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Numbers Don’t Support Firing Successful Coaches

Jason Scott

This season, the college football coaching carousel is spinning at an unusually fierce velocity. Several high-profile jobs have become available, with coaches either stepping down or getting the axe.

One of those coaches is Mark Richt, who last week was fired as the head coach at Georgia.

The firing of a mediocre college coach is generally unremarkable. In college football, mediocre coaches get fired all the time.

What’s interesting about Richt, however, is that in terms of wins and losses, he was actually a successful coach. According to the Huffington Post, during his coaching tenure, Richt won 73 percent of his games – just a hair shy of Nick Saban’s 76 percent.

So what exactly does Georgia think it’s doing? 

In the past, college football’s blue blood programs have walked this path – either firing a long-time successful coach, or encouraging them to resign or retire.

Michigan did it with Lloyd Carr, who won 75 percent of his games. His replacements, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, never came close to that percentage.

Nebraska did it with Bo Pelini, who won 9 or 10 games each year he was at the helm. Pelini was replaced by Mike Riley, who in his first season finished with a losing record.

Texas replaced Mack Brown with Charlie Strong. Brown won nearly 77 percent of his games in Austin. Strong is struggling at only 44 percent.

Even lower profile schools have made the mistake of firing a successful coach and hiring a less-successful replacement.

Proponents of these kinds of changes will point to the example of Jim McElwain in Florida, who in his first season in the Swamp coached the Gators to the SEC Championship game and a 10-2 regular season record. What they’re forgetting, however, is that Florida’s previous coach, Will Muschamp, had a similar start, going 11-2 in his second season before being fired in 2014.

Taking the numbers into account, fans and athletics administrators interested in National Championships are better off dealing with the occasional 3-loss seasons under a proven coach than taking a gamble on a new coach who may not be able to match them. 

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