Why do new coaches often have so much success?

Submitted by MonkeyMan on January 4th, 2014 at 9:44 PM

I have noticed that new coaches often have early success. Tressel in his first years at OSU, Carr at UM, Hoke at UM, Meyer at Fla, Miles at LSU, Stoops at OK, Pellini at Neb. etc. But then things sort of slow down after that and the momentum subsides. Just wondering why it may be that a coach's best years are often their first years.


Go Blue Rosie

January 4th, 2014 at 10:00 PM ^

I also think of it as similar to NFL players who are due for new contracts-they always seem to perform at a higher level. They get a huge new deal and then go back to being average in most cases. I would think with a new coach college players feel a lot of pressure to prove themselves and perform so that first year you might get a lot more out of a team.


January 5th, 2014 at 12:06 PM ^

I think Rodriguez lost the team at Illinois on the goal line stand. After that game there was a deficit in "Reason to Believe". The fact that he didn't change out his coaching staff after that season left a "reason to doubt" the rest of his tine here.

This is why I think Hoke has to make some changes or he never gets the team fully on board. One only has to witness the Copper Bowl to see what happens when a team is not fully bought in.


January 4th, 2014 at 9:57 PM ^

I suspect that if you did a statistical analysis of all first-year coaches, less than half would have would you would consider to be successful years.


January 4th, 2014 at 9:57 PM ^

I'm sure you'll find that plenty more coaches have had to wait a while to find success...or in even more cases, many never find it all.


January 4th, 2014 at 10:00 PM ^

There are exceptions, of course. It rather depends on the situation that one takes on, I suppose. Perhaps one of the more interesting modern examples is Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, where he took over in 1987, and for a reasonably successful Bill Dooley (not wildly, but reasonably). In his first six years, he never had more than six wins and 4 of the 6 seasons were losing seasons. It wasn't until 1993 when things seemed to come together for the Hokies under Beamer. 


January 4th, 2014 at 10:08 PM ^

You just cherry-picked a few examples that you think make your point. And it's not clear what you're even defining as early success. You mention both Carr and Hoke - yet their first three years are opposite each other. Carr had two 8-4 seasons then went 12-0, Hoke went 11-2 and then 15-11.

And I can point to plenty of coaches off the top of my head who haven't had early success. Rich Rod obviously, Bret Beliema at Arkansas, Bill Calahan at Nebraska,  John L. Smith at both MSU and Arkansas, Mike Shula at Alabama, etc...

If you actually looked at all of the data I'd bet you'd find that new coaches do far worse than their more experienced counterparts on the whole.


January 4th, 2014 at 11:19 PM ^

Dude this isn't a thesis- chill out. I never made the claim that this is "always" or made any sweeping statements at all- please take the time to actually read a post carefully before commenting on it. I was just wondering why so many new  coaches seem to do well, then not do as wll from then on- that is all. have fun in life and relax

Mr Miggle

January 5th, 2014 at 1:08 PM ^

But your examples are terrible; Carr and Tressel? Carr had three sub-par years before 1997. Tressel went 7-5 his first season

I think the circumstances likely have a lot to do with a new coach's success. If the players had quit on the previous coach, due to conflicts or uncertainty about his future, or whatever, then the new coach is in a great position. Also, I wouldn't expect an in-house promotion to have as much effect.


January 4th, 2014 at 10:29 PM ^

A lot of attrition weeds out all of the players who haven't bought in.  The ones who stay feel like they have something to prove.  Plus, it's exciting, new coaches bring in new ideas, everyone buys in.  The players who buy in no matter what buy in, but also the players who maybe lose faith after a couple years buy in for a while too.

Plus a fresh set of eyes can pinpoint what was wrong and fix it right away.  Pick the low hanging fruit so to speak. As someone who's been in management and moved around to different departments, it's always easy to come in and dramatically improve things at first by just fixing the obvious, much harder to continue to make gains as time goes by.

Then a couple years later a lot of the talent that stayed graduates and there can be a little step back while the new players grow and become upperclassmen.  I think we're going through this now and maybe next year, OSU will go through it next year and maybe the year after.



January 5th, 2014 at 12:06 AM ^

If there is a link I'd suspect it would have something to do with random luck regression (fumble luck, injury luck, close game luck,).  I wonder what the numbers would look to like if you separated coaches replacing fired coaches vs. coaches replacing coaches getting promoted.  I suspect coaches getting fired experienced bad luck and the next year there would be a regression towards the mean whereas coaches getting promoted experience good luck.  I wonder what a team's average age/experience has to do with whether a coach gets fired/promoted.

Red is Blue

January 4th, 2014 at 10:48 PM ^

I don't think being new means success, but rather those that were very successful are often new. Many of the winners NC winners since Carr have been in the first few years. This year the NC has a 1st year and 4th year coach.


January 4th, 2014 at 11:09 PM ^

As others have pointed out, some have great success, others not so much. Having lived in Oklahoma for about 20 years now, I do know a bit about Bob Stoops.  He walked into a team absolutely stocked with great recruits. John Blake (now under an NCAA show clause penalty for his time at UNC) was a great recruiter but weak HC, so Stoops's first NC team was in his second year, and most of the starters were Blake recruits.  The one notable exception was QB.  Mike Leach was OC, and they were able to find a JUCO player by the name of Josh Heupel to fill that slot.  Stoops was a DC before being hired by Oklahoma, so the combination of top notch recruits already in the system, one of the best OCs in the nation with a style of play that most teams had not yet adjusted to, and the ability to go the JUCO route to immediately fill in gaps with experienced players are what helped him to such early success.

Even leaving aside the coaching (the addition of Mike Leach to his staff, for example) without the cupboard well stocked and ability to go the JUCO route, it seems unlikely that Stoops would have had such early success.



January 4th, 2014 at 11:25 PM ^

Define "new."

For instance, you lumped Carr and Hoke in together. Hoke is only a success as a new coach if you just count the first year and Carr only if you start counting in Year 3.

Ty Butterfield

January 4th, 2014 at 11:55 PM ^

Could be a combination of factors. As mentioned, players may tire of a staff and tune them out. Sometimes it just helps to hear a new voice. I am sure we would all like to think that a new coach could take his team to the national title game in the first year. Malzhan at Auburn is a unique situation because he helped recruit many of the current players at Auburn because he was recently on staff there as the OC. I also agree that is is easier to remember the coaches who have succeeded right away and dismiss the one who struggled.

San Diego Mick

January 5th, 2014 at 12:14 AM ^

why is the sky blue? Reflections and shit, that's why


Who knows why, every circumstance is different, sometimes a coach loses 4 or 5 games in 1st year and then has a stellar year the next, Tressel and Saban for example, sometimes the opposite happens, the roster has something to do with it I'm guessing.