Grading College Football Coaching Changes With Four Years Of Hindsight

ANN ARBOR MI - NOVEMBER 06: Tate Forcier #5 of the Michigan Wolverines is congratulated by head coach Rich Rodriguez after scoring an overtime touchdown while playing the Illinios Fighting Illini at Michigan Stadium on November 6 2010 in Ann Arbor Michigan. Michigan won the game 67-65. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Grading the recent round of college football coaching hires is one thing. But what might we learn about this year's collection by revisiting 2007's?

The regular season is over. The bowl season hasn't started yet. It's the perfect time to clean house.

That's what a bunch of programs are doing - 24, to be exact. Some teams need new coaches because their old ones have moved on to bigger and (presumably) better places. But most are making a change because for one reason or another, their previous regime wasn't getting the job done.

While 10 of the 24 teams have yet to make a hire, the ones that have were greeted with a range of emotion from euphoric (Mike Leach to Washington State) and upbeat (Rich Rodriguez to Arizona) to perplexed (Charlie Weis to Kansas) and downright apocalyptic (Jim Mora to UCLA).

But here's the thing: Don't make too much out of the initial reaction, because most of the time we don't have a clue on how a hire will pan out.

Case in point, after the 2007 season, I wrote a piece on the 18 coaching changes that were made in the offseason. I foolishly decided to grade those hires before they even fully furnished their offices. And looking back, it's easy to see that first impressions are not only often wrong, but sometimes dangerous:

SOUTHERN METHODIST -- June Jones > Phil Bennett: For a moribund program that's not recovered from being the only recipient of the NCAA death penalty, this was quite a coup. Jones might not re-enact the glory days of Pony Express, but the Mustangs have the potential to be a non-BCS powerhouse. A+ 

(This wasn't that far off the mark. After going 1-11 in his first season, Jones has taken SMU to three straight bowl appearances - something the Mustangs haven't done since the days of ... Pony Express. Revised Grade: A)

MISSISSIPPI -- Houston Nutt > Ed Orgeron: Firing Coach O wasn't that hard of a decision ... getting Nutt, though, makes it all the better for Ole Miss. A

(Couldn't be more wrong. Nutt was 24-26, with an Ole Miss record of 12 consecutive losses in SEC play, before being forced out near the end of this season. F)

NEBRASKA -- Bo Pelini > Bill Callahan: If there was ever a case of addition by subtraction, this was it. Nebraska earns a good grade by simply getting rid of Callahan. A

(While Nebraska has seen improvement under Pelini, he hasn't restored the program to greatness. Then again, it could be a lot worse than 38-15, with at least nine wins each season. A-)

MICHIGAN -- Rich Rodriguez > Lloyd Carr: Michigan fumbled the chance to get LSU's Les Miles, yet at the end it ended up with the best young coach in the country. A-

(This is a case of great looks failing to mask turmoil. RichRod was a bad fit at Michigan and was fired after just three seasons. D)

UCLA -- Rick Neuheisel > Karl Dorrell: Make no mistake, this was a great hire. This is the only coach UCLA could've hired that might put a little scare in the crosstown Trojan Empire. A-

(The gap with the Empire has shrunken all right, to the tune of 50-0. Neuheisel was 21-29 in his four seasons before getting canned. F)

GEORGIA TECH -- Paul Johnson > Chan Gailey: There was really nothing left for Johnson to accomplish at Navy, really. Now he'll find out whether a variation of his option attack can work in a BCS conference. B+

(Johnson has proved that his offense can work in a BCS conference, having taken the Jackets to four straight bowls, including the Orange Bowl after winning the ACC in 2009. A)

NORTHERN ILLINOIS -- Jerry Kill > Joe Novak: Northern Illinois raided its in-state neighbor for this hire. Kill moves up literally (from Southern Illinois) and figuratively (from I-AA) to a program that's a powerhouse in MAC. B+

(And he's moved on to Minnesota after three seasons at NIU, going 23-16 and taking the Huskies to the MAC title game in his final season. A-)

ARKANSAS -- Bobby Petrino > Houston Nutt: If you can somehow separate Petrino the coach from Petrino the man, this would've been a grade A hire. Unfortunately, Petrino came with so much baggage that it must be considered. B

(Fayetteville seems to have cured Petrino's wanderlust and he has built a powerhouse program. He's won 10 games in each of the last two seasons in what must be considered the toughest division in college football A).

BAYLOR -- Art Briles > Guy Morriss: Briles will have to work near-miracles to turn around the fortunes of Baylor, which has had 12 straight losing seasons. B

(While Briles is only 24-25 at Baylor, he has put the program on the map, culminating with quarterback Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. A-)

HOUSTON -- Kevin Sumlin > Art Briles: Sumlin earned valuable experience under the tutelage of Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Houston, given its location in a recruit-rich area, has the potential to become a non-BCS powerhouse, much like SMU. B

(Sumlin indeed came within a win of taking the Cougars to their first-ever BCS game, and he parlayed that success into his new gig at Texas A&M. A)

NAVY -- Ken Niumatalolo > Paul Johnson: Niumatalolo is very familiar with the system and is well regarded by his players, and he's aware Johnson set the bar very high. B

(Niumatalolo started well enough, winning 27 games his first three seasons. But cracks are showing as Navy has failed to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy the past two seasons and just had its first losing season since 2002. A-)

TEXAS A&M -- Mike Sherman > Dennis Franchione: A former pro coach returning to the college ranks, hmmm, we've heard this before. But Sherman has had a long association with A&M, including a two-part, seven-year stint as an assistant for R.C. Slocum. B

(The Aggies improved in each of their first three seasons under Sherman, but a 6-6 record this year inexplicably got him the pink slip. His 1-3 record against Texas hasn't helped as A&M gets ready to transition to the SEC. B)

WASHINGTON STATE -- Paul Wulff > Bill Doba: WSU toyed around with the idea of luring back former coach Mike Price, but decided on a youth movement, hiring alum Wulff away from Eastern Washington. B-

(Wulff was mostly overmatched in the Pac-10/12, going 9-40 before being fired. AD Bill Moos quickly upgraded the position by hiring Mike Leach. F)

DUKE -- David Cutcliff > Ted Roof: Cutcliff did well as the head coach at Ole Miss and did not get a fair shake there. But the Duke job has proved a career killer for everyone not named Steve Spurrier. C+

(In most BCS conference schools, a 15-33 record would be enough to get fired. But this is Duke, and he's genuinely making progress. For good measure, he turned down Tennessee a year ago. B)

WEST VIRGINIA -- Bill Stewart > Rich Rodriguez: Hiring an interim coach based on a knee-jerk reaction is never a good idea, and this fits the bill to a T. C+

(Stewart won nine games in each of his three seasons but was ultimately pushed out when a bizarre coach-in-waiting arrangement with Dana Holgorsen blew up in WVU's face. C+)

COLORADO STATE -- Steve Fairchild > Sunny Lubick: After being away from the college game for seven years, the former CSU quarterback returns to coach his alma mater. Fairchild inherits an unstable situation with not a lot to work with. C

(And he made that worse by going 16-33, winning just three games each in the past three seasons before getting fired. F)

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI -- Larry Fedora > Jeff Bower: Of all the post-season firings/involuntary resignations, this one takes the cake. Just what exactly did Bower do wrong? And this takes nothing away from Fedora, who may prove himself to be a fine coach. C-

(Fedora was 33-19 in his four seasons at USM, taking the Golden Eagles to an upset of undefeated Houston in the Conference USA title game this season before moving on to North Carolina. A-)

HAWAI'I -- Greg McMackin > June Jones: No offense to McMackin, because someone has to be named coach, but just how did Hawai'i let Jones get away? In the meantime, almost nothing has changed with UH's broken down facilities. F

(The Warriors returned to mediocrity after McMackin took over, going 29-25 before he resigned last week. C)

See, for the most part, the end result didn't meet the expectations, for better or for worse. Of those 18 new coaches who got hired after the 2007 season, fewer than half (seven) are still with their schools. Eight were fired or pushed out, including two after just three seasons, while three moved on to better jobs.

So what of the new hires of 2012? It's best not to jump to conclusions. Don't grade them now. Wait 'till 2015.

Samuel Chi is the proprietor of BCSGuru.com and managing editor of RealClearSports. Sam's college football and BCS analysis, exclusively for SB Nation, will appear twice weekly throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter at BCSGuru.

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