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:
|Dick Crum||North Carolina||1978-85||60-31-2|
|Jim Grobe||Wake Forest||2001-08||54-44|
|Bill Dooley||North Carolina||1967-74||49-40|
|Mack Brown||North Carolina||1988-95||49-43-1|
|Jim Hickey||North Carolina||1959-66||36-45|
|Earle Edwards||N.C. State||1954-61||29-45-5|
|Jim Caldwell||Wake Forest||1993-2000||26-63|
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.