Improvement under new coaches is wide-ranging

NCAA Football

(Stats Perform) – A new coaching staff brings added attention and often energizes a college football program, but few head coaches go into the first season by publicly quantifying what would make for a successful win total.

Do all the right things and the wins will follow, they repeat.

The truth is, an improved win total often takes time. That’s why the three-, four-, five-year plans for success were invented.

Incredibly, half of the programs on the FCS level (there will be 127 in 2020) have had a change at the top in the last 2½ years. The last two seasons, after volatile change led to 25 new head coaches each year, provided big samples of the mostly wide-ranging results.

Record-wise, improvement was minimal. In 2018, the programs with new coaches had a combined .433 winning percentage (120-157), up from .416 (117-164) a year earlier. Ten programs improved their record, 12 had a worse mark and three remained the same. Four schools won or shared conference titles and made the postseason – ETSU (under Randy Sanders), UIW (Eric Morris), North Carolina A&T (Sam Washington) and Wofford (Josh Conklin).

The improvement was slightly less last season. The winning percentage at schools with new coaches was .448 (137-169), up from .444 (123-154) in 2018, with a decline in record at 13 schools and a better one at the other 12. Five schools won conference titles and made the postseason – FCS champion North Dakota State (Matt Entz) and runner-up James Madison (Curt Cignetti) plus Austin Peay (Mark Hudspeth), Central Connecticut State (Ryan McCarthy) and Sacramento State (Troy Taylor, the Stats Perform Eddie Robinson Award recipient). Take NDSU and JMU – a combined 30-2 – out of the mix and the winning percentage was .391 (107-167) at the other 23 programs.

The FCS coaching changes dropped to 14 this offseason, but the getting-to-know-you offseason has been hampered by the loss of most spring practices and the shuttering of campuses due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. New coaching staffs have basically been tasked with running their programs remotely.

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