(John Baranowski is a new contributor to The Nittany Turkey. Please enjoy his article and comment on it with no holds barred, as you would with me! —TNT)

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 who 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 10 seasons.

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. 

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Patent Office Deems Redskins Offensive

by Ben Goldfarb on June 18, 2014

in Sports

OK, folks, we’re seriously getting into some ridiculous territory here with this imperial presidency, already. Obama has shown that he doesn’t mind using executive branch edicts to impose his will on the rest of us, so why should this be any different. Let’s sanitize the language, removing all traces of objectionable, biased, colorful (pardon the expression) or offensive (in WHOSE opinion) speech. The Washington Redskins’ name has been deemed by the U.S. Patent Office to be objectionable and disparaging, and that office has revoked the organization’s trademark for the name.

Cleveland Indians - Proposed Logo

Cleveland Indians – Proposed Logo

What’s next?

Come on, use your imagination.

The New Jersey Giants and the San Francisco Giants better watch their humongous asses. Their name is disparaging to sufferers of acromegaly, a condition that is not fun at all. This is a serious thing. Do not use the term giant. You may call your team the San Francisco Vertical Hypertrophers.

Lookee here, San Diego Padres! Sexists! What about the Madres? And what about non-Spanish speakers? You better be careful with that monocultural crap there in San Diego. Keep it gender neutral but bilingual (of course). The San Diego Parents/Parientes is the preferred moniker.

And damnit, the Canadians do NOT get a pass for the Toronto Blue Jays. That’s racist! It discriminates against scrub jays and other kinds of jays. Blue Jays didn’t ask to be blue, either. Using a pigmentation reference in the name is asking for trouble — like Redskin! No, no, no! In some circles, a J-bird may be taken to mean a Jewish bird. No, no, no! Forget birds — too dangerous. Go with prominent features of the city. I can think of any, so they’re the Toronto Why Nots (which rhymes with their football team, the Argonauts — who along with Jason never did find that golden fleece).

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Naming teams after maritime marauders, plunderers, thieves, rapists, and killers seems to be just a bit offensive, doesn’t it? I’m all for naming them the Pittsburgh Peonies and the Tampa Bay Begonias. Flowers are not offensive to anyone!

The Chicago Bears? Hell, a bear in gay parlance is a big, hairy gay guy with a beard. But what about the slight, wispy, effeminate gay guys? Aren’t we slighting them by lionizing the bears? (Lionizing, get it?) No, we need to be all-inclusive, so call them the Chicago Male Escorts, which is gender orientation neutral.

It’s pretty bad when a professional sports team has to carry around a name derived from a sexual position. The Dallas Cowboys have that problem. It would be much less offensive to some religions if we called the Dallas Celibates.

St. Louis and Arizona both have Cardinals. We’ve established that red pigment references are offensive. So would be a reference to a highly ranked official in the Roman Catholic Church. That’s why we need to change the Cardinals to the Kumquats. That way, we’re boosting the ego of the lowliest of all citrus fruits.

The Los Angeles Kings? Man, that’s playing with fire. King is a masculine noun. That’s too preclusive. At least their farm team, the Manchester Monarchs, had sense enough to make their regal name gender neutral. But now, we need to go the other direction to appease the feminists and compensate for their backlash. Revoke the trademark and allow them to rename the team the Los Angeles Queens. This will yield the collateral benefit of allowing the gay lobby to call the team their own.

I believe it will be OK for the Cleveland Indians to keep their name just as long as they trade in that smiling red-skinned logo for a Sikh with a turban. Chief Wahoo will become Chief Sabu. I think we can allow that under the cultural diversity clause, whereas maintaining the “Indian” reference to Native Americans would be as disparaging as Columbus actually didn’t intend it to be over 500 years ago.

You know how I get in the summer. Nothing much to write about. The other blogs publish something every time Franklin farts, but I post only facetious, self-amusing crap. Well, the part about the imperial presidency isn’t amusing, but I digress. Hurry, football season!

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It’s a jungle out there: auto dealer service departments

May 20, 2014 General

Recently, Artificially Sweetened had an issue with her 2008 Toyota Sienna. She placed her trust in a large, local Toyota dealer to perform the service. Under the circumstances, it seemed like the best place to get what she needed, but in the end, it turned out to be the worst. I’ll keep you in suspense […]

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Home Improvement Hell: Gutterballs

April 30, 2014 General

The Nittany Turkey’s home improvement project continues, with gutters, downspouts, and exterior painting currently on the agenda.

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