Lack of Patience Leads to Cycle of Football Mediocrity for Big Ten

By Patrick Maks on June 9, 2014 at 1:00p

After my third cup of lukewarm pressbox coffee and some time during the third quarter of Ohio State’s massacre of Purdue last season, I finally realized the true depth of the Big Ten’s downward spiral.

The Buckeyes were toying with the hapless Boilermakers the way most competent teams toy with the hapless Boilermakers. But on this cool late-October Saturday afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium, Urban Meyer’s club was particularly saucy.

It was comical. And for a beat writer with no emotional or personal investment in the outcome of the contest, it was a chance to file an easy, straightforward recap and flee West Lafayette. Thank you football gods.

Most of all, though, it was sad. Not like boo-hoo sad. I mean pitiful sad.

Face it: the Big Ten stinks. It’s top heavy — fat and bloated above the belt and propped up with frail chicken legs below it.

Aside from Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska, the rest of the conference ranges from mediocre to bad to offensive.

Power programs like Michigan, Penn State and Iowa aren’t headliners anymore.

Purdue and Illinois are floundering at the bottom of the conference like a dying fish flapping on the shoreline after being plucked from water.

Northwestern’s been markedly better, but took two steps back last season. Indiana’s had an offensive renaissance, but the Hoosiers are leaps and bounds away from being able to compete with the big boys. Minnesota's forgettable and irrelevant. Maryland and Rutgers look like they might dilute and already weak league.

It’s a festering on-field crisis the Big Ten can’t fix by throwing more money at it.

And, ironically, it’s one that can be at least partially remedied far away from the sideline and in the comfortable offices of the conference’s athletic directors.

The Effect of Turnover

In a win-now-or-else and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately climate, college football coaches sometimes seem to be on the hotseat as quickly as they were hired.

For a bagful of reasons, the Big Ten has been a nest for turnover in the last five years.

It’s why the conference is littered with relatively inexperienced and unheralded coaches. 

The average years coached at a school is four and the spectrum begins with incoming Penn State coach James Franklin and ends with longtime Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

B1G Coaches
Avg Tenure 4
Most tenured 15 (Kirk Ferentz)
Least Tenured 0 (James Franklin)

It should also be noted, of course, the Big Ten has few coaches as tenured as Ferentz.

In fact, the next closest is Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who's been in Evanston, since 2006. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's been with the Spartans since 2007. 

The rest of the bunch? Not so much.

In fact, 10 Big Ten coaches have been with their current employer for three or fewer seasons

Here’s a bio blast for reference: 

  • Urban Meyer (two seasons): He's 24-2 at Ohio State but no Big Ten titles or bowl wins. Buckeyes are probably team to beat in the conference next season.​
  • Mark Dantonio (seven seasons): Led Michigan State to the Rose Bowl after knocking off the mighty Buckeyes a month earlier in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. Can appreciate “Type of Way.” Can smile. 
  • James Franklin (entering first season): Hasn’t coached a down for Penn State but has launched some sort of recruiting holy war against Ohio State and forced the rest of the conference — and even the nation — to reckon with a Nittany Lions program that was sanctioned back to the Vietnam war. 
  • Pat Fitzgerald (eight seasons): Turned Northwestern from a bonafide cellarr dweller into a competitive program. After playing in what some dubbed as the biggest game in program history against Ohio State, the Wildcats lost their last seven contests after a 5-0 start last season. ​ 
  • Gary Anderson (one season): Following Bret Bielema’s sudden departure to Arkansas, Andersen did a fine job of steering Wisconsin to a 9-4 year. The Badgers seem to be in good hands with him.​
  • Bo Pelini (six seasons): After a year of public relations nightmares and essentially daring the powers that be to fire him, Pelini is restoring his image with cats. But in all seriousness, he’s revived a previously dormant Nebraska program but has fallen short of the high-standing expectations of Cornhusker fans.​
  • Brady Hoke (three seasons): Michigan is a shadow of its former self both on the field and in the stands. After beating Ohio State for the second time in a decade and leading the Wolverines to a Sugar Bowl win in 2011, Hoke finds himself on the hot seat after back-to-back disappointing seasons and losses to the Buckeyes. 
  • Jerry Kill (three seasons): He’s ushered in steady improvement, but Minnesota won without him last season. The Golden Gophers feel like even more of an afterthought in a conference that’s getting bigger and bigger.​​
  •  Kirk Ferentz (15 seasons): Arguably the most overpaid coach in college football. Iowa has become a power program under his direction but the Hawkeyes have fallen off a cliff since the 2009 season.​
  • Randy Edsall (three seasons): Maryland’s shown incremental improvement under his guidance but the Terps are still very much an average to below average football team.
  • Kevin Wilson (three seasons): Has ushered in an explosive offense but the Hoosiers have major holes and issues on defense. Also, Indiana isn't getting the talent Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State has any time soon.
  • Kyle Flood (two seasons): Took over after Greg Schiano jumped to the NFL. Went 9-4 in his first year and 6-7 last season.
  • Tim Beckman (two seasons): His 6-18 record has largely been a disappointment for even a program as dysfunctional as Illinois.
  • Darrell Hazell (one season): The former Ohio State assistant is charged with rebuilding a Purdue program that’s made a home for itself at rock bottom.

I repeat: 10 Big Ten coaches have been with their current employer for three or fewer seasons. 

It's reflective of a conference that's undergone profound change in the last five or six years. A league once marked by stalwart coaches now features a slew of orchestrators in the embryonic state of building any program — regardless of success at previous stops. 

Coaching pillars like Jim Tressel, Joe Paterno and Llyod Carr are gone. And since their respective departures, only the Buckeyes have managed to mitigate the damage that is losing the foundation and epicenter of an organization. 

But schools like Michigan and Penn State can and have, to various degrees, pushed through the rubble. The Wolverines had success in Brady Hokes's first season and, before he jumped at a chance to coach the Houston Texans, Bill O'Brien probably was the only thing keeping the Nittany Lions from falling into a black hole. 

And most of all, these kinds of schools have the tools to emerge from such wreckage. They're blue blood programs that can lure big-time coaches despite the craziest of circumstances. Michigan is still Michigan. Penn State is still Penn State. They're brands. Those stadiums are still huge. The football-crazed culture is still there. 

No, they aren't doing the conference any favors by fielding out an average product on Saturdays. But the Big Ten isn't bad because of them. 

The crux of the problem lies with the conference's weakest programs and how turnover is a self-inflicted. It's a vicious cycle of mediocrity. 

Patience is a Virture 

While it's abundantly clear turnover has plagued the conference from top to bottom, it's an inevitable and sometimes natural problem.

Where the Big Ten seems to struggle is with how its weakest programs handle the phenomena. 

There are reasons for why that is: lack of recent success, lack of historical success, lack of a football culture. Few probably have "visit Ross-Ade Stadium" or "tour Illinois' locker rooms" on their bucket list.

Another explanation is exploring how the traditionally-weaker teams have handled themselves in the ongoing coaching carousel that is modern day college football. 

In just the last six or seven years:

Purdue hired Danny Hope to usher in a new era of Boilermaker ball before ousting him after four seasons.

Illinois poached Tim Beckman to try and right a ship left to sink by Ron Zook but now Beckman's fighting for his coaching life after two bad seasons in Champaign.

Stinky Indiana hired stinky Bill Lynch in 2007, fired him after four miserable seasons, gobbled up Kevin Wilson and now demands Wilson turn around decades of futility. 

Minnesota canned Tim Brewster before he could even finish his fourth season before bringing in Jerry Kill.

See the pattern? 

The bottom half of the Big Ten is as stable as a game of Jenga. And in a league that's desperate emerge from the muck of mediocrity, it becomes a cycle. 

Bad programs are bad to begin with. Then they get bad coaches or young coaches who aren't properly equipped to succeed in an already bad place. Bad coaches don't win games. Bad coaches have bad seasons. Bad coaches can't recruit kids to play at a traditionally bad program that just had another bad season. Bad coaches get average to bad recruits to play for them. Bad recruits don't win football games against the likes of Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin or Nebraska. Bad coaches don't get the job done when bad administrators are breathing over their shoulders. 

Northwestern was a bad program until it got a good coach in Pat Fitzgerald. And while the Wildcats are still trying to develop a team worthy of competing for a Big Ten title year in and year out, these Wildcat teams are far different than the ones in the past. 

Michigan State was an average program that got bad under the direction of John L. Smith. Look at the Spartans now.

Neither of those transformations happened overnight.

Fitzgerald is 55-46 which means there's been collateral damage along the way. He's had 5-7, 6-6, 6-7 campaigns. Even after a breakout 10-3 season in 2012, Northwestern went 5-7 after a midyear collapse in 2013.

But the Wildcats didn't overreact and fire him.

It took Mark Dantonio five years to win a bowl game with the Spartans. The following season, Michigan State went 7-6. A year later, they toppled undefeated Ohio State for a Big Ten title before winning the Rose Bowl. 

That all takes a necessary element of patience.

It's something the bottom half of the Big Ten will learn sooner or later. 



Comments Show All Comments

gumtape's picture

Hey Patrick, can you send a copy of this article to my boss?



High and tight boo boo

+8 HS
BroJim's picture

I'll buy it, Patrick.

I season my simple food with hunger

DrSpaceman's picture

It perplexes me how teams like Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota who have been historically bad think bringing in a new coach will immediately set up them up for a winning season. It takes time and effort to get a culture instilled in a program and turn it around, and most of these coaches are out the door before they really even get a chance. Urban himself has expressed shock at how quickly OSU turned around from 2011-2012, especially after that awful performance against UAB. 12-0 was far from what he was expecting.

It just seems to reflect the attitude today that in every bit of work we do we want immediate results.

"Medicine is not a science" - Leo Spaceman

+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

It just seems to reflect the attitude today that in every bit of work we do we want immediate results.

YES. The desire for instant gratification is a very real thing, and I theorize that it is fueled to an even greater extent today by the ever-present social media and 24-hour news-cycle culture in which we live. Think about it this way - 10 years ago, how many of us were reading these types of articles in the offseason, let alone an article about Ohio State's latest 4-star recruit? None of us were. Now we eat, sleep and breathe, and that creates additional pressure on the program to perform.

Patrick is right on the money with this piece - go back and read Kyle Rowland's interview with Va. Tech skipper Frank Beamer, in which Beamer talks about the fact that Tech stuck with him after a disastrous sixth season. His (excerpted below) comments underscore the veracity of this article, and the problem with the "win now or get out" mindset we have as sports fans.

My sixth year here we were 2-8-1. That probably won’t ever happen again – sixth year, 2-8-1. We had come in and lost scholarships, and that’s the worst kind of punishment because when you don’t have people, three and four years down the road it really affects you.

But the administration at the time here stayed with me. They thought we were doing things the right way and understood the situation. Since then, we’ve been able to do OK [smiles].

+4 HS
MarkC's picture

Minnesota doesn't need to be as bad as they were in the Tim Brewster era. With their budget, location in a major city with a major airport, and new stadium, being a top-25 program with occasional top-10 seasons is not unrealistic. A team facility upgrade would be very helpful. 

Kevin Wilson is doing well at Indiana and firing him seems ill advised, to say the least. 

Illinois is usually not this bad. Their recruiting had not been as bad as Tim Beckman's 6-18 record would have you believe. It's okay to admit you made a mistake and decide to try again. Mike Leach would have done a great job coaching talent from Chicago, St Louis, and west Texas. If Beckman doesn't have a breakthrough season like Ron Zook to the Rose Bowl in 2007, Illinois needs to quit putting good money after bad and try again.

+2 HS
prdoctor's picture

Agreed. Furthermore, any coach that comes in and turns around a crappy program like Indiana or Purdue in a couple of seasons will as quickly be gone -- off to UCLA or Tennessee or whatever larger program offers him the big bucks. Their only hope is to stick with somebody, then hope he sticks with them when things finally improve. See: Snyder, Bill

+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

This is an important point that can't be ignored. The bottom-tier schools in the conference almost need someone like a Pat Fitzgerald - who has personal ties to the program - to come in and be successful for them to not use the experience as a stepping stone. One could (believe it or not) point to our old friend Bert leaving Wisconsin for the SEC as an example. Wisconsin is one of the top-tier schools in the conference, and the new head hog-caller decided it was better to take a shot at tanking his career in Fayetteville than it would be to retire fatter and happier in Madison... Odd, yes?

Unfortunately, what we've seen all too often is promising young coaches coming in to bad, bad, bad situations and having their careers ended prematurely by historically bad programs and unreasonably high standards.

+2 HS
MarkC's picture

Based on budget, proximity to recruits, facilities, campus culture, fan base, program tradition, and school leadership, Wisconsin is about a mid-tier Big Ten school. Ohio State, TTUN, Penn State, and Nebraska are unquestionably better positioned for success. All four of these schools have everything needed to be top 10-15 programs most years with runs at national championships every 2-3 years. 

Wisconsin is in that next tier with Michigan State, Maryland (seriously), Iowa, and Illinois (they have no excuse for being this bad). Minnesota is on the cusp of mid-tier with improved team facilities. These schools have the potential to be perennial top-25 programs with occasional breakthrough seasons, a la the Mark Dantonio era at Michigan State. 

Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, and Rutgers have significant barriers to success. They have all been able to achieve periods of success given the right conditions, but only Pat Fitzgerald and Kevin Wilson appear to be maximizing (or moving in the right direction toward) that potential. 

+1 HS
MuraliPatel's picture

I honestly don't think Bielema would have left Madison if he hadn't been such a knucklehead in the local social scene. Getting shot down by attractive coeds is one thing, continually coming off as a classic asshat in every possible situation when dealing with locals was completely another. Bielema, realistically had burned his last bridges when HS coaches in-state were beginning to tell their players to go to Minnesota, Michigan, or ANY OTHER program that came calling besides UW.

+2 HS
Zimmy07's picture

the Big Ten can’t fix by throwing more money at it.

I dunno.  I suspect if schools really threw money at it, it just might get fixed.

What if Illinois offered Mac Brown $4 million a year?  What if Purdue offered Saban $10 million a year?  If the BiG developed the best facilities and hired the best coaches it would be very surprised to not see it become a dominant league.  I'm kind of hoping the BTN money might cause that to happen sometime down the road.

+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

In terms of facilities, however, one has to look at the Big Ten as improving pretty quickly. Look at Minnesota, for example. A middling program at best, they are indeed throwing big money at a new stadium and related football facilities; will it pay off? Time will tell. Penn State, likewise, has appeared to hit home runs with its last two coaching hires (we'll see if Franklin proves to be more than a recruiting dandy when Autumn comes), but they have program history to rely on as a sales pitch, where Illinois would probably get laughed out of the union if they approached someone of Saban, Brown or Urban Meyer's stature, regardless of the payday.

These schools have by and large looked at the MAC as their applicant pool when it comes to coaching hires, but perhaps the Purdues and Illinoises of the world need to take a page out of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State's play books and hire a proven power-conference coach. What a thought, right?

+2 HS
Mortc15's picture

But a lot of times, those proven coaches are still at the programs they were able to prove themselves at and why leave to start over at another school that's at the bottom of the pile? 


MarkC's picture

These schools need to look in the mirror and think bigger than halfway decent MAC coaches like Beckman. This had been discussed several times but programs like Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue and Wisconsin need to go after big time coaches and offer whatever resources are necessary (not just money) for success. Facilities, support staff, use of a private jet, etc? No problem. Basically, follow the Penn State model with James Franklin. 

+2 HS
Mortc15's picture

Completely agree. But it's hard to get proven head coaches. Coordinators of top programs are more likely. And guys like Meyer and Franklin are rare, unique instances. Osu and psu were those 2 guys dream schools. Rarely does it happen like it did with those 2. 


+1 HS
MarkC's picture

Please do not take this as arguing with you, because what you said is correct. 

But, who gives a crap what is more "likely," or "realistic?" Quit trying to get a get an easily attainable coach at a discount. Go for the guy who has taken a power conference doormat and pulled them up to middle/upper pack or the guy tearing up a mid-major. Don't settle for the guy who had one winning record in the MAC or the unproven coordinator looking for a shot unless you are sure you have a diamond in the rough. The easily attainable girlfriend is rarely the complete package. Ask said big time coach what he needs to compete for championships and then actually give it to him. Recruit the whole family (wife, schools, etc) and have a plan to get the resources in place. 

In short, try harder, administrators at Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers, and Wisconsin. Stop shortchanging your schools, your fan bases, and yourselves. You are better than that. Raise your expectations. Try harder!

+2 HS
Mortc15's picture

Again, I completely agree. But do you know those schools haven't tried harder and were just rejected? Trying harder and the hard work paying off isn't always proportional. Some of the lower tier teams are putting money into facilities and the rest so hopefully we see an uptick in who they can get and who they bring in soon. It'll benefit everyone if they can get big names. 


+1 HS
Deshaun's picture

Wisconsin came off three straight Rose Bowl appearances to hire some guy who had one good season and one decent one out of four years at a program in a mid-major (at best) conference. He went on to lose four games in his first season at Wisconsin with what Bert projected to be his best team there. Why do people think this was a solid hire? They should have been able to land Chris Peterson, David Shaw, or someone of that stature. That is, if they tried harder. I'm sorry, but you are in the Big Ten and coming off your best three year run ever. Gary Anderson? That's simply not good enough.

AndyVance's picture

You make a good point, but I think most of us give Andersen high marks because of the respect shown him by Urban Meyer. Again, time will tell.

Brutus Forever's picture

Look at that shit-eating grin on his reminds me of the evil plotting baby


"I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age.” – Urban F. Meyer

Hovenaut's picture

I remember reading (Jack Park?) that OSU was starting to seriously cool on Woody after the '53 season, and were looking at replacing him.

Fortunately the '54 squad did pretty well...and the administration decided against a change with the football program.

That turned out pretty good.

Apples to oranges, different time and some of the aforementioned programs aren't similar in statue. But it's such a fine line in choosing between patience over the long haul versus the win now mentality.

+4 HS
AngryWoody's picture

Aw Hove, you beat me to it. I posted something similar below and then saw you already posted it. Great minds think alike I guess.

Our Honor Defend!

+1 HS
Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Coaching turnover is a bad thing, but so is hiring the wrong coaches.  See Tim Beckman in Illinois for this.  Illinois is bad and there is no bright light at the end of the tunnel with him coaching.  Ron Zook could at least recruit.  Tim Beckman can't recruit and really isn't that good of a coach either.  The facilities here aren't terrible; not Ohio State but not MAC level either.  Academics are great.  Location is decent.  A good coach should be able to recruit well in Illinois.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

+4 HS
buckeyedude's picture

That's a good point. Not all coaches from Toledo turn out bad though(see Pinkel, Gary). But Illinois should be able to lure a top coach and recruit the hell out of Chicago. That alone would improve their chances.

I think schools like Purdue and Indiana though have a built in disadvantage. Think about it. The state of Indiana has three(3-ND, IU and Purdon't) top football schools in it's borders that produces very little(comparatively) high school football talent. OSU plucks top players from Indiana on a regular basis.  Then add in the coaching carousel at those schools, and it seems like an impossible task.



+1 HS
Jbucks's picture

Does Iowa become relevant if they beat LSU in a Bowl game last year? (which they almost did) Teams like Scum, Iowa, Nebraska need to step up in order for the B1G to gain respect as a 2nd to close 1st best confetence, for years the SEC fielded bad teams, but BAMA, LSU & AUB kept winning & now theyre the best conference? once UM, NEB, IOWA find their identities again would that make us the best conference? I have confidence that very soon we will have respect again.
OSU needs to win Bowl Games
MSU needs to keep it up, follow up a great season with an equally as good ptoduct.
UM- needs leadership, they have none & thats why they cant win, they gotta ship but no captain.
PSU- SANCTIONED, but have good youbg prospects with an energized coach... they will be fine
WIscy- they have the coaches, maybe the talent, but that Defense gotta get better as well as a few aspects of their Offense, which Im sure will be fine.
IOWA- Tgey almost beat the mighty SEC' Top 3 program, that Defense needs to keep growing & they will be a top 10 D, their offense needs an identity, after that happens tgeir a top 15 team
NEB- not sure how to improve them, maybe dupt tape on pelinis mouth?
overall we have the potential to reclaim the Conference Throne, The SEC have 3 consistant teams, BAMA LSU, AUB & UF has been nothing sine UFM left em, our teams need help but their not helpless the B1G is on the up & come up again

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

+1 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

I mostly agree.  Being top heavy and riding the coat tails of those at the top got the SEC to where they are today.  Only really Bama, Fla and LSU handled business, then you had your off year Cinderalla in Auburn.  The difference for the B1G is that our top dogs havent gotten over the hump and wowed in big games when the lights were brightest.

I actually think the way the new B1G divisions are set up will help the conference.  For us, and the others in the east, the strength of schedule is consolidated in that the east will be a B1G murderers row at first.  The SEC started this way as well, with their eastern division carrying the load with Tenn/Fla/UGA...then eventually the power shifted to the west in Bama/Auburn/LSU.  I think this consolidation to the B1G east will really help turn the perception around.  Hopefully OSU continues to handle business but I am really hopefully this new playoff era will be a fresh start for the B1G to rise again.

+1 HS
YTOWNBUCKI's picture

I honestly think the SEC only has two consistently good teams in Bama and LSU.  I would compare AUB, UF, SCAR to the MSU Penn State type of team in their respective conference.  I still have no clue how people continue to think Spurrier's Cocks are so damn good every year. 

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

+1 HS
AngryWoody's picture

In Woody Hayes' first three years, he only won 11 of 21 games in Big Ten play. That is only a .520 win percentage. Then in his fourth year, after going 6-3 overall and finishing fourth in the Big Ten, he led the Buckeyes to a 10-0 record, a Rose Bowl win and a National Championship (Only our second ever at the time). If we hired a coach today who was pretty much .500 in the B1G after three years do you think we would retain him? You really have to wonder how many Woody Hayes' there have been over the years (or that could be coaching right now) that never got the chance to reach their potential.

Our Honor Defend!

+2 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Indeed, AW. Taking the conversation post-Woody...

How did John Cooper get 13 years and Earle only nine?

Cooper had the patience of the administration he served under - it took him five seasons to post a double-digit win campaign (and a bowl win), six to beat (you know what I'm saying here, ugh) and seven to return Ohio State to national prominence.

Earle may have started strong (the NC near-miss in '79), and plateau'd (the string of three loss seasons, before the '87 nose dive), but he won bowls and beat TSUN.

We're fortunate as Buckeye fans to only have known three/four/five head coaches in our lifetime (I'm not including Luke Fickell - not under those circumstances).

Our neighbors to the north are exercising patience with their current HC...although we'll see how much longer that runs.

+5 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

The idea that you can hire a new coach and have a program like Ohio State in 4 years or less is just ridiculous.  It obviously would take time under usual cirucumstances. The problem is that we have examples of young, rock star coaches producing quick turnarounds at various places.  The money is such in CFB that if you prove you aren't one of those rock stars, they are going to fire you and hope the next guy is that rock star, so that they can take advantage of the money available.

What was Danny Hope doing so wrong at Purdue?  Purdue is a place that has trouble selling tickets, so when Ohio State rolls into W Lafayette, half or more of Ross Ade is scarlet and gray.  It's been that way for a long time, although Tiller got things rolling for a while there.  Still, it seems to me that you know who you are (Purdue), who you aren't (Ohio State), and you plug along with some stability until or unless the program is regressing signficantly.  Introducing instability every 3 or 4 years is obviously not the answer.

+1 HS
tussey's picture

The idea that you can hire a new coach and have a program like Ohio State in 4 years or less is just ridiculous.

Obviously you haven't played NCAA Football '14 

+3 HS
Kurt's picture

I find this topic very interesting, thanks to Patrick for putting together this piece.

I've had a theory for awhile that the SEC made just a couple of key head coaching hires at previously dormant programs at 2 points in the past couple decades: the early 90s and turn of the century.  In 1990 UF hired Spurrier, then in 1992 UT hired Fulmer.  Those two teams then went on very successful runs through the decade beginning to elevate the SEC as a conference (you also had hires of Bowden at Auburn though it wasn't as sustained over time).

Then in 1999 Auburn hired Tommy Tuberville, in 2000 LSU hired Nick Saban and in 2001 UGA hired Mark Richt.  It didn't take long for each of them to begin putting W's up and in Saban's case a national championship which further elevated the prominence of the conference.

I see those two periods '90-92 and '99-01 as periods of excellent hiring for a few programs in the SEC.  The schools that hired those guys stuck with them and they paid off dividends for the most part.  I keep hoping that similar hiring periods in the B1G will eventually prove as fruitful.

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Interesting take. I think a few of the recent coaching changes will help ... Meyer and Franklin.  These guys will change the style of play, the type of athlete, and where a how we recruit.  

Shangheyed's picture

Nothing Beats Experience....

The other side of keeping young coaches, is hiring established top tier coaches in the first place... it seems the B1G until Meyers hiring (including Staffs) the salaries where lower than other major conference (mostly on the assistant side) and B1G schools want to try and find the next great young coach rather than taking an established winner, or someone from the NFL.

Those established coahes bring in big name recruits (or coaches with Pro experience...Penn St. hire after Paterno would have been a great example if under different circumstances, without the schollie restrictions who knows what Bill O'Brien could have come up with as a result of his Pro fame added to his coaching talents).

Minn, Indiana and Illinois as well as Rutgers and Maryland should hire Elite PRO coaches... new young coaches going to a program that is not noted for Football (as of late) doesn't make for a quick turn around, schools are forced to hold on to coaches for 4-5 yrs to give those new coaches a chance and experience they need (its like knowingly starting a Frosh QB over a 3 yr Starter)... meanwhile the market expects wins after 2-3 yrs... basically setting them up to fail, and using 2 different measuring mechanisms for success (everyone wants immediate results).

Two schools of thought really...

I personally prefer the B1G to start hiring Elite coachs throughout the league rather than hoping a less experienced coach becomes one.... NFL should be the first look, then Elite College coaches.



+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Minn, Indiana and Illinois as well as Rutgers and Maryland should hire Elite PRO coaches... new young coaches going to a program that is not noted for Football (as of late) doesn't make for a quick turn around, schools are forced to hold on to coaches for 4-5 yrs to give those new coaches a chance and experience they need

When you can figure out exactly HOW Minn, Indiana, Illinois, Rutgers, and Maryland should hire elite PRO coaches, then I think one of those schools would probably have a job for you as athletic director making over $500K a year. As an example, TTUN fans were SCREAMING to hire Jim Harbaugh, which probably would have been a good hire, if they could've pulled it off. But he wanted none of it.

So the point is is if a storied program like TTUN can't hire elite PRO coaches(I realize JH wasn't an "elite PRO coach when TTUN went after him, but you get my point), how the heck is Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Rutgers, and Maryland going to do it? It's just not that easy. Sometimes it's impossible. And those 2nd and third tier schools don't even have warm(er) weather to sell like the Mississippi's, Miss St's, Arkansas', Arizona, ASU and UCLA schools can.

Actually, I think a more reasonable alternative for the schools you mention above is an up-and-coming coach like Chris Peterson. If one of the B1G schools would have went after him, he could have landed at IU, PU, Illinois, etc., which would have been a step up for him. Instead, he ended up at Washington. And you can bet your ass he'll turn that program around.



Shangheyed's picture

There are other Bill O'briens out there... and PSU with all the issues and sanctions was not a dream job as it would have been... There is no reason why each school in the B1G that are considering new coaches shouldn't find their own Bill O'brien.

Its very possible for TTUN to hire a Pro Coach or an Elite Coach( we will see them do it after HOKE is done).  As mentioned pay is an issue, but you pay either with losses ~and savings~ or wins and a program on the UP.  They were pressured into it because they went after certain college coaches...There was no way Miles was leaving LSU.

Again two approaches one takes more time and more hope (less money)... the other takes less time and less hope(and more money). 

I would rather they spend the money on a program that actually makes them money... AD's are more worried about equality than about winning.  You think Alabama cares about their Water Polo teams?  It makes business sense to invest more in a segment that is actually giving you, or could give you more returns. 

I honestly am not envious of any of the coaches hired in the last few yrs in the B1G... they hired hope and unless they can sell hope, the recruites will not come.... we should be a little worried when a coach gets hired...I don't think anyone is worried about the recent hires.  

Would be hard to find a single Buckeye fan willing to wait 3-4 yrs for a turnaround.  For these second tier teams to become great they need to hire greatness in coaching ( I think Francona and the Indians is a nice example smaller market, hire the Best and you get competitiveness right off the bat, and a place where some actually FA WANT to play).

There is enough money to go around in the B1G not being able to pay them is the AD's choice and lame excuse as each school splits the same millions...For me I honestly wouldn't have the patience... or do I put much faith in potential when the alternative is proven.

Make your program the destination hire greatness... not a training ground to move on to somewhere else.  



Horvath22's picture

Nice job, Patrick.

Jpfbuck's picture

patience my back side

admins can show patience if the team the guy is coaching is showing improvement

Lets take those bottom dwellers as example

Illinois - stuck with Ron Zook for 7 years. In his last 4 years they were 21-28 and 11-21 in conference, he deserved to go, and to make matters worse, Beckman has devastated what had been an underperforming be at least mediocre unit into a terrible one that has gone 6-18 and 1-15 in conference. Illinois can show some patience if he starts showing some improvement, like maybe winning 3 games on conference this year and coming close to .500 overall, but if he goes 3-9 or 4-8 and wins only 2 B1G games why wait?

I see no reason why any team should show patience with some one who shows no improvement. MSU was able to show patience with Dantonio because even though he didn't win a bowl his teams showed reasonably steady progress year to year. MSU had been under .500 for 3 years prior to his arrival and promptly went 7-6 in his first year with his 6 losses by a combined 31 points or only 5 per game with no single loss of more than 7 points, the net year they went 9-4 and 6-2 in conference, yes they fell to 6-7 the next year but again other than a bad loss to end the season to PSU, they lost 5 of their other 6 by 8 or less,,,so it is easy to show him patience

but when you are Brewster at Minny, and you go 1-6 in the first 7 games of your 4th year with 4 of those losses at home including losing to an FCS team, I think its time to go. why show you anymore patience? where is something we can say "ah but there has been improvement"? he was 6-21 in conference and was 7-28 in his last 35 games, why hang on to that?

Northwestern has shown patience with Fitz because they have frankly different priorities than the other programs

no team, anywhere, for any reason should hold onto a coach who is under.500 in his 4 the year unless it can be shown to be a rebuilding year. to accept otherwise is to accept the mediocrity you complain about.

Should Auburn have shown Gene Chizick patience? should OSU have shown Luke Fickel patience after 2011? should UM have shown Rich Rod another year of patience? if not then why should Minny, Indy et al be held to a different standard? I agree that maybe Danny Hope had the trigger pulled a bit too soon and that frankly Hazell may have been a reach as his replacement.

But Lynch had done nothing at Indiana to make you say, maybe 1 more year and we turn the corner

If Barry Alvarez can take a constant bottom dwelling Wisky and by year 4 be the Co Conference champ as he did in 1993, then why should any team in conference "settle" for being 1-6 in year 4 like Minny was under Brewster, or 6-6 as Illinois was under Zook, or 5-7 as Lynch was in his 4th year

If Dantonio in year 4 can go 11-2 and be a Co Conference champ with a mediocre MSU program, then why should Illinois be ok if Beckman is 5-7 in year 4? or Purdue ok with Hazell if he is 4-8 in year 4, or for that matter with Hope who was 6-6 in year 4, or if Kevin Wilson goes 5-7 again this year?

they shouldn't


BuckminsterFullback's picture

Regarding the choice of trying to lure an "elite", established coach, vs. hiring a rising star: how many of the proponents of the "elite" approach, would have considered Jim Tressel as an elite coach, when OSU hired him?

Regarding Tim Beckman: he seemed to be a rising star. He had been an assistant at Auburn, Bowling Green, and Ohio State, and had been the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.

2008: Toledo goes 3-9 overall, 2-6 in MAC.

2009: Toledo goes 5-7 overall, 3-5 in MAC, 0-2 vs. B1G in Beckman's first season.

2010: Toledo goes 8-4 overall, 7-1 in MAC, 1-0 vs. B1G

2011: Toledo goes 9-4 overall, 7-1 in MAC, 0-1 vs. B1G (27-22 loss to OSU).

Hard to explain why his approach, which led to success at Toledo, hasn't translated to success at Illinois.

+2 HS
AndyVance's picture

One one hand, your point about Coach Tressel's being an "elite" hire is well made: I distinctly remember saying, "Who?" when that announcement was made, because there were more familiar names on the table. The difference, however, is that Coach Tressel had one helluva track record - those national titles speak volumes - to back up his bid for the job. Yes, I agree that Beckman did a solid job at Toledo, but you can't really compare his hire to that of Coach Tressel's at Ohio State. Not even close.

BuckminsterFullback's picture

Agreed; 4 championships in 7 years is pretty special.

Looking at the list of FCS champions, it's interesting that there aren't many coaches who have made the leap to "Big Time" success. Paul Johnson has had success at Navy and Georgia Tech; solid programs, but not perennial Top 20 teams. And Craig Bohl, who has won the last 3 FCS championships, will be at Wyoming in 2014. Tressel's jump, from FCS to a program like Ohio State, was exceptional.

(Incidentally, if Craig Bohl does very well at Wyoming, keep an eye on him. He was a reserve at Nebraska. Just sayin'.)


+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

I'd wondered about that (the leap from FCS to FBS) but never bothered to do the research. It seems the route most BCS guys follow is either coordinator-->head coach at a mid-major-->head coach at a BCS school, or some variation thereof.

Jpfbuck's picture

I don't think there is any secret formula to success

that said I think some major generalities can be made about who is more likely to be successful at places like Indiana, Purdue, Illinois and Minny

generally the person should have been a multi year success as an OC/DC of a major program or a longer term HC for a smaller program

Guys like Beckman who was at Toledo for a coupe years and had some success but had not shown his ability to sustain it yet and who was a decent but not great DC at Okie St for 2 years is a bit of a stretch. his Defenses in Stillwater ranked 79th and 76th in scoring and 101st and 93rd in total D so even Toledo hiring him seems a bit odd. He had been a DC at BGSU from 98-04, where he ranked 43rd in scoring and 69th in total D his last year, so he had never shown himself to be a good, let along great DC before getting to Toledo.

he then has 3 years a reasonable success but lost atleast 4 games every year there, so again decent, maybe even good but not great, he never won a conference title and lost his only bowl game to a 6-6 Florida Int squad, so far from stellar, yet Illinois hired him.

Compare that to Barry Alvarez, who also had been a 2 year DC, but who led ND to a 14th total defense rank his last year and a 12th ranked scoring D, and had led a national champ D who lost 1 game in his 2 years there. he had also been a LB coach at Iowa under Haden Fry for 8 years prior to that, where they had consistently good defenses and LB squads. he had also been a several year HS HC where he won a state title. so he had demonstrable record of success, while to me Beckman had been "decent' but not great.

Hazell to me though is the real long shot bet here. He had been a HC for 2 years at Kent and yes his last year had some success, going 11-3 but otherwise had not been and OC/DC anywhere other than 3 years at D3 Oberlin 22 years earlier, during which his last offense in 1991 scored a total of 21 points in 9 games while going 0-9 and 2 of those 21 came on a safety ie not his offenses doing, in other words he had been a terrible OC. He had been a reasonably respected Position coach at a number of places, but was not at the top of many teams lists. Purdue was "hoping" he had some of the Tressel mystique about him. I wish him well, but his hire seemed like a big stretch at the time and I hope his results last year are not a reflection of that.

Brewster - had been a mediocre HS coach going 15-7 in 2 years Indiana, then was a reasonably respected TE coach. but when Minny hired him he had never been an OC nor even a reasonably successful HS HC, and the results speak for themselves. His lack of experience showed when he fired every single Glen Mason asst, totally gutting a staff that had played .500 or better in the regular season for 5 straight years. and then had 3 OCs and 3 DCs in his 4 years,

Dantonio by comparison had been a National Champ DC, and a HC for 3 years prior to MSU hiring him. he had also been a DC at YSU for 5 years where his last unit gave up only 146 pts in 12 games or 12 per game, setting the stage for Tressel's first national title the next year, that last team he was the Dc for was ranked #2 nationally

the resumes of guys like Hazell and Beckman just don't compare to Dantonio and Alvarez.

I think Kill is a reasonable hire having been a reasonably successful HC for 17 years prior to getting the job, but his success has been decent not great,

Kevin Wilson to me is the best hire (other than Urban), any B10 school has made in recent years. this guy had nearly 20 years of great success at various schools as an OC including Miami OH, NW and Oklahoma, where at every stop his spread concept offenses have been very successful. If he can build a competent D there he may get above .500 for only the 2nd time in the last 20 years.

it will take some doing but I think they have a shot at it this year. They should beat Indiana St, BGSU and North Texas if they play like last year, they should also beat Purdue and if they can beat the 2 newcomers, (Rutgers and MD which is think is not unreasonable), that's 6 wins, beat PSU again like they did last year and they are 7-5, it will be tough but I think its possible, however of they fall backwards and going say 4-8 after 5-7 last year, then his seat should be getting at least a little hot