Great eight? No. Above average eight? Probably

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It’s reasonable to presume Ralph Friedgen’s last five years don’t qualify as great. Good, perhaps. Average, more likely.

Great, not so much. Not staring down a 33-28 in that span.

But the thing is, those first three seasons still count, too. And the Terrapins went 31-8 in that stretch, meaning his career record of 64-36 is still rather imposing by ACC standards.

That victory total is just one off the league’s record for coaches in their first eight seasons. Please note, that means first eight seasons at a school, so Florida State’s Bobby Bowden doesn’t count. Nor will Frank Beamer in another three years (though it is fun to point out Al Groh only holds a slim 56-52 edge in victories at his current school while a member of the ACC despite a three-year head start).

Anyway, these “best starts to a career” charts get sort of tired after about five seasons, mainly because a lot of the time coaches either jump to better jobs or get fired around that span. The latter is especially true; coaches with losing records tend not to stick around.

In fact (excluding Bowden, Beamer and Tom O’Brien), only 14 coaches who started their careers after the formation of the ACC lasted at least eight years.

Here’s the full rundown of the performance of ACC coaches in their first eight seasons, in order of total victories:

CoachSchoolYearsRecord
Danny Ford
Clemson1979-8665-23-2
Jerry Claiborne
Maryland1972-7965-27-2
Ralph Friedgen
Maryland2001-0864-36
Dick Crum
North Carolina
1978-8560-31-2
Tommy Bowden
Clemson1999-200660-38
Al Groh
Virginia2001-0856-44
Jim Grobe
Wake Forest
2001-0854-44
George Welsh
Virginia1982-8950-40-2
Bill Dooley
North Carolina
1967-7449-40
Mack Brown
North Carolina
1988-9549-43-1
Mike McGee
Duke1971-7837-47-4
Jim Hickey
North Carolina
1959-6636-45
Earle Edwards
N.C. State
1954-6129-45-5
Jim Caldwell
Wake Forest
1993-200026-63

What’s interesting about this chart is that half of these guys coached in the ACC within the last dozen years or so. Four of them – Friedgen, Grobe, Groh and Bowden the Younger – were in the league at the start of last season.

Obviously, Friedgen benefits from three superlative seasons to begin his career, as well as a longer schedule to work with for much of his tenure. But he still fares rather well over the long-term compared to a legitimate peer group, even if it isn’t the best in league history.

Patrick Stevens

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