Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that we are under 48 hours (under 36 actually…took me longer to get around to posting this than I thought) until Wolfpack Football kicks off the ’14 campaign and attempts to rid itself of the collective taste left from ’13.
With all of the recent rehashing (re-gnashing?) of last year’s train wreck of an opening season for Dave Doeren and the Pack, and the expected “What If” talk leading into this season, I got to thinking about the sophomore slump, specifically as it pertains to coaches. Even more specifically, NCSU Football Head Coaches.
My gut feeling without looking at the numbers was that many, if not most, NCSU coaches in the past had experienced somewhat of a dropoff in year two. Though admittedly, this might have been my NCSU defeatist attitude rearing its head. But I decided to go back and look at the numbers and see what was what. Since there were multiple (and I mean mega multiple) coaching changes early on, I semi-arbitrarily decided to pick up with Doc Newton in ’37 (this does also happen to be when the NCAA classification system V1.0 rolled out for the first time, however).
Even still, a few others before that time do get a mention at the end for their ‘above and beyond’ heinosity in their respective year two’s.
Williams “Doc” Newton (’37-’43) – 5-3-1 in ’37, took a step back in ’38 at 3-7-1, including failing to score in 7 of 11 games.
Beattie Feathers (’44-’51) – Followed up his inaugural campaign (1944, 7-2) with a 3-6 humbling in ’45. Wins included Milligan (TN) 47-12, Wm&Mary 20-6, and VT 6-0.
Horace Henderson (’52-’53) – His 3-7 in ’52 set the bar low, yet he still couldn’t clear it in ’53, winning but 1 game out of 10 that year (Davidson must have REALLY sucked) and scoring in double digits just twice. He was not invited back in ’54.
Earle Edwards (’54-’70) – Edwards’ 2-8 record in ’54 also set the bar low. Fortunately, unlike his predecessor, he was able to clear the bar, though only barely with his 4-5-1 record in ’55. Despite a very up and down career record-wise, he would go on to win (’57,’64,’68) or share (’63,’65) the conference title 5 times, including winning it outright in ’64 with a 5-5 overall record (5-2 ACC). Non-Conf losses that year were to ‘Bama, FSU and VT.
Al Michaels (’71) – 3-8 in ’71. There was no second season for Al. Let’s move on.
Lou Holtz (’72-’75) – With a first year record of 8-3-1, one might have bet that the diminutive Holtz would falter some in year two. Nope. He upped it to 9-3 in ’73, and upped it again in ’74, this time 9-2-1. His 7-4-1 in ’75 was his low water mark so he got the hell out and was never heard from in football circles again. When last heard from, he was managing the Kwik-E-Mart in Toad Suck, Arkansas.
Bo Rein (’76-’79) – 3-7-1 in ’76, Bo Rein upped his game to 8-4 in ’77. Like Holtz, he upped it again his 3rd year (9-3 in ’78). His 7-4 in ’79 included 3 Non-Conf losses (31-44 @Auburn, 28-30 @SCar, 7-9 vsPennSt) and was good enough to take the ’79 ACC Championship (still the Pack’s last, btw), but not good enough for a bowl game. He left at season’s end to take the LSU opening, but would never roam the sidelines in Baton Rouge.
Monte Kiffin (’80-’82) – Not the worst coach in NCSU football history, but let’s face it…the 1-2 punch of Holtz-Rein was a tough act to follow. He followed up a semi-respectable 6-5 in ’80 with a 4-7 dropoff in ’81, including dropping 6 straight to end the season. His return to 6-5 in ’82 wasn’t enough to stem the tides, especially after a 54-0 embarrassment at the hands of PennSt. Unlike the Holtz jocularity above, Kiffin really DID get the hell out after that, but he ended up doing OK for himself as a career NFL defensive guy. Though he did also spawn the anti-christ.
Trivial fact…Pete Carroll served as DC under Kiffin.
Tom Reed (’83-’85) – Coach Reed was the picture of consistency. Undeterred by his inaugural 3-8 in ’83, he proved he could do it again not only in his 2nd year, but again in his 3rd. There was no 4th.
Dick Sheridan (’86-’92) – After bringing his Furman squad to Raleigh and leaving with W’s in ’84 and ’85 (but then again, who didn’t?), the Pack decided if you can’t beat ‘em, hire ‘em. Sheridan quickly turned things around in Raleigh, posting an 8-3-1 record his first year, including the Pack’s first bowl appearance in 8 years. But even he was susceptible to the sophomore jinx. His 2nd year finish of 4-7 in ’87 would be his last losing season as he would take the Pack to bowl games the next 5 years.
Mike O’Cain (’93-’99) – Promoted from QB coach to the head chair after Sheridan’s unexpected departure, MOC hit the ground running…sort of. With a finish of 7-5 in his first season, he bucked the trend big time by posting the best (by far) season of his tenure at 9-3 during his sophomore campaign in ’94. It seemed at that time that perhaps the right choice HAD been made when the reigns were handed over. Then the rest of the 90’s happened.
Chuck Amato (’00-’06) – A popular hire for a lot of reasons, many having to do with his ability to piss off Carolina, Amato had a good start with an 8-4 opening season. Though he did drop off to 7-5 the following year, it’s difficult to give him much grief for that specifically. Plus he did follow it up the next year with an 11 win season. Which actually could have been better (GT, UMd, UVa…WTF???) in spite of it being capped off with a win over FSU and a beat down of Notre Dame on New Year’s Day. A year later, PR set sail for SD, and the writing was on the wall soon enough.
Timing is everything…Amato’s ’02 and ’03 teams scored 460 and 489 pts respectively. His ’04 and ’05 teams yielded only 218 and 212 respectively.
Tom O’Brien (’07-’12) – TOB also bucked the sophomore slump trend…sort of. His 5-7 mark in ’07 shot all the way up to 6-7 in ’08. That team was RW’s frosh campaign if you’ll recall, and after leading Rutgers early in the ‘Who Gives a Rat’s Ass Bowl’ (sponsored by D-Con), Russell left the game due to injury and the Pack folded.
Dave Doeren (’13-??) – After a hapless 3-9 campaign which included an 0-8 conference mark and an 8 game losing streak to end the season, it will be difficult for DD and Co. to do any worse in ’14. If he does, the low murmur of grumbling will surely grow and he will likely be officially on the hotseat going forward, deserved or not (but it probably would be deserved).
Other notable sophomore coaching efforts…
In ’94 (EIGHTEEN-94, that is), Bart Gatling followed up his 2-0 inaugural 1893 season, with an 0-2 mark. BOTH losses were to Carolina, and both were shutouts. Carolina would throw the shutout Gatling’s way again in 1895, though thankfully just once.
Perrin Busbee went undefeated in 1896, his first year at the helm. Of course, there was just one game that year, vsGuilford. He went 1-2 in 1897…blanked again by Carolina, and this time also blanked by Guilford. Again, Davidson must have REALLY sucked that year.
And alas, WC Riddick was not immune either. His 1-1 record his first year(which ALSO included getting blanked by Carolina), was followed up by a 1-2-2 mark in 1899, which again included another blanking at the hands of Carolina, though he did manage to tie them 11 all when they faced one another again later that year. The season ended with a 0-0 tie vsDavidson…that must have been fun to watch.
*For those keeping score, it took 7 tries before avoiding the goose egg vs Carolina.