Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Old Man Stomps Feet, Shakes Fist Angrily | by Mike

Not long ago, Bo Schembechler claimed Notre Dame "need[s Michigan] more than we need them." It's difficult to figure out what Schembechler meant by this, as no interpretation lends itself to substantiation.

If Schembechler meant that Notre Dame could not find a comparable opponent to replace Michigan should the Wolverines beg off the series, he was indisputably incorrect. When the Notre Dame-Michigan series took a two-year break in 1995 and 1996, Notre Dame replaced Michigan on the schedule with UM's fraternal twin Ohio State. In 1995, Michigan's non-conference opponents were UVa, Memphis, Boston College, and Miami (of Ohio, of course). Even if you can identify a marquee name from that bunch, it's hardly a comparable program. In 1996, Michigan played Colorado. When Notre Dame and Michigan again took a two-year break in 2000 and 2001, Notre Dame opted for a home-and-home series with Nebraska. While the Huskers have fallen on hard times under Bill Callahan, recall that Nebraska rolled into South Bend as the top-ranked team in the nation. In 2000 and 2001, Michigan dropped games to UCLA and Washington, respectively. The bottom line is that Notre Dame did a better job of finding replacement programs with cachet equivalent to Michigan than Michigan did of finding replacement programs with cachet equivalent to Notre Dame.

New data continually emerges that belies the notion that Notre Dame will ever have difficulty finding opponents. In the last four seasons, Notre Dame's appearance has resulted in a new stadium attendance record seven times. The stadiums at which records were set include Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Kyle Field in College Station, and Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. In addition to crushing ticket demand and overwhelming media interest when Notre Dame comes to town, teams know that their return trip to South Bend will garner them a national television appearance. Scheduling Notre Dame offers programs so much exposure that Notre Dame will always be able to find big-time schools looking for a series. (Also, note that Michigan's home network, ABC, will be airing more Notre Dame games nationally than Michigan games this year.)

All this leads to the inevitable question: Who the hell is Bo Schembechler, anyway? When one thinks of great coaches, one generally thinks of coaches who won championships or at least fared well against great teams. Neither is true of Schembechler. When I read Schembechler's quote, I remembered some brilliant research done by ndoldtown on NDNation awhile back. ndoldtown looked at the tenure of a collection of renowned coaches at the school where they made their mark. In other words, he looked at the performance of Parseghian and Spurrier at Notre Dame and Florida, respectively, but not at Northwestern and Duke. Of the coaches listed, Schembechler has the second-worst winning percentage against great teams and the fewest wins per year against great teams. Note also that this data is only current through 2004. If I had taken the time to update it through 2005, Paterno's victory over Ohio State last year would leave Schembechler with the worst winning percentage of the group. When you take into account the fact that Schembechler never won a national title, he just doesn't belong with the other coaches on this list. What's so special about inflating the overall winning percentage against the likes of Illinois, Indiana, and Northwestern if you hardly ever beat great teams?

Record vs Teams in AP Final Top Ten through 2004 (at school most associated with).

Pct vs
Top 10
Rec vs
Top 10
vs Top 10
vs Top 10
Leahy ND 11
.659 13-6-3 2.00
Switzer Okla 16
.544 18-15-1 2.12
Blaik Army 18
.500 7-8-2 0.94
Bryant Ala 25
.472 17-19-1 1.42
Holtz ND 11
.469 15-17-1 3.00
Parseghian ND 11
.447 7-9-3 1.72
Devaney Neb 11
.447 7-9-1 1.54
Royal Tex 20
.416 14-20-2 1.80
Spurrier Fla 12
.394 13-20-1 2.85
Hayes OSU 28
.372 14-25-4 1.53
Wilkinson Okla 27
.368 7-12-0 1.12
McKay USC 16
.363 10-19-4 2.06
Bowden FSU 28
.359 20-36-1 1.96
Dooley Ga 25
.354 11-20-0 1.24
Robinson USC 12
.347 8-15-0 1.92
Fulmer Tenn 13
.346 9-17-0 2.17
Dodd GaTech 22
.340 7-23-1 1.41
Neyland Tenn 21
.333 4-8-0 1.00
Osborne Neb 25
.326 16-33-0 1.56
Daugherty MSU 19
.319 11-24-1 1.89
Crisler Mich 10
.315 6-13-0 1.58
Donahue UCLA 20
.279 8-23-3 1.70
Broyles Ark 19
.218 7-25-0 1.60
Schembechler Mich 21
.214 7-27-1 1.67
Paterno PSU 39
.210 12-45-0 1.46

These numbers also put the lie to another of Schembechler's pet canards. Schembechler often predicted Notre Dame would struggle against the allegedly tougher competition of the Big Ten. Schembechler once told the Detroit News that if Notre Dame joined the Big Ten:
They may find out what (Penn State Coach) Joe Paterno found out, which is, it was a lot easier when they were playing Syracuse and Rutgers and Temple. When they went into the Big Ten, they found out they couldn't go to the Rose Bowl every year.
The Notre Dame coaches on this list all played great teams with greater frequency than Schembechler. Lou Holtz played an average of 3 teams every year (!) that finished in the Top 10 during his 11-year tenure at Notre Dame. Frank Leahy played an average of 2 such games per year, while Ara Parseghian played 1.72 such games per year. Schembechler played 1.67 games against Top 10 teams per year. While joining the Big Ten appears to have presented tougher competition for Paterno (1.46/year), it would have been a huge step down in competition for Holtz. Schembechler has apparently severed all ties with reality.

While we're in the process of exposing overrated Big Ten coaches, we should also address the coach that took those shots at Weis in the Sporting News' college football preview. In an earlier post, we speculated that the source was Tiller. We have since confirmed that Tiller was the source. Tiller said almost the exact same thing at a Purdue alumni luncheon in Indianapolis not long ago. Additionally, Sporting News columnist Tom Dienhart recently revealed that he was the one at the magazine who spoke with the anonymous coach. Since (a) Dienhart graduated from Purdue and (b) Carroll, Fulmer, and Carr assuredly do not take Dienhart's calls, we would know it was Tiller even if we hadn't been told about his comments at the luncheon.