Fanrun Sports

Breaking Down The Year Two Record Of SEC Head Coaches

Breaking Down The Year Two Record Of SEC Head Coaches

I, like many of you, have always heard that college football coaches are expected to improve in their second year at their program. Logically, it makes sense. A whole season has passed where they have had the chance to get to know their school and players. The growing pains should be coming to a close by year two.

However, I’ve also noticed that the two main points of reference for this are Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. Of course, they improved in year two! They have been at the top of college football ever since their respective year two’s, and haven’t really known anything else. What about the other SEC head coaches of recent memory? Did they improve in year two across the board? Did the ones who regressed in year two go on to struggle or improve in year three? Is performance in year two compared to year one indicative of how the coach’s time at the school will transpire? Are there not some statistics that can confirm what we all suspect to be true about year two?

There are a lot of questions that can be asked and answered when talking about the year two checkpoint with college football head coaches. So I went back and examined the last three head coaches of every single program in the SEC to see how they did in year two compared to year one and placed them in four categories:

  • Do not qualify
  • Regressed in year two
  • No change from year one to year two
  • Improved in year two

I will include their records of their first two seasons and the average record of the team in the five preceding seasons for reference as to how the team had been performing at the time.

*CAUTION*: There is a lot of data to go over here, so buckle up:

Do Not Qualify

As you would think, to be considered in this year two study of ours, you have to have made it at least two years as head coach. Obviously, there are currently some head coaches in the SEC who are currently going into year two, and there’s also some coaches in the past who never made it through year two for a variety of reasons.

Coaches that did not qualify:

  • Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M)
  • Dan Mullen (Florida)
  • Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee)
  • Joe Moorhead (Mississippi State)
  • Chad Morris (Arkansas)
  • Robbie Caldwell (Vanderbilt)
  • John L. Smith (Arkansas)

Regressed In Year Two

This is it, right? Every fans biggest fear: being stuck with a head coach who isn’t improving or staying steady, but getting worse. Regression is always a tough pill to swallow for any fan, coach, or administration, but it happens.

Shockingly, though, it doesn’t happen near as often as you might think in the SEC. In fact, of the 42 head coaches considered in this exercise, only seven of them had worse records in year two than they did in year one.

  • Gus Malzahn (Auburn)
    • 12-2 in year one, 8-5 in year two
    • 8-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Matt Luke (Ole Miss)
    • 6-6 in year one, 5-7 in year two
    • 8-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)
    • 11-2 in year one, 9-4 in year two
    • 7-6 average record in previous five seasons
  • Jim McElwain (Florida)
    • 10-4 in year one, 9-4 in year two
    • 7-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Joker Phillips (Kentucky)
    • 6-7 in year one, 5-7 in year two
    • 7-6 average record in previous five seasons
  • Rich Brooks (Kentucky)
    • 4-8 in year one, 2-9 in year two
    • 5-7 average record in previous five seasons
  • Derek Dooley (Tennessee)
    • 6-7 in year one, 5-7 in year two
    • 7-5 average record in previous five seasons

Malzahn had the biggest change of anybody on this list, but he also made a National Championship Game run in his first season. That’s always tough to follow up unless you’re Saban or Dabo Swinney. He had a 7-6 season in year three, and has had eight to 10 wins in every season, since.

Similarly, Sumlin’s first year was also going to be tough to follow up. He won SEC Coach of the Year and his quarterback, Johnny Manziel, won the Heisman Trophy. After that, he never exited the seven or eight win season territory up until his exit from Texas A&M two years ago.

Elsewhere, both Kentucky coaches had a problem improving in year two. Phillips would be fired after his third season at Kentucky, while Brooks rebounded from three consecutive losing seasons with four consecutive bowl appearances.

McElwain had two pretty solid seasons to start his career at Florida, only regressing from 10 wins in year one to nine wins in year two. The big slump came in year three when he was ran out of Gainesville after a 3-4 start to the season.

And then there’s Luke and Dooley. Both were perfectly average in their first two years, regressing one win between seasons from six wins to five. Luke hasn’t been fired (yet), and Dooley was fired before he could finish year three.

No Change In Year Two

Here come the ho-hum. They didn’t improve their record, but they didn’t get any worse.

  • Les Miles (LSU)
    • 11-2 in year one, 11-2 in year two
    • 10-3 average record in previous five seasons
  • Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State)
    • 3-8 in year one, 3-8 in year two
    • 5-7 average record in previous five seasons
  • Larry Smith (Missouri)
    • 3-8 in year one, 3-8 in year two
    • 3-8 average record in previous five seasons
  • Houston Nutt (Ole Miss)
    • 9-4 in year one, 9-4 in year two
    • 5-7 average record in previous five seasons

Miles started hot at LSU and stayed that way. It helped that he was taking over for Saban, who was averaging 10 wins a season when he left, but still. Miles won a BCS National Championship in year three, and never dipped below eight wins in well over a decade, but was ran off early in his 12th season for reasons that I still don’t really understand.

Then there was Nutt, who was 9-4 in both of his first two seasons. Then came years three and four, where his teams went 4-8 and 2-10, respectively. To make matters worse for Nutt, those wins were all vacated by the NCAA after his departure, anyway. Yikes.

Croom never really got the wheels off the ground at Mississippi State. Three consecutive three win seasons led into an eight win season in year four. Which was followed by a four win season and a firing.

Remember Smith? Because I sure don’t. Smith was the epitome of an average coach. He crossed the five win threshold only twice in seven years. If he gets credit for anything, it is continuing the trend of three win seasons at Mizzou in the early 90’s.

Improved In Year Two

This is the big one. Of the 35 coaches that qualified for this year two study of ours, 24 of them improved in year two.

Basically, 69 percent of qualified SEC head coaches in our sample pool improved in year two. Very nice.

Since there are so many in this category, here is the list of coaches in order of who improved the most to who improved the least (roughly).

  • Lou Holtz (South Carolina)
    • 0-11 in year one, 8-4 in year two
    • 5-6 average program record in previous five seasons
  • Gene Chizik (Auburn)
    • 8-5 in year one, 14-0 in year two
    • 9-3 average record in previous five seasons
  • Nick Saban (Alabama)
    • 7-6 in year one, 12-2 in year two
    • 7-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Jim Donnan (Georgia)
    • 5-6 in year one, 10-2 in year two
    • 7-4 average record in previous five seasons
  • Kirby Smart (Georgia)
    • 8-5 in year one, 13-2 in year two
    • 10-3 average record in previous five seasons
  • Mark Richt (Georgia)
    • 8-4 in year one, 13-1 in year two
    • 8-4 average record in previous five seasons
  • Will Muschamp (Florida)
    • 7-6 in year one, 11-2 in year two
    • 11-2 average record in previous five seasons
  • Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)
    • 5-7 in year one, 9-4 in year two
    • 4-8 average record in previous five seasons
  • Bret Bielema (Arkansas)
    • 3-9 in year one, 7-6 in year two
    • 8-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Mark Stoops (Kentucky)
    • 2-10 in year one, 5-7 in year two
    • 5-7 average record in previous five seasons
  • Will Muschamp (South Carolina)
    • 6-7 in year one, 9-4 in year two
    • 9-4 average record in previous five seasons
  • James Franklin (Vanderbilt)
    • 6-7 in year one, 9-4 in year two
    • 4-8 average record in previous five seasons
  • Tommy Tuberville (Auburn)
    • 5-6 in year one, 9-4 in year two
    • 8-4 average record in previous five seasons
  • Barry Odom (Mizzou)
    • 4-8 in year one, 7-6 in year two
    • 8-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Mike Shula (Alabama)
    • 4-9 in year one, 6-6 in year two
    • 7-5 average  record in previous five seasons
  • Dennis Franchione (Alabama)
    • 7-5 in year one, 10-3 in year two
    • 7-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Butch Jones (Tennessee)
    • 5-7 in year one, 7-6 in year two
    • 6-7 average record in previous five seasons
  • Mike Sherman (Texas A&M)
    • 4-8 in year one, 6-7 in year two
    • 6-6 average record in previous five seasons
  • Nick Saban (LSU)
    • 8-4 in year one, 10-3 in year two
    • 7-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Ed Orgeron (LSU)
    • 9-4 in year one, 10-3 in year two
    • 10-3 average record in previous five seasons
  • Derek Mason (Vanderbilt)
    • 3-9 in year one, 4-8 in year two
    • 6-7 average record in previous five seasons
  • Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss)
    • 7-6 in year one, 8-5 in year two
    • 5-7 average record in previous five seasons
  • Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)
    • 7-5 in year one, 8-5 in year two
    • 7-5 average record in previous five seasons
  • Gary Pinkel (Mizzou)
    • 4-7 in year one, 5-7 in year two
    • 5-6 average record in previous five seasons

Let’s just hit the highlights here.

Obviously the big winner is Holtz. He is responsible for one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA football history, going from winless in 1999 to 8-4 in 2000. So, he takes the top spot of our sample group for best turnaround.

Second-best season two goes to Chizik, who went from a serviceable 8-5 in year one to riding Cam Newton’s coattails to a perfect 14-0, BCS National Championship season.

Every eligible coach from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina made this category. Holtz we already covered, but Saban, Donnan, Smart, and Richt also had pretty impressive improvements in year two. Spurrier went from 7-5 in year one to 8-5 in year two. Which is something, I guess.

There’s a somewhat strange pattern going on with Muschamp. When he took over at Florida, the program was averaging an 11-2 record the previous five years. In his year one there, he went 7-6, but rebounded back to 11-2 in his second year. When he took over at South Carolina, the program was averaging a 9-4 record the previous five years. In his year one there, he went 6-7, but rebounded back to, you guessed it: 9-4 in his second year. Seems it only takes Muschamp one season to get his programs back to where they were before he got there.

Conclusion

If you take anything away from this, it should be that the majority of SEC coaches improve in their second season on the job. And, with the exception of Miles, Malzahn, and Sumlin, most coaches who don’t improve in year two are ran off, fairly quickly.

2018 was an interesting year for first year head coaches in the SEC, so we will see if the recent trend in the SEC of the majority of coaches improving in year two continues

Give us your Take...
Fanrun Sports

More in Fanrun Sports

Mike Leach Continues To Dominate The Summer With Belly Flop Video

Tanner CarsonAugust 6, 2019

Tennessee Players Smile, Hit Practice Field

Trey WallaceAugust 4, 2019

Kelly Bryant Takes On The SEC, With Missouri

Trey WallaceJuly 15, 2019

Fanrun Radio airs on FOX Sports Knoxville WKGN-AM 1340. We create what fans want to hear, see and do. Fanrun Radio is the most popular digital sports platform in this space.

WKGN OPIF

Email FOX(a)SportsRadioKnoxville.com for assistance.

@FOXSportsKnox

Facebook

Copyright © 2018 Hodges Media, LLC. Powered by 2:45Tech