Comparing Harbaugh Overall Win % to Past Michigan and Current CFP Coaches

Submitted by Maizinator on November 21st, 2018 at 12:25 AM

A little perspective to appreciate what Harbaugh has done in his first 4 years as Michigan's head football coach.

At Michigan, the coaches with top overall win % (coaches with at least 4 years)...

Fielding Yost           0.833
Fitz Crisler              0.806
Bo Schembechler   0.796
Jim Harbaugh        0.760  
Gary Moeller           0.758
Lloyd Carr               0.753


I thought it would also be interesting to look at just the first 4 years (not entire career) for the other coaches.  This reorders a bit.

Fielding Yost           0.977   (only had 1 tie, no losses in 4 years)
Bo Schembechler   0.864  
Fitz Crisler              0.813
Gary Moeller           0.781
Lloyd Carr               0.780
Jim Harbaugh        0.760  

I found it interesting that the winning % was higher for all the other coaches in their first 4 years than for their total career at Michigan.

Incidentally, if we were to win out and win a national championship this year, Harbaugh's win % would end up at 0.778, still just behind Moeller and Carr.

Obviously, the game has changed and there are more post regular season games now (bowls and conference championship games) against good teams.

So, I thought it would also be interesting to compare to the first 4 years to the coaches of the other teams ranked in the top 4 of the CFP. 

Nick Saban at Alabama         0.796
Jim Harbaugh at Michigan  0.760 
Brian Kelley at Notre Dame   0.712
Dabo Swinney at Clemson    0.600


Thank you Coach for bringing us back to where we belong!  Hopefully, you can get that elusive first Big Ten Championship this year.








November 21st, 2018 at 12:35 AM ^

Nice post.  Great coach and deserves fan support . Crazy that one year of 3rd string QB cpuñd change that.  

Also I'll be turning the replies off to this comment and muting "2015." thanks 


November 21st, 2018 at 12:41 AM ^

I should note that I framed the coach comparison so as to exclude a certain coach from Columbus.  

Why?  Because screw him, that's why.   You get no credit for being a wife abuser sheltering scumbag.  Everything isn't about you.



4th and Go For It

November 21st, 2018 at 1:00 AM ^

With Harbaugh and Don Brown in place you can expect a lot more 10+ win seasons than ones like  we experienced last year. Recruiting is only picking up steam, the on-field product is great, and the competition just a year later seems to be experiencing a down-turn across the board. Let's finish the revenge tour on Saturday, smack NU around a second time and take this thing to the CFP.



November 21st, 2018 at 8:50 AM ^

After the ND loss, many were cherrypicking the end of 16, all of 17, and first game of 18 to show Harbaugh's record as 9-9 over an 18-game span. Okay, let's hold onto that and then look at the rest of the games before and since. 

29-3 is his record before and after that 18-game span. (And even includes the punt drop game.)

38-12 looks pretty good, 29-3 looks amazing and 9-9 span included 10-12 games of injured QBs.

Harball sized HAIL

November 21st, 2018 at 9:23 AM ^


Do you not remember every CFB talking head regurgitating this stat ad nauseum?  It wasn't that long ago.  9-9 in his last 18 games - rinse and repeat.  They didn't want to bring up the 9 (or 10) games prior.  Just that perfectly picked stat to fit a narrative that there was trouble in Ann Arbor.  

Of course stats that also didn't fit that narrative were - end of 2016: 1 point road loss at Iowa (tough one),  2 OT road loss at OSU (devastating bad spot from being a huge W - tougher one), 1 point road loss to FSU.  3 road losses in 4 games by 5 points total.



November 21st, 2018 at 1:17 PM ^

The way they do it is by counting backwards from 2017, like this:

Last 10 years: 2018-2017

Last 20 years: 1998-2017

Etc.  They always include their 15-2 streak since 2001.  It's the only reason they can make that statement.  Because the first 103 years of the rivalry, M never was at a series disadvantage, leading 56-35 in 2000 (excluding ties).  Twice after OSU wins in the 1950s, the gap was 1 win, but they never took the lead.

Unless you include the post-2000 period, there is no lookback count that works in their favor.  So the whole 110 years thing is fucking pointless.  It boils down to the fact that they've won 15 of 17 since 2001, which sucks all on its own, but implies there's another 93 years of dominance that really doesn't exist for them, in fact, it goes the other way by a wide margin.

Yost Ghost

November 21st, 2018 at 9:41 AM ^

Lest we forget, and not to take anything away from coach's accomplishment, the Big Ten hasn't always had 11 game seasons. When Yost was coach they had some seasons they played 11 games and others where they only played 5 games. At the end of Yost's years as coach of the Maize and Blue the Big Ten had settled on 8 game seasons. That lasted until 1942 when the Big Ten went to 9 game seasons. When Bo was coach the Big Ten went from 10 game seasons to 11 in his third year.

So some Michigan coaches like Kipke would never have a shot at a 10 win season while others only had a shot if they went undefeated. Crisler didn't have a chance until his last year as coach (1947) when UM went to their first Rose Bowl game (1948) and destroyed USC 49-0, finishing off a perfect season at 10-0. Sadly Oosterbaan was denied his only opportunity at a 10 win season the following year when his 1948 Michigan squad went 9-0 but was denied a Rose Bowl appearance in favor of the 7-2 Northwestern Wildcats, who lost to UM 28-0, that beat the Cal Bears 20-14 (1949). 


November 21st, 2018 at 11:58 AM ^

When Bo was coach the Big Ten went from 10 game seasons to 11 in his third year.

I believe that was the NCAA and not the Big Ten.  I don't think the league has anything to do with the number of nonconference games teams play.

When making comparisons, we should also note that PSU has only been a Big Ten program since 1993 and Nebraska since 2011.  Also, we played ND only twice between 1909 and 1978.

Yost Ghost

November 21st, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

Winning is winning, success is success. It's already era adjusted. Yost's success in the 1920's was based on the game at that time, Harbaugh's based on the game we enjoy today. Yes the game has evolved but both won relative to the game at the time.

If you're point is that today's game is more sophisticated and thus harder to be successful like Yost was, I would agree. Coaches didn't have the benefit of decades of experience with multitudes of strategies like they do today, so the game was fertile ground for any new strategy.


Red is Blue

November 21st, 2018 at 12:10 PM ^

I don't think the era adjustment completely levels the field with respect to comparing winning percentages.  For example, prior to 1973 there was no limit on football scholarships.  So well to do, successful, programs had larger advantages over their counterparts.  This should mean that there is more parity now than there used to be.  That is, it is harder to beat lesser teams.  

To complete the picture, the scholarship limit in 1973 was 105, which dropped to 95 in 1978.  The present day limit of 85 was instituted in 1992. 

Yost Ghost

November 21st, 2018 at 1:08 PM ^

I think you may have misinterpreted my point. What I am saying is that Yost's success, and thus his coaching win percentage, was based on a very different set of variables that don't exist today but that other coaches in his day had as well, like Knute Rockne. Variables that consisted of things like an understanding of the rules, an aptitude for innovation and university resources.

One important variable was the newness of the game which left it wide open to improvisation and innovation. Yost was the first to use a hurry-up offense that made his team nearly impossible to beat for years, they called him "Hurry Up Yost". Yost invented the spiral pass. Yost had trick plays like his favorite "The Old 83" that involved concealing the ball, a play that is illegal today.  He had a superior understanding of the rules of the game which allowed him to innovate more than his opponents. 

Since the days Yost paced the sidelines of a gridiron there have been many coaches over the years that I'm confident could have traded places with Yost and been similarly successful. The question is could Yost be as successful a coach today as he was in 1905? The things he devised in 1905 that gave him an advantage are things everyone is doing now or stopped doing years ago because they are no longer effective or legal. These truths would make any cross-era comparison ineffective.


November 21st, 2018 at 2:09 AM ^

Very interesting post and to me it just points to one thing - Harbaugh is the best thing that’s happened to M football in a very, very long time.

Hail Harbo

November 21st, 2018 at 3:57 AM ^

Minor nit pick that doesn't change the relevancy of your point, because we want to be accurate.  Yes?

You're probably using the results of 2008 for Swinney and that's hardly fair.  Tommy Bowden was the HC at Clemson in 2008 until he was fired after six games, thereafter Swinney, named interim HC, took them the rest of the way.  So keeping it pretty much on a level playing field Swinney's first four year average comes in at 0.630.

Yes, I know, Lloyd Carr was an interim HC his first season, but at least he was the HC for all of fall camp and the entire 1995 season. 

Frank Chuck

November 21st, 2018 at 5:13 AM ^

Hopefully, when all is said and done Harbaugh will have a higher win percentage than all his previous Michigan predecessors.

Flip 2-3 games (say 2015 MSU and 2016 Ohio State) and Harbaugh has an 80+ win (40-10) percentage.

But what's in the past can't be changed. However, it can be improved upon. And beating Ohio State this Saturday would be a giant, affirming step.


November 21st, 2018 at 10:19 AM ^

It would be great if he had a better percentage than any other former Michigan coach, but that's a tall order, considering the number of games played against solid competition in the Big Ten East.

We have a 12 game schedule. If we go 10-2, with 2 Big Ten losses, we probably don't win the East but we go to a bowl. Win the bowl and we go 11-2.  11-2 is 84.6%, but that's not enough to jump Bo or Yost.  Heck, 12-1 gets him 92.3%, which is more than Bo but less than Yost.

Those winning percentages are quite a testament to Bo and Yost.



Harball sized HAIL

November 21st, 2018 at 9:36 AM ^

Without delving all the way back to the Crisler & Yost eras - I would note:  Harbs & Bo took over programs that were reeling.  Bo especially.  Hoke didn't leave a bare cupboard like RRod did.  But the program was going sideways under him.  Nothing at all against Mo & Lloyd but they continued on what Bo had built.  


November 21st, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

Harbs & Bo took over programs that were reeling.  Bo especially.

This is part of the Bo legend but the reality is a little more complicated.  Bump actually recruited quite well and the 1968 team was good - it was 8-1 going into the game in Columbus.  In that infamous game, we were tied 14-14 when our second QB was knocked out of the game (the starter was already out).  We then had no offense and our defense wore down in the second half - and Woody made sure to run up the score - leading to an ugly final score.   


November 21st, 2018 at 1:09 PM ^

Harbaugh had huge expectations, for which I think it is OK to say he has fallen slightly short of, mostly due to all of the losses to our rivals.  But I think most of that can be attributed to us not really having good QB play.  Rudock was better than he should have been, actually quite a bit so.  Speight was servicable but nothing special, and then 2017 was a disaster.  Lloyd Carr didn't win without great QBs.  Gary Moeller didn't win without great QBs.  Moeller had Grbac and Collins.  Carr had Driesbach, Griese, Brady, Henson, Navarre, Henne.   So 3 of the best UM QBs ever + a guy with a ton of records.  

Harbaugh has everything going in the right direction, and now the recruiting is pouring in.   He's got Brown building a top 10 defense every year and now he's got his QB pipeline setup.  Assuming he is staying to see this thing through, the good times, IMO, are just starting.