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.


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277 comments Add your comment


July 31st, 2009
2:41 pm

Long Dawg -the only thing long on you is you series of infantile posts. Every Single One!


July 31st, 2009
2:43 pm

EW should be EEWWWHHH! Prestige? The fleabags? You’d better get off that stuff, boy. It’s gonna kill you. Already destroyed your brain.


July 31st, 2009
2:51 pm

Billboards promoting your football program in neighboring states is a sure way to be eliminated from this great coaches conversation. Does Kiffen have NO shame?

Allen Waters

July 31st, 2009
3:01 pm

Excellent article. Give COLLEGE FOOTBALL the same as all other sports. Playoff like the former 1AA! There is no dispute when the Champion makes it through the system. Georgia would have beaten any team in 2007 and maybe even 2002. It is just a matter of time and thanks to the Richt family for re-establishing GEORGIA football! UGA fan in India.

Trade School Junkie

July 31st, 2009
3:02 pm

Before CPJ, last truly great GT coach was Bobby Ross (’87-’91)

1988: 3-8
1989: 7-4
1990: 11-0-1 (Beat 9-3 Nebraska for NC)
1991: 8-5

Trade School Junkie

July 31st, 2009
3:08 pm

Just think how great football season would be if we some kind legitimiate D1 playoff system.

Imagine the excitement of March Madness or Fantasy Football…applied to college football.

It would be some of the greatest football games…EVER.

North Avenue Dude

July 31st, 2009
3:24 pm

GT 1990:
10-0-1 before beating a (9-2) Nebraska (who loss to Colorado 27-12)

Colorado 1990:
Colorado was 9-1-1 before beating Notre Dame
(23-22 loss to Illinois, 31-31 ties with Tennessee, and the infamous 5th down 33-31 win vs. Missouri)

Notre Dame 1990:
Notre Dame 9-2 before “bogus” loss to Colorado
(36-31 loss to Stanford and 24-21 loss to Penn State)


July 31st, 2009
3:24 pm

was Tom Osborne not a good coach at Nebraska? Took him 21 years to win a national title. but during the time leading up to the title years in 94,95 and 97 he did some pretty amazing things.
Top 15 in the polls 24 out of 25 years, 13 conference titles.
did he not win National titles in the previous years before the championship years because he was too nice? no. was it because his teams lacked talent? NO..his championship years his teams had to go undefeated. I’m not taking anything away from Florida or LSU’s championships over the last few years. But neither have had undefeated seasons to get their championships and have had to rely on some other teams to do the dirty work for them to get there. UGA could have just as easily backed into a title in 2007 if say either Vandy or Kentucky’s kicker could kick a last second field goal agains UT….

Richt will have his some point, but I’m not judging him by that right now.

Jim morrison

July 31st, 2009
3:27 pm

Keep dreaming Nashvill4UGA!

I do not see UGA ever winning another NC.

Enough Said!


July 31st, 2009
3:36 pm

Joe M: every team these days has a chance to lose a game they maybe should not lose (really, should UF have lost to Ole Miss last year or Auburn the year before that at home?).

Short Memory

July 31st, 2009
3:43 pm

Allen Waters,

“Georgia would have beaten any team in 2007 and maybe even 2002.”

Yeah, well, except for UT and USCe in 2007 and UF in 2002. Nice try though. Give it a rest.


July 31st, 2009
3:44 pm

there are only 2 teams that care about the BCS title game, the other 118 teams and there fans could care less

Long Dawg

July 31st, 2009
3:48 pm

Tha man, the truth hurts doesn’t it. Fact are facts even if you don’t want to believe it. Ga Ownes Tech and the program is superior in every way and will reassert itself this november and i hope you are there to witness it. If you are man enough to watch


July 31st, 2009
3:52 pm

Many want to call Vince Dooley a GREAT coach. He coaches 24 seasons and finished RANKED 11 times, or 45%. He did manage to get the 1 NC in 1980 with a great team and a lot of luck. (and 34 of course). But to finsich ranked 45% of the time… Id say is a good coach.

CMR has coached 8 seasons and renked 8 times at the final pole. 100% Average ranking 10.87 over 8 seasons.

VD had more years and did get the one NC in 24 trys, but given the first 8 seasons of CMR I would say he is probably the “greater” of the two.

Tide Rising

July 31st, 2009
3:53 pm


Like you I don’t agree with any posters bashing UGA either by way of using Bama as an example of elite status after just one great season. But I think that you are dead wrong when you confer “elite” status on LSU in the west over Alabama.

Bama has always been the dominant team in the west and the only time we’ve not been dominant was for 5 years of probation in the 2000s when we were playing with 21 fewer scholarship players than everyone else. The bottom line is that when we are at full strength we own the west.

I’ve got nothing against LSU but this is a program that we have so thoroughly dominated historically that we lead the head to head series something like 46-25 and at one point we had a 19 game unbeaten streak in their so called “death valley” until a guy named Saban finally beat us there in 2004. Now we are at full strength and we’ve also have back to back no. 1 rated recruiting classes the last 2 years. The 2010 recruiting class currently ranks 2nd in the nation and I think its safe to say we are back to sitting atop our usual throne in the west.

Also, one thing you fail to mention is that Miles did a lot of winning with all those top ranked recruiting classes that Saban built at LSU with no. 1 classes in 2003 as well as 20004 and that Miles won the 2007 national title with that incredible senior class that was all Saban’s seniors.

Now that the last of Saban’s great players are gone we saw what Miles did last year. 7-5 with only 3 conference wins. I wonder if you noticed that. LSU people certainly did. They admired Saban and still loved him when he went to the Dolphins. Its only when he came back to Bama that they developed such a vitriolic hatred of the man. Its actually more fear than hate though. They saw what he did at LSU (a pathetic 8 losing seasons in 11 years before he got there) and now they see what he’s building at Alabama. That is why they’re scared and that is why even they know that Alabama and not LSU will be the elite team in the west. .


July 31st, 2009
3:57 pm

And ceo’s should not be judged on revenue and earnings. Managers should not be judged on performance and achievements. Pilots and train operators should not be judged on crashes because of texting. Chefs should not be judged how clean they are. Same with restaurants.

Yep sure makes sense to me Tony.

Tide Rising

July 31st, 2009
3:59 pm


One other thing. I noticed you also have us rated as being behind Tennessee and Auburn in your own personal ratings system. While I respect both Auburn and UT as solid big time programs I don’t think you’ll find two many objective people that have them rated ahead of us right now while they are both in rebuilding, transitional stages. They both have also slipped substantially the last couple years in terms of recruiting relative to not just Bama but the other top tier teams in the SEC.

Long Dawg

July 31st, 2009
4:20 pm

Jim Morrison, well if you predict it then it must be so.. What you really meant to say was I hope Georgia never wins another NC because I am a Tech fan and my inferiority complex is already big enough.


July 31st, 2009
4:58 pm

When a school pays an individual 2 million dollars and up to coach a football program, in UGA’s particular case 2.9 million, the fans who shell out extortion-type sums for the “privelege” of buying season tickets have every right to demand repayment in kind with championdhips or at least possibilities thereof—whether SEC or National. Is the team going to win one every year? Hell no. But the fans ought to have the benefit of having a “serious” contender every year, especially if the school considers itself to be a “big time” program, as UGA fancies itself to be. At the very least, if a program has glaring deficiencies that need to be corrected for it to become a perenial contender, which area apparent for all to see, then the coach owes the fans the effort to attempt to correct them. Georgia fans deserve no less. Based on my observation of Mark Richt for 8 years, the GA fans do not appear to me to be getting their money’s worth.

Beware of the junkyard dawg

July 31st, 2009
5:12 pm

Nice read Mr. Cfb..totally agree. The ‘02 and ‘07 dawgs just didn’t get the breaks the gators hve gotten with their 2 national titles. I think the gators karma will end when tebow leaves. I mean, no program just can continue to have that kind of good fortune forever. Richt will get his national title soon…hey tony, I am real excited bout ur new show starting sept 8th. Keep up the good work with giving us the inside skinny..go dawgs and thank goodness the season is right around the corner..

Reality Check

July 31st, 2009
5:15 pm

Great article, Tony. How dare we football fans have to think about things like coaching with reason and prudence.


July 31st, 2009
5:28 pm

Too much money and ego at stake to have a level judgement call. The ACC hates having Wake win the conference championship, no fans no money. If there was a vote involved instead of actually playing the human weakness would prevail and loopholes would make Clemson or UNC or one of the higher paying schools the champion most every year yet the Wake coach would still be considered the best coach pound for pound in the ACC ,with CPJ a close second, who has never even won one on the field to this date in time.

Tony Barnhart

July 31st, 2009
6:28 pm

There seems to be a number of people here who have either missed my point or don’t care to acknowledge it. Which is fine.

But let’s be clear about the issue I raised. I never said that coaches who make a lot of money should not be held accountable. The question I raised was: What is the most accurate standard that should be used to hold them accountable?

It is the ability to finish in the Top 2 and get to the BCS championship game? Or is it winning or consistently competing for your conference championship. I happen to believe that competing for the conference championship on a consistent basis is a more accurate barometer because there are too many variables to finishing in the Top two.

Others disagree and I respect that.

Have a good weekend.



July 31st, 2009
6:32 pm

Is Mark Right a great coach? Ask me ten years from now. Great is tossed around so often these days that the term has been cheapened. Great comes from one’s total body of work, certainly one game does not define a coache’s career. I will say Richt is an excellent coach in all facets of the job. Academics have improved to the point that UGA is tied with Penn State in APR ratings. UGA is also in the top five in net profit for there football program. Those who complain about Richt’s income should be aware that he ranks in the middle of the pack in the SEC. UGA has a bargain!

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
6:42 pm

Tony—-That’s almost a sassy response based on your usual measured tones. Good to see there’s still some life left in the old, uh . . . dawg. Way to bite back.

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
6:44 pm

shane#1—-Be careful of whose so-called college football “profits” you are quoting, old buddy.

Source: Sports Business Journal
All figures for 2007-2008 and based on school disclosures required by federal Equity Athletics Disclosure Act . . .

Top 10 College Football Programs by Revenue:

(1) University of Texas – $72.95 million

(2) University of Georgia – $67.05 million

(3) University of Florida – $66.1 million

(4) Ohio State University – $65.16 million

(5) Notre Dame University – $59.77 million

(6) Auburn University – $59.67 million

(7) University of Michigan – $ 57.46 million

(8) University of Alabama – $57.37 million

(9) Penn State University – 53.76 million

(10) Louisiana State University – 10th with $52.68 million

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
6:44 pm

Top 10 College Sports Program by Revenue
(including football and all other revenue sources):

(1) Texas – $120.28 million

(2) Ohio State – $117.95 million

(3) Florida – $106.03 million

(4) University of Michigan – $99 million

(5) University of Wisconsin – $93.5 million

(6) Pennsylvania State University – $91.6 million

(7) Auburn – $89.31 million

(8) Alabama – $88.87 million

(9) University of Tennessee – $88.72 million

(10) Oklahoma State University – $88.6 million

(12) LSU – $84.18 million

(13) Georgia – $84.02 million


July 31st, 2009
6:57 pm

I suppose most people would consider Bo Schembechler a better coach than Larry Coker,so Barnhart has a point.


July 31st, 2009
6:58 pm

of course no gator will say they will win the SEC because an injured tebow will translate into a disaster!!
Georgia is not getting much respect from the media, but I know they are better team than Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma state and OhioState who all will be ranked higher and of course better than the delusional yellow bugs, and if georgia can fix their D and we saw against Mich State the D was phenomenal, Georgia could have a special year.


July 31st, 2009
7:01 pm

Tide Rising: My ranking system was for this decade only. If it were an overall ranking system, you can believe that Bama would be above LSU (and Florida for that matter). This decade though LSU is an Elite program and top dog in the SEC West, while Bama (for whatever reason or excuse) is not. Not even you can deny that. Also, that would explain why both Auburn and Tennessee are ahead of Bama in the ranking. Tennessee has the national championship in the BCS era (1998) and before the 2005 season they were always in contention for titles. Auburn has the undefeated season and a string of solid years. Bama has been on probation.

I fail to mention anything about “playing” with Saban’s recruits because it is a horrible argument on your part. Les Miles’ still had to coach. From Jan. 05 onward, Saban has had NOTHING to do with LSU. Sure, he is a great recruiter but Les has proven over the past 4 years that he too is a great recruiter. His class last year was ranked #1 and right now Rivals has LSU ranked #2. His classes before that have all been very impressive and ranked top 10-12. LSU is going to be sticking around for a while, count on it. LSU fans are not afraid or jealous of Bama or Saban. Sure there are still some hurt fans but for the most part, LSU fans are over Saban (at least should be at this point). You’ll understand in a few years when he leaves to go elsewhere. My only hope though is that he comes back to coach at Auburn so you guys know just how it feels.

Last year was a fluke for LSU. The problems last year can be traced back to 2 decisions Miles made before the start of the season. Both are well documented and both have been fixed or are being fixed. With Chevis as the D coordinator and JJ looking really good at QB, LSU is set up really well for the next 3-5 years.

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
7:03 pm

TheItalianDawg—-Tebow is unique. Brantley will be a fine replacement, but he has not proven himself in a big game yet. Tebow has. It’s rare that any back-up can more than fully replace the starter on less than a week’s notice. The starter gets twice as many practice reps, he’s usually more experienced, and there are usually other intangible reasons why the starter is the starter and not the back-up (like the starter has proven himself in a quarterback controversy).

So, no, I really don’t want to see Tebow get injured this year, even if I really believe that Brantley will a very good QB in 2010.


July 31st, 2009
7:07 pm

but Georgia is ranked # 2 and first in the SEC in football revenues, our basketball program was a disaster the past few years

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
7:08 pm

TheItalianDawg—-Yeah. I’m not sure I understand your point.


July 31st, 2009
7:11 pm

Why not be like bama and just make up championships, the lie had worked for them . Just keep lying and the uneducated in Alabama will grow up thinking it is true .

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
7:12 pm

TheItalianDawg—-Was that an analogy of an injured Tebow = UGA basketball program since Harrick left??

I’ll take the injured Tebow. LOL


July 31st, 2009
7:20 pm

Atlanta Gator, as mush as I admire your D and special teams, I don’t think you can beat Georgia or LSU or FSU without Tebow but I think Florida will beat Tennessee and south Carolina without him. However I want to be clear that I don’t wish any harm to Tebow and I hope he will be injury free all season because its joyless beating you without your star QB

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
7:29 pm

TheItalianDawg—-You ignored my Harrick joke. C’mon. I was only teasin’.

As good as I expect the Gator D to be (emphasis on “expect”), you can’t win unless you score more points than the other guys. With a healthy Tebow in the game, the Gators will score more points—-and more points when they really matter (see the 2008 SEC Championship Game, 3rd and 4th quarters).

Frankly, I would rather lose with Tebow than lose with a back-up. The kid has earned the right to lead his team, even when he’s less than 100%. Playing injured, at some level, is part of the game.


July 31st, 2009
7:48 pm

not at all! your joke is quite painful but funny…

old Tech fan in NC

July 31st, 2009
8:40 pm

Charlotte dog and gator, sorry you guys hate it here in ACC country…I love it and hope to see you two football guys at the BOA stadium for the ACC champ game…where football is played outside…as it was intended!


July 31st, 2009
8:49 pm

Atlanta Gator and ItalianDawg, good posts guys. To get back to the question at hand, how many of Ya’ll consider Bo Schembechler a great coach? How many NC teams did ol’ Bo coach? In my book Bo was one of the best, but feel free to disagree.


July 31st, 2009
9:01 pm

Mark Richt should be judged by his TAN, not his national championships

joe taxpayer

July 31st, 2009
9:10 pm

At almost 3 million a year I want MNC not just SEC titles. Go sell insurance if its unfair and unreal expections.


July 31st, 2009
10:05 pm

college football is fun–real life is world cup, super bowl, march madness..i love you cuddly dawg fans, while i was studying how to make (sucess) & wishing i was smart enuf, or rich enuf, to be ivy (they don’t feel lesser becuz of sports, & neither do we) ya’ll were just happy at parties & games–REALITY is that there is no 1st. div, football CHAMPION, just look in their BOOK, there is no PLAY-OFF!unless the trooper does not like my sticker, i don’t care wut u tink

David Granger

July 31st, 2009
10:22 pm

You’re certainly right about not judging a coach based on NC’s, Tony. But with the talent we had last year, there is no way in hell we should have just barely beaten Kentucky and LOST to Georgia Tech. I do think that Paul Johnson is a fine coach, and will win about as much as anyone can at Tech…and I know that most of our talent last year was “skill position” talent, and we were thin on the lines. But last year’s team did NOT achieve what it should have. (And even worse…we finished the season on the way down, unlike the year before.)
I like Coach Richt, but I’m beginning to wonder. He’s an Eisenhower type…good administrator who can build a team….but not a Patton, who can take it and wring the best out of it.

John Rocker rules

July 31st, 2009
10:24 pm

Rich Brooks & Mark Richt have the same number of National Championships… 0.0


July 31st, 2009
10:37 pm

I agree with the premise that you don’t judge a coach by Playing/Winning a National Championship. However, I get tired of hearing so many head coaches (when they arrive at a new school) say they are there to win a national championship. If you’re a coach and you know you’ll never be there, why not just say that. Say you’ll put a good team on the field every year and play in quality bowls. That’s what most fans want anyway.

Braves Fan

July 31st, 2009
10:46 pm

I agree, Les Miles wins a championship with two losses and Tuberville goes 13-0 and gets screwed

Atlanta Gator

July 31st, 2009
11:10 pm

Braves Fan—-As one of my classmates used to say, “In order to get the highest grade, you don’t need to get all of the points. You just need to get more points than anyone else.”

Think about it. It’s all relative to the competition in any given year.


August 1st, 2009
2:35 am

I’m sorry, but I disagree. Only fans of a team where their head coach hasn’t won a title say this. I agree that NC’s alone don’t make a coach, but like the poster said above, NC”s do count and add to a legacy. You can’t tell me that only Tressell, Meyer, Miles, Stoops, Carrol and few others have luck because their teams are always in the NC mix. UGA is not. Am I supposed to believe that if UF wins a title this year, Meyer is lucky 60% of the time while Ricth hasn’t been lucky in 9 seasons? C’mon….Does it take some luck to win a NC? Ofcourse, however, “luck is when preparation meets oppurtunity”…great quote by the way….back to the point. It takes some coaching too…it isn’t “JUST” luck


August 1st, 2009
2:45 am

beware, why do you feel that UF’s “fortune will end” when Tebow leaves? All I hear from dog fans is that Tebow isn’t that good, is just a product of the system, etc. etc…If that is the case, shouldn’t it be easy to replace him? Also, didn’t Meyer win a NC with CHRIS LEAK???????

and to finish it off, only 3 starters on Defense in 09 will be seniors and only 3 starters on offense are seniors in 09, so depending on which juniors leave, UF could have 16 starters returning in 2010. UF is loaded and young so they will not just fall off like you are hoping for. Now, there are about 2 juniors that I expect to leave early, but who knows….Regardless, UF’s “run” won’t end…they will still be a very good team beyond Tebow….As a matter of fact, you will get to see a little of the “future” in the games this year. John Brantley will be in games early according to Meyer and is a much better “passer” than Tebow…