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Football Coaching Record Sausage

by NDSF, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 06:39
edited by NDSF, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 15:08

Several years ago there was an online debate re greatest coaches of all time. The lack of balanced schedules makes winning percentages in CFB much less reliable than in pro sports. I gathered at that time and kept updated a list of record by coaches versus teams that finished the season ranked in the AP Top Ten. Final Top Ten, not top ten at the time you played them - so you know this was a very good team on the whole body of the season. I considered this a reasonable proxy for a very high quality win. I grouped it for major coaches over their entire careers, but then slimmed it down more according to the following parameters:

The body of coaches I considered were coaches who had coached at a school for at least ten years and won a national championship at that school, and within that body, I only considered the time they were at that school and their record against teams that finished the season in the top ten. So you are getting Frank Leahy at ND, without BC, Spurrier at Fla, without the Duke record, Bowden at FSU, without the W, Va record. Seeing what they did when they were at their height, not working their way up the ladder. Obviously, it was limited to coaches who coached during the poll era - 1936 to present. I have included all but one or two coaches who fit in these parameters and a couple who do not exactly fit them, but are famous despite not winning NC's. I rank them by various elements of that data below and have some observations at the bottom.


1. Leahy (ND) .659 13-6-3
2. Switzer (Okla) .544 18-15-1
3. Stoops (Okla) .473 9-10-0
4. Bryant (Ala) .472 17-19-1
5. Holtz (ND) .469 15-17-1
6. Parseghian (ND) .447 7-9-3
7. Devaney (Neb) .447 7-9-1
8. Blaik (Army) .444 7-8-2
9. Carr (Mich) .423 11-15-0
10.Royal (Tex) .416 14-20-2
11.Tressell (OSU) .411 7-10-0
12. Spurrier (Fla) .394 13-20-1
13. Hayes (OSU) .372 14-25-4
14. Wilkinson (Okla) .368 7-12-0
15. McKay (USC) .363 10-19-4
16 James (Wash) .354 11-20-0
17. Dooley (Ga) .354 11-20-0
18. Bowden (FSU) .351 22-41-1
19. Robinson (USC) .347 8-15-0
20. Dodd (Ga Tech) .340 7-23-1
21. Osborne (Neb) .326 16-33-0
22, Daugherty (MSU) .319 11-24-1
23. Crisler (Mich) .315 6-13-0
24. Fulmer (Tenn) .314 11-24-0
25. Donahue (UCLA) .279 8-23-3
26. Brown (Texas) .240 6-19-0
27. Broyles (Ark) .218 7-25-0
28. Schembechler (Mich) .214 7-27-1
29. Paterno (PSU) .210 12-45-0

Obviously, these are tough games to win - only two coaches on the list have winning records, but some who are considered "great" are notable for their very poor records compared to the group. Schembechler, Paterno and Mack Brown really stand out for their low winning percentages. Ara won as many games against top ten teams in eleven years at ND as Schembechler did in 21 at Michigan.


1. Holtz (ND) 1.36 per year (11 yrs)
2. Leahy (ND) 1.18 per year (11 yrs)
3. Switzer (Okla.) 1.15 per year (16 yrs)
4. Spurrier (Fla.) 1.125 per year (12 yrs)
5. Carr (Mich) .846 per year (13 yrs)
6. Parseghian (ND) .772 per year (11 yrs)
7. Royal (Tex.) .750 per year (20 yrs)
8. Bryant (Ala.) .700 per year (25 yrs)
9. Tressell (OSU) .700 per year (10 yrs)
10.Stoops (Okla) .692 per year (13 yrs)
11.Robinson (USC) .666 per yr (12 yrs)
12.Bowden (FSU) .661 per season (34 yrs)
13.Fulmer (Tenn) .647 per year (16.5 yrs)
14.Osborne (Neb.) .640 per season (25 yrs)
15.Devaney (Neb.) .636 per year (11 yrs)
16.McKay (USC) .625 per year (16 yrs)
17.James (Wash) .611 per year (18 seasons)
18.Daugherty (MSU) .605 per year (19 yrs)
19.Crisler (Mich.) .600 per yr (10 yrs)
20.Hayes (OSU) .500 per year (28 yrs)
21.Dooley (Ga.) .440 per year (25 yrs)
22.Brown (Texas) .428 per year (14 yrs)
23.Wilkinson (Okla.) .412 per season (17 yrs)
24.Donahue (UCLA) .400 per yr (20 yrs)
25.Blaik (Army) .444 per year (18 yrs)
26.Broyles (Ark.) .368 per yr (19 yrs)
27.Schembechler (Mich.) .357 per year (21 yrs)
28.Dodd (Ga. Tech) .318 per yr (22 yrs)
29.Paterno (PSU) .304 per year (46 yrs)

Some observations - one could argue that among successful coaches at major powers, Holtz was one of the greatest "quality win" coaches ever. Others, not so much. In eleven years at ND, Holtz won more top ten games than Paterno did in 46 years at PSU. In 16 years at Oklahoma, Switzer won more than Schembechler did in 21 at Mich. As much as we rag on Lloyd Carr, he played and won an awful lot of quality games against tough competition.


1. Holtz (ND) 3
2. Spurrier (Fla) 2.85
3. Fulmer (Tenn) 2.12
4. Switzer (Okla) 2.12
5. McKay (USC) 2.06
6. Leahy (ND) 2
7. Carr (Mich) 2
8. Robinson (USC) 1.92
9. Daugherty (MSU) 1.89
10. Royal (Tex) 1.8
11. Brown (Tex) 1.78
12. Parseghian (ND) 1.72
13. James (Wash) 1.72
14. Donahue (UCLA) 1.7
15. Bowden (FSU) 1.7
16. Tressell (OSU) 1,7
17. Schembechler (Mich) 1.67
18. Broyles (Ark) 1.6
19. Crisler (Mich) 1.58
20. Osborne (Neb) 1.56
21. Devaney (Neb) 1.54
22. Hayes (OSU) 1.53
23. Stoops (Okla) 1.46
24. Bryant (Ala)1.42
25. Dodd (Ga Tech) 1.41
26. Paterno (PSU) 1.365
27. Dooley (Ga) 1.24
28. Wilkinson (Okla) 1.12
29. Blaik (Army) 1

Once again, the tremendous difficulty of the schedules Holtz played stands out - by far tougher than the slate of any other dominant coach during his golden age at a major power. Even with Holtz's high winning percentage and number of wins versus top ten teams, it is plain that ND did schedule itself out of at least one championship in that period. And check out the weakness of the competition in the Wilkinson record-setting days and throughout Paterno's half-century of coaching. Spurrier has played a ton of tough games as did Switzer.



great stuff

by Pat, Right behind you, Thursday, July 05, 2012, 10:12 @ NDSF

I tagged this as "coaches" so it will be easy to find in the future.

As you mentioned, the appearance of Holtz near the tops of these lists is interesting, because just about all ND fans would agree that he is "only" the 4th best coach ND has had. These numbers mean folks could quibble a bit more about the ranks of Lou and Ara, but really it just highlights how impressive ND's best coaches have been.


I agree re the general ND point

by NDSF, Thursday, July 05, 2012, 12:54 @ Pat

I also think it emphasizes the importance of tough scheduling. You can't win them if you don't play them. While a lot of people were down on Holtz, I always thought he was a really great coach. Almost every year we won some big game against an el heffe team that brought me great joy and that I remember to this day. I am not as hung up on national championships as I am on consistent success and "big wins" against SC, Michigan etc. Do that and the rest will or wont work out. Winning an NC involves a ton of luck. 1988 was probably Holtz's fourth best team.


do we not give Barry Switzer enough credit?

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 08:33 @ NDSF

Because of his rank corruption you just never hear him mentioned among the venerated legends of the sport. But look at those records. And it's not like he was the only cheater of his era.


I'd like to see how many wins are against Nebraska

by Jeff (BGS), A starter home in suburban Tempe, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 12:44 @ Jay

Nebraska was notorious for playing 10 cupcakes and going into their showdown with Oklahoma at 10-0, and usually losing (my quick check had Switzer at 12-5 vs Nebraska). It was a good strategy. If they lost, they played in a major bowl. If they won, they played for the National Championship. Either way, they inflated the perception of Tom Osborne as a coach, who is pretty far down NDSF's list (rightfully, IMO).


Half of his wins were against Neb

by NDSF, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 13:19 @ Jeff (BGS)

But that is not unusual. Your annual rival who is good will account for a lot of your wins and losses. McKay got a lot of his wins against ND, Hayes, vs Michigan, Spurrier v FSU, etc. It does emphasize how bad a big game coach Osborne was until he decided to run a prison the last five years of his career. Remember, also, though that Switzer had good success in big games other than Neb. He played Texas every year as well and did home and homes with USC and OSU, beat Michigan and PSU in national championship level bowl games, etc. The record stacks up as follows:

Neb 9- 3 (one win in Orange Bowl)
Tex 2-3
Ark 0-1 (Orange Bowl
FSU 2-0 (both Ornage Bowls)
ASU 0-1 (Fiesta Bowl)
Wash 0-1 (Orange Bowl)
PSU 1-0 (Orange Bowl)
Miami 0-3 (one Orange Bowl)
Okla St. 1-0
Ohio St.. 1-1
No. Carolina 1-0
Mich 1-0 (Orange Bowl)
USC 0-1-1
Clemson 0-1 (Citrus Bowl)


I think Switzer is good, but not underrated

by Jeff (BGS), A starter home in suburban Tempe, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 13:59 @ NDSF

My argument is that his Top-10 win totals are padded by a fair number of wins against a Nebraksa team who probably didn't deserve to be in the Top-10. Pulling those wins and losses out pushes him much further down the list.



by NDSF, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 14:36 @ Jeff (BGS)

I think the real revelations on this list are Holtz, Spurrier, Leahy, both for wins and winning percentage and when you look at the frequency of tough games.


good points you guys

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Thursday, July 05, 2012, 09:17 @ NDSF

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It's interesting that UM fans are so ambivalent about Carr.

by Slainte Joe, Raleigh, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 08:43 @ Jay

In many ways he accomplished more than his old boss, but he has nowhere near the hero status. I guess 'Ganders are particular about the irascible bastards they venerate.


My guess is it's about the trend line

by BPH, San Diego, Wednesday, July 04, 2012, 09:34 @ Slainte Joe

Carr, with the exception of 2006, seems to have won most of his big games early in his tenure.

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