Doin' Time - Comparing Resumes of National Champion Coaches

David McGee

Since 1993, 13 coaches have won the National Championship. All but one (Stoops) had at least 20 years of coaching experience when they won. Bob Stoops had 18.

Edit: 16 Sep, 9:16 PM. I wrote this two days before f'bomb-gate caused the interwebs in Nebraska to meltdown.

Here's the list of national champion coaches since 1993.

The numbers represent the years of experience in each category when the coach won his first national championship.

CFB Asst.
NFL Asst.
Total CFB
Bobby Bowden 22 0 16 0 0 38 38
Mack Brown 21 1 12 0 0 33 34
Nick Saban 10 0 15 6 0 25 31
Tom Osborne 22 0 9 0 0 31 31
Pete Carroll 3 0 11 13 3 14 30
Jim Tressell 2 15 11 0 0 28 28
Phil Fulmer 7 0 21 0 0 28 28
Les Miles 6 0 18 3 0 24 27
Larry Coker 1 0 21 0 0 22 22
Gene Chizik 3 0 18 0 0 21 21
Steve Spurrier 10 0 8 0 3* 18 21
Urban Meyer 5 0 15 0 0 20 20
Bob Stoops 2 0 16 0 0 18 18
Bo Pelini 6 6 9 0 12 21

*Tampa Bay Bandits

The purpose for doing this particular analysis was to examine the belief that Bo Pelini just needs a few more seasons before he delivers a Nebraska National Championship; as well as to quell my own interest in seeing Scott Frost as the head coach at Nebraska.

First, and probably the most important, is the number of years of overall coaching experience that these national champion coaches had. When each one won their first national championship (Osborne's numbers are for 1994 for example) the average is 27 years of coaching experience at the college or NFL level. The median is 28 years. Currently, Bo Pelini has 21 years total experience as of today.

NFL coaching experience appears to be overvalued in this market. Only one coach's (Carroll) experience was earned primarily in the NFL. 9 of the 13 national champion coaches had zero NFL coaching time. On the other hand, the minimum CFB coaching time is 18 years. The average CFB coaching time is 23.5 years. The median is 22 years. Today, Bo Pelini has 12.

By this measure, Pelini is roughly a decade away from winning his first national championship, assuming all the other necessary stars align for him. This alone is not a reason for firing/not firing a coach. It is, however, worth considering. For all his greatness as coach, the decision to hire the young upstart and darling of Nebraska fans back in 2007 may not have been Coach Osborne's best decision...if the standard by which coaches at Nebraska are measured is still National Championships.

Seeing this puts a damp on my enthusiasm for Scott Frost. For all his manifest coaching upsides, he is probably as inexperienced, and maybe more so, than Pelini when he was hired.

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