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Hitting the ground running...
Do the top coaches really do their best work early in their tenures?
Posted: Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, 7:08 PM
by Josh
• Permalink
I would like to commend AA for bringing up an observation in recent weeks that many often miss. Ever since Tennessee hired Lane Kiffin, I looked for any reason to believe that Tennessee would be back to a prominent power in the next few seasons. It was around this time I took a look at the recent history of SEC football, and to some extent, college football in general. I looked at the successful coaches, and how long it took them to turn their respective schools in the right direction. The results were pretty astounding. AA was right about the top coaches doing their best work in their first three seasons. However, most of them made vast improvements by their second season. A few even won National Championships in their second season. In the height of my Kiffin sheephood, I boldly stated on the interact that if Kiffin is what we want him to be, Tennessee will make it to Atlanta in 2010. Tony proceded to read my post on air and proclaim that if Tennessee gets to Atlanta in 2010, that he would give me twenty minutes to draw a crowd in Market Square and kiss his rear. As you will see, my claim was based on fact. The great coaches in the SEC have by and large made the SEC championship in their first 2 seasons. Kiffin is gone now and the point is moot, but the facts are solid. I am going to list some of the great coaches in college football and what they have done in their first three seasons. The question we need to ask ourselves is this. Do we want Dooley to be mentioned in the same breath as these coaches, or are we okay with mediocrity? We will know if Dooley can coach much sooner than people think. Let's start with Steve Spurrier. He was probably the first of the modern day coaches.

Steve Spurrier (Florida)
1990 9-2(6-1) 1st Place SEC *Ineligible for Championship
1991 10-2(7-0) SEC Champions
1992 9-4(6-2) SEC East Champions

Gene Stallings (Alabama)
1990 7-5(5-2)
1991 11-1(6-1)
1992 13-0(8-0) SEC Champions, National Champions

Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee)
1993 10-2(7-1)
1994 8-4(5-3)
1995 11-1(7-1)

Terry Bowden (Auburn)
1993 11-0(8-0) *Ineligible for Championship
1994 9-1-1(6-1-1)
1995 8-4(5-3)

Tommy Tubberville (Auburn)
1999 5-6(2-6)
2000 9-4(6-2) SEC West Champions
2001 7-5(5-3)

Nick Saban (LSU)
2000 8-4(5-3)
2001 10-3(5-3) SEC Champions
2002 8-5(5-3)

Mark Richt (Georgia)
2001 8-4(5-3)
2002 13-1(7-1) SEC Champions
2003 11-3(6-2) SEC East Champions

Urban Meyer (Florida)
2005 9-3(5-3)
2006 13-1(7-1) SEC Champions, National Champions
2007 9-4(5-3)

Les Miles (LSU)
2005 11-2(7-1) SEC West Champions
2006 10-2(6-2)
2007 11-2(6-2) SEC Champions, National Champions

Nick Saban (Alabama)
2007 7-6(4-4)
2008 12-2(8-0) SEC West Champions
2009 14-0(8-0) SEC Champions, National Champions

Mack Brown (Texas)
1998 9-3(6-2)
1999 9-5(6-2) Big XII South Champions
2000 9-3(7-1)

Bob Stoops(Oklahoma)
1999 7-5(5-3)
2000 13-0(8-0) Big XII Champions, National Champions
2001 11-2(6-2)

Jim Tressell (Ohio State)
2001 7-5(5-3)
2002 14-0(8-0) Big Ten Champions, National Champions
2003 11-2(6-2)

Pete Carroll (USC)
2001 6-6(5-3)
2002 11-2(7-1) Pac 10 Champions
2003 12-1(7-1) Pac 10 Champions, National Champions (AP)

It should be noted that both Phillip Fulmer and Les Miles took over programs that were already in great shape and didn't need to rebuild. Terry Bowden's inclusion on the list is questionable, but his first two seasons can't be overlooked.

In some cases, the top coaches made drastic impacts right away. Every coach with the exceptions of Gene Stallings, Phillip Fulmer, and Terry Bowden, either won or made it to their conference championship game by their second season. It should be noted that Gene Stallings improved from 7-5 in his first season to 11-1 in his second season. Bob Stoops, Jim Tressell, and Urban Meyer all won national championships in their second seasons.

I think we can all agree that we want Derek Dooley to be at least as good as the coaches I have listed. We should know just how good he will be by his second season. I'm not saying that he must make it to Atlanta in 2011 to be the kind of coach we want him to be. He has a bigger rebuilding job than a lot of coaches on the list did. I do think that we can feel pretty good about him if he can win at least 9 games in 2011. This year who knows? I don't think 7 wins is out of the question. Depending on which way the ball bounces, I might feel good if we win 6 in the regular season. History shows that by year two we should know what we have. Will it be what we all want?

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