The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

June 14, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - For coaches, great rookie year not norm

MORGANTOWN — MORGANTOWN — Call this, if you will, a warning.

That may be a bit dramatic. Make it more of a heads-up, instead.

Simply put, now that the coaching change at West Virginia has been made and Dana Holgorsen is in full control of the football team, we just want to let you know it in no way means WVU will become a national power immediately.

History, in fact, tells us the exact opposite is true.

See, this being a first-year head coach is not an easy thing … and it doesn’t really matter how well you are prepared or how good a coach you eventually are going to be.

A rookie is a rookie and being a good coordinator, offensive or defensive, doesn’t mean diddly-squat.

We took a look at some College Football Hall of Fame coaches to see how they did in the first year of their first coaching assignments to verify what we suspected.

Ouch!

Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin just went into the Hall of Fame. How many votes do you think he would have gotten after he went 1-10 in his first year … or after he went 5-6 in each of his next two years?

That’s 11 and 22 in three years.

Think Dana Holgorsen will be a very popular coach if he’s 11-22 after following Bill Stewart's 28-9 for three years?

There are, of course, other examples. Joe Paterno, the winningest coach of all-time, was just 5-5 in his first season at Penn State.

Bear Bryant, perhaps the most famous coach of all-time, broke in at Maryland and was 6-2-1, then went 7-3 in his first year at Kentucky, 1-9 in his first season at Texas A&M and 5-4-1 in his first Alabama season, showing that it almost doesn’t matter how much experience a coach has, that first year at a school is a tough one.

Woody Hayes, the coach probably most often compared with Bryant and recently in the news due to the Ohio State scandal under Jim Tressell, was 4-3-2 in his first season at Ohio State. That came after debuting as a head coach at Dennison with a 2-6 record and moving to Miami of Ohio, where he was 5-4 in his first season.

This is pretty typical. First-year coaches are just not the coach they will become when they learn what they are doing, learn their personnel, learn the league and fully install the system in which they believe.

Darryl Royal was another, going 6-4 at Mississippi State as a rookie coach, 5-5 at Washington his first year there and 6-4-1 at Texas. Bo Schembechler, the Michigan Hall of Famer, was 5-3-2 and 6-3-1 in his two years at Miami.

It’s no different here at West Virginia. Remember Rich Rodriguez? At WVU he was 3-8 his first year, but you had to expect that because his first year at Salem he was 2-8 and his first year at Glenville he was 1-7-1. Heck, that 3-8 year at WVU could be considered a good one.

At Michigan it was no different, going 3-9 his first season. In fact, you put together Rodriguez’s first year record at each school where he was head coach and you have 9-32-1.

Even the man he replaced, Hall of Famer Don Nehlen, was just 6-6 in his first season at WVU.

Nehlen seemed the perfect man to speak to what a first-year coach faces as he begins to learn his trade.

He was only 31 when he was named the head coach at Bowling Green and had a lot of things to do once he eventually got to WVU, something he’s not sure he would have succeeded at had he not had that previous head coaching time at BGSU.

“There was a lack of confidence when I came here. No one thought we could win, including the fans. My job was to convince the kids they could win. Not a one of them had played on a winning team. My first meeting, the kids didn’t look at me. They didn’t think a lot of themselves,” Nehlen said.

“I worked from their chin up that first summer, hardly coaching any football.”

Head coaching is a different world. Holgorsen is a genius when it comes to x’s and o’s on the offensive side of the ball. Nehlen says that is great … if you are an assistant.

“The toughest part of becoming a head football coach is that the thing you love to do is something you don’t get near as much time to do as you did,” he said. “I had Gary Tranquil on my staff and he loved to go in a room and look at film, and he’d advise me. Well, he got the Navy job and in 30 days he called me and said, ‘This job sucks.’ He hadn’t had a chance to look at any film.

“As an assistant you work on football all day. There’s no press conference, no mail to answer, you don’t have to prepare team meetings, speak to the alumni. You’re in charge of the morale of all those kids, coaches, their wives. You almost don’t do any x’s and o’s.”

The truth is, you have to learn to coach all over, to do the p.r. things, the family things, the recruiting, the fund-raising. It takes time to find the time to do what must be done, and this may be especially difficult on a man like Holgorsen, whose reputation is late to bed and late to rise.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos