CFB: Evaluating New Head Coaches
August 25, 2005
"A change, would do you good,
I said a change'¦ would do you good"
During the off-season, 23 programs have been humming this little ditty by Sheryl Crow because they changed head coaches. I doubt she penned this lyric in reference to College Football so I am certainly not going to take issue with Ms. Crow. But will a change actually do any of these programs any good? And how can we sports bettors exploit these changes to make some money?
Early in the season, whether or not a change will do a program good depends on how the players, fans and betting public view the incoming HC and what the outgoing one has left in his wake.
Many sports writers apply the metaphor of a family to a football team. So let's run with this family analogy and review my four types of new HC's.
1. "The Great New Dad":
This type of new HC rides in as knight-in-shining-armor on a white horse. He is going to be the program's Savior, returning it to former glory; or it's Captain Kirk, taking it boldly where it's never gone before. This is a new marriage made in Heaven. From the moment of the hire, every day is "Father's Day". Optimism reigns. The new HC will have the unwavering support of the players and fans, and a long leash; at least for a while.
Urban Meyer, Florida
Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
2. "The Trusted Relative":
If we can't have an actual dad, it's not so bad to have someone like grandpa or your favorite uncle running the family is it? These new HC's are those that have been promoted from within the program itself.
Bronco Mendenhall, BYU
Shane Montgomery, Miami-Ohio
Bill Cubit, Western Michigan (was Offensive Coordinator 1997-99)
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
3. "The Respected Stranger":
A program may decide to hire from without rather than promote from within. This new HC has enough of a resume to engender respect, but not enough to be worthy of savior status.
Ron Zook, Illinois
Terry Hoeppner, Indiana
Les Miles, Oklahoma State
Tyrone Willingham, Washington
Greg Robinson, Syracuse
Frank Solich, Ohio
Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh
Walt Harris, Stanford
Dick Tomey, San Jose State
Mark Snyder, Marshall
Mike Sanford, UNLV
Brent Guy, Utah State
4. "Mom's New Boyfriend":
This type of coach is typically the hire of a program with a long history of losing or discontinuity or both. Often, part of their losing history is due to the fact that they keep changing coaches all the time. Like an actual new boyfriend, this new HC will often be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism. There may even be a sense of resignation if the public thinks "is this the best we could do?" This moniker is also what coaches in the categories above might get if the public gets impatient about how the new relationship is working out.
Hal Mumme, New Mexico State
Skip Holtz, East Carolina
So how can we use this information in our handicapping?
Every new coach infuses the program with at least some degree of renewed enthusiasm. This will show up as more spirited play early in the season. But at the same time, he has probably changed the offensive and defensive systems entirely and brought in new coordinators. The "family" is almost certainly going to have some "growing pains". Based on the amount of off-season hype, a coaching change can also often inflate the line on a given team.
Betting on games with new HC's comes down to whether or not there is enough renewed enthusiasm to offset the inevitable growing pains and any line-inflating hype.
Often it is, when facing inferior opposition; but not against an equal or better foe.
Bear in mind that "Great New Dads" create the most enthusiasm and hype and "Mom's New Boyfriends" the least. "Trusted Relatives" typically have the smallest growing pains because they usually don't change the team's systems much, if at all.