Over-Coaching – Doing more with Less

While is it often a discussion of who has the hottest seat going into and during a season, there is little talk of over performing coaches.  These are not the coaches of major powers that get the huge recruiting classes and win 10+ games as expected, although it happens every few years.  This group does more with less in their respective conference.

Coaching is an important variable in how we model expectations, predictions and team performance.  Throughout the country, over 87% of all football season win totals and games predicted within the CFBMatrix model are +2 games or less.  What this means is that for a coach to even average over +1 or +2 games per year for several years is very difficult and a sure sign that they are ‘out coaching’ their opponents.

A common cry against recruiting rankings comes from fans of these teams.  In doing so they are downplaying the efforts of their coaching staff in winning football games.

Top Six Positive Net Game Effect Coaches in College Football

#1 Jim Grobe – Wake Forest+12 games over the last 4 years.  However, the +6 games in the surreal ’07 season is about to come off his 4 year moving average.  The net positive numbers have been in decline and last year he posted a -1.  This season could be a real turning point in this tenure.  The team is poor in talent and is modeled for 1 to 2 wins in 2011 without the coaching adjustment of +2 games.  He needs a +4 year to get near .500 as his recruiting has really fallen on hard times.

#2Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern+11 games over the last 4 years is the best number in the Big Ten and #2 in the country.  At plus 2.75 games per year, Fitzgerald and his staff are doing a superb job.  At home they are just +1 game but on the road they are +10 and leading the nation in road wins against the basic CFBMatrix model.  Granted, as a bottom tier recruiter they are getting a lot of chances to upset teams. However, they recruit on the same levels as Purdue and Minnesota with similar schedules and much different results.

#3 Mike Riley – Oregon State Beavers+9 games over the last 4 years in the PAC-10 is probably no surprise to fans in Corvallis.  It has long been assumed that Coach Riley and his staff get more out their average player, but the stats back it up.  Equally dangerous at home (+5) as on the road (+4), this is a team that can rise up and pull upsets anywhere at anytime.  2010 was a low point (+1) for the Beavers in the last several seasons but the coaching minds and effort are still on campus.  The +9 would be much higher (approx +13) if the Beavers didn’t lose so many games they should have won within the model.

#4 Bobby Petrino – Arkansas Razorbacks – There is no doubt the effectiveness of Petrino’s coaching with the CFBMatrix model.  Over the last 3 years he is +7 games against the predicted outcomes.  In comparison, of the other 9 SEC teams that do not have new coaches in 2011, 8 of them are between +1 and -2 games over the last 4 years against the modeled outcomes.  The Hogs are balanced as well being +3 games at home and +4 games on the road.  The bottom line – Coach Petrino is worth over two wins per year (+2.33) over the last 3 years.

#5 Kyle Winningham – Utah Utes – I was going to leave out the Utes as they have been playing in a very weak Mountain West conference and are new to the Pac 12 in 2011.  However, I went back and looked at all their AQ games they played (no bowls) and other match-ups that they were predicted to lose in the model and determined they should be here.  +7 games over the last 3 years (+4 at home and +3 on the road) is very good.  The +2.33 games is mostly beating AQ teams.  We will see how it translates to the weak PAC 12 South and the rest of the conference.

#6 Mark D’Antonio – Michigan State – Over the past 4 years Coach D’Antonio is a Big Ten leading +3 games against the CFBMatrix at home and +4 on the road.  The 4 year total of +7, or +1.75 games per year is 2nd in the Big Ten only to Coach Fitzgerald.  This is a team that also does not lose may games modeled to win.  In the last 4 seasons the Spartans have lost only 3 games at home and just one on the road in which the other team out recruited them in the previous 4 seasons.

#7 Frank Spaziani – Boston College – Over the last 2 years all he has done is pull two upset wins at home and 3 on the road for an average of +2.5 games over the last 2 years.   The biggie is that he has no upsets losses to team they have out recruited at home or on the road!  No other head coach can say that over the last two years.

Honorable Mentions

Bill Snyder – Kansas State – In 3 years Coach Snyder is +3 at home and +1 on the road.  Given the Wildcats terrible recruiting, they have more chances to get ‘upsets’ in the model than most teams.  They are comparable to an Iowa St, Washington State or Vanderbilt that have much lower +/- coaching effect numbers.  At +1.33 games per year it leads the BIG12 but not impressive enough to be ranked.

Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State – +5 on the road over 4 years is a very good number.  A second tier recruiter in the Big12, Oklahoma State doesn’t have the chances to upset every year like the lower recruiting ranked teams.  A zero home effect over the last 4 years prevents coach Gundy from being up on the main list, but +5 on the road is the best number in the BIG12.

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2 Responses to Over-Coaching – Doing more with Less

  1. Felis S. says:

    Sorry, in my previous comment PF means Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern’s HC…. The post could be replaced with:

    Unfortunately this specific analysis is viscerally flawed and useless… and obviously so…Makes a lot of sense in ONE case only… when you are evaluating a first-year or relatively new head coach (HC)…because presumably he found (most of) the players already in the program (they are not ‘his’ players). Otherwise, since recruiting is an essential aspect of a college HC job, you should not give special credit to a coach because he managed to beat another coach who beats him at recruiting in the first place…. …Sort of like giving special credit to kickers for good performance after having missed the previous kick… or to teams that do well in third and long situations… yes it is a good thing… but why did they get in 3rd and long in the first place?

    A similar analysis could make more sense for the pros, since there the GM is more responsible for ‘recruiting’ than the HC is.

    To evaluate a college HC the very best method is to look at how the program was doing in his conference in the last few seasons before the HC took over, and how it has done since… that is the coaching effect that really matters, since the previous HC faced the same “recruiting challenges” as the current one….. for example, just before Pat Fitzgerald took over the Northwestern Wildcats had won 4 5 & 5 B1G games… since, they have won 2 3 5 5 & 3 B1G games (same conference, same “recruiting challenges”)… is it good or bad? You be the judge. To me 4 5 5[X] 2 3 5 5 3 does not look that impressive.

    • cfbmatrix says:

      Thanks for your input Felis. It is all to each his own in judgment of a fan’s view of their favorite team. This is one simple way of comparing results for AQ schools. While the results for Coach Fitz have been above average in his recruiting range, it still doesn’t produce more wins. Winning starts with talent. Based on his coaching effect, if NU can get better players, they should get much better results. Without the players, the result will stagnate.

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