Hope this finds you well. I don’t know if you read the story about Georgia State starting 5-2, but if you didn’t, here’s the link. But anyway, I said Tuesday I was going to compare Georgia State with other first-year teams and, if you read it, you realize that I didn’t do that. I had a lot of things I wanted to get into the story – some of which was on the blog Tuesday – but I was not able to, mostly because to touch on all the things I wanted to, the story probably would have had to be twice as long as it was.
Anyway, I did end up looking at the best start-ups, at least for FCS. It wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped. For one thing, do you include schools that had football previously and then started it again decades later? Plus, the NCAA’s list of schools that have started football since 1968 doesn’t seem to be complete, which makes me wonder if there’s schools not listed that also were start-ups that I’m not aware of.
That said, here are my findings.
Best start-up season by record for an FCS (I-AA) team:
Robert Morris, 1994 – 7-1-1
Old Dominion, 2009 – 9-2
Georgia Southern, 1984 – 8-3
Villanova, 1985 – 5-0
Cal St.-Fullerton, 1970 – 6-4-1
As best I could tell, no other FCS team was over .500. South Florida, a team to which I’ve seen a lot of comparisons, went 5-6 in 1997.
The most interesting things I found out while looking up all this stuff (disclaimer – some of this material comes from Wikipedia, which I wouldn’t do for a story. But trying to find out at 9 p.m. whether or not Canisius’ first football team was Division I-AA and what its record was is not as easy as you’d think.)
1. In its first game in 2001, Florida Atlantic drew more than 25,000 to what was then called Pro Player Stadium. (sound familiar?)
2. In the 50’s, Georgia traveled to Philadelphia to play Villanova.
3. The first points scored by Monmouth were by a player who intercepted a pass on a two-point conversion attempt.
4. I guess I knew this, but it’s still remarkable to me that Georgia Southern won a I-AA title in its second year.
5. Florida Atlanta Atlantic was 11-3 and finished No. 4 in I-AA in its third year.
6. UNLV used to be Nevada Southern University.
I have more to say about what constitutes a successful start-up year, but I’ve got to run. You’re welcome to provide your own definitions.
One other link: A blog post about secondary and special teams coach Anthony Midget in the Daily Press in Virginia.
UPDATE, 11:55 a.m. – this is an argument you could use to explain how GSU’s schedule is stronger than ODU’s.
Team, record and season-ending Sagarin ratings for ODU 2009
Fordham – 5-6, 188
Jacksonville – 7-4, 194
VMI – 2-9, 216
N.C. Central – 4-7, 234
Presbyterian - 0-11, 236
Campbell – 3-8, 240
Georgetown – 0-11, 241
Savannah State – 2-8, 244
not included: Chowan and Virginia Union, both D-II schools
GSU 2010, current record and Sagarin ratings
Alabama – 6-1, 12
Jacksonville State – 7-0, 83
South Alabama – 6-0, 108
Old Dominion – 3-3, 151
Lamar – 3-4, 187
Morehead State – 2-4, 222
Campbell – 2-4, 227
N.C. Central – 0-7, 229
Savannah State – 0-7, 235
(not included: Shorter and Lambuth, two NAIA schools)
ODU’s schedule has six teams 200 or higher (which you could argue is an arbitrary number), GSU has four. ODU’s highest-rated team is 188 – GSU’s schedule has five teams better than that. (GSU, by the way, is 174. There are 245 teams ranked — all of the FBS and FCS schools.)
One thing GSU has going for it that ODU didn’t is that it couldn’t play GSU, Lamar and South Alabama because they hadn’t started playing yet. If GSU had started in 2009 and not ODU, maybe its schedule would have been weaker, also. And strength of schedule only means something if you can play up to it. You can argue GSU has a stronger schedule but it won’t mean much if the Panthers get torpedoed over the next four games.
(Counter argument – Sagarin ratings aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.)