Hot Reads: Six Seasons of Coaching-Hire Grade Distribution
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: Six Seasons of Coaching-Hire Grade Distribution

February 02, 2018

Time for a bit of trivia. What do Scott Frost, Tom Herman, Justin Fuente, Willie Fritz, Mark Richt, Matt Campbell, Dino Babers, Jim Harbaugh, James Franklin, Chris Petersen, Craig Bohl, Willie Taggart, Bobby Petrino and Gary Andersen all have in common?

They have all been graded as A+ hires by Athlon Sports over the past six seasons. Frost was the only coach to earn the designation this year. “In terms of fit and need as it relates to the 2017-18 college football coaching carousel, it doesn’t get much more perfect than Frost at Nebraska,” wrote Steve Lassan as part of the explanation for Frost’s ranking.

He won’t find any disagreement around these parts. Frost’s A+ feels right, but I always have an uneasy relationship with hiring-grade stories. Let’s just say the grade distribution tends towards the positive, which isn’t typically how it plays out in the real world.

Because I’m sort of powerless to not do things like this, I went through Athlon’s grades back to 2013. (Here are all of them: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013.) Here’s the curve based on those grades.


Effectively we’re dealing with an A+ to C scale here. That’s not ideal from my perspective. If everyone wins than nobody loses, and we know that’s not what’s actually happening in the market. That said, I wouldn’t call it a fatal flaw of these sort of rankings either. You just have to be aware of the actual scale. Making hires is hard. Grading them isn’t any easier, though at the edges of the scale – talking the actual A to F scale in this case – things hold up OK.

Of the A+ group mentioned above, nobody really sticks out as overvalued. Gary Andersen, graded an A+ for Wisconsin in 2013, didn’t end up being a fit in Madison, but he had two solid seasons. Dino Babers at Syracuse also falls into a “we’ll see” range, but his first two seasons have been encouraging. The A+ grade for Matt Campbell in 2016 looks great right now.

The only coach to get an F was Run Turner at Florida International in 2013. He went 10-30 in three-and-a-half seasons, getting fired with the Panthers at 0-4 in 2016. FIU fired Mario Cristobal, now Oregon’s head coach, and ended up with that.

Herm Edwards, now at Arizona State, is the only D- in the group, and that feels about right to me. The three D hires were Dana Dimel (UTEP, 2017), John Bonamego (Central Michigan, 2015) and Sean Kugler (UTEP, 2013). Bonamego is doing OK at 21-18 with three bowl trips. Dimel? Well, you’re in El Paso because Kugler went 18-36 over four-and-a-half seasons.

Overall, if you’re the type of person who likes these sort of grades, take B+ as the break-even point. If your school makes a B+ hire, that’s been about par for the course.

And in case you’re curious, Frost was graded a B+ hire back in 2016. So was Mike Riley in 2015.

The Grab Bag

  • Good read from Dennis Dodd on the case a group of Ole Miss transfers are making for immediate eligibility in 2018.
  • Former TCU wide receiver Kolby Listenbee is suing the school, coach Gary Patterson and other staff members and the Big 12 claiming he was pressured to play through injury.
  • Nebraska ranks 51st nationally in this look at five-year performance from 2013-2017.
  • ICYMI: Nebraska women's basketball won ugly against Illinois last night, Scott Schreiber has something to prove in 2018 and Zac Luckey made the baseball team.

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