RR is often criticized based on the low win pct so far. The big dropoff from LC’s win percentage shocked many of us. Certainly, one can blame RR, the system, coaching changes, the players, or even just bad luck for the poor first season. In any case, there’s a lot of error in just considering one season. It doesn’t accurately reflect the direction of the program as a whole. So, what happens when we look at this direction: that is, the average trends in the UM program as a whole, irrespective of coach? Has the program been getting worse?
To answer this question, I looked at the trends since LC took over in 1995 (based on a moving average involving each four year period). The data below suggest that, while the LC’s record was generally excellent—in fact, even above our NCAA-leading all-time win pct-- it declined after the Moeller-as-HC recruits circulated out of the system for 3 years. Afterwards, there was also a small trend downward under LC (amounting to .125 fewer wins each year). Possibly, this result lends mild support to the idea that the program was slowly going downhill.
What we find, unsurprisingly, is a big dropoff initially with the coaching change—the size over two years is .75 more games lost on average per season * However, just as Moeller gets some credit for the first 3-years of LC’s record, LC gets some blame for the first 3 years of RR’s record. LC does not bear responsibility for the coaching but he does bear some responsibility for the recruits.
There is some mildly reassuring news too. Assuming a 7-6 final record this year (including either a win or loss in the bowl game), there is no further decline in the average this season (it stays at 7.5). Possibly, RR has stopped the bleeding—which began as a small series of skin cuts under LC and appeared to become a gushing, cut artery when the coaching change occurred.
So, the bleeding may be coming under control, and the patient can probably be taken out of intensive care. But the patient is not yet entirely out of the woods. Note that, just as LC had a slight positive bump in his third year average, we should expect a slight negative bump in the total win average next year (unless UM wins 11 games). This bump will disappear if RR wins 9 games in his fourth year. The trend will continue to be upward for each successive 8+ win season; but RR needs a string of 9+ win seasons and a tenure approaching LC’s to match or exceed LC’s record.
Toal wins and average wins for four successive seasons beginning in 1995 to present.**
9, 8, 12,10 avg 9.75
8,12,10,10 avg 10
12,10,10,9 avg 10.25
10,10,9,8 avg 9.25
10,9,8,10 avg 9.25
9,8,10,10 avg 9.25
8,10,10,9 avg 9.25
10,10, 9,7 avg 9.25
10,9,7,11 avg 9.25
9,7,11,9 avg 9.0
7,11, 9,3 avg 7.5
11,9,3,7 avg 7.5 (7-6 season assumed for this year)
*The dropoff with the coaching change admittedly was more rapid, taking only two years to lose 1.5 more games on average, compared with the decline of 1.0 games on avg under LC over 10 years.
**Note that a few of the season involved 12 rather than 13 games total, but the 12-game seasons were spread over the 12 year period. So, just considering total wins shouldn’t affect the trends much. If anything, they will probably increase slightly the decline under LC.