2 and 10... then 2 and 10 again! But this year the BBN is pinning their hopes on Mark Stoops making a significant improvement; getting a minimum of four wins and hopefully more. Some have gone on to push seven (or higher) as the goal for this year. So can a team make not just a couple win improvement but a dramatic improvement to qualify for a mid to upper level bowl? It's happened elsewhere, why not here?
I put together a couple of tables, first for the SEC then for other well known programs around the country showing historic turnarounds in their history. Roughly the criteria was a team that had a losing record then had a 4 game or better improvement the following year. I showed the most recent reversal when there was more than one choice. The year and record for the losing season is given and then the record for the following year. In the last column is the name of the coach of the successful season and in parentheses is the year they are coaching at that school.
First, the SEC:
|South Carolina||'99||0-11||8-4||Holtz (1)|
|Miss. State||'06||3-9||8-5||Croom (4)|
(Alabama and Texas A&M did not make the list since they haven't had any single season turnarounds)
|Southern Cal||'61||4-5-1||11-0||McKay (3)|
|Ohio State U||'11||6-7||12-0||Meyer (1)|
|Michigan State||'64||4-5-1||10-1||Daugherty (12)|
|Notre Dame||'63||2-7||9-1||Parseghian (1)|
|Wake Forest||'05||4-7||11-3||Grobe (6)|
Interesting is the fact that in roughly half the cases the new coach made this turnaround in his first year. But looking deeper, those first year coaches are a good bunch with only Anderson (Rutgers) and Franklin (Vanderbilt) being first year head coaches. Anderson never bettered or matched his first year and Franklin didn't break .500 for the year until the following season.
So why didn't Stoops make an immediate turnaround his first year? Three reasons come to mind. First, this wasn't Saban stepping into LSU, Meyer into tOSU, Parseghian into Notre Dame or even Malzahn into Auburn. There wasn't a stable of thoroughbreds in the locker room or even an organization that was experienced at running a successful football program. Stoops didn't even have a cupboard to be bare.
Secondly, he had never been a head coach. He certainly has a wealth of football experience but stepping into Kentucky left him with spending his first year just trying to find enough fingers to stick in a leaky dike. Perhaps if he didn't have to split his coaching time with pushing for long overdue upgrades to facilities and establishing a new organization, the Wildcats might have done better last season. Stoops didn't have the luxury of picking up the phone and getting any staffer he desired (but he sure seemed to do a fine job in that regard even so). Lastly, he was given a schedule put together by the Marquis de Sade. Trying to improve upon 2 – 10 when you have no offense and a defense out-manned at most positions against SEC opponents is like trying to jump the Grand Canyon with a moped.
So can Stoops get this team to metamorphose into this year's turnaround story? The overall talent on the team is now two recruiting classes better (though young), he's been able to spend more time coaching and the schedule is a little less daunting. Anything is possible. Why not?