A Look at All Power 5 Coaching Changes, 2007-2011

Submitted by reshp1 on September 15th, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Ahhh, a red snapper. Mmmmm, very tasty. Okay, Weaver, listen carefully. You can hold on to your red snapper... ...or you can go for what's in the box that Hiro-San is bringing down the aisle right now! What's it gonna be?


In case you haven’t noticed, there has been a fair amount of talk around here about a coaching change. Some have already made up their mind, especially after Notre Dame. Others, like me, want to wait until the end of the season, but I think we all recognize that it’s a real possibility if the team doesn’t show consistent improvement.

So, here we are. We might as well talk about it.

My personal feeling on coaching changes is that you have consider all the possibilities that can happen, not just focus on the potential positives. A lot of debates seem to just compare our current situation against the best case scenarios and dismiss the potential negative effects and scenarios that are possible as well. Names like Harbaugh and Chip Kelly are often brought up as an example of guys coming in and turning programs around, and as examples of why Hoke’s struggles of late are inexcusable not matter what the issues he’s had to deal with.

But guys like that are special and don’t grow on trees. You can rattle off their names off the top of your head precisely because they are the cream of the crop and the exception to the norm. But what happens the rest of the time? It behooves us to look at all the data, not just the outcomes we want.

Coaching Changes 2007-2011

We start with collegefootballpoll.com’s database of coaching all coaching changes in FBS. Since Michigan has a bit more job prestige than your average FBS team, I only included teams in the Power 5 conferences (B1G, Big12, Pac-12, SEC, ACC) and strong independents like Notre Dame to get a data set of teams more comparable to Michigan.

The database also does not differentiate between why changes were made whether they were retirement, voluntary resignations to move somewhere else, or firings. Clearly, only firings are relevant to our current situation, so I excised all examples that were voluntary separations, and further removed firings/forced resignations due to scandal. What we are left with are only programs that terminated their coach due to on the field performance.

We end up with a list of 36 coaching changes. These are schools in the proverbial “it can’t get worse” situation. These are schools that, even knowing the potential pitfalls of a coaching change, decided that enough was enough and something had to be done. You would think that schools in this situation would overwhelmingly benefit from a coaching change. After all, they perceived themselves to be a position where they had nowhere to go but up. As we’ll see from the data, and as we learned from our 2012 offensive line situation, things can most definitely get worse.

Do Coaching Changes Result in an Increase in Win Percentage?

We’ll first compare the performance of the new coach over their first three years vs the previous three years. The graph below shows the differential between the average wins per year of the outgoing vs incoming coach.

click embiggens

As you can see, it’s a mixed bag. The average change resulted in less than 1 win per season improvement (0.88 win/season), and the variation is pretty huge. On average though, coaches could not manage to significantly improve even upon the performance that was so bad it got their predecessor canned.  

The big positive turnarounds should be familiar to you. These are, for the most part, the coaches you already know because this is how they made a name for themselves. Franklin at Vanderbilt, Brian Kelly at ND, Nick Saban at Alabama, Sarkisian at Washington, and our very own Brady Hoke are among the names that top the list.

The Immediate Impact

Next, let’s looked at now the new coach fared in the first year compared to the previous 3 year average.

The results here are even less encouraging. On average, the first year for the new coach was slightly worse than the previous coach in the 3 years prior to being fired (-0.11 wins/season). Brady Hoke and Houston Nutt were the significant positive outliers (mostly because their predecessors were really bad over their three years). On the other side of the spectrum, Minnesota replacing a perpetually on-the-cusp Glenn Mason with Tim Brewster was the worst idea ever.

The negative first year differential isn’t totally unexpected though. Coaching changes come with transition costs. There are transfers and the guys that stay have to learn a new system, sometimes one that doesn’t suit their talents. Clearly, those expecting an instant improvement will most likely be disappointed.

Third Year Performance

But what about year three? The new coach has installed his system on both sides of the ball and by now his recruiting classes are starting to see the field. One would expect that by now, they’ve overcome the initial hurdles and can place their stamp on the program.

Here, the data is finally a little more encouraging. Most schools were better off after year 3 than they were in the 3 years prior to the change. The average differential was about a game and a half better per season (1.44). This also suggests that generally coaches improve from year 1 to year 3, something Hoke has been criticized for not accomplishing (although, it must be said, he had the biggest year 1 turnaround of all coaches).

A Closer Look at the Turnaround Artists

People will say, “Well, just don’t make a bad hire then.” But do the guys that succeed really look that different from the ones that don’t?

If you look at the list of names that managed to turn schools around, just about all of them would be on anyone’s coaching wish list. But, do their track records before they were hired look like as much of a slam dunk as they seem now? Was there something on their resume at the time that differentiated them from the unsuccessful candidates, and screamed to ADs “Hire this man!”

If we limit the list to guys that improved their programs by an average of 3 or more games a season over their first 3 years, we have: Brady Hoke, Brian Kelly, Charlie Stong, David Cutliffe, Houston Nutt, James Franklin, Nick Saban, and Steve Sarkisian.

If we look at just the third year performance, the list adds: Art Briles, Bill Snyder, Butch Davis, Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, and Jimbo Fisher. That's 14 guys total and is basically the top 1/3 of the 36 coaching transitions.

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these guys looked like at the time of their hiring:


Relevant experience at time of hire (epilogue in parentheses)

Art Briles

Up and down stint at Houston, although took over a 3-8 team. Went 32-28 over 5 seasons.

Bill Snyder

Life-long KSU coach, came out of retirement to help his former team. Unless Carr wants to come out of retirement, the situation is not relevant to Michigan.

Brady Hoke

Actually not that bad compared to the rest of the list… Similar to Brian Kelly, but one fewer stop. Improved a MAC Ball State year to year with 12 wins in the final season. Improved a 2-10 SDSU to 9-4 in two years.

Brian Kelly

One of the few with a slam dunk record. Improved teams everywhere he went from GVSU, to Central Michigan, to Cinncinnati (Big East). Only knock would be no power 5 experience. (Continued trend at ND until a tail off last year.)

Butch Davis

One of the only ones on the list with proven HC experience at a Power5 school (6 years at Miami) and, like Saban, moved from the NFL back to college after being mediocre there.  (Fired for misconduct at UNC in 2011)

Charlie Strong

Just 1 game of HC experience at Florida as interim (after Zook got canned). DC for 3 years at South Carolina and Florida each.

Chip Kelly

No HC experience, but fairly bulletproof record at OC. Similar to Rich Rod, had a signature offensive system that was successful everywhere he coached. OC at New Hampshire prior to that. (Now in NFL)

David Cutcliffe

I'm not going to go into this too much Another coach with experience at a power school, Cutcliffe spent 6 years at Ole Miss. He hovered around 7-8 wins for 4 years, which is right around where the program was when he took over. In year 5 he broke out with 10 wins, promptly followed up with a 4 win campaign the next year that saw him fired. It should be noted that while he improved Duke, they also almost literally couldn't have been worse, winning just 2 games in 3 years.

Houston Nutt

Long, up and down stint at Arkansas. 10 win high, 4 win low, 75-48 overall. (Fired by Ole Miss after 3 years. Took over tire fire, immediate success followed by precipitous decline.)

James Franklin

WR and QB coach at Maryland and KSU respectively, then went on to OC at KSU and returned to Maryland as OC. No Head Coaching experience, no coordinator experience. A bit of an outlier in that respect.

Jim Harbaugh

Promising 3 seasons at FCS San Diego (Fighting Toreros!) as HC including conference champs in last two years. QB coach in NFL prior to that. (Now in NFL)

Jimbo Fisher

No prior HC experience. OC at LSU under Saban and Miles, and then at FSU where he was groomed as coach in waiting after Bowden retired.

Nick Saban

Hovered around 6-7 wins before getting 9 in his last year at MSU, ~9 wins a year at LSU except for one 13 win season, turning around a floundering 3-8 record the year before. And then 2 rather lack-luster seasons in the NFL.  One of the few proven entities at time of hire on this list.

Steve Sarkisian

No HC experience prior to hire. 2 years as QB coach at USC, 1 year QB coach in NFL, 2 years as OC at USC and went 22-3 in those years


These guys fall into one of three categories:

Proven HC Experience

at High Level

Up and Coming HC

at Lower Tier

Up and Coming OC or DC

at High Level

Bill Synder

Art Briles

Charlie Stong

Butch Davis

Brady Hoke

Chip Kelly

Houston Nutt

Brian Kelly

James Franklin (position coach)

Nick Saban

Jim Harbaugh

Jimbo Fisher

David Cutcliffe  

Steve Sarkisian

Of the proven category, Bill Synder was a career KSU man and a bit of a unique situation, coming out of retirement to help his former team. Michigan does not have an analogous option (Carr ain’t walking through that door). Houston Nutt’s 4th year at Ole Miss was 2-10 with no conference wins and got him canned. David Cutcliffe is stretching the definition of "proven" as he treaded water for 4 years before a good year followed by a bad year and was fired before becoming Duke's coach, a big step down from Ole Miss. Butch Davis left in scandal.

From the 5 years reviewed, Nick Saban was the only example of a successful hire of an established coach that Michigan can hope to replicate. Rick Neuheisel (UCLA) is an anti-example as an established hire to avoid. After a moderately successful HC stint at Washington that won the Pac-12 and rose bowl, he took over UCLA and only managed 21-29 over 4 years before being fired.

Neither of two the remaining categories are slam dunks either. For every rising HC star at lower tier schools that finds success at the next level, there are many more that don’t.  Paul Wulff (Washington State) was an up and coming HC at the FCS level, earning Big Sky Coach of the Year honors in 2001, 2004, and 2005, but took over Washington State and won just 5 games in 3 years.

Same goes for rising coordinator stars. Randy Shannon (Miami) fielded two top 5 defense and three other top 10 defenses in his 6 years as DC in Miami prior to being promoting HC. Even with the relatively smooth transition you’d expect from being promoted within the same school, he went 5 - 7 - 9 - 7 wins compared to Coker's 9 - 9 - 7 that got him fired. Shannon himself was fired after year 4.

On the offensive coordinator side of things, Dana Holgorsen (WV) was a promising OC at Oklahoma St that turned the #61 offense to #1 in just one year, shattering school records in just about every offensive category (total yards, scoring, passing yards, completions). But he flopped at WVU averaging 2 games worse a season than his predecessor and winning just 4 games last year (although they look more competitive this year)

As bad as some of these hires seem in hindsight, at the time, these guys don’t look all that different on paper than the ones that went on to succeed. Interpreting a coaching record is tricky business (is Brady Hoke the guy that improved every team he coached, or the career sub .500 mid major coach?). And as they say, “past performance does not guarantee future results.” It’s not just a matter of having a competent AD make a straight forward decision; it’s a very tough call for anyone and in most cases relies on leap of faith that someone can continue their upward career trend.


One other thing that immediately hit me when putting together the data is just how many of these guys are no longer around.

Only half the coachs on our list of 36 are still at their schools. It gets worse as you go farther back in time. Of the 8 coaches hired for the 2007 season, Nick Saban and Mark Dantonio are the only ones still around. A whopping 5 were fired and another (Harbaugh) left for the NFL.

Even among the 14 “winners” covered above, the story is not much better. 5 guys capitalized on their success and moved on to other positions, and 2 were fired (one scandal, on failed to sustain their initial success), only 7 remain (Snyder, Saban, Briles, Hoke, Kelly, Fisher, Cutcliffe).

What We’ve Learned


Coaching changes are not guaranteed to succeed.

Coaching changes are a lot like Blackjack. If you’ve got 13 and the dealer is showing an Ace, you better hit. You might bust, but you don’t have much of a choice. On the other hand, if you’re sitting on 17 and just getting greedy, asking for another card could completely backfire on you. It's a calculated risk that should only be taken if you know your current situation is untenable.

Coaching changes take time.

The data shows that year one after a change is, on average, is a step back. Most of the time, it takes even the best a few years to get their teams going. Unlike Blackjack, with coaching you only get to play a hand every 3-4 years, and the cards you’re making a decision on get dealt one per season, so you better be patient and make a good call.

Even if you hit it big, you’re not in the clear

If you’re one of the lucky ones to get a good coach, the data shows there’s a good chance they’ll capitalize on their success and move to the next stop in their career. So even if you hit it big at the casino, you still might get robbed and wake up the next morning back right where you started. Michigan is probably a destination job for most coaches among the college ranks, but the SEC and NFL always beckon.

If all this sounds like a sales pitch to retain Hoke, I apologize because that's not my intention. I'm not opposed to a coaching change and I tried to remain as objective as possible while putting this together. There are certainly success stories to try and aspire to and I recognize the last year or so have certainly not been ideal. However, we should be mindful of the pitfalls as well when making the call and hopefully this diary provides some insight into those.

Thanks for reading.



September 15th, 2014 at 5:26 PM ^

Kuni: Ahhh, red snapper. Mmmmm, very tasty. Okay, Weaver, listen carefully. You can hold on to your red snapper...[Hiro-San emerges, carrying a table with a box]...or you can go for what's in the box that Hiro-San is bringing down the aisle right now!!! What's it gonna be? [Phyllis Weaver decides between the Red Snapper and the box. The audience points to the box]

Phyllis Weaver: I'll take the box. The box! [the audience applauds]

Kuni: You took the box! Let's see what's in the box! [Hiro-san opens the box, and the audience gasps: the box is completely empty!] Nothing! Absolutely nothing! STUPID! You so STUPIIIIIIIIIIID!


September 15th, 2014 at 5:34 PM ^

Is there a correlation with salary? For instance maybe a high salary doesn't help get good coaches (since bad coaches will gladly take more money) but it does help retain them.


September 15th, 2014 at 6:08 PM ^

Great data.  I assume you did not include Todd Graham on this list because he is only in his 3rd year at ASU.  He is a "turnaround artist".  Rice had 1 win before he got there, in 1 year he took them to 7 wins.  Tulsa was "solid" before he arrived, he went there and had 3 seasons of 10+ wins.  Pitt I am going to skip since it was 1 year, sh** happens.  ASU was thoroughly Illinois of the Pac 12 under D. Erickson, Graham gets there, they get 8 wins and then 10 wins in his first 2 years with some high profile wins over UCLA, Washington (2 high profile coaches) and Rich Rod... and are a dark horse candidate out of the South in a very tough conference (although they just lost their QB which would ruin the year).  You look at the metrics of his teams and they move up to to top of their conference in total defense and total offense fast once he arrives.

Dude burns bridges on his exits.  He leaves jobs quickly but so did Urban Meyer and until he got to Bama so did Saban.  But he wins.  He is 49, makes $2.4M and he is about the stage at ASU he is ready to leave lol, 3 years.  If we cant get Harbaugh this is the most "Brian Kelly" like guy (not in on field antics but results) guy I can find.  So he leaves in 5 years for the NFL.

Cutcliffe seems like a solid dude - he is the antithesis of Graham.  He took a mediocre Ole Miss program and got them above .500 - their 1st losing season he gets canned.  He went to a HORRID duke program and it took a while but has them respectable.  He turned down a chance to get the Tennessee HC job saying he would stay loyal to Duke. 

Every coaching change is a gamble - I mean Dantonio was a 18-17 coach at Cincy and give them props at EL, they can find coaches every so often.  Saban and Dantonio are top 10 coaches in the country and it makes up for JL Smith and Boob Williams.

My one issue with Hoke in his resume is when people say he "built up" Ball State.  Sorry I don't agree.  When you build up a program you leave something for the next coach for at least the next 2 years to work with.  That is your sophomores and juniors, their development, etc.  Hoke has 4 years of mediocre at Ball State, then 1 decent season then 1 great season in year 6.  The year after he left the program imploded back down to 2-10.  That is not building a program - that is building to 1 team.  And no I dont expect Ball State to be a 10-2 team annually but there are MAC programs that can stay at 9-3 or 8-4 for 2 years after a coach leaves.  

Contrast that to what Harbaugh left for Shaw (who I am not as high on as a lot of people).  Harbaugh took a 1 win team and left a Ferrari for the next coach.

Here is my thing with Hoke.  If you had no coach at UM today, and Hoke was coaching at wherever, say Utah... is that the guy you'd tag as the best coach available to lead U of M?  If no, its not the correct coach IMO.  This program should have one of the top 10 HCs in America. 

Best case scenario for Hoke was that he was the Bobby Bowden of the north - he was the CEO coach, not the meticulous detail oriented micro manager.  Given the resources, salaries, etc at his disposal I don't see evidence of that. 

Anyhow lots of analysis here, thanks for the work.


September 15th, 2014 at 8:02 PM ^

Correct on T Graham, well he's actually included in Pitt, but that's just one year with him.

You're right about Cutcliffe, that's probably unfair for me to dismiss him just because he coached at Duke. I'll edit to include him in the list of winners.

I don't know enough about the details of the roster Hoke left at Ball St to really make a case against what you said, but I will say that unless you have some information about it it's probably unfair to blame him for the transition strictly based on the following year record. Plenty of teams falter for any number of reasons after a coach leaves or retires.



September 15th, 2014 at 10:01 PM ^

I don't think you are being fair when you talk about Hoke leaving Ball State and it imploding. There are a couple reasons for this. After Hoke left, they lost 30 scholarship players. 13 5th Seniors, 5 Seniors, 2 Juniors, 4 Sophomores, and 6 Freshmen. That is a considerable chuck of players to leave, and 40% of that was not due to graduation. Included in that group was Nate Davis, who was the MAC player of the year. Of those 30, 10 were starters (that includes the punter), and 9 were on the 2 deep (including a QB who was listed as 3rd).

And that is just one aspect of things. Another thing is who the coach that took over was, Stan Parrish. I think most would agree he is a better QB coach than a head coach, and their record reflected that.

If you take a look at San Diego State, on the other hand, they only took a small step back to 8-5 (from 9-4), and then back to 9-4. I haven't studied the attrition that they took yet (and might not, we'll see), but the results are quite different.

For a little bonus, take a look at MSU under Nick Saban. 10-2 in 1999, and after he leaves they fall to 5-6. 


September 16th, 2014 at 2:07 AM ^

Let me preface this by saying I dont know much about Ball State.  I am looking at data on a computer.  That # of players leaving after one year is nearly unheard of and is additional data  - why did so many non graduating players leave? Just curious.

The Nick Saban example is a good one.  In fact if after Hoke left Ball State they fell from 12-1 to 6-6 or 5-7 I would totally understand.  But 12-1 to 2-10 is just a massive change.  Now maybe there were mitigating circumstances as you imply with a strange # of departures well above and beyond just a senior class graduating but when people say "Brady Hoke built the Ball State program into...ABC" is not a good terminology either.   Something built would imply more than 1 season of big success. And not implode the year after you leave.

I have a very difficult time judging SDSU because he inherited some very good skill players and he didnt recruit them .   If Hoke had left UM after 2012 would you say he "built up" Michigan due to the 2011-2012 seasons?  I wouldn't.  With such a short stay it is more difficult to tell what the heck is going on pro or con.


September 16th, 2014 at 9:47 AM ^

I don't know the details of Ball St either, but the numbers don't sound that unheard of to me. Going by the numbers given (30 total, 40% non-graduation), that's 18 people graduating (normal), and 12 people other departures. Even a normal stable program loses maybe 3-5 to normal attrition. A new coach is often accompanied by transfers, which would make up the other 7-9 guys.


September 15th, 2014 at 10:41 PM ^

You're unfair to Hoke regarding how he left the program, because there's a lot that plays into it. To me, Stanford and Oregon appear to be exceptions rather than the norm. I mean, Pete Carroll leaves USC and they've been floundering for awhile, and still struggling to get back on top. Urban Meyer leaves Florida and they still haven't completely recovered. Those are two of the best coaches that college football has had the past decade! 

turd ferguson

September 16th, 2014 at 9:49 AM ^

I still think the Hoke CEO thing can work.  I know that everyone is in "show me results" mode, and that's fair, but I also like to step back and look at whether the plan seems coherent and strong.  Right now we have a head coach who is an excellent recruiter, a willing delegator to his very well qualified coordinators, and a good guy who will keep the program clean and keep us from feeling gross about our football program.  That feels like a good setup to me.

I basically think that Hoke has made two huge mistakes since getting here (and they're related to one another).  The first was hiring Borges.  I don't know who else was available, but Borges was a bad fit for a young team, a less-than-eager recruiter, and a terrible developer of QBs.  That problem hopefully has been corrected.  Hoke's second huge mistake IMO has been not being more careful about bringing in and developing QBs.  We took only Bellomy in the 2011 class, no one in the 2012 class, and an under-the-radar guy in the 2014 class (Speight).  In 2012, Gardner lost a year of development - despite being the clear QB of the future - when he was moved to WR (and really didn't contribute much at WR).  We've had no QB coach, which I'm fine with now under Nussmeier but wasn't fine with at all under Borges.

Those are mistakes.  I'm not one who has a zero tolerance mentality with mistakes, and I think they've been corrected.  Still, I think the leadership structure and people we have filling those roles make a lot of sense right now, at least on paper.  Now it's time to win some games.

los barcos

September 16th, 2014 at 12:14 PM ^

I would also say in order to be a succesful CEO type coach you need to surround yourself with good coordinators.  Switching Borges (a mixed record at best) with Nuss (up-and-coming young guy whose been sucessful everywhere he's coached) really should right the ship on the one side of the ball in which we weren't "making plays." 

And in all honesty, I know Narduzzi is the best coordinator in the B1G, but how many teams have a better pair of coordinators than we do?  Mattison and Nuss may be in the top three in the B1G at their respective positions - thats a good foundation to build from, while Brady handles the CEO duties.


September 16th, 2014 at 12:41 PM ^

Well the defense has been decent to pretty good since Hoke/Mattison got here, despite some key injuries and also depth issues. 31 points to ND wasn't very good, but statistically it really wasn't that awful either.

The other side... well, we're 3 games in under the new guy, so that probably has a little to do with it.

los barcos

September 16th, 2014 at 1:31 PM ^

was more speculative based on his prior stops.  The ND game wasn't good, but one game does not change an entire career arc.  And who has a better offensive track record in the B1G right now?  Maybe OSU?  Maybe Neb?  And if you tell me Jim Bollman at MSU, well, I can point you to some OSU blogs that may disagree...


September 17th, 2014 at 9:45 AM ^

but if he is going to be a CEO I think he still has shown a little too much loyalty to his staff.  Not going with the fire everybody crowd here.  Just saying maybe as a CEO he should be evaluating his staff more closely if he is not going to be hands on (d-line notwithstanding).  I can't imagine an honest performance evaluation of Funk or Jackson would go very well.  Also as a manager if you see your OC going crazy town and fundamentally changing your scheme week to week, maybe you don't let that happen?

turd ferguson

September 17th, 2014 at 10:06 AM ^

I think there's some truth to that.  In all honesty, though, I'm back to "wait and see" mode with Funk.  I was in the "fire that guy*" camp last year, with my asterisk being that I wanted to know why Sean Kugler, the Steelers OL coach, apparently thought so highly of Funk.  I've been impressed with our OL through three games - or at least pleasantly surprised - so I'm curious to see whether last year's problems might have been a bit of a fluke (because of interior OL depth issues, chemistry issues, or whatever else).  Time will tell, hopefully.


September 15th, 2014 at 6:01 PM ^

I think one of the real barriers to replacing Hoke is that there really isn't a clear candidate out there who I'd really want this season.  Our best bet would probably either be a failed NFL guy or else whoever this year's hot up-and-coming coordinator is.  Nussmeier would just be awkward.

Even if Hoke isn't going to win big, at least he can recruit; the roster should be in good shape if a change does need to be made.  With that in mind, I'd rather see us hold onto Hoke unless and until we're sure we can get an upgrade.  If that means keeping him after another disappointing season, well,I still think that's better than firing him out of frustration and having to take our chances with whoever might be available.


September 15th, 2014 at 6:18 PM ^

On your last point I truly agree.  This stuff is done via back channel.  You should not fire your coach without his replacement ready to be announced.  On that end it seems with Nuss we did it the "correct" way.   The timing between Nuss being hired and Borges being booted spoke to that.

Brandon is a powerful man with a ton of business contacts and even more high powered Michigan alumni contacts in every corner of this country.  If he has even a 30%+ chance that there is a coaching change being deliberated the groundwork to see "what interest there is" should not begin Nov 30th.  After the MSU game we should have a prettty darn good idea what is happening with this regime.  Inquiries can begin then via the back channels.  If your top 3-4 guys all rebuff you in that process, well you just put on a happy face and roll back out with Hoke in 2015 and hope that's the year.

Saban always denied he was ever leaving until the moment he did.  The last 2 coaching changes - regardless of the ultimate candidate - made us look like doofus with the public rejections by certain candidates.  Contrast that again to the Nuss hire.  So hopefully Brandon learned.


September 16th, 2014 at 6:58 AM ^

Nuss is an interesting case. Saban brought in Kiffen, his current OC, at the end of the year as a consultant to help prepare for the Sugar Bowl. My guess is Michigan had already worked it out with Nuss and Saban was getting a jump on the new OC. That is good coordination between programs if that is the way it went down behind the scenes.


September 17th, 2014 at 4:26 PM ^

My concern is that DB is admittedly a Hoke guy.  This is his hire and his baby, and I'm concerned he may not be objective.  Any objective AD, at this point in the process, should be as you said, putting feelers out there, just to see if there's a chance a home run candidate becomes available.  We are coming off two underwhelming seasons and just got destroyed 31-0 in a rivalry game.  There's a solid chance we get destroyed in each of our rivalry games, and the alumni will be out for blood.  At the very least, slip a feeler to the Harbaughs, Miles and a few other top candidates and just see if there is any interest.

Hopefully DB is doing this minimal due diligence, at least.  But my fear is his loyalty to Hoke may keep him from doing it.


September 15th, 2014 at 6:24 PM ^

I know the OP limited this to "3 years at a Big 5" but other than Todd Graham, Sumlin is another guy you can already state as "successful" in 2.25 years.  So that is 2 more candidates that Big 5 schools were successful with, thus widening the pool slightly more than the range the OP used. 

David Shaw is also in year 4 so I would have thrown him into that chart at the bottom in column 3 under up and coming coordinator.


September 15th, 2014 at 8:05 PM ^

That's true, but 36 is a pretty good sample size to get a feel for tendencies and odds on how these things tend to go. If I opened up the criteria for Graham and Sumlin, I suspect a lot of failures would also be added to the list in addition to the success stories. Like I said, you can name these guys because they're successful, not the other way around.


September 15th, 2014 at 7:33 PM ^

a predicter of his performance in the years going forward? It seems to me and I suspect DB the question that needs to be answered. Hoke has one year left. If he has a mediocre year DB either must fire him or give him a contract extension. Keeping him around for the 5th year without an extension will raise red flags for incoming recruits.

BTW, by being patient with Dantonio it worked out for MSU. However, to my knowledge not many other schools. 


September 15th, 2014 at 9:37 PM ^

IF Hoke does get fired, the only requirement I think should be taken seriously is that the replacement coach needs to be a proven winner. At a high level. I still root for Hoke because I will always bleed blue, but I think he's made too many bad decisions to keep his job. Hopefully he proves me wrong by winning out this season!


September 15th, 2014 at 9:48 PM ^

That's part of the problem though, those guys are hard to find. Guys with proven records at a high level usually don't leave of their own volition like lower level HC or OC/DCs making the HC transition. Saban and Butch Davis were both coming back from the pros. Houston Nutt was forced out at Arkansas and it turns out his failures at Arkansas followed him to Ole Miss. Snyder came out of retirement out of loyalty to his team. Cutcliffe was fired and moved down a rung in prestige from Ole Miss to Duke.

Harbaugh might fit that description and Michigan might luck into it with the timing, but I'm not holding my breath. It seems like the guy really wanted to coach in the NFL and had no real interest in coaching college for any longer than it took for him to make the jump to the next level.


September 15th, 2014 at 10:25 PM ^

I understand, sometimes I get caught up in "why wouldn't ANY coach want to coach here?!" But the longer I think about Harbaugh, the more I think that hell probably be coaching into late January like he has each year he's been in the NFL. By then, close to signing day, if hoke has been fired, Brandon will be antsy to answer what his plan was to replace Hoke, and recruits without an answer will be somewhere else. And that's IF Harbaugh considers us. I think we need a perfect timing of events to come out of this debacle like Alabama or USC has out of their losing periods


September 15th, 2014 at 10:22 PM ^

What if the season ends with a solid defense (small sample size so far with two cupcakes and one unknown) and the offense shows decent progress?  Would four losses be so unacceptable to throw it all away knowing the promise of what next year brings?  Almost all the players returning on defense, a solid group of recruits that fill our needs at every position, an offense under the second year of a coordinator that seems to get it, and limited attrition through retaining a coach - it all seems like it could go to waste for the need to sell our souls.  

I am glad you put this data together, it only reaffirms that while I may be frustrated, the wait should be worth it.

If this season ends up being a flaming pile of tires, then we will have to buckle up for the transition to a new head coach.  I feel worse about this possibility than I do about 2015 under Hoke.


Thank you Reshp1 for your work, it was a really good read.


September 16th, 2014 at 2:16 AM ^

I never cared about a W/L this year - outside of say 7-6 or something.  I cared about how the team looked.  Coming into this year the defense was supposed to be "2nd best in the Big 10" and carry the team until the offense showed up.  Now the defense and offense are not 100% independent of course but I think the Notre Dame game defense caused many to shudder on first glance, then look at the box score and be confused, then look at Brian's UFR and say "blame the CBs for everything".  Just not that simple to me - I can't believe a defense where 9 out of 11 players are doing "great" gives up 21 pts like paper tissue in a half and then gets rail roaded into deep into the 3rd quarter when ND mentally relaxes.  Doesn't make sense to me - too easy.

But larger point - If UM loses 31-24 in South Bend we get upset for a few days and say well that looks like a very competitive team that needs to clean some junk up.  Even as the defense gave up the same # of points.

So when you say a 4 loss season I say are we going to get blown out by this horrid conference?  There is only 1 team in this conference who is nationally legit.  If we lose by 14 to PSU at home - a very flawed team, or lose by 20 @ OSU, a very flawed team, I will have a very different view point than losing by 1 to PSU and 6 at OSU.

Again, let's remember this conference sucks.  A decent UM team should have 2 challenges OSU and MSU in conference.  We missed Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin off this schedule.  If we see games again this year like Iowa and Northwestern where things just don't look right, the program is just not making progress IMO.  If we look fine but some team makes plays against us in a close game  and we lose - well that's football. 


September 16th, 2014 at 9:58 AM ^

Sorry, what's not to get about the CB's being the weak spot? If you took the '85 Bears and took out one cornerback out of the game and just left a receiver uncovered, even a competent college QB would still move the chains on them. Defense is a weakest link kind of situation. Countess and Hollowell having a terrible game and letting his guy break open 3 seconds after the snap negated everything everyone else was doing. Even then, we adjusted at halftime and came out and held them to 10 points despite giving them very good field position. They basically had one quarter where they did all their damage after Taylor went out and we didn't react fast enough as the back-up plan got exposed.

Offensively, we probably score 9 points just based on field position we actually had, and then likely at least one of those turned over drives would give you points. Now you're quickly getting back to the "we get upset for a few days and say well that looks like a very competitive team" situation, and one that more accurately reflects the box score.

I know, if and buts and all that, but at the same time, upon further review (NTUFR) ND doesn't look quite like the Waterloo that everyone is making it out to be.


September 17th, 2014 at 4:34 PM ^

W/L is meaningless this season.  The Big Ten is awful, and we have all our easy games at home.

What is our goal?  4 terrific recruiting years in, with a senior QB and a veteran defense, it should be, "To compete for big ten championship and a spot in the playoff."

Will winning 8 games, on this schedule, show we are meeting our goal?  Not even close.

If you want to measure your ability as a swordsman, you evaluate your matches verses other trained swordsmen.  You do not count defeating children with little wooden swords.  On our schedule, we have exactly 3 trained swordsmen:  ND, MSU, and OSU.  If we go 0-3 and are not competitive in any of these games, we are clearly not close to achieving our goals and one might fairly ask whether the program is headed in the right direction.


September 16th, 2014 at 11:25 AM ^

Really interesting and well done.  For shits and giggles I ran Chaz Weis' numbers at ND since some compare Hoke's tenure with Weis;:

Wins per season differential:  +0.33 (slightly below avg)

Year 1 vs Prior 3 yr:  +2.0  (similar to Sark, Strong, Franklin)

Year 3 vs Prior 3 yr: -4.0 (similar to Neuheisal, Holgo)

The only overall comp to Weis would be Holgorsen, who was somewhat similar in Year 1 and Year 3. 



September 16th, 2014 at 3:17 PM ^

It seems to me in-house promotions are a separate animal from any of the categories of outside hire. (Maybe within that group there's a distinction to be made between people like Moeller who left for some HC experience and then came back, vs. people like Carr who stayed in the program for life.)

MI Expat NY

September 17th, 2014 at 9:36 AM ^

I think you have a gap in James Franklin's experience.  He had a stop at KSU and a second stint at Maryland, he was OC in both places.  I also believe he was head coach-in-waiting behind Ralph Friedgen.  


September 17th, 2014 at 11:31 AM ^

An unfortunate but necessary topic of discussion. Nice Job. Appreciate the link to your data as well. Some things I would like to investigate (or see investigated by someone else):

  • I'd like to see if there's a link between about "roster integrity" and "turnaround time". If I recall correcty Saban had a pretty nice roster waiting for him at Bama and he did well pretty quickly. Michigan has a ready made roster for quick takeoff, IMO.
  • What about doing the Bill O'Brien / Pete Carol thing and bringing in a career NFL guy as a replacement? If Mike Tomlin somehow becomes available I would do just about anything to get him. He'd be so awesome I wouldnt even know where to start quaching my excitement.  I'd put him up there with Harbaugh in terms of attactive options for Michigan to consider. I also wonder how a guy like Jim Swartz or Josh McDaniels would do as a College Head Coach.  Greg Roman would also get a look from me. Jack Del Rio? Schiano? Cut me some slack here, they cant all be gems.
  • Also, what about sniping a guy from another bigger school and let them sweat all this stuff out? I know its a cliche thing for fans to do but Michigan's pockets run deep, yo. I'd holler at Jim Mora and Kyle Whittingham for sure. Guys like that.



September 17th, 2014 at 11:47 AM ^

I read this yesterday and upvoted it then, but I'm just coming back to say, great job, and if I could upvote again I would. One of the best MGoDiaries I've read in a while, up there with Best and Worst.


September 17th, 2014 at 10:24 PM ^

with one quibble: maybe I'm misunderstanding the point you were making, but Brady Hoke's pre-Michigan record isn't remotely similar to Brian Kelly's pre-ND record. Not even close.


September 18th, 2014 at 8:06 AM ^

I just mean, at a high level, they were guys that improved schools at a lower level as a head coach (Ball St and SDSU for Hoke, GVSU, Central, Cincinnati for Kelly). I know their records, duration of tenure, etc were different, but the general trend is that they were both up and coming head coaches at a lower level.


September 19th, 2014 at 12:42 PM ^

Hoke didn't improve Ball St.


Hoke had one good year at Ball St. surrounded by years that were completely typical for the program.



Ball State all time winning percentage: 52.4%

Ball St. under Bill Lynch (Hoke predecessor): 37-53, 41.1%

Ball St. under Brady Hoke: 30-39, 43.4%

Ball St. in 3 years prior to Brady Hoke:

2000: 5-6

2001: 5-6

2002: 6-6

Ball St. under Brady Hoke:

2003: 4-8

2004: 2-9

2005: 4-7

2006: 5-7

2007: 7-6

2008: 12-2