Michigan Museday: The Gary Moeller Effect

Submitted by Seth on October 4th, 2011 at 8:06 AM

Dantonio-Headphones HawkeyePierce medium_gary moeller

Several months ago Brian left a few whacky meatball surgeons in charge of the B.L.O.G. 4077th unit while he did the wedding/honeymoon thing. In need of good filler we duly turned over content control to the enlisted, then didn't use any of their ideas. Then TrapperVH and Major Tim Burns left the show and we forgot 'em, but this query from a non emu:GaryMoeller-thumb-225x337-86535

… When Hoke was hired, Brandon alluded to some research that he had done on correlation between the background of a new head coach and his winning percentage. He basically said that coaches who had previously coached in the conference, played, or recruited  in the catchment area of a B10 school was much more likely to be successful than a complete outsider, and this was one of the reasons that made Hoke a more compelling candidate. …

…resulted in an excel spreadsheet (Google doc) that I've been tinkering with ever since.

We may call this the Gary Moeller effect since he is the epitome of a guy with longstanding Big Ten experience before he took his marquee Big Ten head coaching job. Mo started working for Bo at Miami (NTM) and after '69 the only years he wasn't coordinating something for Michigan were three spent as the head coach of Illinois. But he's also the antithesis for the Illini years, when Moeller went 3-18-3 in the Big Ten, way worse than before him.

At Michigan, Moeller became the most successful Big Ten coach in the last 40 years (ties counted for 0.5 each, records through 2010):

Rk Coach School Yrs B10 Wins B10 Losses B10 W%
1 Gary Moeller Michigan 1990-'94 31 5 86.11%
2 Bo Schembechler Michigan 1969-'89 144.5 25.5 85.00%
3 Jim Tressel OSU 2001-'10 66 14 82.50%
4 Lloyd Carr Michigan 1995-'07 81 23 77.88%
5 Earle Bruce OSU 1979-'87 57 17 77.03%
6 John Mackovic Illini 1988-'91 22.5 9.5 70.31%
7 Bret Bielema Wis 2006- 27 13 67.50%
8 John Cooper OSU 1988-'00 70 34 67.31%
9 Jim Young Purdue 1977-'81 26.5 14.5 64.63%
10 Mark Dantonio MSU 2007- 21 12 63.64%

(Penn State is excised because when JoePa took over every team was in the Pangaea Conference. Bo Pelini too, for the same reason: not with the conference when they became HC).

Defining success isn't that straightforward. John Cooper* and Earl Bruce won a lot of Big Ten games at OSU but both were -9.5% in conf. winning % versus the 10 years preceding them while Hayden Fry (+32%), Joe Tiller (+25%), and Gary Barnett (+21%) dramatically improved moribund programs. When I compared every coach over the last 40 years to the 10 years before he arrived, I got this for best and worst:**

  Coach School Yrs B10 W% 10 Years before him Change
1 Bo Schembechler Michigan 1969-'89 85.00% 49.28% +35.72%
66 Rich Rodriguez Michigan 2008-'10 25.00% 78.75% -53.75%

But then the W% method is really unfair to coaches who took over great teams. Lloyd Carr is a hall of fame coach who won around 78% of his Big Ten games over 13 years in a tough conference environment, but versus '85 to '94 he's –2.36%, good for about average. John Pont made the Top 10 for getting Indiana from 18% to 37%. Pont later reappears just outside the loser's bracket for taking over a 40% Northwestern team and winning just 25% of his conf. games. Using both metrics however can give us a list of dudes worth discussing from the last 20 years:

(after the jump):


FryguyHayden Fry: Iowa, 1979-'98

Previously: Head coach at North Texas ('73-'78), and SMU ('62-'72), asst. at Arkansas and Baylor

Big Ten Record: 96-61-5

AVG SRS: 7.69 (this is a stat pulled from College Football Reference and stands for "Simple Rating System." It's meant to be in points so an SRS of 14 means his teams would beat an average team by two touchdowns. Bo averaged 18.75, Tim Brewster's Gophers were –4.22, over 10 is a good team)†

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 10 Zero as an assistant, but played 10 games, mostly vs. Michigan or Ohio State, while head coach of SMU.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Not even remotely. Texas guy.


Dantonio-Headphones Mark Dantonio: Michigan State, 2007-present

Previously: HC at Cincy, DC at OSU, DBs coach at Kansas, DC at Youngstown St and Akron

Big Ten Record: 20-12

AVG SRS: 6.76

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 67 The majority of those were as an assistant to Tressel at Ohio State. There are three games as a head coach while he was with Cincy.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Yes.


Tresselguy Jim Tressel: Ohio State, 2001-'10

Previously: HC of Youngstown St (FCS), QB or QB/WR coach at Ohio State, 'Cuse and Miami (NTM) from 1979 to '85

Big Ten Record: 66-14

AVG SRS: 15.46

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 34 A few games here and there with Miami (NTM) and Syracuse, but the bulk comes from three years in the '80s with Ohio State.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Not really. Tressel was coaching Youngstown State since the mid-'80s so it's not like he knew any of the coaches or players in the conference. He knew Ohio and Pennsylvania recruiting really well.


DIABEETUSguyJoe Tiller: Purdue, 2001-'10

Previously: HC of Wyoming, OC at Washington St and Wyo., asst. HC at Purdue '83-'86, asst. and interim HC for a Canadian pro team, OL/DL line asst. at Washington St.

Big Ten Record: 51-45

AVG SRS: 7.10

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 38 A few while in assistant jobs at Wyoming and WSU but mostly from his mid-'80s stint with Purdue.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Not really. Like Tressel he spent time as an assistant at his school a decade before, but unlike Tressel he wasn't anywhere near Midwest recruiting grounds.



Barry Alvarez: Wisconsin, 1990-2005

Previously: DC and LBs coach at Notre Dame ('87-'89), LBs coach at Iowa since '79. Former linebacker at Nebraska (hence the Badgers' familiar uniforms)

Big Ten Record: 67-58-3

AVG SRS: 7.71

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 75 That's 66 as an assistant with Iowa and the rest while at Notre Dame.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Yes.

Some other Big Ten guys among the more successful coaches: George Perles was MSU's d-line coach in the '60s, and the Steel Curtain's DL/DC in the '70s. Jim Young was Bo's DC at Miami (NTM) and in the early years at Michigan before he put Purdue back on the map. Glen Mason logged 74 games as an assistant for Illinois and Ohio State but spent '86 to '96 at Kent State and Kansas. Prodigal coordinators Bret Bielema, Lloyd Carr, Nick Saban, and Pat Fitzgerald. Bo.

Success stories without the pedigree: Gary Barnett (7 games as an assistant prior) took Northwestern from the bottom to the scrappy thing Randy Walker and Pat Fitzgerald inherited. Bob Blackman had a decent (for Illinois) stop in Champaign between Ivy League careers. West coaster Darryl Rogers never saw a Big Ten game before he arrived in East Lansing.



Rodriguez you know. He had 2 games vs. Big Ten while at West Virginia.

Narddogguy Gerry DiNardo: Indiana, 2002-'04

Previously: Head coach of LSU before that really meant something. Head coach at Vandy. Assistant at Colorado.

Big Ten Record: 3-21

AVG SRS: –8.42

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 8 One bowl game his first year at LSU, the rest Colorado's 1980s thing with the Big Ten as an assistant.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? No.


bobbyguy Bobby Williams: Michigan State, 2000-'02 (I don't count his bowl game after Saban left or those games in '02 after he was fired 'cause it's still his team.

Previously: 10 years as MSU's version of Fred Jackson, WR or RB asst. at Kansas, EMU and Ball State

Big Ten Record: 6-15

AVG SRS: 6.18

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 80 Almost all of those were from spending the '90s with MSU.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Yes.


wackerguy Jim Wacker: Minnesota, 1992-'96

Previously: TCU's coach in the '80s. SW Texas St, ND State, and Texas Lutheran before that.

Big Ten Record: 8-32

AVG SRS: –0.15

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: None

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Nope. But he was born in Detroit and did some grad school at Wayne State.


Brewsterguy Tim Brewster: Minnesota, 2007-'10

Previously: TE coach in the NFL with Broncos and Chargers. A Mack Brown guy with Texas and N.C. (as tight ends coach) before that.

Big Ten Record: 8-24

AVG SRS: –4.22

Games vs. Big Ten prior to position: 1 against Indiana while with the Tar Heels.

Is he a BIG TEN veteran? Very much no.

Some other outsiders who failed: The entirety of John L. Smith's Big Ten experience was 3 games while Louisville's HC. Don Morton (Wis '87-'89) took ND State to four straight Div II championships then Wisconsin pulled him out of Tulsa. Frank Lauterbur (Iowa '71-'73) was Toledo's head coach but never coached against the Big Ten when Bump Elliott hired him; Frank and his GERG of a DC Ducky Lewis went 0-11 in '73. The next guy, Bob Commings (Iowa '74-'78) had only coached high school (at Massillon).

Big Ten guys who failed: Rick Venturi (NW '78-'80) was a hot young assistant with Purdue and Illinois before he took Northwestern to the bottom; he later caught on in the NFL. John Coatta (Wis '66-'69) got two years as an understudy in Madison before losing his first 23 games in a row as H.C. There's an endless parade of guys who coached really bad Indiana, Northwestern and Illinois years (including Bill Lynch) who were coordinators given crappy situations when piling losses required the head of the last coordinator in a crappy situation.


And then there's the curious case of John Pont.

johnpontindyguy johnpontguy

Pont followed preceded (thanks poster below) Bo at Miami (NTM), then spent a few years at Yale before taking the Bloomington position.

At Indiana he was 21-36-1 (a big improvement for IU) and took the Hoosiers to the Rose Bowl in '67. Then Pont went to Northwestern, where he went 10-31 in the Big Ten and 12-43 overall. The first was about +20% over any other 10 years of Indiana. The latter was taking the Wildcats from a team that won 40% of its conference games to one that couldn't win 1 in 4.

He's the last guy to make Indiana good, and did so having no prior experience in the Big Ten. He's also the guy who took Northwestern into that aforementioned crappy situation, and did so after 8 years as a Big Ten head coach. Go figure.

career3? rich-rod-thumbs-up1?

Ultimately if there's any Gary Moeller effect it seems to be more related to guys who have recruited the Midwest. Giving a guy a few years of token Big Ten coaching experience doesn't work. Head coaches tend to do better than coordinators or Mack Brown's tight ends coach. If you're looking for reasons why Rich Rod failed, I'm sure there's something in there about understanding Michigan culture, but I don't think his outsider status was the biggest factor (hiring Greg Robinson was). If you're looking at this for Hoke hope, there's some and plenty, since Midwest recruiting roots and success at multiple levels are good indicators of success.

Winning your first Big Ten game 58-0 is a good indicator too.



* Compliance: 2-10-1

** For the record:

Coach School Yrs B10 W% 10 yrs before him Change
Bo Schembechler Michigan 1969-'89 85.00% 49.28% +35.72%
Woody Hayes OSU 1951-'78 79.44% 61.67% +17.77%

Bo = better.

WHOA – check out the top two teams when I sort every Big Team team from 1953-2010 by SRS:

Rk SRS Year School Record: PPG OPPG Coach
1 29.66 1973 Ohio State 10-0-1
37.5 5.8 Woody Hayes
2 28.08 1973 Michigan 10-0-1
30 6.2 Bo Schembechler

Damn so many things.



October 4th, 2011 at 8:21 AM ^

back to tuesday, back to museday. original thought was that we need content on wed morning before UFR, but then we realized we have a presser late the night before, and picture pages which Brian does when something strikes him in the UFR, and Ace's FFFF all within a few hours of each other.


October 4th, 2011 at 8:38 AM ^

1) If you are going to conjecture and hypothesize... note that you need to have your facts straight.  John Pont preceeded Bo at Miami of Ohio...NOT succeeded (followed) him as you stated.  He was already the HC at Indiana while Bo was still at Miami.   Bo went 5-3-2 in his first year at Miami in 63, following Pont's 8-2-1 effort in 62.

2) Prior BT HC exposure/success has nothing to do with success at Michigan.  Gary Moeller was pitiful at Illinois as HC.  Carr was 0-0. 

3) Being a former assistant *and understanding both the culture/tradition as well as the recruiting base...at Michigan LIKELY DOES play in to future success as HC at Michigan... as evident by Mo, Lloyd ....and now Coach Hoke.


Go Blue.  This is Michigan. (and the above content from the poster will most likely be edited to correct Pont's record by the time everyone reads this, as per the usual mgoblog policy when shit isnt right. )



October 4th, 2011 at 9:08 AM ^

I think the only hypothesis I made was that there isn't sufficient evidence for the hypothesis. I was trying to present the evidence that people give for the "must be a big ten man" meme, beyond the typical JLS vs. Dantonio and Bo/Mo/Llo vs. RR cases. As it turned out, most coaches already had some background in the Big Ten, and therefore most of the coaches to have success and a lot of the ones who didn't were "Big Ten guys."

On the HC point I only meant being a successful HC (not necessarily playing the Big Ten) was a good indicator of success.

On the last part, I've corrected it. I'm also the guy whose job it is to correct copy errors by the time everyone reads anything on this blog. Should I not do that anymore?


October 4th, 2011 at 8:51 AM ^

This was something I was thinking about a week ago.

People deride the "Michigan Man" concept as some illogical Michigan arrogance that would stand in the way of progress and future success.

I think Brady Hoke has completely shown how badly that line of thought misses the point.

Brady Hoke isn't a "Michigan Man" because of his devotion to a certain Michigan style of football.  He is perfectly happy bringing in a outside brain like Al Borges and giving him the flexibility to put the best Michigan offense on the field he can.

Brady Hoke is a "Michigan Man' because he is a part of the program, broadly understood.  He is capable of motivating the program base and network and bringing it together in support of a common goal:  Winning.

Considering RichRod, its easy to see him as outside the program.  He was brought in as a savior, a figure transcendent of the program who will drag it into college football modernity.  And I don't want to portray that as inherently bad: while RichRod could have improved his fate and avoided that disastrous turn with better management, his failure also rests on the lack of acceptance amongst the program.

But in the end, I think that is nature of the beast.  The strength of Michigan football is tradition, history, and a lot of people who see the world through maize and blue glasses.  While RR walked in with way to much confidence in his apparent football genius to win over the faithful, Brady Hoke gets it:  the genius and strength of Michigan football isn't dependent upon the head coach.  Michigan football already has both in droves. 

Brady Hoke knows he has a role to play just like everyone else, and it is less to direct the program than it is to be the keystone.  His job is to keep the center strong and working together and enthusiastically towards a better Michigan football team.

For any deficiencies he may have otherwise, I think this is the "IT" that Hoke gets that RichRod didn't, and that is why I think he will be successful.




October 4th, 2011 at 9:25 AM ^

One of the big things about being a "Michigan Man" are the ties you have locally and regionally.  Lots of football players who have no NFL career or a short NFL career go on to become high school coaches.  These guys of course loved their time at Michigan, trust the staff, and as such function as very vocal recruiters within their team.  So if they get a 5* they'll be telling him how Michigan is the greatest program to further develop their talent.

Additionally if say you played under Bo, learned his Slant 5 defense and go on to coach high school ball, odds are you install his slant 5 defense.  It's what you know.  So the players you produce are pre-groomed for Bo's system.  That lets them get up to speed faster and learn a more complex playbook in college since they already know the basics.  You can also apply this to Mo, Lloyd, Woody and Tressel.

So experience in the region is a huge benefit because you have a social network built up with high school coaches.  Notice how Hoke grabbed all the top Michigan recruits he wanted and pillaged Ohio.  Likely because of ties he has via his pedigree (the Bo/Mo/Lloyd line can become the Bo/Mo/Lloyd/Hoke line) and the ties Mattison developed here and at Notre Dame.  This is a notice step up from Hopson screwing up our DT recruiting by going South and striking out.

The more time you spend ing the B10, the more regional high school coaches you produce and in turn the easier it comes to access talent.

The Bugle

October 4th, 2011 at 12:04 PM ^

While I agree with you to a point...I feel like the collapse of OSU helped the recruiting a lot...and that really doesn't have much to do with anyone but Tressel.  I think RR would have probably experienced the same boost.


/just conjecture...no real facts


October 4th, 2011 at 9:33 AM ^

Thanks for doing this, Misopogon. I'm sure it was a bit frustrating to go through all that data and not really get an "AHA!" one way or the other. My one critique is that the concluding line:

" Midwest recruiting roots and success at multiple levels are good indicators of success."

doesn't really seem to draw from the data, and more just repeats some accepted doctrine. Doctrine that makes sense to me, but that I feel is neither proven nor disproven by the data.

Good work


October 4th, 2011 at 9:43 AM ^

Unfortunately history and statistics will not be kind to RichRod. He really needs to get back to coaching and demonstrate that he learned from his mistakes. The real bummer for him is that the more Michigan succeeds this year the greater the perception that he was the problem (fair or not).


October 4th, 2011 at 9:44 AM ^

Brandon’s point was that you’re more likely to be successful in the Big Ten if you’ve recruited extensively in the Big Ten catchment area. With three years as an Ohio State assistant and fifteen years as head coach at Youngstown State, he surely qualifies. In fact, he is probably the perfect case.

Now, I will agree that Youngstown State doesn’t recruit head-to-head very often against the Big Ten, but he was going into the same towns and high schools. Indeed, Brandon specifically cited Tressel as an example of the principle he was espousing. (This was before Tressel got fired, of course.)


October 5th, 2011 at 5:50 PM ^

True, and for the guy above you, true true.

However his experience in the actual Big Ten was all a decade before he became OSU's head coach. I mentioned that he knew the recruiting territory quite well from Youngstown State, and that's the point: knowing the midwest recruiting turf seems like it's pretty important (Fry is the exception because he could bring Texans to Iowa). What's not important is knowing the Big Ten style or whatever.


October 4th, 2011 at 11:05 AM ^

That is counting the ties as half (actual record was 30-8-2).  Thus, he won 77.5% of his games, right below Carr.  That restores Bo to his rightful position at the top (or below Hoke at 100%)


October 4th, 2011 at 10:34 AM ^

Loved Gary Moeller as our coach.  I hated to see him get fired.  His offenses were so fun to watch.  This Minnesota game kinda brought me back to those days.

Eye of the Tiger

October 4th, 2011 at 10:38 AM ^

And I definitely think the idea that "big 10 experience" correlates with being a good Big 10 coach is a little dubious.  Regional recruiting experience, though, is important for some tangible reasons...

...as awesome as the Pahokee-Ann Arbor express is, it's always going to be a harder sell (and more expensive/time consuming for recruiters) to get kids to cross the country to play for you, compared with getting kids who live close by.  Plus, presumably, you already have relationships with regional HS coaches, only now you're selling them a better brand.  Last but not least, when you recruit the top guys locally, you are also recruiting them away from your rivals.  (One of my biggest frustrations with RR was how we let Dantonio take the best in-state defensive players 2 years in a row.)  

That said, I'd characterize it as an advantage rather than a prerequisite for success.  Building a good staff and having a strong idea for what you want to achieve and a plan for how you intend to get there are, IMO, more important.  This is why Hayden Fry was so successful, why Bo was so successul and why Alvarez was so successful.  Guys like Kirk Ferentz, Moeller/Lloyd and Bielema, in turn, are successful because they leverage these advantages and provide continuity (tweaking, rather than rewriting, the formula).  

The ones who aren't successful...well, a few can be chalked up to the difficulties of running a doomed program like Indiana or Minnesota...and the rest, I'd say are the result of doing one of the aforementioned things poorly.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, we all know how bad RR's defensive staff was--tragicomic, really. I think it's obvious he did have a good plan for revamping our offense, and we started to see the results last year.  Unfortunately, there was so little direction in the other elements of the game that it didn't matter in the end.  You have to play credible defense against big bruising offenses in the Big 10, and have depth to get through the season...we couldn't and didn't.  

Hoke...it's too early to tell, but signs are good at present.   

a non emu

October 4th, 2011 at 10:42 AM ^

I made the front page! I can die happy now. Thanks for doing this, Misopogon.

Having said that, maybe the results can be presented a little better after the Success/Failures section? Maybe a table that summarizes the number of local vs outsiders and an overall success percentage for each group. Of course with caveats for incomplete sample size and all that.

But I still do think that having local ties, especially recruiting ties to an area is really important. RR, and particularly his staff (a lot of whom were raided from USF) who do the bulk of the recruiting, were much more familiar and comfortable recruiting Florida. They didn't come with pre-existing with high school coaches here and those relationships take a long time to establish. It is a lot harder to convince a warm weather kid with three traditional football powers in the same state to come to Michigan. It is not a high percentage strategy.

Also, I never understood why Fred Jackson, the one holdover from the previous staff, was assigned to recruit the south! Sure, he was born in Louisiana but has spent most of the last 30-35 years here, and building relationships here. He seemed like the logical choice to handle in-state recruiting given a staff that was new to the area. He is back recruiting the state, and I believe the results are already starting to show.

Drew Sharp

October 4th, 2011 at 11:08 AM ^

In BTN's Icon episode on BO, Mo had the usual to say about how he was influence by Bo and all that, but it got me thinking..."what could he have accomplished in another five or so years?"  Would we have had a NC?  I would say yes.  This post talks about how he was essentially the best coach in the big ten for the years he was there, and he's often forgotten.  I know that I practically skip over him and go straight from Bo to Carr.  I understand that means I left out the Desmond years, but when people think of the Desmond years I don't hear them talk about Mo.  They say he was recruited by Bo.  I think it's important to remember Mo and how great he was, and I'm glad this post puts him in the proper perspective and gives him the historical respect he deserves.  

Everyone Murders

October 4th, 2011 at 11:20 AM ^

Penn State is excised because when JoePa took over every team was in the Pangaea Conference.


Interesting analysis is nice and all, but lines like this are why a lot of us stop by.


October 4th, 2011 at 11:21 AM ^

I think he would have done real well if he continued.  It would have been interesting if our results against Tressel would have been better with Moeller.

Still, Carr won a higher percentage of his games than Moeller and got us a National Title with an undefeated team, so hard to complain.


October 4th, 2011 at 11:31 AM ^

I think Hoke will be a success but there are so many OTHER factors thans the ones you listed to consider that I don't think this is a fair analysis.  And it is just waaaaayyyyyy to soon to judge.  But here are the other main pieces that will contribute to Hoke's success (at least short term):

1.  Inherited a veteran team on both sides of the ball - few freshman starters and everyone has been battle tested for the last 2/3 years.

2. He has Denard - DRob makes up for a ton of problems and buys him time to recruit up.

3. OSU is literally IMPLODING after losing its head coach and star QB. That opens up the Ohio valley for recruitment and means a win against them is MUCH more likely than it was before all the carnage.

4. The Big 10, after going through one of its most dominant 4 year stretches in the history of the conf, is at its wakest point I think I have EVER seen.  It is no longer the Big 2, it is the Big 1 (Wisconsin) and we don't know how strong they are yet b/c they haven't really played anyone.

Credit to Hoke for making the most of the pieces he had and then ADDING to them but we have to make sure to understand the world he walked into is very very different than the one most coaches inherit after a regime change (no one gets to see the dominant program wipe itself off the map).