Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Bowls and Belichick U. | by Mark

In David Halberstam's excellent book on Bill Belichick, "The Education of a Coach", he dubs the coaches that have been groomed under BB as the graduates of "Belichick University".

It was noted recently that Coach Weis went to another grad, Nick Saban, to get advice on how to prepare for Weis's first trip as a head coach to a college bowl game. Weis pointed out that Saban told him to not make the same mistake that he had made, burning his teams out with too much work, both physical and mental, which led to a terrible start to Saban's bowl career.

It's hard to believe that Saban never won a bowl game while as Michigan State. In fact, he got his butt kicked - a lot:

1995 - a 45-26 loss to LSU in the Independence Bowl.

1996 - a 38-0 loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl (this game being the only bowl win of Tyrone Willingham's entire head coaching career).

1997 - a 51-23 loss to Washington in the Aloha Bowl.
Saban finally learned his lesson, started to treat the bowl games as a "one-game season", and things changed for him at LSU:
2000 - a 28-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl.

2001 - a 47-34 win over Illinois in the Sugar Bowl.

2002 - a 35-20 loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

2003 - a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl (securing a national championship).

2004 - a 30-25 loss to Iowa in the Capital One Bowl (to fellow Belichick U. alum Kirk Ferentz).
Overall, Saban was 3-5 in bowl games. The members of Belichick U. that followed him as head coaches in college have done much better.

As of today, Kirk Ferentz is 3-1 in bowl games at Iowa, including his victory over Saban in his last game at LSU. Aside from the LSU game, his bowl record includes:
2001 - a 19-16 win over Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.

2002 - a 38-12 loss to Southern Cal in the Orange Bowl.

2003 - a 37-17 win over Florida in the Gator Bowl.
Al Groh is now 3-1 at Virginia. His only loss in a bowl game was to former Belichick assistant Pat Hill and Fresno State last season. Other than that game, his record is as follows:
2002 - a 48-22 win over West Virginia in the Continential Tire Bowl.

2003 - a 23-16 win over Pittsburgh in the Continential Tire Bowl.

2005 - a 34-31 win over Minnesota in the Music City Bowl.
As for Hill, going into todays contest with Tulsa, he was 3-3 in bowl games. Like Saban, he started out 0-3, but rebounded with wins in the past three years over Georgia Tech, UCLA, and Groh's Virginia.

The difference between the other members of Belichick U. and Weis is that they all worked for "The Genius" while he was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. None of them were part of the glorious run of the Patriots that included 3 Super Bowl victories. We'll find out on Monday if that helps Weis in his first bowl game as a head coach.