Monday, November 23, 2009

Statistically Speaking: Coaching Search edition | by Pat

Hat tip to Paul at Classic Ground for bringing this one to my attention. Prof. John Soares, who teaches "Sport in American History" at ND, wrote in to the South Bend Tribune with a simple and persuasive plan for getting ND football back on top.

Would you like to know what might be the surest bet in sports — one that may come into play if the men who run the University of Notre Dame throw Charlie Weis under the bus and hire a new football coach? When Notre Dame hires an experienced, successful, major college football head coach, the success rate in turning the Irish into national champions is 100 percent. When Notre Dame hires anybody else, the success rate is 14 percent.

You read that correctly. Since 1940, every single time Notre Dame has hired a college football head coach who has taken multiple teams to major bowls and achieved Top 10 national rankings, he has coached the Irish to at least one national championship and has posted regular Top 10 finishes in the national rankings. Every single time.

Of the other seven coaches, Notre Dame has hired in that time period, only one has turned the Irish into national champions.
That lone exception is Ara, who, quite honestly had a pretty impressive track record of his own as head coach of Miami University and Northwestern, taking the latter to #1 in the nation briefly in 1962. Still, the larger point stands that the surest road to success is to hire a proven coach and leave the fliers and up-and-comers for someone else.
In statistical terms, the disparity between these groups of coaches is astonishing. Even including Parseghian's fabulously successful 11-year run, the coaches who came without big-time college head-coaching bona fides guided Notre Dame for 40 years, won two national championships and posted a winning percentage of .638; those with big-time college head-coaching bona fides coached 28 years, won six national titles and posted a winning percentage near .800.

Without Parseghian, the comparison is even more lopsided: zero national championships compared to six, four Top 10 finishes as opposed to 17, a winning percentage of about .560 compared to a winning percentage near .800.

This is not to say that there are no coaches out there with résumés resembling Parseghian's who are ready to wake up the echoes. But if Notre Dame's leaders decide to make a coaching change and want to play the odds, an experienced, proven, big-time college football head coach is the surest bet to put the Irish on the track to a national championship.