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Good coaching makes all the difference

Charles Babb from Ohio State's Scout site concludes what we have been arguing for a while - good coaching makes all the difference in the rise of a football program:

The most important factor in the rise of any program has been and continues to be coaching.  Miami of Ohio's first appearance in the top 20 was with some unknown named Ara Parseghian in 1955 (who followed Woody Hayes).  Ohio State's first national title came with a young coach named Paul Brown and has since landed titles under Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel (who already has 4 national titles at the D-IAA level).  Penn State was rarely a player in the top 10 and lacked even a single national championship until an assistant named Joe Paterno took over for Charles `Rip' Engle in 1966.  Shug Jordan's hire signaled the rise of Auburn while five of Alabama's six titles in the past seventy years came under the tenure of Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Pundits claim programs can win now because of parity, but the stark reality is schools on the way up have great coaches.  Kansas State had played in just one bowl game in nearly a century until the arrival of Bill Snyder.  He transformed arguably the most woeful program in the history of college football with a tremendous work ethic and eye for coaching talent.  Nebraska hadn't claimed a Big Eight Conference Championship in 23 years when Bob Devaney took over the reins; within a decade he led them to their first two AP national titles.  His trusted assistant, Tom Osborne, was promoted after Devaney's departure, and he won nine games or better for his entire 25 year career as a head coach.  Virginia Tech was a second rate football school without a single bowl victory before Frank Beamer arrived in 1987.  In 1999 the Hokies played for the national title and flirted with another appearance in the championship 2005.  Urban Meyer took the Bowling Green Falcons to within a hair's breadth of crashing the party for the BCS in 2002 while bursting open the doors with Utah in 2004.

By way of contrast, it isn't parity that crippled Minnesota, Michigan State, Mississippi, and Texas Christian.  These universities have fallen from the football elite because their administrators have been unwise with their coaching hires and have failed to support their football programs.  Minnesota had four national titles in a span of 15 years to start the AP poll, but their lack of an on campus stadium and a string of poor coaches devastated their once proud legacy.  Only in recent years have they started to regain their status as a bowl worthy team under Glen Mason.  Yes, Mason may not be viewed as an elite coach, but he did turn Kansas into a winner (no small feat).  Michigan State went 163-78-7 from 1947 to 1972 but decades of questionable head coaches have taken their toll, and just when it appeared former Ohio State assistant, Nick Saban, was about to take them back to the promised land, Spartan administrators foolishly allowed him to be hired away by LSU.  Saban proceeded to win a national championship and 48 games in five seasons with the Tigers.

A similar story has played out at the Ole Miss.  Johnny Vaught had the Rebels atop the SEC and the polls in the 1950's and 60's, but his retirement left them in disarray.  Five mediocre coaches followed until they stumbled upon Tommy Tuberville in the wake of devastating NCAA sanctions.  Tuberville proceeded to breath life into a dying program, but the powers that be fiddled while Rome burned when Auburn decided to lure him away.  TCU was on the way up the ladder with a young coach named Francis Schmidt, but they allowed Ohio State to snatch him from under their noses and then kept Leo "Dutch" Meyer long after he had ceased to produce victories.  This led to a fifty year decline until Dennis Franchione and Gary Patterson arrived on the scene.

All the mediocre (Donahue, Toledo) to pathetic coaching hires (Dorrell) UCLA has made since the departure of Dick Vermeil are starting to take their toll on a program which has become somewhat of a laughing stock (USC's JV team). Of course, those who have their heads in the sand are exalting a 10 win season made up of desperate come-from-behind wins against the worst teams in the Pac-10, arguing that the program is heading up, yet if you follow college recruiting closely, you will see how a discomforting talent gap emerged against our cross town rivals under the watch of Dorrell. Even though UCLA is going into a season with a super stud QB, a new DC, returning talent on offense, some people try to lower the expectations when it comes to beating SC (who lost their entire backfield) this season at the Rose Bowl. It's all due to one thing - no one deep down has full confidence in KD that he is a good coach and that he is capable of taking back UCLA to the level Dick Vermeil elevated to in his two years.

Let's hope the folks at Morgan Center will take some sort of decision action or signal that they will not stand for continued mediocrity under Dorrell if he fails (again) to live up to reasonable expectations (9 Ws including beating SC) this season.

Good coaching makes all the difference in college football (and in hoops). We can see it playing out infront of our eyes in Westwood. Let's hope at the end of this football season we are not singing the same pathetic songs of looking forward to next year.