Can Michigan afford to have the patience of Va Tech?

Submitted by Don on November 24th, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Virginia Tech was a basically a football non-entity until the arrival of Bill Dooley in 1978. After two losing seasons in '78 and '79, he reeled off seven straight winning seasons, including two with 9 wins. Up to that point, he was by far Va Tech's most successful coach, and under him the Hokies gained a measure of respectability, compared to what it had had before. Va Tech was an independent, so it didn't have the competitive schedule that's required to really get respect nationally, but it was no longer a laughingstock.

Allegations of recruiting violations forced Dooley to step down as HC and AD after the 1986 season, and the new AD hired little-known Frank Beamer to succeed Dooley. Beamer's only college head coaching experience was six years at Murray State, where he had compiled a 42-23-2 record. As you can imagine the selection was criticized by many of Va Tech's fans, since Beamer was basically a nobody with no D1A experience under his belt.

Beamer struggled right out of the gate. His first two seasons were 2-9 and 3-8, and coming after the successful tenure of Dooley this was hard to swallow. Beamer then followed with two modestly successful years of 6-4-1 and 6-5, but the '91 and '92 seasons were disastrous again, with 5-6 and 2-8-1 results. So Beamer's record after six seasons was 24-40-2, which basically was an inversion of Dooley's final six seasons of 46-21-1. I'm very curious what the attitude of fans and the upper administration of Va Tech was at that point, but I'd be willing to bet Beamer had very little support from anybody.

For whatever reason, Beamer wasn't let go, and that was fortunate for Va Tech. The '93 season was 9-3, and that kicked off Beamer's string of successful seasons extending to the present day. Since then his worst season was 7-5 in 1997, but just two years later he was in the NC game against FSU. There have been 10 seasons with ten wins or better in that span, including five in a row in 2004 through 2008.

I'm pretty amazed Beamer wasn't fired after the 1992 season, and I'm wondering if the nature of Va Tech's football history up to that point was critical. The Hokies had no real national football relevance, even after Dooley's tenure. They had none of the history behind them that powers like Alabama or Texas or Michigan had, and the fan base didn't demand 10-win seasons and prestigious bowl appearances. In other words, the standards probably weren't that high, compared to what they are at Michigan.

RR has to measure up to a historical record of success, especially since 1969, that dwarfs anything Beamer had to compare to, and I think that's the crucial difference. I'm skeptical that the administration would keep him after six years if the record was similar to Beamer's first six, but that doesn't mean it would necessarily be a wise long-term decision to fire him, as Beamer's record attests. Hopefully we're never in that position in the first place with RR. After two losing seasons, I can't imagine the condition of the Michigan football psyche if the agony were to continue for another four seasons.



November 24th, 2009 at 11:46 AM ^

whether it's right or not he'll be expected to get at least 6 wins next year. look at the pressure he was under this year. take that and multiply it by 10 if he has another losing season. i agree with what stephen ross said: i completely support him even after a 5-7 season, but ask me that same question again next year if he has the same record and you'll likely get another answer (paraphrasing here).


November 24th, 2009 at 11:58 AM ^

We'll see. The last couple of years have confirmed what many have probably long suspected (and sometimes feared): There are a lot of whiny, spoiled, and high-maintenance people in the UM fan base. Plenty of them would have fired Rodriguez *last* year for not installing a "pro-style" offense to take advantage of future NFL All-Pro Steven Threet.

OK... no more ranting.

steve sharik

November 24th, 2009 at 12:03 PM ^

...barring *major* NCAA violations or other big-time scandals (which won't happen under Rodriguez).

I hope all the tom hagan's of the blogosphere recall how upset Bo was when Illinois didn't give Gary Moeller five years. (They gave him three.) Instead, you want to go against everything Bo stood for and get rid of a guy after only two years.

I wish these people would stop using Schembechler references only when they suit their argument, and ignore others when they are inconvenient. This is a tactic often used by religious zealots in the political arena.

Whether or not Bo would have approved of Rodriguez's hire or his coaching style is impossible to know and is irrelevant. Once Rich was on board, Bo would have demanded he get five hassle-free years to do this job.

Amaker got six years (one year too many, IMO) and it was clear that he wouldn't be able to get it done. Weis has shown that he can't get the job done at ND. Dantonio has two years left to get to the Rose Bowl, IMO. If he doesn't, he should be fired. MSU will probably ignore that since he's beaten Michigan twice in a row, even though he beat the worst Michigan teams in 46 years. He beat the worst Michigan team I've ever seen in my lifetime (1970-present), and Michigan was in the game until late in the 4th quarter. He had to go to OT in his own stadium to beat the 2nd worst Michigan team in my lifetime.

If you have concerns, raise them. But please do so rationally and logically, with facts supporting your argument. Try the best you can to remove the emotion.

So, yes, Michigan can afford to be patient. The real question is, can the tom hagan's in our fan base actually be patient with anyone who didn't play for Bo and doesn't use his style of football? If not, you shouldn't base your self-esteem on the outcomes of your favorite team, and you probably shouldn't be a fan of any team, let alone Michigan.


November 24th, 2009 at 3:43 PM ^

Do you seriously think that Dantonio should be fired if he doesn't reach a Rose Bowl within five years? MSU hasn't been to a Rose Bowl in 22 years. There's really no reason for the Sparty Nation to expect a Rose Bowl EVER. Their expectations should realistically be capped at reaching a New Year's Day bowl every two or three years. Of course, they can always dream.

As for Moeller, it's a different situation. First of all, he took a losing team and they remained a losing team. RR took a winning team and produced a losing team. I understand all of the issues around talent (or lack thereof) but that's the bottom line. Michigan has more tradition, resources....than Illinois had back in the Moeller days. Plus, Gary was probably making $100k while RR is making $2.5M. Different expectations.

Don't get me wrong, I want RR back next year. We've (fans) have gone through too much to not find out if there's a reward at the end of the rainbow. I just don't think RR has five years to produce winning results.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 24th, 2009 at 1:35 PM ^

The op says just that a couple of times. He mentions that the two situations are different but then follows up with the "Can UM afford to be as patient as VT?".

That is the question he is asking, not whether VT mirrors UM in a historical way.

My answer is I hope we are almost as patient. I wouldn't give him 6 but I would give him 5 years to make the turnaround complete.

What I fear almost as much as another losing season is another rebuilding process that would set us back another 5 years.


November 24th, 2009 at 12:16 PM ^

The VA Tech example certainly helps provide perspective and emphasis on the benefit of being patient. IMO we are best served by forgetting the past and embracing the future. Optimistically I think if we were to plot a graph of the team's wins under Rodriguez it would be understandably flat in the first two to three years with a sharp incline in years 4+ once he has his players and schemes fully intacted.


November 24th, 2009 at 12:18 PM ^

RR is rebuilding a totally different beast, this takes time. I believe given time he will succeed. Give RR three years, we won't be sorry, IMO. RR recruiting classes look very good!

st barth

November 24th, 2009 at 12:22 PM ^

...and i really think we benefit by being patient. Rodriguez will win sooner or later. whether it takes two years or twenty years doesn't really matter to me.

i understand that times have changed...but all this business of "fire the coach" after everytime they lose a game is ridiculous.


November 24th, 2009 at 1:17 PM ^

I think that the amount of time afforded to a new coach is directly related to the status of the program. The bigger the program, the less time you'll get. It's easy to give five years at Wake Forest or Northwestern. Nobody really cares and the coaches aren't making that much money (in relationship to larger programs). The same is not true at Michigan or Alabama.

RR will get three years, maybe four depending on the progress that we see next year. That seems fair to me. That's sort of the deal you get with a $2.5MM contract. If he's delivering 9-3 or 10-2 seasons at that time, he'll keep his job.

No good businessman, or even Bill Martin for that matter, would pay $2.5MM to go 5-7 or 6-6 when they could have hired somebody at $1.25MM for similar or better results. It might not be fair, but it's the reality of the world that we live in.


November 24th, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

I really wish that people would stop trying to draw parallels between rich rod and other situations. look, a head coach should get at least 4 years to turn things around. rich rod is probably going to be able to do that. let's sit back, be patient, and watch him do his best.


November 24th, 2009 at 1:26 PM ^

The real question is how long is too long and how short is to short. Too much patience, and you wind up with a Detroit Lions like Matt Millen syndrome (mired in losing and medicority or worse) and not enough patience and you wind up with a Cleveland Browns like Bill Belichick syndrome (your coach leaves to win Super Bowls elsewhere).


November 24th, 2009 at 5:16 PM ^

The resumes of Lloyd Carr and Frank Beamer are almost identical for the period where they were coaching at the same time. One guy was pretty much run out of town while the other will probably get a statue and/or a stadium named after him. You are definitely right that the expectations are much different at UM.


November 24th, 2009 at 4:54 PM ^

If after six years RR has the same record that Beamer posted, then we can conclude that he isn't the answer. Michigan doesn't need to go through six years of rebuilding. Fortunately, I highly doubt we will.


November 24th, 2009 at 5:57 PM ^

You neglect a few things. Firstly in spite of Virginia Tech putting together some good years under Dooley, they were still largely irrelevant. Remember when Marshall was winning a whole shit load of games earlier this decade? That was Virginia Tech. They were a nobody who won a lot of games nobody cared about. When they reverted to being bad under Beamer, I can only assume the reactions were "Oh well, had to end sometime."

Also, Beamer was not some outsider from nowhere. He was a VT alum, a star on the last good Hokies team before Dooley came in. He was a disciple of Bobby Ross, then one of the hottest coaches in the college game. He had a very good record at Murray State. His qualifications for the job are almost an exact mirror of Steve Spurrier's when he got the Florida job.