ACC Coaches in close games |

ACC Coaches in close games


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
Syracuse has just had a five game stretch of games decided by no more than one score. The first four were by a field goal, the fifth by 5 points: we won the first and last. The three straight losses in between brought up the subject of head Coach Dino Babers in-game decisions and efficiency as there were several ‘happenings’, (to use the coach’s term), and decisions that looked bad in the losses and even the wins. I decide to look at the career records of ACC coaches in such games to see if there was a pattern of not doing well in those games, which one would normally expect to win around 50% of. Even if there was a talent gap in a game, if it wound up close, obviously the performances of the two teams in that game narrowed that gap to the point where the game could turn on such ‘happenings’ and decisions. I decided to look at anyone who has been a head coach of an ACC team since we joined the conference in 2013 and to look at their total careers to get a good data base.

College Football Data Warehouse

Steve Addazio (Temple 2011-12, Boston College 2013-19, Colorado State 2020-2021) 16-23
Jeff Hafley (Boston College 2020-2021) 4-3

Dabo Swinney (Clemson 2008-2021) 32-20

David Cutcliffe (Mississippi 1998-2004, Duke 2008-2021) 46-48

Jimbo Fisher (Florida State 2010-2017, Texas A&M 2018-2021) 31-18
Willie Taggart (Western Kentucky 2010-2012, South Florida 2013-2016, Oregon 2017, Florida State 2018-2019, Florida Atlantic 2020-2021) 27-18
Mike Norvell (Memphis 2016-2019, Florida State 2020-2021) 8-10

Paul Johnson (Georgia Southern 1997-2001, Navy 2002-2007, Georgia Tech 2008-2018) 49-46
Geoff Collins (Temple 2017-2018, Georgia Tech 2019-2021) 6-8

Charlie Strong (Florida 2004, Louisville 2010-2013, Texas 2014-2016, South Florida 2017-2019) 26-30
Bobby Petrino (Louisville 2003-2006, Arkansas 2008-2011, Western Kentucky 2013, Louisville 2014-2018, Missouri State 2020-2021) 24-24
Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State 2013-2018, Louisville 2019-2021) 15-17

Randy Edsall (Connecticut 1999-2010, Maryland 2011-2015, Connecticut 2017-2021) 38-42
DJ Durkin (Florida for one game 2014, Maryland 2016-2017) 4-3
Mike Locksley (New Mexico 2009-2011, Maryland 2015 and 2019-2021) 4-11

Al Golden (Temple 2006-2010, U of Miami 2011-2015) 22-20
Mark Richt (Georgia 2001-2015, U of Miami 2016-2018) 49-39
Manny Diaz (U of Miami 2019-2021) 7-8

Larry Fedora (Southern Mississippi 2008-2011, North Carolina 2012-2018) 27-33
Mack Brown (Appalachian State 1983, Tulane 1985-1987, North Carolina 1988-1997, Texas 1998-2013) North Carolina 2019-2021) 65-54-1
(Yes, Mack Brown has coached for long he has a tie on his record.)
Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois 2011-2012, North Carolina State 2013-2021) 26-17

Brian Kelly (Grand Valley State 1991-2003, Central Michigan 2004-2006, Cincinnati 2006-2009, Notre Dame 2010- 2021) 91-47-2
(Brian Kelly has two of them)

Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh 2012-2014, Wisconsin 2015-2021) 16-21
Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh 2015-2021) 18-24

Scott Shafer (Syracuse 2013-2015) 5-5
Dino Babers (Eastern Illinois 2012-2013, Bowling Green 2014-2015, Syracuse 2016-2021) 17-17
(Believe it or not: He was 14-6 through the 2017 Clemson upset and it 3-11 since then!)

Mike London (Richmond 2008-2009, Virginia 2010-2015, Howard 2017-2018, William & Mary 2019-2021) 31-31
Bronco Mendenhall (Brigham Young 2005-2015, Virginia 2016-2021) 37-25

Frank Beamer (Murray State 1981-1986, Virginia Tech 1987-2015) 61-77-4
(Frank had 4 ties! And the same number of suits.)
Justin Fuente (Memphis 2012-2015, Virginia Tech 2016-2021) 18-21

Jim Grobe (Ohio University 1995-2000, Wake Forest 2001-2013, Baylor 2016) 42-52
Dave Clawson (Fordham 1999-2003, Richmond 2004-2007, Bowling Green 2009-2013, Wake Forest 2014-2021) 40-44

Ranked by percentage
Kelly .660
Fisher .633
Swinney .615
Doeren .605
Taggart .600
Mendenhall .597
Durkin .571
Hafley .571
Richt .563
Brown .546
Al Golden .524
Paul Johnson .516
Babers .500
London .500
Petrino .500
Shafer .500
Cutcliffe .489
Clawson .476
Edsall .475
Satterfield .469
Diaz .467
Strong .464
Fuente .462
Fedora .450
Grobe .446
Norvell .444
Beamer .442
Chryst .432
Collins .429
Narduzzi .429
Addazio .410
Locksley .267

Dino is #13 among 32 coaches in the sample. Their total record in single score games is 902-856, (.513). Dino is ranked 7th of the 14 current ACC coaches. So Dino doesn’t really have a poor record in these games overall. Instead he has a strange record: 14-6, then 3-11. Why would this be? I don’t think Dino made a deal with the Devil to beat Clemson in exchange for losing so many close games since. He’s not the type. I don’t think Dino lost IQ points because he got slapped on the back too hard after the big win over the Tigers. I also don’t think he was a close game savant before that. It’s true that some decisions he’s made contributed to some recent close losses but it doesn’t mean that all those lose were due to dumb things he did any more than the wins were the product of his genius. He makes dozens of decisions during games and we tend to focus on the ones that don’t work out or that could have been made either way and which we disagreed with. I wonder what his batting average really is on those decisions.

I note that Kelly, Fisher and Swinney lead the list. They have tended to coach teams that have superior talent to their opposition. You’d think that if a game is close any talent gap has been negated by a gap in the way the teams have played in that game and thus the winner of that game will be based on other factors. But maybe the talent gap reasserts itself late in close games. Maybe Dino had a talent advantage in his years with Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green to build up that advantage but has had a talent disadvantage at Syracuse and that has caused him to lose the close ones more often than he did at his previous stops. (He was 4-2 here through the Clemson game and 10-4 at EIU and BG.)

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