(Might want to get yourself a cold one, because this is long. Hey, I have the day off and I'm bored. Sue me.)
Dennis: A History and Comparison with Mack Brown
Let me begin by stating, again, that I believe Dennis is a very good coach and that I think he will improve the aggy program. But, like a lot of Horns, the praise of this nice coach has reached absurd levels and needs a rebuttal.
Now, aggy likes to point out Dennis’ 155-73-2 overall record. Aggy likes to point out Dennis’ 8 "conference" titles. They say that he “rapidly” turned these programs around from near chaos. All very fine points, but what really happened?
Let’s take a look at those records and then compare the last 11 years.
Southwestern (Kan.) College (14-4-2) NAIA
1981 5-2-2 2nd in Conference
1982 9-2 1st in Conference
I will be the first to admit that I have no idea where Southwestern was as a program before Dennis. Let’s assume that he was a miracle worker, just for the sake of argument. The man can really kick the [censored] out of NAIA talent. That's good. If you are at a program, you should be judged by how you do against commesurate talent, right?
Dennis is becoming a genius.
Pittsburgh (Kan.) State (53-6-0) Division II
1985 8-2 1st
1986 11-1 1st
1987 11-1 1st
1988 11-1 1st
1989 12-1 1st
Now this is where Dennis made his mojo. In football terms, at Pittsburgh State, Dennis strode the Earth as a Colossus. Fifty three wins! FIVE Conference titles in FIVE YEARS! He is not only a genius, he has a one-way ticket to the Hall of Fame.
One nagging problem though: despite all the victories, despite the five conference titles, Dennis never wins a national title in Division II. Never even got his dominating teams to the finals. Even Chan Gailey won a Division II title. (EDIT: Gailey may have won in Division III. I don't remember, but you get my point)
But ignore that, the man is a genius. He just needs his shot at the big time to prove it.
SWT (13-9) Division 1-AA
1990 6-5 3rd
1991 7-4 4th
Hmm. What happened? This is where the legend of Dennis takes a bit of a hit. Dennis jumps to another level and doesn’t set the world on fire. He took over an SWT program that went 4-7 and 5-6 in the two years prior to his arrival. His master skills didn’t overwhelm his conference foes either, as he went a bland 8-6 in conference play. Maybe he was on the McWilliams/Mackovic one game a year improvement plan.
OK, hold on the ticket to the Hall of Fame, but the man is still at least nearly a genius.
New Mexico (33-36)
1992 3-8 9th
1993 6-5 6th
1994 5-7 5th
1995 4-7 7th
1996 6-5 7th
1997 9-4 1st
Well, our little nomad finally makes the jump to Division 1-A, but he is still far from the big leagues. We’ll call it the Milwaukee Brewers league of NCAA football. He takes over a damn crappy program and rapidly turns into, well, a slightly less crappy program.
He caps off his miracle work tenure with a senior-laden ball club that tears up the WAC’s rugged Mountain Division, containing powerhouses like Rice, SMU, Utah, UTEP, Tulsa and TCU, and takes his plucky Lobo squad all the way to the 1997 WAC Championship Game.
In that lone Conference Championship game, “Mr. Game Day Coach” pretty much has his ass handed to him by Colorado State, 41-13. He follows that up with a loss to an appallingly mediocre 6-5 Arizona team in the prestigious Insight.com Bowl.
In that glorious division title season, Dennis beats two teams that finish with winning records. Both of those teams finish a stellar 6-5. In fact, during his entire tenure at New Mexico, six of Dennis’ 33 wins come over teams with winning records. He did, however, enjoy beating up on his old Division 1-AA brothers like Northern Arizona and Idaho State.
His job finished (and the cupboard completely bare), Dennis turns his sights to bigger fish, fellow WAC Mountain Division foe, TCU.
So, with commesurate talent at a Division 1-A school, Dennis produces a whopping 33-36 record. As a point of reference, Dennis' successor, Rocky Long, has compiled a 25-35 record during his fiveyear stint. After taking New Mexico to the Las Vegas Bowl in 2002, Rocky has led his Lobos to as many bowl games as Dennis.
1998 7-5 t5th
1999 8-4 t1st
2000 10-1 t1st
Like Moe Green, this is where Dennis makes his bones. The year before his arrival, the Horned Frogs are an atrocious 1-10. They suck, big time. Dennis comes in and makes immediate and dramatic improvement, including a scintillating 35-34 win over Air Force, the only victory over a top 25 team of his illustrious career. He caps the remarkable turn around season with a 28-19 victory in the Sun Bowl over what appeared to be a heavily drugged or at least constipated USC team. But a wonderful season all the same, late season losses to Rice and SMU notwithstanding.
In 1999, more improvement, as his team makes a one game leap over the previous season. Of course, there was another loss to Rice and to pretty much every strong team that TCU faced, such as 6-6 Arizona, 3-8 Northwestern and 8-5 Fresno State. But he did have a nice win over a better than terrible East Carolina team in the Mobile Bowl, and got revenge on dreaded SMU.
In 2000, Dennis puts his name back up there with the all time greats as TCU dominated the WAC. There was talk of a BCS “buster” as TCU was undefeated and making noise that it deserved a big time bowl game to match its arrival in the big time. That all changes when WAC juggernaut San Jose State (yes, that San Jose State) upsets the 14 point favorites, 27-24.
At TCU, Dennis wins 7 games over teams that finished with winning records, including the aforementioned victories over Air Force, USC and East Carolina. But what happened that year in the WAC? Hmmm. Anyone remember?
Well, in 1998 the WAC split up and the big boys started something called the Mountain West Conference. So, in his second season at TCU, the WAC went from little brother to weak sister conference overnight. Gone were big boys Air Force, Colorado State and BYU. The road to conference titles was greased and Dennis slid right through to glory.
Dennis takes his frustrations out on UTEP and SMU before getting the call to revive the Crimson Tide.
2001 7-5 3rd
2002 6-2 * (West Champs, but probation)
In aggy world, Alabama is at an all time low when Dennis comes to the rescue. In 2000, the preseason top 5 Crimson Tide limp in with a 3-8 record, despite the return of the majority of talent of the defending SEC Champs and #8 team in the country. That can happen when your head coach is nailed dead to rights in a sexual harassment suit and news of major NCAA violations hit just before the season starts.
Nevertheless, Dennis takes over this bunch of talented but broken Bama Boys and turns this truck around! With victories over BYU, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, East Carolina, So. Miss., LSU and Auburn, Bama marches triumphantly to the Music City Bow where they are promptly ass-raped by Virginia Tech, 38-7.
(EDIT: This is incorrect. He went to the Independence Bowl and beat a 7-5 Iowa State team 14-13. I do apologize for the error)
As the NCAA hammer comes down, Dennis tells his players to “Hold the Rope” and stick with Bama during these tough times. Dennis is nothing if not a smooth motivator. The 2002 Crimson Tide ride the Dennis Wave to success, almost beating Oklahoma, almost beating Georgia and almost beating arch-rival Auburn. 10-3 with victories over Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, UNT, Southern Miss, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, LSU and Hawaii is a very, very good coaching job for a team considered by many to have the #4 defensive line, #4 running back and #10 offensive line units in the nation.
In all, Dennis defeats 11 teams that finish the season with winning records, including 3 that win 8 whole games. Hawaii, at 10-4 in 2002, is the winningest team Dennis ever defeats as Head Coach of Bama
A Comparison Between Mack Brown and Dennis Franchione
So how does this compare to our Mack Brown, a man who clearly does more with less every season and isn’t really much more than a recruiter?
Aggy likes to point out Mack’s early struggles at UNC. Aggy also likes to point out the fact that UNC had top 10 teams 7 full years prior to his arrival as evidence that “Mack took over a pretty good program and didn’t turn it around fast enough.”
They don’t like to point out that Florida State joined the ACC just as his program began to show significant improvement. But I digress.
I know aggy is going to get upset by this, but I’m going to do it anyway. We’re going to unilaterally declare Dennis the greatest Division II coach in the history of organized football. We’re going to give him his props for his dominance of Pop Warner, I mean, NAIA football, and we’re going to ignore his rather pedestrian tenure in Division 1-AA.
What we’re going to do is compare apples to apples, Mack v. Fran during the last 11 years. If aggy wishes to go look up Mack’s first couple of years struggling in Division 1-A while Dennis was beating up on the Nuns of St. Alberta, be my guest. I don’t have THAT much time on my hands.
No, I just want to see how the two of them stack up these last 11 years. If one is a genius and one is a clod, that should be borne out by the numbers. Einstein should get better test scores than his classmates even if he is bumped ahead a grade.
Overall Record, 1993-2002
Hmm. Interesting. I’m sure these other stats will prove Dennis’ pre-eminence.
Wins v. Top 25 Teams
Well, not quite what I expected.
Ok, still Mack just probably beat up on completely lesser teams.
Wins vs. Teams with a Winning Record
OK, this is getting interesting. In a tougher conference, facing tougher competition, Mack is still winning more. I would have thought that crappy teams would have had a chance to pad their records against similar crappy teams.
So much for Einstein.
Top 25 Finishes
Wow, the genius hasn’t really taken his plucky little teams as far as I thought. To be fair, Mack took a powerhouse UNC team that had been out of the rankings and desolate for five years. Not quite the rebuilding jobs that Dennis has willingly undertaken.
In summation, Six of Dennis’ eight conference titles are in, no offense, the minor leagues. More tha 50% of his wins have come outside of Division 1-A. Fully one third of his career wins came in his five year domination of Division II.
In Division 1-A, he has won exactly one outright title, in a weakened WAC. He is a fine coach, but he has a long way to go before he can be considered “one of the best” in the nation, much less “2nd best in the conference.” When stacked up against similar Division 1-A talent, Dennis has been a good, not great, coach.
Commence aggy retorts.
Edited by kablooey (07/15/03 07:51 PM)