How long does it take to Rebuild a college power?

Submitted by ChicagoB1GRed on November 28th, 2010 at 6:36 PM
Every major CF power has had down periods and their fans went through the same conflict---no one wants to be the next Notre Dame, wandering in the wilderness not giving the new coach enough time and changing coaches every few years. All of these teams turned it around and were back to their winning ways.
Started me thinking about how fast the turnaround took. I looked at only the top teams for all-time for wins who in modern times had a major downturn and brought in a new coach: NU, UT, OK, 'Bama,  ND, USC; and a few newer ones like FL, FSU, GA.
One common thread--they all won right away (at worst had a middling 1st  year except Sabin) , and won at a high level every year thereafter. I recognize that every program is different and there's a lot of parity these days. I just couldn't find any examples of big-time programs that needed several years for the new coach to turn things around. But coaches like RR and Brian Kelly do have a strong track record of success as CFB head coaches---maybe they'll start a new trend.
Here's the programs, with coach's first year and all-time record at that school: 
OKLAHOMA Bob Stoops 7-5, 127-31
NEBRASKA Bo PelinI 9-4, 30-10 and Bob Devaney 9-2, 101-20
TEXAS Mack Brown 9-3, 132-34
ALABAMA Nick Sabin 2-6, 37-11
FLORIDA Urban Mayer 9-3, 64-15
NOTRE DAME Lou Holtz 5-6, 100-30
GEORGIA Vince Dooley 7-3, 201-77
USC Pete Carroll 6-6, 77-12
FLORIDA ST Bobby Bowden 5-6, 304-97



November 28th, 2010 at 6:39 PM ^

to jeff riger at 97.1 RR should have been able to step in right away and started winning, because urban meyer was able to do it with ron zooks players at florida...


November 28th, 2010 at 8:14 PM ^

Well, if RR could have convinced Mallett and Arrington that he wouldn't have changed the offense too much, he could have enjoyed their services.  (And if he simply would have let Boren drive a snow plow a couple weekends a month in the winter, he could have had him, too), 


November 28th, 2010 at 8:33 PM ^

Since we're playing the if game, allow be to submit "if RR could have convince Terrelle Pryor..." into the mix. You're as familiar with the speculation / innuendo / yadda-yadda-yadda surrounding all of those guys as I am. Whatever, it doesn't make a bit of difference. The fact remains that the players that Meyer had in Florida's Fall Camp in 2005 were better than what was around at Michigan's in 2008. 

Care to inspect the respective depth charts?


November 28th, 2010 at 6:45 PM ^

that runs a COMPLETELY different system on both sides of the ball, it's likely to take a few years.  We're just starting to really see any progress at all.  I hope RichRod gets one more year to see if the defense improves with experience, he can get a couple of quality wins, and we can finish above .500 in the Big Ten.

NOLA Wolverine

November 28th, 2010 at 7:48 PM ^

I don't buy this at all. This is still football, if you block the other team off of the L.O.S. you're going to have a great offense, such as the one employed at Wisconsin, which consists of them beating the other team's ass off the ball. If you make tackles and shed blocks, you're going to have a great defense. Regardless of what ever your playcard says, what you have to do to win never changes.

Dr. Defense

November 29th, 2010 at 1:30 PM ^

...talent and coaching are another altogether. The Detroit Lions' offensive line has a ton of experience. It still sucks.

Such will be the case with Michigan's defense unless:

a) We either get a new DC or Rod stops insisting on running that asinine 3-man front.

b) We get some top-level recruits. Not that Ray Vinopal and Carvin Johnson aren't playing hard, but they do not have the physical skills required to succeed at this level.


November 28th, 2010 at 6:50 PM ^

Every situation is different. If the coach comes in and wins in year 1, then he had good players from the previous coaching staff, and the previous coach may have been fired prematurely. Some who don't get it going right away may have come into a program that was severely lacking in talent.

And there may be a shortage of examples of coaches who take 4 years to get a team up and running because they undeservedly get fired after year 3.

Zoo Blue

November 28th, 2010 at 7:07 PM ^

The problem with this is that many of these coaches came into situations where the previous coach recruited well enough that the roster was not barren in areas. When RR got here there was very little quality depth in the defensive backfield and on top of that Mallet and a bunch of fifth-year offensive lineman (+Boren) bailed before spring workouts began. Meyer walked into a team full of highly rated Zook recuits that fit his system and Pelini went into a situation where he had to do nothing on the offensive side of the ball because Callahan's system had been fully established. If anything Saban's situation is the closest to Michigans because Saban had to rebuild after a bunch of NCAA sactions and had to rebuild the roster much the way RR has had to.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:17 PM ^

If anything Saban's situation is the closest to Michigans because Saban had to rebuild after a bunch of NCAA sactions and had to rebuild the roster much the way RR has had to


Yep, I'd say that's fair. The problem is Saban managed to go 12-2 in year 2 and 14-0 winning a MNC in year 3. Here we are in year 3 getting pounded by every good team we play and winning a grand total of 6 Big 10 games in the 3 year stretch. Nobody can argue that Saban didn't have it AT LEAST as difficult as RR did and I say he inherited a much worse situation.

big gay heart

November 28th, 2010 at 7:40 PM ^

Nick Saban accomplished much of what he did by virtue of oversigning. Nick Saban runs Alabama like a professional football team. Winning is above morality, empathy, or teaching young men to fruifully navigate the world around them. Is that what you want?

RR is, by all accounts, a good and fair man who isn't obsessed with pure quantification. What's more important? Winning or morality? I think there is a right and a wrong answer here, something the "unacceptable" crowd is blind to.

st barth

November 29th, 2010 at 8:22 AM ^

...somebody else realizes that college football isn't just abut wins.  Thank you big gay heart.

Also, SEC comparisons just aren't fair.  Once this Auburn scandal blows up, I think we'll see just how dirty the south has been and the recent string of SEC BCS championships will be significantly tarnished.


November 28th, 2010 at 8:28 PM ^

......defensive coach, and brought his brother in as DC. Their offense was terrible last year while the defense prospered, and they had quite a bit of talent on that side of the ball as well.

As someone in an above post stated, every situation is different, from the coach and his resume coming in, to the players they inherited and the recruiting ability of the previous coach, to the difference in player types between the outgoing and incoming coach, to the stringent academic/recruiting numbers requirement(or lack of them), etc., etc., etc. At UF, Zook was a VERY strong recruiter who just couldn't get the players up to full potential although by most teams standards he had some very good years. Meyer inherited a potfull of gold when he went to UF. 

There is no comparing RR's situation coming in to anyone else's with their first years at their schools.


November 28th, 2010 at 7:24 PM ^

I certainly wouldn't mind someone expanding this analysis further.  I don't know that there's a single example of a coach taking over a powerhouse, being terrible for the first three years, and then winning a national championship later in his career.

I looked at the AP National Champions for the past 20 years (

Many of these coaches are listed above, and I won't reiterate some of the original posters comments.  None of those gentleman had anywhere near the rough transition that RR has gone through thus far.  Not 100% definitive of course to say that RR can't, but it does cast some doubt.

One thing I did notice looking at these coaching records (esp. Stallings of Alabama and Erickson of Miami), is that past performance is not indicative of future success.  Some of these most successful coaches came from relative obscurity before they hit it big.  This leads me to say that if and when RR is replaced, we don't have to have narrow blinders and only be going after Harbaugh and Les Miles - who among us honestly heard of Tressel before he was hired by OSU?  

(EDIT:  Actually, I just had to go back one more year to see an example comparable to RR's - take Colorado, the 1990 AP National Champions -; this guy started off with 7 wins TOTAL through 3 years and won a national championship in year 9)


November 28th, 2010 at 9:14 PM ^

I don't like half the examples you used. 

Bobby Bowden didn't rebuild Florida State.  They were irrelavant from day one before he got there.  And they were relatively new to football since they used to be an all girls school.  His record was pretty damn impressive.  But he coached a ton of thugs and criminals and still let players play in big time bowl games despite never going to class. 

Pete Carroll got busted and ran.  Everyone knew he was cheating early on.  No program gets that good that fast without doing something behind the scenes.  To go from 6-6, 6-5, 8-5, 6-6, 5-7, 6-6 and then BAM!  In one season, Carroll has them finish in the top 5 seven straight years? 

Yeah, Alabama was a joke.  But their coach is Nick Saban.  And he goes right in the sleazy category too what with his oversigning. 

The only really impressive examples on your list are Bob Stoops and Mack Brown.  Oklahoma and Texas were a joke the decades leading up to their arrivals.  But I don't believe they came in with not only no talent to work with but no players to run the type of football they wanted like RichRod.   


November 28th, 2010 at 9:55 PM ^

I just took all the perennial powers that had a significant "dip" for WHATEVER reason in the modern era with an immediate successful coach that replaced them and restored the order.

I'm actually hoping I hadn't missed something, and that other posters will provide counter cases, so be my guest.

I personally think the "just needs time to implement his system" is a CFB chestnut that doesn't hold water, and that's speaking as a Nebraska fan that endured the myth. But one legitimate counterpoint other posters have made is that some potentially great coaches don't get enough time, and could have done great things---therein lies the rub.

RR could go 8-5 and win a bowl game this year, win the BT and/or NC next year in his 4th year and fit the mold I presented.

One thing that's for sure: Michigan will be back shortly.

Zone Left

November 28th, 2010 at 9:32 PM ^

This is also a little unfair in that just about every team was following "the guy after THE GUY."  For example, there was space between the coaching stars like Osbourne, Spurrier, Darrel Royal, etc.

Lloyd, for all his faults near the end, was an extremely successful coach who left basically on his own terms before the crater that was probably going to be 2008 or 2009 if Mallett left.  A couple years of shoddy roster management left Michigan with a Senior laden team looking to make one last big run for Lloyd in 2007 with very little behind them. 

Rodriguez stepped into that crater, and hasn't been able to retain enough players (of his or Lloyd's at this point) to fill a roster with high-level Big 10 players--especially on a defense, which has resulted in the three worst total points allowed seasons in school history.

A lot of the other schools had the benefit of following one, or more, really poor coaching choices that resulted in lots of losses.  It was probably easier to get the players to "buy in" to a new way of doing things after several sub-par years.


November 28th, 2010 at 10:28 PM ^

take a look and see what they inherited at QB.  In nearly every case, I would bet that the coach had an upper classmen at QB by year 2.  RR will have one in year 4.  Here's just a sampling:

- Saban had John Parker Wilson as a Jr and Sr in years 1 and 2.

- Les inherited a 9-win LSU team (so nothing to rebuild) and had Josh Fields as a So and Jr in years 1 and 2 at Okie St.

- Sweater vest had Sr. Belisari in year 1 and Jr. Krenzel in year 2.

- Weis had the Jr and Sr model of Brady Quinn.

- Urban had Jr/Sr Alex Smith at Utah and Jr/Sr Chris Leak at Florida.

Sensing the trend?  It doesn't answer the question on how the D got so bad, but when the O has a better caretaker behind center, it allows for attention to be spent elsewhere on the team development.


November 28th, 2010 at 10:34 PM ^

Probably 4-5 years. Most coaches that are building powerhouses don't get blown out by 30 against their biggest rivals though. That's why DB has a tough decision.