2005: 9-3 Won Hawai'I Bowl||4|
|Mark Mangino||Kansas||2002: 2-10||2003: 6-7 Lost Tangerine Bowl||4|
|Butch Davis||UNC||2007: 4-8||2008: 8-5 Lost Meineke Car Care Bowl||4|
|Dan Hawkins||Colorado||2006: 2-10||2007: 6-7 Lost Independence Bowl||4|
|Joe Paterno||PSU||1967: 5-5-0||1967: 8-2-1 Tied Gator Bowl||3|
|Skip Holtz||ECU||2005: 5-6||2006: 7-6 Lost Papajohns.com Bowl||2|
|Brian Kelly||Cincy||2007: 10-3 Won Papajohns.com Bowl||2008: 11-3 Lost Orange Bowl||1|
|Kyle Whittingham||Utah||2005: 7-5 Won Emerald Bowl||2006: 8-5 Won Armed Forces Bowl||1|
|Jeff Tedford||Cal||2002: 7-5||2003: 8-6 Won Insight.com Bowl||1|
|Ralph Friedgen||Maryland||2001: 10-2 Lost Orange Bowl||2002: 11-3 Won Peach Bowl||1|
|Charlie Weis||ND||2005: 9-3 Lost Fiesta Bowl||2006: 10-3 Lost Sugar Bowl||1|
|Steve Spurrier||S.Carolina||2005: 7-5 Lost Independence Bowl||2006: 8-5 Won Liberty Bowl||1|
|Tom O'Brien||NC State||2007: 5-7||2008: 6-7 Lost Papajohns.com Bowl||1|
It’s kind of interesting to take note which coaches faced the fire of year one and survived the hate storm long enough to tell about it. Some coaches never faced any such fire their first and second year out.
There were three cases where a national championship was won in Year 2: Ohio State (Tressel 2002), Oklahoma (Stoops 2000) and Florida (Meyer 2006).
I'll revisit the list again at the conclusion of the 2009 football season in January 2010.