Friday, September 15, 2006

Does winningest = the best?

Last year I worked on a post calling TOB the best football coach in the history of Boston College. I never posted. After the UNC loss, I didn’t believe it. Coming less than a year after the Syracuse debacle, the UNC game reminded me of TOB’s limitations and was another missed opportunity at greatness.

Last week, TOB tied Joe Yukica to become the all-time winningest coach in school history. This season he will pass Yukica to become the school’s winningest coach. Does that make him the greatest? Not by itself. Unlike his predecessors, TOB’s time is not complete. How he finishes his tenure at BC will ultimately serve as his legacy. The big hole on his resume is big wins and championships. Here is how he measures up in the key categories of a college greatness.

Off the field accomplishments
BC established a good foundation for graduating its players long before TOB arrived. However, he does deserve credit for continuing the push. Here are some of the other things he’s done at BC. TOB’s personality will always keep him from becoming a beloved, cult figure at BC, like some legends are to their respective schools. But he deserves credit for what he’s done and the men he has produced.

This category is of longevity, consistency, and the time he coached. He’s padded it with plenty of Rutgers and Temple games, but Yukica’s resume includes plenty of games against Holy Cross. TOB also benefits from the expanded schedules of the modern era and the endless list of bowls. He’s won the most, because he’s had more games to coach. This is an accomplishment, but more of consistency, not of greatness.

Winning Percentage
Winning percentage tells a different story from wins. TOB has coached more games, therefore is bound to win more than Yukica (or Couglin or Bicknell…).
TOB’s current winning percentage is .618.
Yukica’s is .648
Coughlin’s is .614
Leahy’s is .909

If he keeps winning there is a good chance TOB will pass Yukica here too. As of now, Yukica was more productive with his time than TOB.

One other note about winning percentage: BC historically won .580 of its games. So every time Sports Information or the media trot out all these historical accomplishments (most bowl wins, most "X" wins season) remember that historically BC has been a solid program. TOB is performing above the historical mark, but not by a huge margin. If Yukica and Bicknell coached today, they would have had plenty of San Francisco Bowl titles too.

Big wins, big moments and championships
This is the area where TOB comes up short. One win over Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida State. He just got his first home win over a ranked team last week. His only title is a four-way piece of the worst Big East in history. He has yet to play in a New Year’s Bowl. He whiffed on his best chance to get to a BCS Bowl. His saving grace is his Notre Dame record. He never coached a Heisman winner like Bicknell and doesn’t have that program defining moment like Flutie’s Hail Mary or Gordon’s kick. This is the hole on his resume

What does it all mean?
TOB is a very good coach, but not a great one. There is still time. If he wins one ACC title before he is done he will go down as the best football coach the school has ever had. But if we get five more years of 8 wins and a meaningless bowl, people will always question his accomplishments.

I am not the only one weighing in. The Globe, the Heights and have their opinions too.