Saturday, May 7, 2011

Comparing the First 12 Seasons of Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz: Different Styles, Similar Results?

Note: This will be the last post for a few weeks. I will be out of the country, and will not have much access to the internet. Hopefully, this post is plenty good enough to get you through the next two weeks.

Iowa football has been extremely fortunate to only have two different head coaches in the last 32 years. Not many college football programs can boast about such a thing. Both have been quite successful at the University of Iowa, despite doing things in pretty different ways. Hayden Fry, the man known for making Iowa respectable in football again, was very outspoken and would do anything to get inside his opponents head. He even went so far as to paint the opposing locker room all pink. Supposedly, to create a calming effect before his opponent took the field. Fry's successor, Kirk Ferentz, is the polar opposite. Ferentz is very tight lipped, giving stock answers to media questions, never giving his opponents bulletin board material. They are very different styles, but both have benefited from the way they do things.

Mostly out of needing an idea for a post, I decided to look at their success while at Iowa. Interestingly enough, they have had eerily similar success, despite their career arcs looking quite a bit different.

Like always, be warned. For there are graphs and numbers below. Ooooh. Scary. Continue if you dare!

First, let's look at career wins:

Hayden had quite a few peaks, and not a whole lot of valleys. In 11 of his 20 seasons, the Hayden Fry led Iowa Hawkeyes won at least 8 games. That's pretty good.

Ferentz's first year taking over for Fry, comes in as the lowest valley in both of these charts. However, he also has the two highest peaks, where his Iowa teams won 11 games. Something Fry never did.

Considering, Ferentz hasn't been the coach at Iowa for 20 years like Fry was, I decided to take a look at how Ferentz's first 12 years at the helm of the Hawkeyes compared to Fry's first 12 seasons on the job.

Above, are the wins per season for both coaches in their first 12 seasons. Fry had a long steady run after his first two seasons, winning at least 8 games from 1981 until 1987. Ferentz's career has been a bit more bimodal. His first taste of success lasted from 2002 through 2004 where he led the Hawkeyes to at least 10 wins every season. However, this success was followed by some bad years where Iowa won no more than 7 games. But, Ferentz was able to pull his team out of the three season rut, and put together three straight seasons where they won 9, 11, and 8 games.

Now, obviously, college football teams play a different amount of games from year to year. Depending on different things such as bowl games. Obviously, if a coach wins 8 games in an 12 game season, that is going to be more impressive than if that same coach would have won 8 games in a 13 game season. So, I plotted the number of times each coach won a certain percentage of games in their first 12 seasons.

First, Hayden Fry:

Wow. Nice and tight distribution. Almost a perfect bell curve. Fry won at least 60% of the games on his schedule in 8 of his first 12 seasons. Overall, Fry won 62.50% of his games in his first 12 seasons. Impressive.

Now, Ferentz:

Not quite as neat as Fry's was. Ferentz's distribution is clearly skewed toward the higher side of the win percentage scale, winning at least 50% of his games in 9 of his 12 seasons. That's very good. As is the fact, that Hayden only had one season where he won at least 80% of his games, but Ferentz has had 3. Including, the 2002 season where Ferentz's team won 91.67% of their games. However, Ferentz has only 6 seasons where his teams have won at least 60% of their games, compared to Fry's 8 seasons.

Also, Ferentz has the worst season of both coaches, winning only 9.09% of his games in his first season. In his first 12 seasons, Fry never won less than 36.36% of his games. So, Fry's teams were more consistent in his first 12 seasons. While, Ferentz's teams have had the higher peaks and valleys.

Next, I looked at both coaches average points scored per game.

It's pretty similar to the wins graph above. So, once again, I broke down how many seasons both coaches scored a certain amount of points per game.

Fry really likes his nice clean, almost bell shape distributions. His teams averaged at least 25 points per game in 7 of his first 12 seasons as head coach at Iowa.

Ferentz is skewed more to the left this time. Unlike Fry, Ferentz's teams have averaged at least 25 points per game in only 5 of his first 12 seasons. However, he did have the highest scoring team, which, unsurprisingly, was the 2002 team which averaged 40.33 points per game on the way to winning almost 92% of their games. Once again, Hayden's teams were more consistent. But, Ferentz had the extreme outlier in the 2002 team, averaging about 40 points per game.

What about points allowed?

Above, is their points allowed per game in each of their first 12 seasons. Let's look at their distributions again.

Once again, wow. Fry's teams held their opponents under 20 points per game in 9 of his first 12 seasons.

Ferentz, on the other hand, has allowed less than 20 points per game in 6 of his first 12 seasons. Now, obviously, this isn't all on the defense, as these points can come from kicks and turnovers being returned for touchdowns. But, most of that is from earlier in Ferentz's tenure. Over the last four seasons, Iowa hasn't allowed more than 18.75 points per game. It'll be interesting to see how the team fares in this category this year, as they lose a pretty significant chunk of the defense.

Overall, though, Hayden's teams were able to hold opponents to under 20 points per game more often than Ferentz's teams have so far. But, Ferentz's 2008 team only allowed 13 points per game, which was the best out of the 24 seasons looked at (though, Fry's 1981 team allowed 13.08).

Finally, let's look at the 12 season averages for both coaches.

Even though Fry's teams were a little more consistent, the fact that Ferentz's teams had some of the higher peaks, seems to even everything out. Ferentz has averaged slightly more wins per season, but that is due to the fact that Ferentz has coached 148 games in his first 12 seasons, and Fry only coached 144. When you look at at win percentage, Fry has the lead, winning 62.50% of his games in his first 12 seasons. Ferentz's win percentage is still good, though. As he has won 60.14% of his games so far.

Fry's teams had an average margin of victory of 7.72 points per game, which is about 1.5 points per game more than Ferentz's teams have outscored opponents by. However, it's not been because Ferentz's offenses have been inferior. On the contrary, both of the coaches teams averaged about 26 points per game in their first 12 seasons. It's actually been the defense, that gives Fry the lead in the margin of victory. Fry's teams allowed 18.62 points per game, while Ferentz's teams have allowed an average of 19.84.

Fry's first 12 seasons were better than Ferentz's, but overall they were very similar. What I find even more remarkable, is that the two coaches are still so similar, considering Ferentz had such a terrible first year on the job. In 1999, when Ferentz took over for Fry, his Hawkeyes won 1 game, averaged 14.73 points per game, while allowing 31.55 points per game. All of those make up for the worst single season between both coaches. So, I decided to see what the numbers would look like if we took out both coaches first season from the equation.

Ferentz still averages more wins per season, but, once again, he coached 4 more games over those 11 seasons. The interesting thing is, Ferentz gains a lot of ground on Fry. Fry's teams still gave up slightly less points, but Ferentz's teams scored slightly more. This led to both of them outscoring their opponents by almost similar margins. If we look at win percentage, it bares even more semblance. From his second season through his twelfth season, Fry won 63.91% of his games. In that same time period, Ferentz won 64.23% of his games.

To try to tie this all together, Fry looks like the most consistent of the two coaches in his first 12 seasons as coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The number of wins under Fry's first 12 seasons, was a pretty neat and clean, almost bell shape curve. He started a little slow, but then had at least 8 wins from 1981 to 1987, before dropping off for a couple of years again. Ferentz, on the other hand, started off slow, peaked even higher than Fry for a shorter time, fell off for a couple of years, and then peaked again, before the disappointing season last year (in which he still won 8 games). This makes the averages of both coaches are very similar, especially when you take out their rookie seasons.

Though, they have had similar success, they have done it with very different coaching styles. Fry would kick your ass, and then run up the score to rub it in your face. Ferentz will get up three scores, and then try to run the clock out in the second quarter. But, no matter their differences in coaching styles, both have got the job done. Different processes, but eerily similar results. Which is good news for Hawkeye fans.

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1 comment:

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