Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Paterno to O’Brien to Franklin. Is history on Franklin’s side?

It is hard to believe that I haven't posted since May 27th, but such is life.

A few weeks ago, a sports writer/historian sent me an article musing that Franklin may be in a better position than O'Brien if sports history has anything to say about it.

The article is reprinted below.  I thought I was pretty special, having a guest contributor, but alas, my site is not the only one Mr. Baranowski contributed.

Unfortunately, while the concept and comparisons are interesting, the situation at Penn State is unique.  None of the other programs discussed--Nebraska, Notre Dame, Alabama or USC--faced the near-death penalty and crippling sanctions that Penn State faced.  O'Brien's tenure must be examined from that perspective.  Hunk Anderson, Ron Zook, Ray Perkins nor Frank Solich faced the uphill battle that O'Brien faced.  And the fact that Bill was modestly successful despite those odds only argues to success rather than failure.  Moreover, the University did not "part ways" with Bill O'Brien nor was the fan base viewing his efforts as being "not good enough."  Bill O'Brien chose to leave.  That is not to say that there weren't some rumblings amongst some alumni, but most of Penn State's dissatisfaction was aimed at the NCAA, the sanctions, and the Board of Trustees that enabled that situation.

While I certainly was not happy to see O'Brien leave, I cannot understate how important his tenure was to the Penn State football program.  He held the ship together with some duct tape and a couple guys like Mike Mauti.  I think there are more than a few "successful" coaches out there who would have been unable to keep things together or who would have jumped ship altogether after the sanctions came down from Emmert Almighty and the Gospel According to Freeh.

That said, I do think James Franklin will benefit from being the next hire.  The situation is less "toxic" and the sanctions have already been reduced with whisperings of perhaps a reduction in the bowl ban to come in the next month or so, although I ain't holding my breath on that one.

But any success that Franklin has must be measured in terms of what he would be able to do if someone other than Bill O'Brien had been at the helm.  I don't think many coaches could have survived or done as well as Bill.  To call O'Brien's tenure less than a success because you measure him against Paterno is unfair.

But you may draw your own conclusions . . . read on:

Paterno to O’Brien to Franklin. Is history on Franklin’s side?

There is an axiom in sports that it is better to be the coach who follows the coach that followed a coaching legend rather than the coach that followed the coaching legend. I would venture to guess that Bill O’Brien and Lane Kiffin would concur with that notion.

There was no doubt that whoever followed Joe Paterno as Penn State head coach at Penn State would certainly have big shoes to fill. O’Brien went 15-9 in two seasons and bolted for the NFL. Kiffin at USC had a 28-15 record following Pete Carroll’s record of 97-19. Kiffin’s .651 winning percentage wasn’t enough to keep him from being fired not after losing nearly as many games in less than four years than Carroll did in nine. Beginning this season, Penn State’s new head coach James Franklin and Steve Sarkisian at USC will have the opportunity to test that coaching axiom. But how true is it really?

Looking at examples that support the axiom, in 1931, Hunk Anderson had the unenviable task of following Knute Rockne as head coach at Notre Dame. Anderson’s 16-9-2 record with a winning percentage of .630 at many schools would be welcome but not following Rockne’s coaching record of 105-12-5. In three seasons, Anderson lost nearly as many games as Rockne did in 13. Rockne’s winning percentage of .881 just happens to rank first among Division I coaches all-time. Good luck following that. Elmer Layden, the coach who took over after Anderson, had a 47-13-3 record. This was more to Irish fans’ liking.

At the University of Florida during the ‘90s, the Fun ‘N Gun offense was in full force as Steve Spurrier won 122 games in 12 seasons and racked up a winning percentage of .817. His successor, Ron Zook, lasted only three seasons going 23-14 and that set the stage for Urban Meyer. Meyer in six seasons as Florida’s head coach won 65 games and two national championships and had a winning percentage of .813.

The situation at the University of Alabama was slightly different. One can say that the shadow cast by Bear Bryant affected the next two men that succeeded him or at the very least set a near impossible standard to follow. In 25 seasons, Bryant won 232 games with a winning percentage of .824. Ray Perkins could relate to Anderson at Notre Dame as Perkins lasted only four seasons as his teams compiled a 32-15-1 record for a .677 winning percentage. That is not nearly good enough at Alabama, particularly after following the Bear.

Bill Curry followed Perkins and even with a 26-10 record and a .722 winning percentage, Curry lasted only three seasons. Gene Stallings followed Curry and despite having a slightly lesser winning percentage than Curry, .713 to .722, Stallings lasted seven seasons, no doubt aided by winning a national championship in 1992.

At Michigan, it was an interesting situation as well. Following Lloyd Carr proved to be more difficult than following Bo Schembechler. Schembechler paced the sidelines in Ann Arbor for 21 years and amassed a 194-48-5 record for a winning percentage of .796. Following Schembechler was not going to be easy. Gary Moeller did so for five seasons, winning three conference titles, and had a winning percentage of .758. Moeller resigned in May of 1995 and the head coaching job now belonged to Carr. Carr won five conference titles in 13 seasons and a national championship in 1997, Michigan’s first since 1948. Carr’s head coaching record was 122-40 for a .753 winning percentage.

Rich Rodriquez, “a non-Michigan man” succeeded Carr. Rodriquez brought a radically different offensive mindset to Ann Arbor and some might say a non-defensive mindset as well. After three seasons and a 15-22 record, Rodriquez was replaced.

There are numerous examples where a coaching legend’s successor did well but the following coach did not.

Perhaps a long-time successful coach creates such a well-oiled machine that it helps facilitate success for his immediate successor but by the time the next head coach comes along, significant fall-off begins.

John McKay at USC compiled a 127-40-8 record for a winning percentage of .749. One would think trying to match McKay’s winning percentage would have been very difficult. However, John Robinson nearly did just that succeeding McKay. Robinson’s record was 104-35-4 for a winning percentage of .741.

The fall-off at USC came following Robinson under Ted Tollner. Tollner, in four seasons from 1983 to 1986, went 26-20-1 for a winning percentage of .564. That is not going to cut it at USC.

Another example was at the University of Texas where Darrell Royal became a coaching legend winning 167 games losing 47 with five ties for a winning percentage of .774 over 20 seasons. His successor, Fred Akers, was 86-31-2 for a .731 winning rate over the next

The fall off in Austin came following Akers. David McWilliams managed only a 31-26 record over the next five seasons for a .544 winning percentage.

Meanwhile in Norman, Oklahoma, Chuck Fairbanks won 77% of his games compiling a 52-15-1 record. His successor, Barry Switzer, took that to an even higher level winning nearly 84% of his games with a record of 157-29-4. Switzer’s successor, Gary Gibbs, managed only 44 wins over the next six seasons going 44-23-2 from 1989-1994.

At Notre Dame, Ara Parseghian’s .836 winning percentage from 1964-1974 was followed by Dan Devine who produced a .764 winning percentage. Following Devine, who was under a hot seat following Parseghian until he won a national championship in 1977, proved too much for Gerry Faust. Faust’s 30-26-1 record just was not good enough for Notre Dame.

Then enters Lou Holtz, the last head coach to lead the Fighting Irish national championship in 1988, and his coaching record at Notre Dame was 100-30-2. Succeeding Holtz was Bob Davie and then Ty Willingham, and each had an identical .583 winning percentage in their short tenures as Notre Dame’s head coach.

Tom Osborne roamed the sidelines as Nebraska’s head coach for 25 years compiling a 255-49-3 record and a winning percentage of .836. Following the legendary Osborne would not be easy. Keep in mind that Osborne followed Bob Devaney who won national titles in 1970 and 1971 and had a 101-20-2 record in 11 seasons and a winning percentage of .829.

Osborne was succeeded by Frank Solich in 1998 and in six seasons Solich won 58 games losing only 19 for a .753 winning percentage and was fired by then Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson. Pederson hired Bill Callahan and over the next four years, Nebraska went 27-22-0, which definitely did not sit well with Husker fans.

So perhaps more importantly than simply being the coach who follows the coach that replaced a coaching legend, it is more important to have the right coach for the job.

Nittany Lion and Trojan fans hope and believe they do.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Premature Anticipation

Last week, we saw Sports Illustrated's Campus Union roll out their list of "100 things we’re most excited for in the 2014 college football season." From that, we found a new definition of Pitt football at #82. This week, they have finished off their list, and Penn State makes an appearance at lucky #13:
13. James Franklin’s impact at Penn State. Franklin redefined expectations during his three-year stay at Vanderbilt. Now, the Nittany Lions new coach has a chance to revitalize Happy Valley. The Langhorne, Pa., native has wasted no time making an impact: His 2015 recruiting class ranks second in the nation, according to Better yet? Franklin inherits an ultra-talented quarterback in Christian Hackenberg and a trio of pass-catching tight ends in Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman.
I don't know about you, but the anticipation of this 2014 season is killing me!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Definition of Pitt Football

From Sports Illustrated's Campus Union . . . 100 Things We're most Excited for in the 2014 Season . . .
82. Pittsburgh’s attempt to enter ACC contention There are certain college football teams that exude confidence, precision and ferocity. Oregon is a screaming attack fighter. Alabama is a fearsome, unyielding tank. Pitt, on the other hand? Pitt is an overweight mail clerk rolling backwards down a hill in an office chair. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd is pretty good, though.

Pitt Football . . . Are you ready to RUMBLE?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tressel For President!

Lost amid the excitement of Penn State recruiting, the Board of Trustee elections and renaming the Food Sciences building after E-Rod, is this gem from Youngstown State University. I'm gonna be President!

I'm gonna be a President!
According to the Plain Dealer, James "Tattoo" Tressel has been named President of the University.  Tressel was apparently also in the running for the University of Akron job.  I do not know if he had applied for Penn State before Barron took over.
Tressel signed a three-year contract that includes a salary of $300,000 a year for the first two years and the third year to be determined based on a performance evaluation, the university said. He will also receive an American-made car and housing. Tressel’s coaching career at Ohio State University ended when he was banned by the NCAA for rules violations three years ago. He began working at UA two years ago. About 10 percent to 15 percent of college presidents nationwide do not come through the traditional academic pipeline, instead coming in with a corporate or political background, Inside Higher Ed reported.
Another article reported that Tressel "spent 38 years as a coach and does not have a doctorate degree."

Soooooo, what the hell is YSU thinking??????

 [Football Championships]

 Seriously, is the pool of university presidential candidates that shallow that Tressel makes a good choice? 

What message is the University sending?

 We don't care if someone violates NCAA rules?

 We believe in second chances?

 We don't want to be on probation, and if there's one man that knows all about probation, it's Jim Tressel?
“The trustees chose Mr. Tressel based on his fund raising ability to a large degree. All due respect to Mr. Tressel, but his strength isn’t in academics so we need to have a provost very strong in academics.”
Oh, so it's about the money!

 And there you have it.  Fundraising is more important than integrity.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Myers Moves On

Incumbent trustee Joel "We have to move on" Myers has moved on, as the Alumni of Penn State have voted his pathetic butt off the board for the first time in 33 years.  According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
Alice Pope, a psychology professor at St. John’s University, had 10,025 votes; Al Lord, the former CEO of Sallie Mae, 9,516; and Bob Jubelirer, a former Pennsylvania state senator, 8,101. All three candidates ran on platforms that included the need for the university to reassess past decisions made regarding the firing of Joe Paterno, the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions.  
“With nine new alumni members I would hope that there is a recognition by the existing board that is there that it’s important we work together,” Mr. Jubelirer said. “And there’s only one way that’s going to be effective: We have to get to the truth. Due process does matter. I heard that man in Hershey, (trustee) Ken Frazier, a year ago in March say it didn’t matter. Like hell it doesn’t matter.”
Notable candidates who lost to Mr. Lord, Mr. Jubelirer and Ms. Pope include Joel Myers, who had been an alumni trustee for the past 33 years, and Upward State candidates Dan Cocco, Julie McHugh and Matt Schuyler. None of those candidates garnered more than 4,000 votes. 
I was afraid Mr. Myers would benefit from voters splitting their votes with Upward State candidates and free-lancers like Ryan Bagwell, whom I personally supported with my vote.  But the Alumni would not be denied.  They crushed Mr. Myers and his platform of "moving on."  I'm not holding my breath that the remaining Board members from 2011 have learned anything from this crushing defeat of Myers, but they will have to deal with an increasing number of representatives that do not want to simply move on at the expense of truth and justice.

Also coming out of today's BOT meeting is this gem:  the Food Sciences building which houses the famous Penn State Creamery will henceforth be known as the Rodney A. Erickson Food Sciences Building.

Bon app├ętit!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Oasis on Ice

The 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off at Pegula Ice Arena on May 1st.  

Yours truly was there.
I should have brought a stool or something to stand on!
I also ran into Carolyn Todd, another blogger.  She's a Penn State professor who has recently lost her husband to cancer.

And here I am taking a piece of coconut chicken.  My bowling buddies are at the table with me.

So what do I think?

I am really excited to get this season going.  The recruiting has been fun--still is--but it won't be anything compared to watching Coach Franklin lead his team onto the field September 6th in Beaver Stadium.
The main ceremony took place on a carpeted area on the ice rink.  

Franklin was joined by Russ Rose and Bob Warming.  Assistant coaches Brent Pry, Bob Shoop, Josh Gattis, and Charles Huff also mingled with the crowd of around 450 guests before hand.  Bob Shoop offered another buddy of mine and his son a chance to come to a practice sometime.  Coach Chambers was also there but did not speak in the main program.

Once again, Franklin got choked up talking about being the head coach of the Nittany Lions.  He has gotten choked up before.  Genuine emotion, or hamming it up for the crowd?  You decide.  I think it's for real, but I have been known to be wrong before.  It certainly sounds like this is his dream job.  

"For a lot of people, this is a job," Franklin said.  "This is personal for me.  This means the world to me.  For a guy growing up in the state of Pennsylvania to come back and be the head football coach at Penn State is unbelievably special."

"I love that the expectation here is for the head coach to be here for 80 years," Franklin joked.
And it was with a heavy heart, that I suddenly realized that I am probably older (and shorter) than all of the football coaches at Penn State now.  I've always been shorter.  I might have Spider Caldwell beat!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tae Bo Tuesday

Bo Pelini, head coach at Nebraska, took his cat to their spring game. In and of itself, not a big deal. But he apparently took the cat through the tunnel onto the field and held Mr. Bigglesworth aloft.

Well, we can't pass up this opportunity, can we?

Separated at Birth?
Separated at Birth?


Or maybe this rings a familiar note . . .

Bo-feld                                  Blofeld
Bo-feld                                                                 Blofeld