I think we’ve all heard enough.
Enough about Urban Meyer.
There are several levels of Gator Fans with respect to their love/hatred/thankfulness of the Gators former head football coach. I myself have written a post “defending” his decision to take the Ohio State job and have been a staunch defender and skeptic of the critics of Coach Meyer’s players arrest records during his tenure. I remain a critic of those pointing to those arrest record numbers, as I am for current head coach Will Muschamp’s issues with players and the law.
That could be a separate post, however, I tend to separate “stuff college kids do” (ie- less than 20 gram marijuana possession…once, underage drinking) from “what in the world were you thinking” (ie- Chris Rainey’s text messages, Ronnie Wilson’s AK-47, everything about Jamar Hornsby) and a large number of the “arrests” are “Notices to appear”. You may know those under their more common name: a ticket.
Anyhow, we’re not going to pile onto the Coach Meyer train. We’re not going to change your mind and make you like him if you hate him, or make you hate him if you like him. I think the question out there now is more: Why does he hate us?!?!
Instead, since so much has been said about the state of the team that Meyer left the team in (highlighted by his alleged conversation with Maryland commit Stephon Diggs that the Florida locker room and team was toxic and full of bad character guys). I began wondering if these kinds of things were typical of when a championship coach leaves a team.
It occurred to me that Coach Meyer and the Gators will eternally be tied together, but suddenly, that relationship between him and the fan base and former players has become extremely complex. I started thinking: Is this normal? So I decided to do some… wait for it… research (YES, research here at BourbonMeyer!!) and see how championship coaches fared in their last season and then in the season following their departure. I had no distinct hypothesis, but wanted to know if champion coaches stayed too long and worn out their welcome, or if there is a distinct drop in the program once that coach leaves.
I wasn’t sure how far back to go, so I went to 1988. Notre Dame won the National Title that year, so I figured going so far back that Notre Dame was still good is a looooong time ago. So we looked at every national championship winning coach from 1988 through 2008 (Keep in mind, there were three instances of split titles prior to the BCS in that time frame and those coaches are also included). I didn’t include 2009-2011 as those coaches are all still with their teams that they most recently won a title with.
Once all of that was said and done, we came up with 15 National championship winning coaches who have left the team they won a championship with. They are listed below sorted by the year they won their National Title (or their last one for Bowden, Meyer and Osbourne).
– 6 of those coaches left and coached somewhere else in college again (Holtz, Erickson, Spurrier, Coker, Saban, Meyer)
– 4 left the program in NCAA sanction hell (Erickson, James, Carroll, Tressel)
– 4 left for NFL jobs when leaving college (Erickson, Ross, Spurrier, Saban)
– 3 programs improved the year after the coach left (Tennessee: Fulmer to Dooley, and Florida State: Bowden to Fisher, and believe it or not, LSU improved the year after Nick Saban left and Les Miles took over)
– Only 1 retired as a National Champion: Tom Osbourne
Urban Meyer and the Florida program are some strange hybrid of that list. He is going to coach somewhere again, he is leaving the program is what would be AT BEST classified as “questionable” shape (Defensively healthy, Offensively anemic, character in question… by Meyer himself allegedly); although in no peril with the NCAA, you wouldn’t know that from the number of scholarship players Muschamp has been working with.
So just looking at the list: Meyer and Florida are an anomaly in that several programs were mediocre (defined as more than 3 losses) when the coach was in his last year, but typically, those were 4 years or more removed from a National Title and not two years after.
Coaches that left in 4 years or less after winning their most recent national title are 68-19 in their last season at that school. That’s 7 coaches who pulled the trick for an average of 9.7 wins per year and 2.7 losses (or 10-3). This includes Meyer’s 2010 season. While the 8 coaches who left 5 or more after National Title are 55-33 for an average of 6.875 wins and 4.125 losses (or 7-4 if you will) in their last campaign.
SIDENOTE: Included in these numbers are the 2010 Ohio State team who we have as 0-1 due to the vacated games. They were 12-1 on the field that season, however the NCAA vacated the games for using ineligible players. I’m fairly serious about leaving them at 0-1 and maintaining the NCAAs decision. Everyone always says, “What’s the point of vacating wins, everyone will remember anyway”. Well, here’s where it counts. I’m not counting any wins they had when cheating that year… so there.
In the 7 seasons following the “legendary coach’s” departure (let’s call them that from here on out), the program’s whose coach left “suddenly” (4 years or less after title) were 50-22 for an average of 8.33 wins and 3.67 losses (or 8-4). The teams who’s legendary coach stuck around 5 or more years post title are a combined 61-54 in the season following the departure, for an average of 7.625 wins and 6.75 losses (or complete disaster).
Now, if you’ll just stick with me for a moment… let’s look at the programs involved in these categories. The programs involved in the “sudden departure” are: Miami, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Washington, Nebraska, LSU, and Florida.
The programs whose coaches stuck around are: Notre Dame, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, and USC-w. Florida and Miami are on both lists.
Safe to say, the programs with sudden departures suffered a down period, but to some degree bounced back. Miami and LSU quickly. Georgia Tech and Nebraska for extended period of time and Colorado had a great season the year after Bill McCartney left (under Rick Neuheisel), but after his departure, they have fallen out of relevance and into Dan Hawkins land. Florida TBD.
The program whose coaches stuck is a veritable who’s who of college football. Notre Dame has not been the same since Holtz left (aside from a flash here and there). Florida recruited well and played poorly in clutch time for three years before Meyer arrived and bounced back in a major way. Michigan’s hire after Lloyd Carr was a disaster of biblical proportions (Rodriguez). Florida State showed Bobby the door and got immediately better. Miami in the post Coker era is a mess. USC is coming off sanctions and looks to be all the way back and Ohio State’s fate is TBD.
So what in the world does this all mean for the Gators going forward? In short, history tells us that as a program, we should be fine over the next few years, but will a return to National prominence come with another coach at the helm. Maybe. What’s important to note is that despite all the drama and soap opera stuff surround Meyer’s departure and the year long fallout the data would suggest that this is just about normal… kind of. Meyer’s Gators went 8-5 in his last season and 7-6 in the season after. The only problem is; this is normal for a coach who stuck around longer after a title than Meyer did. Meyer left 2 years removed from a title, but the Gators record mirrors that of the guy who stayed too long. Ironic, as Meyer’s issues were that of a burnt out coach, even though he only spent 6 seasons with the Gators.
If the trend and pattern holds and the Gators football program follows that of the “coach who stayed” model; then Florida could be back on track and in National Title contention in 3 to 4 seasons. Notre Dame, post Spurrier Florida, and Michigan have followed that model. Again, worth noting, all three of those programs made their “comeback” under the guy AFTER the guy and Michigan being “back” is based on the 2011 season only. Tennessee is in year 3 under Dooley, FSU is in year 3 under Jimbo and USC is about to hit year 3 post Pete Carroll.
Also worth mentioning, Ohio State shouldn’t start sizing themselves for rings just yet. Of those coaches who have left and returned to coach another team; Spurrier and Nick Saban are the only ones with any success (Spurrier graded on the South Carolina curve). Saban remains the only one to win a title again while the rest of those coaches were mired in mediocrity. Just winning the “Big 10 to 12” Conference would put Meyer on another very short list. That all remains to be seen, but history tells us that he’s not likely to raise that crystal ball over his head again.
In short, no need to panic. The program should be OK. An extended string of 8-4 seasons is hopefully not in our near future.