I recently got this question into the mailbag and thought it was a good one to break out into a separate post.
Michael in Louisville writes: Andrea, can you please explain to me why people think Rutgers will compete in the Big East. I don't know if it's just (Steve) Kragthorpe bringing horrific memories back to me or what, but losing your head coach is tough. Even if you do have great players returning, the lack of a good coach is hard. The coach they got isn't even the one they wanted. They had to settle. I just don't understand why people are still so high on the Knights and are even in discussion for winning the conference.
I decided to look back at Big East teams with first-year coaches to see how they did, going back to Kragthorpe taking over for Bobby Petrino in 2007. You cannot make a blanket statement about every first-year coach. Of the nine coaching transitions at the eight current Big East schools, only four times did teams fare worse under their first-year coach than the prior year.
I did not even include West Virginia, which gets a 1-1 mark in its recent coaching transitions. Bill Stewart fared worse in Year 1 than Rich Rodriguez in his final season. But look at Dana Holgorsen last year taking over for Stewart. People were high on the Mountaineers because they had talent, and he accentuated that talent en route to an Orange Bowl win.
I am not saying Kyle Flood is Holgorsen. Flood has been an offensive line coach, and to my knowledge, has never called a play at Rutgers. Holgorsen had at least proven himself as a coordinator at several other spots, including Oklahoma State. But he had never been a head coach before West Virginia, so there were questions about him.
Kragthorpe had a winning track record when he got to Louisville, but clearly something was lost in the translation. Going back to the main question, I think some of the prognosticators have cooled on Rutgers since the season ended, largely because of the coaching change. I expect some of those bowl picks to change as we get closer to the season.
But I do think Rutgers has a chance to compete for a championship because of the talent returning, specifically on defense. If that D is as good as it was a year ago, Rutgers will be in a lot of games. Having said that, Rutgers is the only Big East school facing a coaching transition for the first time since the 2006 season. So a lot of people are going to be watching to see how Flood does.
Now, here is a look at how first-year coaches have done in the Big East since 2007.
2006: final year under Mark Dantonio, 8-5
2007: first year Brian Kelly, 10-3
2009: final year under Kelly, 12-1
2010: first year Butch Jones, 4-8
2010: final year under Randy Edsall, 8-5
2011: first year Paul Pasqualoni, 5-7
2006: final year under Bobby Petrino, 12-1
2007: first year Kragthorpe, 6-6
2009: final year under Kragthorpe, 4-8
2010: first year Charlie Strong, 7-6
2010: final year Dave Wannstedt, 8-5
2011: first (and final) year, Todd Graham: 6-6
2009: final year under Jim Leavitt, 8-5
2010: first year under Skip Holtz, 8-5
2008: last year under Greg Robinson, 3-9
2009: first year under Doug Marrone, 4-8
2010: last year under Al Golden, 8-4
2011: first year under Steve Addazio, 9-4