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College Football: What's With The Second Year Coaching Success?

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College Football: What's With The Second Year Coaching Success?

Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Nick Saban, Jim Tressel, what do all these coaches have in common? They all had tremendous success in their second year at a big time school, Saban and Meyer doing it twice at two different schools.

So what's with the trend of second year coaching success across the nation?

What makes a coach's second year an immediate success and creates a jump in wins from the first year, and sometimes a conference championship or national championship?

How are coaches able to win big in their second year if the coach before them was doing such a bad job? Almost makes you think there were some coaches that were fired a little too quickly, but that's a separate debate.

I've compiled a list of some of the top coaches in the nation and the second year success they have enjoyed, not only in terms of a nice jump from year one to year two wins, but in certain situations a coach has won it all in only his second year.

**–Best Season of Career to Date

Jim Tressel, Ohio State
2001 (7-5)...2002 **(14-0) and a Big Ten and National Championship

Nick Saban, LSU
2000 (8-4)...2001 (10-3) and an SEC Championship

Nick Saban, Alabama
2007 (7-6)...2008 (9-0) so far and #1 in the nation currently.

Joe Paterno, Penn State
1966 (5-5)...1967 (8-2)

Bobby Bowden, Florida State
1976 (5-6)...1977 (10-2)

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
1999 (7-5)...2000 **(13-0) and a Big 12 and National Championship

Urban Meyer, Utah
2003 (10-2)...2004 (12-0) and a Mountain West Championship

Urban Meyer, Florida
2005 (10-3)...2006 **(13-1) and a SEC Championship and National Championship

Pete Carroll, USC
2001 (6-6)...2002 (11-2) and a PAC 10 Championship

Mark Richt, Georgia
2001 (8-4)...2002 **(13-1) and a SEC Championship

Tommy Tuberville, Auburn
1999 (5-6)...2000 (9-4) and a SEC West Championship

Butch Davis, North Carolina
2007 (4-8)...2008 (6-2) so far and a top 25 team.

Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee
1992 (4-0) as interim HC...1993 (10-2)

Steve Spurrier, Duke
1987 (5-6)...1988 (7-3-1)

Tommy Bowden, Tulane
1997 (7-4)...1998 **(11-0) and Conference USA Championship

Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia
2001 (3-8)...2002 (9-4)

Bobby Petrino, Louisville
2003 (9-4)...2004 (11-1) and a Conference USA Championship

Les Miles, Oklahoma State
2001 (4-7)...2002 (8-5)

Paul Johnson, Navy
2002 (2-10)...2003 (8-5)

Mark Mangino, Kansas
2002 (2-10)...2003 (6-7) Lost their bowl game, so 2-10 to a bowl game.

Gary Patterson, TCU
2001 (6-6)...2002 (10-2)

Gary Pinkel, Toledo
1991 (5-5)...1992 (8-3)


That's a good number of coaches that made significant jumps in wins from their first to second years as head coach. One thing that tells me is that the previous coach didn't leave the program in as bad as shape as what it seemed at the time.

One season isn't enough time to get a recruiting class in to make the big enough difference that is often seen in wins and losses. That jump in wins is most of the time done with the players that were recruited there from the previous coach. A few key true freshman could make a difference, it's just not something you count on.

The big difference most of the time is the attitude that the new coach brings. The talent is there, otherwise you couldn't win that quickly no matter what the new attitude is of the new coach.

The thing I see as a big factor a lot of times, is that in the second year, no matter what the previous season's record was, there is a sense of hope and optimism that spreads throughout the fan base and the players.

You can go 4-8 in your first season, but often times it has no effect on the team or coach because the players and coaches look at it as a building block and they aren't worried at all about the record, they are just looking forward to the next season and are full of optimism.

That feeling tends to fade obviously as the success builds, a great season becomes expected and a 4-8 season gets you fired. But for those first couple of years, a 4-8 record is ignored and only what the future can hold is thought about.

So what you get in that second year is a team that has bought into what the coach is saying, you have a group of players that are tired of losing and are hungry to win, you have a fan base that thinks they are on the rise back to the top, and you have coaches at the peak of their recruiting and game planning in order to turn that program around. They will never work harder than in those first few years because the foundation is the most important thing in your program.

The other question that is brought up is how are all these coaches winning and having success in only their second season if the coach before them was so bad? Maybe personality conflicts forced a change, maybe it was a steady decline in wins, but often times, it seems that there is talent there to win in only two years, so it makes you wonder if college administrators are jumping the gun at certain times. If the program was in bad enough shape to get a coach fired, then how are coaches winning national championships in their second season in that same program?

Ultimately though, it seems that the combination of the talent left at the school, maybe better than what is portrayed, plus a new attitude of optimism and confidence in the new regime sometimes results in great success in a coach's second year. That tends to fade sometimes as the coaching tenure goes on, but those first two seasons sometimes can lead to immediate success, the problem often times is sustaining that and keeping that attitude and confidence every year after.

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