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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Evaluating Coach Performance in 2013

With the many high profile coaching moves at the end of this past season, one topic that has been discussed heavily is coach performance.  Often, the conversations play out within the context of two related concepts: expectations and compensation.  Nick Saban is the highest paid coach in college football.  Meeting expectations at Alabama means winning a national championship.  Likewise, Mack Brown is the second highest paid coach in college football.  Texas is expected to win.  Texas did not win and Mack is fired.  Todd Berry at UL-Monroe, however, is not expected to win national championships by the administration, his players, or the fans.

While obviously there is clear relationship between expectations and salary, evaluating how well a coach has done in building a program takes years.  Keeping that in mind, one thing we can do to evaluate coach quality during 2013 is to compare the rank order of coach salary with the rank order of team performance.  Overall, there is a statistically significant correlation between the two, with increasing two spots in the rank order of highest paid coaches increasing your team's end of season rank by about 1 spot.  But who exceeds expectations?  Who fails most miserably?  Below are the top ten best and worst performers, subtracting the ranking of a coach's salary among all BCS teams from the team's end of season network ranking (more on the ranking here).

(*indicates first year; † indicates fired)

Coaches Who Exceeded (Salary) Expectations:
  1. Roderick Carey (Northern Illinois; $500,000; Team Rank 38)*
  2. George O'Leary (Central Florida; $1,500,000; Team Rank 4)
  3. Dave Clawson (Bowling Green; $375,000; Team Rank 60) (hired by Wake Forest)
  4. Matt Wells (Utah State; $500,000; Team Rank 52)*
  5. Larry Coker (Texas-San Antonio; $350,000; Team Rank 72)
  6. Matt Campbell (Toledo; $400,000; Team Rank 65)
  7. Pete Lembo (Ball State; $400,000; Team Rank 66)
  8. Joey Jones (South Alabama; $400,000; Team Rank 70)
  9. Todd Berry (Louisiana-Monroe; $350,000; Team Rank 79)
  10. Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss; $1,600,000; Team Rank 17)
Coaches Who Didn't Live Up to Their Pay Grade:
  1. Sonny Dykes (California; $2,300,000; Team Rank 117)*
  2. Bret Bielema (Arkansas; $3,000,000; Team Rank 93)*
  3. Gary Patterson (TCU; $3,500,000; Team Rank 86)
  4. Mike London (Virginia; $2,600,000; Team Rank 91)
  5. Mark Stoops (Kentucky; $2,000,000; Team Rank 116)*
  6. Charlie Weis (Kansas; $2,500,000; Team Rank 90)
  7. Jim Grobe (Wake Forest; $2,400,000; Team Rank 88)†
  8. Darrell Hazell (Purdue; $1,500,000; Team Rank 119)*
  9. June Jones (SMU; $2,000,000; Team Rank 97)
  10. Dave Doeren (NC State; $1,800,000; Team Rank 100)*
We can also take a look at who got hired and fired.  The +/- in parentheses is the difference between their ranking in salary and their team's end of season ranking, e.g. Texas finished ranked 44 but Mack Brown is the second highest coach, therefore -42.

Hired Coaches
  1. Bobby Petrino to Louisville (Western Kentucky; +25)
  2. Bryan Harsin to Boise State (Arkansas State; +15)
  3. Steve Sarkisian to USC (Washington; +8)
  4. Charlie Strong to Texas (Louisville; -1)
  5. Chris Peterson to Washington (Boise State; -11)
Fired Coaches
  1. Jim Grobe (Wake Forest; -55)
  2. Mack Brown (Texas; -42)
  3. Dave Christensen (Wyoming; -34)
  4. Rich Ellerson (Army; -23)
  5. Charley Molnar (Massachusetts; -11)
  6. Don Treadwell (Miami (OH); 0)