As Texas A&M turns into coaching search mode, the biggest question now becomes who's the right person to guide the program. Athletic director Bill Byrne has come to A&M doing things his way, and while some former students and fans have gulped at the heavy price increases in most athletic events, there's no denying his success at identifying coaching replacements in his five year tenure.
One has to look only so far as the two basketball programs to see the influence of Byrne, who hired veteran Gary Blair from Arkansas and newcomer Billy Gillispie from UTEP (and most recently Mark Turgeon) that transformed uniformly the worst men's and women's basketball programs in the Big 12 into Top 10-15 teams in 2007. He also hired arguably the most decorated NCAA track coach in Pat Henry and went out and identified a young Rob Childress to take over the baseball program that saw a major turnaround last spring in his second season.
However, for all the successes in these other sports, Byrne's legacy will depend on this next hire in football. With recent success in basketball and other sports such as soccer, Aggies aren't just a football-only school anymore. But, football is very important and it brings home a majority of athletic revenue and donations. It also brings back donors and partners of the university that support non-athletic programs and initiatives at the university. So this is big stuff.
One thing is for sure. Byrne is taking this hire very seriously and has taken extreme steps to make sure the search is performed in confidence and on his terms. Our sources indicate that Byrne personally called many influential donors asking for their cooperation in keeping the rumors at a minimum and following that up with a letter asking for their help while the search moves forward. The athletic department has been very tight-lipped about what's going on behind the scenes in regard to the coaching situation.
However, several coaches have emerged as potential candidates. Names such as Tommy Tubervile of Auburn, Cal's Jeff Tedford, Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, Butch Davis at North Carolina, Boise State's Chris Peterson, Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia, and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly to name a few. In fact, these names have been poked, prodded, and discussed ad nausem on the various Texas A&M sports Internet message boards.
Certainly, the qualifications of potential candidates for the Aggie job has been a hot button topic on the Aggie Websider's premium board, The Tailgate.
Tomorrow, I'll take a closer look at the resumes' of the potential candidates for the job and give you some insight into their background and coaching history. But today, I want to take a look at the statistical data for each coach and his team so far this season. Let's throw the conjecture and the opinions out the window and strictly look at who's getting it done statistically both on offense and defense. The numbers will surprise you.
First, let's take a look at total offense. Chris Peterson of Boise State leads the list with the No. 11 offense by total yardage, followed by Rich Rodriguez at No. 13. Surprisingly, three coaches rank lower in total yards on offense than Texas A&M's current rank at No. 61. Steve Spurrier's team comes in at No. 75 while Tommy Tuberville's offense ranks No. 92 and Butch Davis and the Tar Heels rank last at No. 99. Here's the complete list followed by scoring offense.
Team Total Yards – Offense
Boise State #11
West Virginia #13
Texas A&M #61
S. Carolina #75
N. Carolina #99
Team Total Yards – Defense
West Virginia #4
Boise State #14
N. Carolina #28
S. Carolina #48
Texas A&M #76
So what do those numbers tell us? First of all, most of these programs are currently successful (Davis is in his first season at UNC) which is why the coaches of these teams are on the potential watch list at Texas A&M. The numbers show that as a group, these teams and their coaches are generally more successful on defense from a statistical standpoint. All seven candidates listed have defenses no lower than No. 63, all basically in the upper half in performance in all of Division I football. Maybe the old cliché' is true. Defense wins football games. On the reverse side, three offenses rank in the bottom half of D-1 football and even fall below where Texas A&M's offense is currently ranked. Surprisingly, two of the most popular candidates discussed on the Internet message boards fell below Texas A&M, Steve Spurrier (#75) and Tommy Tuberville (#92).
Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia and Boise State's Chris Peterson were near the top in both offensive and defensive categories. Statistically, they are head-and-shoulders above the other leading candidates by this analysis. Of the other candidates, Jeff Tedford's units are the most consistent, with the offense ranking at No. 50, and the defense coming in at No. 58. Here's a look at the combined rankings of the candidates and where their respective teams fall in the Division I pecking order.
Team Combined Ranking Average (offense and defense)
West Virginia #8.5
Boise State #12.5
S. Carolina #61.5
N. Carolina #63.5
Texas A&M #68.5
I'm certainly not suggesting that evaluating coaching candidates should be reduced to statistical data analysis. Each team, each conference and each coach has a unique circumstance this season. Butch Davis and UNC finished near the bottom in most statistical categories, but a lot of that has to do with this being his first year with the Tar Heels and he's in the beginning stages of rebuilding that program. Yes, competition must be taken into account when evaluating the statistical performance of Boise State.
There are many statistical and non-performance issues to deal with such as financial implications, cultural fit, age, type of offense and type of defense. However, looking at the performance numbers and how these candidates stack up against the rest of Division I football is interesting indeed. We'll take a closer, more personal look at some of the candidates later in the week.
Coaching candidates - by the numbers
Aggie Digest Top Stories
Post Game Media: ArkansasThe Texas A&M Aggies moved to 4-0 on the season with a 45-24 win over Arkansas inside AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Kevin Sumlin and several players spoke with the media afterwards.
Aggie Digest7:22 AM
Game Balls: ArkansasThe Texas A&M Aggies squared off with the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday in their annual game in Dallas. The Aggies came away with an impressive 45-24 win.
Aggie Digest5:45 AM
No. 1 DT Trying to Chop Down Recruiting ListWith scholarship offers from coast-to-coast Scout five-star and No. 1 rated defensive tackle Marvin Wilson is trying to find that right combination for his final three official…
Scout FootballFriday at 9:27 AM
Game Week Media: Week 4 Arkansas (Players)The Texas A&M Aggies are preparing to face off with Arkansas Saturday in Dallas. A group of Aggie players were made available Tuesday during the weekly press conference.
Aggie DigestWednesday at 5:32 AM