First off, let me start by saying this article has no intention of slighting Charlie Strong or Kyle Flood. Both are very good coaches who had terrific seasons in the Big East. After reading some fan comments and opinions from Syracuse regarding Doug Marrone and their case for why he should have been Big East coach of the year, I’ve come to the conclusion that the award is inconsistent at best, with some of the reasons fans list when supporting their coach to be absolutely silly.
If you’ve ever heard of what usually defines coaches’ votes for the award you’ll understand where I’m coming from. It generally is a team that A) either has high a high preseason ranking and lives up to that high preseason ranking or B) is a team that is full of unknowns and has a low preseason ranking and they exceed said expectations. In the preseason, Louisville was the overwhelming favorite to win the conference, and that it really wasn’t even going to be close. South Florida was supposed to be the main contender to the Cardinals, with Rutgers behind them in the third slot. Cincinnati came behind them, followed by Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and Connecticut was selected sixth before Syracuse was finally selected seventh.
As we all know, there was a four way tie in the Big East this football season. Three of those teams were predicted to finish in the top four in the preseason rankings. Syracuse was the only co-champion that wasn’t even given a sniff of hope in the official coaches predictions in the preseason. So if we are going to give credit to coaches for doing what they were supposed to do according to the coaches in the preseason, shouldn’t we give more credit to coaches who greatly exceed less expectations from those very same voters? If the precedent was set in the Big East that the voters will always favor this style of voting, then I would have no argument. Even if the coaches decided that they are going to give the coach of the year to the top team every year I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But the inconsistency of the voting is what I really take issue with. In 2010, Charlie Strong went 3-4 in the conference before winning the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl in St. Petersburg over Southern Miss. Great coaching job? Maybe. Coach of the year material? Based on the voting this season, I would say no.
And this is not just Syracuse bias. In just 2010, Syracuse saw the vote go in that fashion in basketball as Jim Boeheim won the award because he had a team that did not have a player ranked in the top 100 in high school, but got his team a Big East Championship and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Don’t get me wrong, Jim Boeheim is one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball. But because his team was unranked it is considered a great coaching job because they were one of the top four teams in the country by the end of the regular season? If you asked Boeheim in an honest moment behind closed doors, he more than likely would have told you they had that kind of talent. But because the media and coaches had no expectations of the team, it is considered a great coaching job because the team won? The Boeheim example is probably the best example of how the coach of the year should be selected, but the reason for it’s selection is just plain off. Last season, Boeheim compiled an even better conference record than he had in 2010 losing just one game in the Big East, but did not win coach of the year. Why? Because his team was predicted to be good in the preseason.
The fact that a coaching job is judged based off of preseason predictions of teams that we really know nothing about without having seen them play is absolutely ridiculous to me. In the case of Doug Marrone, my preseason prediction of the team was to go either 6-6 or 7-5. The team lost the majority of games that I thought they would win, and won the majority of the games I thought they would lose. Does this mean Marrone did a better coaching job than I expected because he beat teams I expected them to lose to? Or did he perform a worse job because he lost the games I thought he would win? Truth of the matter is teams like South Florida weren’t the team that I nor many others thought they would be. Preseason predictions are just what they say they are: predictions.
An argument for Charlie Strong to win the coach of the year would be because he had a share of the Big East Championship that included a run where multiple times his team had to come from behind (many of which were on the road) in order to attain the successful season they attained. Kyle Floods argument for winning coach of the year would be that he took the program over and in his first year brought his team down to the last game of the season competing for the Sugar Bowl. Flood took a team that lost a lot of talent the previous season, and built on the success they had the season before. Both are deserving of the award, even if we can’t quite figure out what the reasoning is as to why they were voted for.
Do I think Doug Marrone was the best coach in the Big East this season? Maybe. I have gone on record in the past praising Marrone for his job at Syracuse when many people were questioning his ability to coach this team. But to say that he should have won the award because his team was predicted to finish low in the Big East during the preseason is ridiculous. If he were to receive votes, it should be because his team was in a 2-4 hole, and found a way to win 5 games in a row to get a share of the title. They had one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the country, and still compiled a 2-3 OOC record while competing in every single one of those ball games. While he was on the hot seat from many fans, he kept both his and his team’s composure down the stretch, and now has the Orange playing their best football of the entire season. That is why his coaching job has been remarkable this season. While I can’t argue the selections for coach of the year this season, I will say that I believe Marrone did a phenominal job this year and could have easily fit in one of those two spots for that title with no argument from me.
But at the end of the day, the award means nothing. It is full of inconsistencies in it’s voting throughout the conference each season for all sports, and if you ask Doug Marrone he would trade an accolade like that for the George Steinbrenner Trophy in a second.