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


August 1st, 2009
2:55 am

Saint Mobile….wtf is 41-30? If you are referring to the 07 game btwn UF and UGA, know your football, follow your team better, and get the score right. If it isn’t, Sorry, but if it is…see above and don’t talk crap about a game in 07 when you got your brains beat in in 08 which is more recent! That is weak


August 1st, 2009
3:00 am

PLAYOFF, PLAYOFF, PLAYOFF…….!!!!!!!!!!! History will sort out the great coaches, the good coaches and the bad coaches. Not based on NC’s, but overall winning percentages! In this, I don’t think that it’s fair to judge someone over that which they cannot control. CMR, should prove to be a great coach (already off to a great legendary status at uga) and I believe that CPJ will prove to be worthy of ‘great’ status in time (He’s done much with little so far and has a history of creating a winning tradition where ever he coaches). The system in college football has been inefficient since the beginning and I’m amazed that we can’t come up with a playoff system….works for EVERY other sport…. With the BCS, too many teams are disqualified by preseason rankings….would’ve been nice to see a playoff in those years that ended with mulitple undefeated teams! GO TECH!!!

Dawg of Dawgs

August 1st, 2009
3:37 am

No matter how many times certain GT fans cite 45-42, winning one game in 8 years is not competitive. You have to do better than that!!


August 1st, 2009
6:21 am

Dawg of Dawgs, winning one game is not competitive…it’s victory! At least this PAST season… GO TECH!!!


August 1st, 2009
8:41 am

I agree, but also disagree. If you are in the SEC, and you run the table, you should be playing in the NC game. We all know the SEC is the best conference in the country. With that being said, if MR had beaten UF a couple of those yrs. where he was supposed to, then UGA would have played for a NC. Plain and simple point is he needs to turn it around against the Mighty Gators, or wish for a lot of luck!!


August 1st, 2009
9:09 am

Great article Tony. I agree. The BCS Championship is a craps shoot. If UCLA doesn’t pull a big upset over USC in 2006 Florida doesn’t get a shot at that one. In 2007 Boston College upsets West Virginia and LSU gets in with two losses. In 02 and 07 UGA missed by a hair being in the big game. O4 showed the need for a playoff. As much love as they get, neither LSU or Florida has won the BCS with an undefeated season while Auburn gets shut out of the title game doing just that.


August 1st, 2009
9:20 am

Atlanta Gator, I hope you check this blog again, hey it’s Saturday morning and it’s raining. Anyway, I don’t understand your reply to my earlier post. I stated that Richt and company had kept UGA in the top 5 nationally in net profits in their football program. You posted stats showing UGA at number 2 in football revenues. That seems to prove my point. I have been accused of being a Richt apologist by some UGA fans, but I don’t think Richt can be blamed for the fact that UGA b-ball sucks. On a lighter note, it seems that UH coach McMackin has found an explanation for the decline of the once proud Notre Dame football team. According to him, the Irish would be better suited as interior decorators. I can’t wait for the You Tube video of Tenuta’s reaction when his linebackers show up in ballet slippers. Coach McMackin should take a hint from CMR and be more circumspect when addressing the media. Hey coach, if I had a mascot that LOOKED like one of the Village People and my team did a line dance before every game I wouldn’t be cracking wise about anyone else.


August 1st, 2009
9:24 am

As you can tell by my name, I am a Gator, not a Dawg. You nailed it in your column. Until there is a real playoff, getting a shot a a national title is all about timing, luck, etc. And by the way “ST.Simons” needs to get a life. Mark Richt is a great person and a very good coach!


August 1st, 2009
9:51 am

Very good article. Until there is a playoff, all I really care about is the SEC title. The rest is just a dog and pony show.

Atlanta Gator

August 1st, 2009
10:19 am

shane#1—-The University of Georgia’s high football revenue totals are not surprising. The program has won two SEC championships under Richt, and has been consistently competitive. The other contributing factor is the near-fanatical fanbase—-someone is paying for those football tickets.

What was surprising to me, given that UGA was second in football revenue, was that five other SEC were ahead of UGA in total revenue. UGA has consistently had the second-best overall sports program in the SEC over the past 20 years. My guess is the big difference is the present state of the Dawgs basketball program has really impacted the overall revenue picture. I would love to see a breakout of SEC sports revenues done by individual sports. On one of the AJC recruiting blogs, a female Tennessee fan said that Forbes had published such a list, but I can’t find it and she never answered my request for a weblink.

Long Dawg

August 1st, 2009
10:38 am

Chompin, Tony did not say winning the NC was luck nit wit. Can’t you read? That was not his point at all. Now trim your mullet and patch your jorts and wash that double wide.


August 1st, 2009
10:48 am

Atlanta Gator, when womens gymnastics is second to football in generating revenue I would say a major sports university has a problem in their basketball program. No disrespect meant to the Gymdogs, of whom i am very proud.


August 1st, 2009
10:53 am

How many national championships did Bobby Dodd win? None

Boy he was a crappy coach, wasn’t he?

How many years did Tom Osborn and Joe Paterno coach before they won one?

They were almost crappy coaches, weren’t they?

The negative posters here are the real losers.


August 1st, 2009
10:56 am

DENVER Dog you must be ignorent of the facts. In 1990 the bowl committes pick who to invite to the bowls. Tech would have ran all over the cheating Colorado teams. No doubt about it!!!

Ga Mountain Boy

August 1st, 2009
12:59 pm

I think our Bulldogs have received more favorable press than most teams in the South since Richt arrived. The AJC writers keep pumping out articles that ring conference and national championships when it is not there. The recruiting is overrated and Athens is the Ga. working mans choice to succeed yearly. It sells newspapers, tickets, and souvenirs.
It is difficult to win a National Championship (there is only one big one) but the expectations have been created by the AJC writers in preseason for several years. Richt is a fine Christian man but success can not be created on paper—it has to happen on the field. See you for the opener.

Big Dawg

August 1st, 2009
1:43 pm


I agree with almost everything you said- but you are dead wrong about who was the best team in the country at the end of the 2007 season. LSU was not and IMHO opinion would have lost to Georgia or USC. But as always we will never know as they got to play Ohio State instead of UGA or USC.

The Walking Boss

August 1st, 2009
1:56 pm

Hey Tony – I am glad that placed your NAME next to your PICTURE. The pic is so heavily re-touched and air-brushed, I had no idea who you were!


August 1st, 2009
4:46 pm

Let me get this straight. If Richt goes to Fla. or USC 8 years ago he has how many NC’s? I mean if he were as lucky as……….I mean it’s just luck, ain’t it?


August 1st, 2009
4:47 pm

Luck is the residue of design.

Champions find a way to make their own luck. Or, in the alternative, to place themselves in positions where some of the breaks will go their way. And, once you’ve won a championship human pollsters have an uncanny ability to reward what they have already seen.

Hence, a Nebraska team that had won a few semi-recent national titles gets the nod over an Oregon team without the same pedigree. Or why Florida State received the nod over a Miami team that had been down for a bit prior to the arrival of Butch Davis. Or why Southern California didn’t make the BCS title game in 2004.

The fact is, despite consistent excellence under Mark Richt, GA. has NEVER been in the BCS title game conversation at the end of the year. And, yes, that reflects on Richt’s ability as a coach.

Seems like a fine person and excellent recruiter whose teams, unfortunately for them, have an uncanny ability to lay a stink bomb at the most inopportune times. Luckily for me as a UF grad, there seems to be a bottomless well of acceptance amongst GA fans of consistently good, yet-not-quite-great GA teams. He’s a ‘Hall of Very-Good’ type of coach. Nothing wrong with that.

Meanwhile, I think FL might have won another national championship while I typed my previous few sentences.


August 1st, 2009
6:42 pm

You are flat wrong Jeff.
First, UGA WAS in the national championship conversation in 2007 at the end of the year. Heading into conference championship week, Kirk Herbstreit pronounced on national TV that he thought UGA (ranked #4) should play in the national championship game if #1 and #2 lose. Please explain to me how that amounts to NOT being in the conversation. That is actually the very DEFINITION of being in the conversation.

I would further argue that UGA has TWICE this decade done just what you suggest champions do. They have, TWICE this decade, put themselves in a place where things could have gone their way. They just didn’t.

None of that makes Richt a “great” coach, necessarily. I’m just saying that some of the arguments against that fact are off base.

A little more luck

August 1st, 2009
6:55 pm

OK, back to 2007.
Everybody makes such a big deal about UGA not winning their division, much less their conference, thus not getting a shot at the BCS.

But let’s look closer. By the way, I’m not saying UGA should have gotten a shot in 2007. I think the above argument is accurate. What I’m saying is that it was a tremendous amount of BAD luck that kept UGA from getting a shot.

Let’s remember, shall we.
The truth: UGA and Tennessee tied for the SEC East division lead, but UT beat UGA so they obviously and fairly win the tiebreaker.

But in the last 2 games of the season here’s what happened:
week 12, Tennessee vs Vandy. 33 seconds left in the game. tennessee is up by 1. Vandy is lined up to kick a relatively short field goal. Make this field goal, and Vandy wins. And UGA wins the SEC east. The kick grazes the upright, wide left. UT squeaks out a 1 point win over the worst team in the league.

week 13: Tennessee vs Kentucky. The teams are tied at the end of the 4th quarter. In overtime, Kentucky intercepts a UT pass. Kentucky tries a few runs, then lines up for a 33 yard field goal. Make this kick and UK wins, and UGA is the SEC East champ, playing in the SECC game. UT blocks the kick.

Seriously, give me a break. How likely is it that UT wins their last 2 games like that? That’s incredible (and unbelievably lucky).

Again, this does not prove that UGA should have been given a shot at the BCS in 2007. It just means that some pretty remarkable bad luck kept them from getting a chance.

All that said, they still nearly got a shot at the BCS title game. UGA and LSU would have been a heck of an SECC game.

Truth about recruiting

August 1st, 2009
7:04 pm

I get really tired of the argument that with all these great recruiting classes, something must be really wrong with the coaches at UGA.

UGA’s average recruiting class ranking for the past decade is somewhere around 8th. (I’m estimating here because it depends largely on which recruiting service you use for your rankings)
CBS Sportsline just published their rankings of the best teams of the past decade. Guess where UGA finished. 8th.

So with an average of the 8th best recruiting class in the nation, UGA has managed to be roughly the 8th best football team in the nation.

I’m having a hard time buying the argument that these recruiting classes are failing to live up to their expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, this Dawg fan is not remotely satisfied with finishing in the top 10. You better believe there is a HECK of a lot of pressure on UGA’s D.C. to turn things around this year.


August 1st, 2009
7:44 pm

Let’s not forget the dismal years of UGA football prior to CMRs arrival. It’s baffling that so many are hyper-critical and selective in their criticism. He does things the right way and his teams are rarely out of the NC picture. And what does being a nice guy have to do with winning a NC? Cut CMR loose and step out of the way so you’re not trampled by the elite programs lining up to hire him. Some of you need to slap yourselves and get a grip!

Mike Bobo 17 INT

August 1st, 2009
9:03 pm


Go ahead and leave the AJC and take your severance with you. Your comments are the reason CMR continues to receive a free pass at UGA. Yes, the BCS is political, but CMR has not been even been close with his level of talent, and should be fired, plain and simple.

Mike Bobo 17 INT

August 1st, 2009
9:05 pm

All these UGAY fans have to quit lving in the past and focus on the future. Donnan and Goff were dismal, but Donnan was successful until he arrived at UGAY, and the program flushed his resume. Hell he could have beat UGAY with Marshall, if he had remained, and word has it he said UGAY was the biggest mistake of his life.

It ruined his life and career.

Kenny Powers

August 1st, 2009
10:35 pm

UGA has the best record (82-22) in the countries toughest conference in the 8 years he has been there

End of discussion.

17 Int has a 17 IQ

August 1st, 2009
10:55 pm

Yeah, Mark Richt gets a free pass.
Because having the best record in the conference this decade, playing in 3 SEC championship games, winning 2 of em, finishing #2 in the country in a year he didn’t even win the conference, and being ranked as the 8th best team of this decade all amount to Mark Richt being a lousy coach who should be fired.

17 Int: You are dumber than my jock strap.


August 2nd, 2009
7:59 am

Excellent column and you are 100% correct. It’s take luck and some inexplicable voting sometimes (2007/LSU) to get to the title tilt. As for great coaches– some of the best are at schools that will never win a national championship– they just don’t have the resources. Jim Grobe/Wake Forest.)


August 2nd, 2009
8:03 am

I just can’t fathom why all the GT’ers on this site write such victrolic things about Georgia. Now they are trashing Donnan and Goff–whose W-L records at UGA were very good. What was Ray Goff’s record versus GT? (If you can’t walk the walk– don’t talk the talk!)


August 2nd, 2009
8:16 am

It’s going to be a strange season in the SEC without Tuberville, Fulmer, and Croom. Just shows you what a demanding conference it is, and the best in the land.


August 2nd, 2009
8:54 am

I agree with Tony as far as one of the primary measures for a coach to be considered great. I think the second measurable item is how they perform in the biggest games when the spotlight is on.

CMR and the Dawgs have performed great in big games over the years with the exception of Florida. However, that is the biggest of the big games for Dawgs fans. Therefore, until our record starts to even out against Florida CMR will be just good and not great.

GO DAWGS!!!!!!

Long Dawg

August 2nd, 2009
9:07 am

Mike Bobo 17 Int, you need professional help. Your envy/jealousy/hate of UGA shows no bounds. What happened? No smart enough to get in? Your a Tech fan that lives in the shadow of UGA. You should be used to it by now.
All that anger will eat you up buddy. Get ready cause payback is coming.


August 2nd, 2009
9:17 am

Richt’s record stands alone as proof of him being a great coach. Bear Bryant didn’t win a MNC until his 18th season. I guess the Bear was just good until that year. At this point in his career, Richt has more wins than the Bear, Meyer, Saban, Miles, Spurrier & our beloved Dooley did. Go Dawgs!

Paul The Vol

August 2nd, 2009
10:46 am

A Little More Luck…funny you must have forgotten that a little bit of great luck kept Georgia in the SEC race that year, namely at the Georgia at Vandy game. Vandy had Georgia beat and fumbled late in the game. Georgia hits a field goal on the last play of the game to win.

By the way, Georgia at Vandy this year – Georgia’s seventh straight game and second game in a row on the road. It may take some luck this year to beat Vandy as well.


August 2nd, 2009
10:47 am

Mark Richt is a heckuva coach. But 50 years from now he won’t be remembered as great unless he wins a NC. When you get the kind of talent he does, and the exposure in the conference he’s in, you should have to win a NC to be great.


August 2nd, 2009
10:47 am

Michigan State won the 1952 NC.

Go to

The whole idea of a coach having to win a nc to be outstanding is bogus.

So are the sports writer like Mark Bradley that preach it.


August 2nd, 2009
11:07 am

College football is a lot about recruiting. Winning a National Championship may be due more to your ability as a recruiter than as a coach

Jack Schitt

August 2nd, 2009
11:18 am

Its obvious a lot of you UGA kool-aid drinking rednecks do not know me. But after Tennessee wins the SEC and plays in a BCS bowl in Kiffin’s first year, you will know me then. So keep on thumping your chests and swilling your Pabst Blue Ribbon purchased at WalMart. The Vols are on the move and UGA is still going to suck the big one. Then you can truly say you know Jack Schitt.

pete nose

August 2nd, 2009
11:37 am

Jack Schitt—Tenn and The north ave trade school wound’t make a pimple on the dawgs arce.


August 2nd, 2009
12:45 pm

What a bunch of horse manure you guys spread around here!


August 2nd, 2009
12:46 pm

And Ray is right! You do not win your games on Saturday, you win your games when you recruit.

Jack Schitt

August 2nd, 2009
1:41 pm

Hey Pete Nose…..does your mama know you are using her computer again? At least get her to show you how to use spell-check….dumbazz, You might want to stock up on PBR because its going to be a long season for you GA mullet-wearing rednecks. Goooooooooo Vols!!! Rocky Top Baby!!!!!


August 2nd, 2009
1:49 pm

Be careful quoting which poll you quote on these blogs. For decades through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s the AP Poll was noted for picking primarily teams from the MIdwest and West, even when their records and competition didn’t warrant it. Barry Switzer and a few other big name coaches felt the Coaches Poll was always more fair (one of Oklahoma’s Championships is split on Coaches Poll). If it makes you feel good to use any of these polls to make your point, do it, but it’s no more valid than someone who uses another. The reason GT was not the picked in the AP Poll in 1952 is because they refused to play San Francisco who had some black players. It was very wrong to do it, but don’t forget that was the SEC leadership speaking as much as the GT. I have a rule when blogging, just say it if you believe it, after all it’s only an opinion.

Diggity Dawg

August 2nd, 2009
1:59 pm

“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.”

Steve Spurrier was right (for the only time in my memory), and you were right for quoting him.


August 2nd, 2009
2:48 pm

Coaching is as big as the players themselves in college football. That’s why thees good on make the money they do.A good or great coach for that matter can make a program just as a bad coach can do the oppostite.It’s allways been that way.


August 2nd, 2009
2:53 pm

Oh yeah Ray…recruiting is coaching as well…its alot of what makes some coaches sucessful at all


August 2nd, 2009
3:19 pm

Tony: Here is a great quote from Les Miles. Maybe this will answer your question.

“I think championship is how we’re measured,” Miles said. “I understand how that happens. But it’s not any fun. I had somebody ask me ‘Is that something you expect?’ You never expect to finish second, not at LSU.”

So maybe at UGA coaches don’t get measured by Championships but at other places they do and should . While a national championship is no the defining stat on a coaches resume, it sure does help to to separate the good from the great. As soon as Richt wins a National Championship, he’ll be considered a GREAT coach. At the same time though, Les Miles has a national championship and I still wont call him a great coach (great recruiter though, yes!!). If he can turn around next year and post a 10+ win season, then we can start putting great next to Les’ name.

Long Dawg

August 2nd, 2009
3:45 pm

Hey Jack S. You been drinking too much moonshine. Tenn. just hired themselves about the most nothing of a coach that ever coached at TENN. The big orange will be howling by mid-season. You best keep your powder dry till your new coach lame sniffin actually coaches a game.

Tide Rising

August 2nd, 2009
4:01 pm


I don’t think anyone takes quotes from Les Miles very seriously. This is a guy who said at a pep rally where there were women and children. “And we got a new rival in F—-ing Alabama.” You must be very proud of this eminently classy guy.

Actually he was wrong about us being a new rival. LSU fans have always considered us to be a huge rival and hence the record crowd when Saban came to baton rouge (our home away from home) last year. I think when someone owns you head to head something like 46-25 and went unbeaten in your house for 19 straight tries that it becomes a rivalry when we say its a rivalry.

I also found your statement that Saban is gonna leave Bama and then come back to Auburn a few years later to be one of the funniest posts I’ve ever seen. Saban just opened talks to have his contract extended to 2016 and last year he committed to donating 1 million to the school to be spread out over 10 years. Does that sound like someone who’s leaving. You are way too funny!


August 2nd, 2009
5:24 pm

I agree… College coaches should not be judged on national championships…. BECAUSE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HAS NO REAL CHAMPION!!! Haha… thank God im from a state with REAL sports! Go Falcons and Braves!!