How many wins in the next two seasons does Hoke need to keep his job?

Submitted by gobluehtown on December 11th, 2013 at 1:01 AM

There seems to be a contrast of expectations that are somewhat contradictory, the aims of short-run success versus long-run program reputation

When it comes to a power program like Michigan, what evidence should be used to judge the job performance of coaches? There are the usual types of milestones and accomplishments thrown out (division titles, conference titles, BCS games). But I submit that by examining the make-up and changes in winning percentage is the main indicator in the way in which a coach should be judged. The ancillary rewards such as conference championships are rewards for wins and with a high enough winning percentages, those correlated accolades will accrue as the winning percentage increases.

 The longer the sample, the less the impact of any one record from any given year would change the program success. On the other hand though, a large change from the program’s winning percentage prior the arrival of that coach to the five-years after his arrival would signal a “great coach” who could “bend the curve of a program’s trajectory”. I took the last six coaches for Michigan and looked at what the evidence shows in terms of success or failure.

If the last three years of the previous coach were poor records wise, then it is likely, the standard set of criteria for success would be, “Has this coach exceeded the results of the last coach?” For most programs, an affirmative answer to this question would result in the coach gaining the confidence of the fan/alumni base. But with Michigan (and other power programs), the next set of criteria would be, “Has the coach matched or exceeded the winning percentage of the program overall?”

When it comes to Brady Hoke, he has clearly met the first set of standards. Rich Rodriguez started from a nearly .700 winning percentage from Lloyd Carr’s tenure. He took this base and promptly shit the bed. By the empirical evidence of winning percentage, Rich Rodriguez is likely the worst coach in modern Michigan football history. The program was in better shape when Bo took over from Bump, so Hoke did not have a high bar to clear to clear the short-run collective memories of Rodriguez. In fact, Hoke’s increase in winning percentage of nearly 28 percentage points is second only to Bo, so he’s clearly a positive over Rodriguez.

The next, more macro set of standards is where the ennui with Hoke begins to set in. Examining the winning percentages on a season by season basis helps to simplify the overall trends and trajectory of a program with attempt to eliminate some of the randomness which can occur on a game to game and even season to season set of events which may limit the overall explanatory capability of the statistic. The power program and winning percentage are a gift and a curse. The gift is that the history helps with the overall great program sell and helps to perpetuate that this school has always been good therefore it will continue to be good mindset. The curse is that if the coach does not meet the historical standards set, he is considered a failure.

This presents a problem because a standard set over two different types of measurements is sure to create disappointment. In the case of Hoke, he has already met the short-run standards, which is a good thing. In his mind he can point to the crater which Rodriguez left and he has begun to fill it in and erect a new statue of success. But since this is a power program, Hoke’s success is relative. Hoke is currently less than the overall winning percentage of the program, .682 (depending on the results of the Copper Bowl) vs. about .735 (using stats from 1892 forward), this is better than the gap between the first few seasons of Bump and RichRod, but it falls short of Carr, Moeller and Bo. In fact, Hoke’s track record indicates that he is somewhat of a slow starter when it comes to his early coaching record versus the overall program’s record.

In contrast, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Les Miles have met or exceeded the program long-run average at nearly every stop they have been at (Saban at MSU has a similar profile to Hoke at M vis-à-vis program avg.)  


The mark of a good coach is that they made their teams better. The mark of a great coach is that they made their programs better. Both Saban (LSU and Bama) and Meyer (FLA and Ohio) took decent to good programs and made them better. Miles also built upon a strong LSU program and did not regress even with the pace that Saban had set before him. 

The other remarkable evidence in recent times are made up of four coaches at three power programs and one decent/good program. Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Bob Stoops and Mark Richt all set examples of blistering beginnings that M should push to emulate in the next two years. 

Carroll and Stoops in particular took power programs and strengthened their long-run advantages. 

Hoke’s numbers so far look more like Mack Brown and John Cooper, numbers which are underwhelming to say the least. Mack’s CEO style relies on maintaining the advantage of the program to pull in the best recruits. From Tulane to North Carolina and finally to Texas, Brown’s numbers are not earth-shattering, but they do offer a model for program consistency, if not extreme short-run success.


So, that leaves the questions which is the title to this diary, how many wins does Hoke need to keep his job (using the power program winning percentage as a central metric). Assuming that Hoke does win the Copper Bowl, to maintain the program's long-run success factor, Hoke must win 20 games in the next two seasons. This may sound unreachable sitting here today, but it could be 9 in 2014 and 11 in 2015, the distribution of the wins in a particular year does not matter, but Hoke needs those 20 wins to run his type of program.

This record assumes 10 wins evenly in both years. The power program strategy that Hoke is utilizing relies on the belief that that M is indeed a power thus attracting the recruits who want to be at said power. If that belief is lost, there could be a feedback loop whereas the loss of prestige eats away at the base which believes in that prestige and the entire program continues on this plateau of blah.



December 11th, 2013 at 1:10 AM ^

I literally just spent 20 minutes looking up similar stats. I think we're on our way to 10 wins a season. Our problems were clearly o-line d-line this year and these are the youngest units on the team (80% freshman/sophomores).

Creedence Tapes

December 11th, 2013 at 1:47 AM ^

First off I agree that our youth and shuffleing of the interior oline are the main reason for our inconsistency on offense this year, however none of this is evident in the above charts that only contain information about the winning percentage of the various coaches. If we assume that all programs are equal, in terms of player talent and experience, schedule strenght, injuries etc, then perhaps we can draw some conlcusions from these numbers, but I doubt this is the case.

For example, Hoke inherited a Michigan team filled with a lot of experienced players and seemed to surpass everyone's expectations by going 11-2 in his first season. In year two, a tougher schedule and an injured starting QB resulted in a dissapointing 8-5 record. In year 3,  the inexperienced interior line and offensive and defensive inconsistency, also brought about a dissapointing 7-5 record, with 4 losses coming by a combined 11 points. Is Hoke a different coach in year 1 than in years 2 and 3? Does he approach the game in any different way that results in different records, or is there a combination of factors at play in every given college football team's season? How can we differentiate between the the combination of factors to come out with some conclusive data one way or the other?


December 11th, 2013 at 11:59 PM ^

If I am what is wrong with college football, then what do you call this current version of Michigan? Charging fans sky-rocketing prices, paying kingly sums to the coaching staff with all that money to burn, and not demanding nationally relevant production because they love that their head coach was bred inside the program.

Answer me that without deflection. I beg this of you.


December 11th, 2013 at 7:09 AM ^

OP says: "He took this base and promptly shit the bed."

That's elegant.

A mere nine minutes later (and in the middle of the night for many), "Stinkmeaner" posts a comment praising gobluehtown. Interesting timing ... almost RDT-worthy.

Pretty meager effort ...


December 11th, 2013 at 11:22 AM ^

It took me about 4 hours to collect the data and complete the analysis. I am not sure who "Stinkmeaner" is, but I reject the implication that I am somehow creating or using other accounts to fluff the sentiment of my own post. Take a look through my posting history. It's all there, there is nothing too hide nor is there any attempt at trying to pump up any other analysis in some sort of scheme. The only meager effort here is the fact that you questioned my integrity without any evidence to back it up.


December 11th, 2013 at 8:34 AM ^

The answer is two in the next two years.  That's a bare minimum, really.  They just have to be against the right teams.  I think three would be a better answer, but let's start with two and go from there.


December 11th, 2013 at 9:37 AM ^

I'm not sure of a magic number for wins but we have to start beating Sparty and OSU. We are currently 2-4 against these teams in Hoke's three years. In my opinion Hoke has to get at least one win against these two next year although I am optimistic and think we can get both. Things will start getting warm for Hoke if we go 0-2 again.

Looking at the brighter side, at least we have been competitive against OSU with two losses only totaling 6 points. It's a little weird but Sparty may be the bigger threat right now so if I had my pick of wins I'd like to get that one next year.


December 11th, 2013 at 10:22 AM ^

Great statistical breakdown.  I think people get wrapped up in the most wins in college football but forget that we also have the highest winning percentage in college football.  At the end of 5 years Hoke needs to have improved that winning percentage.


December 11th, 2013 at 10:26 AM ^

The real question should be: What are the minimum expectations for the Michigan football program? 

If you asked me, given the resources and recruiting advantage of the Michigan program, the minimum expectations should be met over a 10 year period:

Seven 10-win seasons. 

4-6 vs. Ohio State

7-3 vs. MSU

Three division titles

Two Big Ten titles

Two Playoff appearances in the current model

Six appearances in the "New Year's Day Six" Bowls. 

Again, with what Michigan has as a football program, this should be what they are accomplishing at the very least. We have only one real rival in the conference when it comes to program status and that is Ohio State. To not accomplish the above is to be failing. 


December 11th, 2013 at 12:59 PM ^

I would guess with seven ten-win seasons comes seven New Year's Day bowls. A ten win Michigan team is HIGHLY unlikely to be left out of one of those.

I would otherwise like to see at least .500 against OSU as an expectation, but otherwise I don't think that's a bad minimum.

The more I think about this, 7 ten win seasons seems like a bit tough in today's college football, but whatever. It's kind of a meaningless exercise anyway since we'll never come to some agreed upon minimum as a fan base.


December 11th, 2013 at 6:27 PM ^

I mistakenly thought we were talking 10 regular season wins as the amount of wins expected out of a 12 game schedule. That's why I thought 7/10 of those types of seasons seems like a lot to expect as a minimum. Including bowls and potential champ games, then 10 wins 7/10 years seems reasonable. Also, I meant "today's college football" as there are more competitive teams (not just big 2, little 10), so 10-2 seasons seem a little more daunting on a consistent basis.


December 11th, 2013 at 10:30 AM ^

Interesting Analysis. I don't care for throwing RR under the bus, even though I prefer Hoke to RR.

Regarding the number of wins for Hoke to keep his job, I think you overstate things.

Regarding the prediction of 10 wins each of the next two season, I think 9 wins in the 2014 regular season and 11 wins in 2015 is more likely. The OL is still developing, along with depth everywhere. By 2015, it should be there, and Michigan should be firing on all cylinders.

Eye of the Tiger

December 11th, 2013 at 10:37 AM ^

Direction and perceived sustainability are as important as total wins. There are a few scenarios in which Hoke would be retained past 2015:

1. 2 years of sustained success (9+ win seasons)

2. A Big 10 championship in either 2014 or 2015

3. Even if we almost but don't quite meet these benchmarks, winning out the rivalry games in 2014 and 2015 would likely do the trick.

Given our roster and schedule, I see 2014 as an 8-10 win season and 2015 as a 9-11 win season.


mad magician

December 11th, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

Winning is a hell of a lot easier when your best recruits aren't wondering if their prospective head coach's job is in jeopardy.

Which, in the case of Hoke, it is not. We know this be irrefutably true.

Although one might get the idea that it is when one sees speculative user-generated posts on fan sites masquerading as serious discourse. Wins are not the sole criteria for success in college football, especially when you are in the third-year of a program reset. 

Seriously, we need to stop doing this before we turn into Notre Dame.


December 11th, 2013 at 2:31 PM ^

"Winning is a hell of a lot easier when your best recruits aren't wondering if their prospective head coach's job is in jeopardy."


I fail to see how recruits perspective of the head coaches job security impacts performance on the field (winning).  If you had said current players I might have bought the argument.  Otherwise I agree that the grumblings on mgoblog hold no weight with Dave Brandon and Hoke's job security.  Also, the idea that we shouldn't criticize our coach's performance since it could negatively impact recruiting is silly. 


December 11th, 2013 at 2:53 PM ^

It damages the FUTURE of the program. If wringing your hands over the each current season and the W's vs the L's, sure, it doesn't matter, but if you're worried about long term goals, it's dumb to needlessly speculate on the HC's tenure based on some arbitrary record in the next years. Those future seasons inevitably become the current season and you can get yourself pretty quickly into a cycle of never being satisfied with the current coach as he's struggling with the consequences of replacing his predecessor. Criticising coaches is fine, talking openly about forcing out a coach if they don't hit your personal W/L threshold is counterproductive.


December 13th, 2013 at 10:06 AM ^

Doing what? Seriously. Most people on this board want an OC that is worthy of being the third highest paid OC. I seriously don't want to hear excuses next year. I personally want to give Hoke 2015 but he really should try something this off season. Youth played a factor this year but you don't emphasize those youthful players. It is insanity.