Coaches should not be judged on national championships

 

It’s Friday and on Friday all of us are given the freedom to present views that may be a little out of the mainstream. Here’s mine:

Mark Bradley’s blog on Thursday “Will UGA win at BCS title under Mark Richt?” reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a reporter. He basically asked me the same question about Richt  and I said something that shocked him a little bit and it may shock you. But I have believed this for a long time:

The question about Richt is irrelevant.

Why? Because I believe coaches should not be ultimately judged on whether or not they win national championships.

You read that right. Having covered this sport for a long time I have concluded that national championships are not an accurate measure on whether or not somebody is a good coach or a great coach. Now if a guy like Urban Meyer has won two national titles in three years and is favored to win another, it’s a pretty good bet that he’s a great coach. But the absence of a national championship does not mean that someone is a lesser coach.

Here is how I back that statement up. In the era of the BCS, and we’ve had some version of it since 1992, there are simply too many variables beyond winning games that factor into a coach and team just getting a CHANCE to play for the national championship. You have two human polls and a bunch of computer polls that are combined and spit out a formula that puts two teams into the national championship game. There is simply too much luck and too much good timing involved for the national championship to be the standard we use to measure coaches.

Let’s just take this decade:

**–In 2000 Miami beat No. 1 Florida State on the field, 27-24. Both Florida State and Miami ended the season with one loss and Miami finished No. 2 in the human polls. But the BCS formula gave the spot in the national championship game to Florida State. So Butch Davis is less of a coach that season because the computers didn’t allow his team to play Oklahoma for the title?

**–In 2001 Oregon finished the season ranked No. 2 in both human polls and had only one loss. Nebraska finished No. 4 in the human polls, also with one loss, a 62-36 thumping in its last regular season game by Colorado. But Nebraska goes to the Rose Bowl instead of Oregon and Joey Harrington. That was Mike Bellotti’s shot at the national title and but the computers picked Nebraska, who got embarrassed by Miami, 37-14.

In 2002, Ohio State went 12-0 in the regular season with a five-point win over Wisconsin, a six-point win over Penn State, and a 10-6 win over Purdue where Craig Krenzel threw a 37-yard touchdown pass on fourth down in the final two minutes. Then the Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Illinois and beat Michigan 14-9 with a touchdown with less than five minutes remaining. Ohio State could have seen its national championship dreams derailed several times but to the Buckeyes’ everlasting credit, they always found a way to win. Mark Richt’s best team at Georgia (12-1 with a loss to Florida), which finished No. 3 in the BCS Standings, just needed for Ohio State to lose one of those games and the Bulldogs are in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami.

I can go on. In 2004 Auburn went undefeated and won the SEC championship. Under normal circumstances the Tigers would have been a lock for the national championship game. But USC and Oklahoma started 1-2 and never lost. That was a great Auburn team that didn’t get a chance. So does that mean that Tommy Tuberville was not a national championship coach that season?

Urban Meyer has won two national championships at Florida but some things had to fall into place for him to get the chance. In 2006 UCLA pulled off a stunning upset of No. 2 Southern Cal and Florida jumped from No. 4 to No. 2 (over No. 3 Michigan) after beating Arkansas in the SEC championship game. Florida just destroyed Ohio State in the BCS championship game but what if USC had not lost? Would that have made Meyer less of a coach in 2006?

Last season Florida earned its way into the BCS title game by beating No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game. But what if Alabama had not been No. 1?  What if Alabama had been No. 10? Then Florida may have been watching Texas and Oklahoma in a rematch for the national title. Florida had the best team in the country and proved it in the BCS championship game. But some things had to fall into place for the Gators to get the chance.

The 2007 season is the best example of all of how it takes more than talent and good coaching to play for the BCS title. LSU began championship Saturday with two losses and ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings. The ONLY way the Tigers had a chance to get to the big game was by beating Tennessee in the SEC championship game and hoping beyond hope that both No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia BOTH lose. The odds against that were incredible but it did happen and LSU got its shot. LSU was the best team in the country at the end of the 2007 season but the Tigers would have never gotten the chance to prove it without some good fortune.

 

The point is this: In college football, especially in the SEC, the focus has to be on the conference championship. That is the thing as coaches and players that you can control.  If you are consistently playing for the SEC championship, then more years than not you’re going to be in the hunt for the national championship.

A coach is either consistently playing at the top of his conference or he’s not. If your coach has all the resources to compete for the conference championship and proves over a period of time that he can’t do it, you should certainly question whether or not he should continue to be your coach.

 But if two guys are consistently playing at the top of their league there is nothing magical that makes one a national championship coach and the other something less. It’s about winning your conference and then hoping the right dominoes fall into place that will give you the opportunity to play for something more.

Steve Spurrier told me during his great run at Florida that he never discussed the national championship with his players. “Our goal was to always win the SEC championship. That was the thing we could control,” Spurrier said. “If we won the conference championship, we figured there was a pretty good chance that we would get to play for the big title. But it doesn’t do any good to focus on that because you have no control over it.”

So what about this? Am I totally wrong here? The floor is yours. Have a great weekend.

 

Please follow me on Twitter at:

 

http://twitter.com/MrCFB

277 comments Add your comment

MikeyD

July 31st, 2009
9:51 am

Indeed there is too much luck involved and too many variables to be able to win a national championship, and guess what? There’s an easy answer. It’s called a PLAYOFF! Settle it on the field, not in the polls and computers. Pretty revolutionary idea, don’t you think?

reality check

July 31st, 2009
9:53 am

Tony, I agree with your logic and that winning a National Championship does not define greatness.

I would ask all the critics what they ever won at any level.

Huh?

July 31st, 2009
9:54 am

I didn’t go back to 2003 because the clown said past 4 or 5 years. I obviously counted the 2007 Tennessee game. Okay, so that’s three more supposed blowouts that you have pointed out to me in the past 5 years. That brings the total to 4. Four blowouts in 5 years does not warrant a misleading comment implying that this is a common thing under Richt. It is not. Quite while you’re ahead clown. Good day.

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

July 31st, 2009
9:54 am

Tony, I am in total agreement with everything you said except this:

“LSU was the best team in the country at the end of the 2007.”

I’m sorry, but I’d argue that Georgia was the best team at the end of 2007. I think LSU deserved the championship based on all the factors, but, if we had a proper playoff, Georgia or Southern Cal woulda beaten LSU. Oh well! Agree to disagree.

Gen Neyland

July 31st, 2009
9:56 am

Although the goal of a HC in any conference is to win the conference, the measure of a good football coach is found within his handling of the program and in the character of the majority of the men he turns out. A great coach does the same without patting his own back. A NC is icing on the cake…Other than that, to quote Al Whacko Davis, ‘Just win,baby’…

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
9:57 am

Fairly and objectively, there’s a heck of a lot more to being a good head coach than merely winning a national championship. For example, if Steve Spurrier had stayed at Duke instead of having the opportunity to coach at his alma mater, would that have made him any less of an offensive master? No, but the Evil Genius never would have had the chance to prove it on the big stage, with a regional and national audience paying attention. And, no, it’s not like he’s forgotten how to coach since he’s been in Columbia; he’s had his share of upset wins over Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, but he doesn’t have the same level of talent he had in Gainesville.

Or, if you prefer a non-Gator example, what if Bear Bryant had stayed at Kentucky? Does anyone really believe that Bear would have won as many SEC and national polling championships in Lexington as he did in Tuscaloosa?

So, the point is, Tony is correct in saying that winning national championships is not the only measure of a great coach. Problem is, you can’t objectively measure a coach’s ability to maximize the potential of his players through good coaching. If you could, we might discover that someone like Erk Russell was a far greater coach than Urban Meyer, Dooley, the Bear, the General, the Evil Genius, and anyone else you care to name.

Are you kidding?

July 31st, 2009
10:00 am

CharlotteGator’s “Real SEC country” comment…why would NC be SEC country at all? There are no SEC schools in the state.

BILLY JACK

July 31st, 2009
10:03 am

Great article Tony-it takes many intagibles to win the national championship in its current format.Mark Richt is in his 9th year and will win multiple national championships before his 30 plus years is over.We UGA alumni need to appreciate what we have and to remember that we could be Notre Dame who barely goes to a bowl anymore,which is hard to do being they are about 15 more bowls than they should be.We could be Georgia Tech who beats its in state rival 2 or 3 times a century.It was not long ago people said Mack Brown could not win the big game.Mark Richt will rival even the great Bear Bryants SEC record before he retires.Tim Tebow will graduate this year and gator fans time for honoring themselves will soon come to an end.

Are you kidding?

July 31st, 2009
10:04 am

Why do some of you think NC will recieve a stomping from LSU? Will have a fouth year starter at QB, RB, and almost an entire defense full of high level recruits who have been playing since being true freshman. I think UNC on the rise will match up well against LSU which is obviously in decline slowly but surely under Miles.

greatpacho

July 31st, 2009
10:05 am

Tony, great article. I’m a sucker for historic college football writing especially regarding the near misses and woulda shoulda coulda’s. Its clear that fate has not been kind to the Georgia Bulldogs over the last 25 years. Ever since “Run Lindsay Run” and the 1980 National Championship the Dawgs haven’t caught a break. But like anything you have to keep coming back every year. If Richt is as good a coach as you think (and I don’t doubt that he is) the dawgs will have several chances over the next few years to finally win that NC. Just look at Florida, for years the gators couldn’t seem to get off the mat and take advantage of their talent but lately everything has broken for the Gators. Maybe its the water down here… but then again we get our water from georgia. Hey keep up the good work and GO GATORS!!

Otto

July 31st, 2009
10:06 am

CMR can’t reach that level? He came very close in ‘02 and ‘07 as Tony points it takes just 1 break.

For the fan that thought Tubby was let go to soon, as Franklin interviews pointed out the coach staff was very fragmented. I have family in the athletic department and there was an inner circle with in fighting. It was a partnership that was always nicer on the surface than it really was. I do hope Tubby gets back in coaching if he wants but Auburn was not the place.

Coach Chizik has potential. Johnny Majors record at Iowa St. wasn’t much better. The coaches are a unified staff now which Tubby had not enjoyed in years. Auburn has hired some good assistant. I look for them to have the best record of the teams with new coaches.

Are you kidding?

July 31st, 2009
10:08 am

Glad to see there are some objective fans on here capable of providing great insight and independent thought. Good post Billy Jack! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Joe M

July 31st, 2009
10:08 am

Huh,

Obviously you cannot hold a discussion w/o becoming juvenile, which is unfortunate for you.

Simply put, in the past four years there have been five blowouts under Richt (not sure where you got four but it doesn’t really matter, because you only had two to start with anyway). Just going with your four, that is 1 per year over a four year period and therefore it has become a trend.

Hopefully it stops this year along with the trend of losing to a team Georgia is clearly better than.

Mike

July 31st, 2009
10:10 am

WOW…..Tony, I can finally agree with you! Nice article. I will say this- USC and OK started 1 and 2 and did not lose so they stayed Number 1 and 2. Wonder why????? UGA starts number 1 and wins their opener by 3 TDs and drops in polls.. Did USC and OU win all their games by more than 3 TDs???Again- media has too much influence on polls

GWJ

July 31st, 2009
10:10 am

Tony, you are correct.

Bama Aaron

July 31st, 2009
10:13 am

Well done Barnhart. While I enjoy reading your blogs I’ll admit I probably disagree with you 7 out of 10 times. But you nailed this one. Conference titles should be the main judge of a coaches ability. Too many silly things like polls involved in the National title. IMO it will be a joke of a system until they find a way to do away with the polls altogether or at least don’t make them until the 1st week of October when you might realistically be able to tell which teams deserve to be in the top 25.

GatorGreg

July 31st, 2009
10:20 am

Tony,

You are 100% correct that getting into the BCS championship game takes luck. BUT – you will eventually have good luck if you consistently put yourself in position to get it.

I believe what makes a GREAT (not good, which is what I Richt is) coach is:

1. Consistently in the BCS championship conversation.
2. Win it when you are lucky enough to be in it.

Using this measure, Richt has been on the cusp of greatness, but hasn’t reached it yet.

Bear in mind that I really like Richt as a person. But I agree with what someone else said – he just might be too nice to be a great coach. If I’m looking for a best friend, it’s going to be someone like Mark Richt. If I’m looking for a great coach (or field general, or stockbroker, or whatever), it’s going to be someone like Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer.

charles

July 31st, 2009
10:21 am

The truth is that there has never been a NC in D1 college football. Everyone should just admit this and go to an 8 team playoff.Some of the NC’s that some schools claim are comical.

chazzo

July 31st, 2009
10:22 am

Miles

July 31st, 2009
10:30 am

Mr. Barnhart, you’re right. A coach should not ultimately be judged by the number of national championships he won. This seems pretty simple to me.

Tom

July 31st, 2009
10:31 am

Great players and luck make good coaches GREAT coaches and you can’t win the Ky Derby with a mule and some good coaches only have mules. Look at your team to see how many mules you have the decide where you will finish.

Cameron

July 31st, 2009
10:40 am

You are 100% correct. Any educated fan would agree.

JB

July 31st, 2009
10:44 am

Tom Osborne, Mack Brown,the guy who used to coach the cowboys with the nice hat and suit.
all soft spoken, all gentlemen, all produced championships. Read in SI’s preview mag last night that outside of Florida, Georgia produces the best high talent and the second most numbers in the SE…….that being said, it’s only a matter of time when the right chemistry of studs will hit Athens all at once and we’ll get there.

Long Dawg

July 31st, 2009
10:46 am

Tony, I think you nailed it. There are a lot of great coaches in college football and while winning and losing is the ultimate measure of success there are usually several teams at the end of the year that deserve to play in the NC game. That is why we need a playoff system.

As to the question of Mark Richt’s ability to win a NC. I believe he will and I believe it will happen in the next 4 years.

Huh?

July 31st, 2009
10:48 am

Joe M, I’m not sure where you got 5 blowouts in 4 years. That simply isn’t true. You’re probably a Techie that thinks your 3 point win last year was a blowout.

Juvenile? Maybe, but I’m just keeping the audience in mind.

Trade School Junkie

July 31st, 2009
10:48 am

WOW. Well its really hard to top this gem from, “Mr. College Football.”

He actually accomplishes two HUGE things at once.

There is just SOOOOOOOOO much written between the lines its hard to know where to begin.

If you read between the lines (obvious to a non-SEC fan) you can EASILY see Barnhart “talking down” UGA fan expectations about his season and CMR specifically. This has all of the “please dont throw CMR under the bus” smell to it. Tony, tell that story to all the UGA fans that ponied up $10,000 last year for rights to tix, and to the BIG MONEY crowd that have dropped down SERIOUS money for their dawgs. How do you think THEY’LL feel about your sentiment?

What ol’ Mr. College Football is trying to say is that the dawgs are headed for a bad season(8-4 at best, maybe even 7-5), starting with what will be a beatdown by OKST and ending with, YES, a loss to GT. Mark Bradley said the same thing 4 weeks ago. You heard it from MB first.

Second, with all the BS that TB just wrote about the clusterf**** that is the BCS, did he not just make a CONVINCING CASE for a LEGITIMATE PLAYOFF SYSTEM. Why is it that D1 canbring itself to a LEGITIMATE PLAYOFF system like D2, D3, etc. etc. etc.

Folks, TB…”says”…he wants a playoff system. He doesnt. Not a playoff system in a true form, but some convoluted, BCS manipulated, conference-biased, pre-determined outcome-type playoff.

Hell, you could even call it “Outcome-based Football.”

So much for integrity from…(ahem, choke) Mr. College Football.

Charles

July 31st, 2009
10:52 am

Joe M…Meyer has lost one game in each of his two title seasons. Does that make him too nice? Yours is an asanine, irrelevant point.

Winning the national title is about being both very good and lucky.

Tony’s point is well-taken, though he’s wrong in saying LSU proved it was the best team at the end of 07. Georgia was. Georgia’s had two national championship caliber teams in 02 and 07. The cards are going to fall the right way for Richt soon enough.

Ray Goff

July 31st, 2009
10:59 am

Barnhart, you dont know what the hell you’re talking about.

Jim Donnan

July 31st, 2009
11:00 am

Agreed.

Barnhart, you dont know what the hell you’re talking about.

David Cutcliffe

July 31st, 2009
11:00 am

Forrest Gump

July 31st, 2009
11:01 am

Chance certainly plays a role in winning a NC, but the more successful the team, the better the chances. Richt’s win record has never matched the talent that he recruits year after year. He is certainly near the top in players who go to the NFL. But behavior issues have always characterized Richt’s teams. If you encourage end-zone dances and “black outs” as game-winning strategies, you are not a very good coach.

Tommy Tuberville

July 31st, 2009
11:01 am

Ron Zook

July 31st, 2009
11:01 am

F******ing A !!

Mike Shula

July 31st, 2009
11:02 am

Right on, Zook.

Barnhart, you dont know crap.

Otto

July 31st, 2009
11:02 am

Trade School Junkie, It is obvious you love to hate and really only know what you see on SportsCenter.

Lou Holtz

July 31st, 2009
11:03 am

I just wanna say….zzzy8tFH 8EVBN27CB GRF2Y9 1

Excuses

July 31st, 2009
11:04 am

Just making excuses for Richt not winning. Hell he can’t even get to the game. Sorry but when you have the classes he gets, the preseason #1 ranking, the top qb in the draft taken, best running back etc you should be able to make it to the big game. Keep making excuses trying to put the blinders over the uga fans faces. They aren’t falling for it. With what Richt has, he’s underachieved here. Let’s see how this year plays out.

Otto

July 31st, 2009
11:04 am

How many SEC title do the coaches above comine for? 1?

Lou Holtz

July 31st, 2009
11:04 am

I jushhhhh wanna shhhaaayyy

…..zzzz…zzzz…blah blah blah

fjwifwofi9r38er3uh4t0-g0egj92rfhhubfgwr

Houston Nutt

July 31st, 2009
11:06 am

Barnhart, WTH ????????????????????

Hel-LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW !!

greatpacho

July 31st, 2009
11:08 am

Trade School Junkie,

Sure Barnhardt is talking down the rabid members of the dawg-pound but hey who wouldn’t. Any follower of SEC football knows that it doesn’t take long for a shining star to become an outcast ala Tubervillle, Fulmer, etc. and then you end up with lane kiffin or worse.

Personally, I think the dawgs are gonna surprise some people this year. In football, as in life, there is nothing more powerful than having something to prove. and georgia has recruited lights out for a while now. so even though they lost Knowshon and Stafford they are still loaded with talent, albeit unknown talent. Oklahoma State is in the exact opposite situation, they still have their headliners but have certainly lost some critical seniors from last year’s team. The matchup in week one between these two teams will be illuminating for the Georgia fan base this year. Either the Dawgs are in for a long year or they are gonna be a surprising upstart.

I just hope my Gators come ready to play against UGA because I’m d@mn sure the dawgs aren’t gonna roll over
GO GATORS

G8R GRAD

July 31st, 2009
11:12 am

One of your best installments to date, Tony.

Yet, I have to echo Atlanta Gator’s point:

Coach Russel was a GREAT coach.

G8R GRAD

July 31st, 2009
11:13 am

One of your best installments to date, Tony.
Sorry.

AND I have to echo Atlanta Gator’s point:

Sly Croom

July 31st, 2009
11:13 am

Uh-huh.

Tell that to MY boosters !!

GatorGreg

July 31st, 2009
11:14 am

Who was it that said,

“The only people who say that it isn’t whether you win or lose are the losers!”

G8R GRAD

July 31st, 2009
11:15 am

Sorry.

AND I have to echo Atlanta Gator’s point:

Matt

July 31st, 2009
11:15 am

Tony, the fact is that if you were a UF hack instead of a UGA hack, you’d be saying the exact opposite. The people down in Florida and over in Louisiana all agree that it’s the BCS championship that carries all the weight. The only reason you’re making this absurd argument is because Richt hasn’t (and won’t ever) win the BCS because UGA is a second rate program in the SEC – not on the level of LSU, UF, or Bama.

Trade School Junkie

July 31st, 2009
11:20 am

Pacho:

How much does a fan have to put down to be “a rabid fan?”

$10,000…$20,000…$100,000

Tell it the BIG MONEY boosters.

This Barnhart piece was written to pour water on the flames Paul Finebaum lighted in his artcile about CMR being on the “hotseat,”
and, again…to start lowering EXPECTATIONS.

Link: http://www.al.com/sports/press-register/pfinebaum.ssf?/base/sports/124816778464890.xml&coll=3

Brad

July 31st, 2009
11:25 am

This whole luck crap sounds just like our politicians in washington. the ones that say you’re poor because your unlucky. Or they are rich because they got lucky. Ugh. You achieve greatness by hard work. Something UGA has underachieved at. Getting blown out by bama and fla last year and by fla several times this decade is not greatness. It’s called being 3rd or 4th best in your conference. Which is what ga is. Saying it’s luck is disgusting. Keep making excuses Tony. You should move to Washington. you’d fit right in there.

Rational Citizen

July 31st, 2009
11:33 am

I’m here once again to encourage everyone to consider the benefits of the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana. At a time when our local and state governments are struggling with shrinking tax bases, we can create jobs and stimulate our local economies by bringing a reliable source of revenue out of the darkness and into the light. This is a multi-billion dollar market for a substance that is, by every measure, less harmful to society and to individuals than tobacco or alcohol.

By not legalizing marijuana, America is essentially ceding a huge market to organized crime. It didn’t work during Prohibition, and it’s failed miserably when it comes to marijuana. By treating marijuana the same as alcohol, where we place restrictions on its purchase and use, we can responsibly address the issue while simultaneously creating a reliable source revenue for Americans.

Let’s create jobs here in America. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, this an issue we should all care about. Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them it’s time we start looking out for the best interests of Americans.

Legalization, Regulation, TAXATION.