Saturday, August 17, 2013

2013 Conference USA Preview

We have entered the home stretch. Less than two weeks to go until kickoff 2013. In this post, we'll turn our attention to Conference USA. While the league lost four teams to defection to the former Big East (Houston, Memphis, SMU, and UCF), they now welcome six new members. Four join from the Sun Belt (FAU. FIU, MTSU, and North Texas) and two from the WAC (Louisiana Tech and Texas San-Antonio). From North Carolina to Texas, Conference USA is truly a national conference.



The Jamie Moyer Index
While brainstorming ideas for the what to write about in my Conference USA post, I was looking over the career of North Texas coach Dan McCarney. McCarney has been a head coach at the IA level for 14 seasons, 12 at Iowa State and two thus far at North Texas. During that time, he has won less than 40% of his games, yet still manages to be gainfully employed. Granted, Iowa State is far from a football power and McCarney did take them to five bowl games during his tenure. Plus he has also won more games in two seasons at North Texas (9) than his predecessor did in four seasons (8). Still, managing to coach for a decade and a half despite winning under 40% of your games is a little unusual. How unusual is it? Has any active coach out McCarneyed McCarney? To find out, I decided to develop a simple metric to rate coaches based on their winning percentage and total seasons coached. The formula seeks to find the active coach who has struck the best balance between longevity and mediocrity. And best of all, it is very simple. Take the number of seasons a coach has stalked the sidelines as a head coach (on the IA level) and divide by his winning percentage (again on the IA level). Using this formula produces a 35.54 rating for McCarney. Needing a name for the formula, I decided to name it after one of my favorite baseball players, Jamie Moyer. Why? Because coaches that rate highly in this index will have enjoyed a long career with average results. Here are the top-12 active coaches in terms of the Jamie Moyer index.
In a photo-finish, Jim Grobe, the head coach of my alma mater edges McCarney for the Jamie Moyer crown. Since some of these gentlemen may have toiled in relative obscurity I'll give you dear reader, a brief bio of each.
1. Jim Grobe--Hard to believe, but this is Grobe's 13th season at Wake Forest. He has taken the Deacs to five bowl games, with the apex coming in 2006, when Wake Forest somehow ended up as ACC champions. Prior to coming to Winston-Salem, he spent six seasons at Ohio where he won eight games in 1997.
2. Dan McCarney--The man who inspired this little research project. I examined his career earlier in this post.
3. Randy Edsall--Edsall got his start leading the Huskies in their transition to IA football. In his final season at the school, the Huskies won the Big East (via tiebreaker) and headed to the Fiesta Bowl. Since leaving, he has not found a great deal of success at Maryland.
4. Todd Berry--Berry was a successful coach at the IAA level, leading Illinois State to back-to-back playoff appearances. However, like Pauly Shore, his time in the Army did not go well. Berry became the head coach at Louisiana-Monroe in 2010 and led the Warhawks to their first bowl game last season.
5. David Cutcliffe--Cutcliffe had good success at Ole Miss and has made Duke competitive. However, in his best campaign at Duke, he still lost seven games.
6. Ron Turner--Turner is most famous for coaching the Illini for eight seasons. While they were poor for the most part, they somehow inexplicably won the Big 10 in 2001.
7. Doug Martin--Martin (not that Doug Martin) coached Kent State for seven seasons and could never quite get them over the hump. In the offseason, he accepted an even more thankless job at New Mexico State.
8. Ron English--Speaking of thankless jobs. English manged a 6-6 mark in 2011, the Eagles first non-losing season since 1995.
9. Bobby Hauck--Hauck had great success at Montana, winning 80 games in seven seasons, making the playoffs each season, and coaching in three national championship games. However, Vegas has been a different story as Hauck has lost nearly twice as many games as he did at Montana in half the time.
10. Al Golden--Stepped into an incredibly tough situation at Temple in 2006 and then into a big-time scandal (and not the good kind featuring Patty Smyth) at Miami in 2011.
11. David Bailiff--Bailiff got his start as the head coach at IAA Texas State and led them to the playoffs in his second season. In his second season at Rice (2008), the team won ten games for the first time since 1949!
12. Rick Stockstill--Three bowl games in seven seasons is not a bad lead-in on a coaching resume.
For the most part, the Jamie Moyer index does a fine job of identifying coaches with long careers and mediocre (in general, not based on the school they coach at) winning percentages. Nine of the twelve coaches have held head coaching jobs for at least seven seasons and if we round McCarney's winning percentage up just a hair, eight have winning percentages of between 40% and 50%. Of course, some coaches have been so awful in such a short period of time (English and Hauck) they also appear on the list. If I run the list of active coaches next season, those two gentlemen likely will not be found as they will almost certainly be given their walking papers sometime in the next four months.

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