Final Walk-through

Giglio: Dear Doeren, winning opener leads to good things

jgiglio@newsobserver.comAugust 30, 2013 

  • First-year coaches

    The 10 N.C. State coaches before Dave Doeren went 4-5-1 in their debuts and half of them finished their first seasons with a winning record, only two (Dick Sheridan and Lou Holtz) finished with a winning ACC record.

    Five coaches, who were hired since 2001, have won an ACC title. All five won their first game and finished their first season with a winning record.

    Coach Year Overall ACC 1st game
    Jimbo Fisher, FSU201010-46-2Won
    Dabo Swinney, Clemson20099-56-2Won
    Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech20089-45-3Won
    Jim Grobe, Wake Forest20016-53-5Won
    Ralph Friedgen, Maryland200110-27-1Won

    Note: Fisher won the ACC title in 2012, Swinney in 2011, Johnson in 2009, Grobe in 2006 and Friedgen in 2001.

  • History of N.C. State coaches

    Coach Year Overall ACC 1st game
    Tom O’Brien20075-73-5L, Central Florida, 25-23
    Chuck Amato20008-44-4W, Ark. State, 38-31 (OT)
    Mike O’Cain19937-54-4W, Purdue, 20-7
    Dick Sheridan19868-3-15-2W, ECU, 38-10
    Tom Reed19833-81-5L, ECU, 22-16
    Monte Kiffin19806-53-3W, William & Mary, 42-0
    Bo Rein18763-7-12-3L, Furman, 18-12
    Lou Holtz19728-3-14-1-1T, Maryland, 24-24
    Al Michaels19713-82-4L, Kent State, 23-21
    Earle Edwards19542-80-4L, Virginia Tech, 30-21

If Dave Doeren is going to win an ACC title at N.C. State, history suggests he will need to beat Louisiana Tech in the opener and finish his first season with a winning record.

Of the five ACC coaches who have won at least one ACC title and were hired since 2001, all five won their first game and finished their debut seasons with a winning record.

Going back 25 years, 13 coaches have won an ACC title, all but three won their first game at their respective schools. The three exceptions – Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and Virginia’s George Welsh – were products of a different era of college football, when patience and longevity were still part of the game.

Beamer, Bowden and Welsh coached 46 ACC seasons among them and were given ample time to build their programs. Just since expansion (2004), there have been 16 coaching changes at 10 ACC schools (Beamer and Wake’s Jim Grobe are the only exceptions).

Three of the four most recent conference winners – Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson – also finished their first ACC season with a winning conference record.

That trio also won their first ACC title by their third season. Going back the 25-year span, five more coaches – Ralph Friedgen (Maryland, 2001), Ken Hatfield (Clemson, 1991), Danny Ford (Clemson, 1988), Bobby Ross (Georgia Tech, 1990) and Steve Spurrier (Duke, 1989) – won their first ACC title within four years of being hired at that school.

Grobe, who won his ACC title in his sixth season at Wake, is the outlier of the group with Beamer, Bowden and Welsh.

As for Doeren’s predecessors at N.C. State, winning the debut hasn’t been easy or done often. Of the 11 coaches of the ACC era (since 1953), only four Wolfpack coaches won their first game.

Tom O’Brien lost his Wolfpack debut to Central Florida in 2007. Kevin Smith’s 80-yard touchdown run on a busted defensive coverage on the first play from scrimmage turned out to be a bad omen for the O’Brien era.

O’Brien’s predecessors, Chuck Amato and Mike O’Cain, both won their first game, but neither finished his seven-year tenure with an ACC title or a winning record in conference play.

Dick Sheridan, arguably the best football coach in N.C. State history, beat East Carolina in his first game in 1986 and finished his first season 8-3-1, including a 5-2 record in the ACC.

Lou Holtz, whose son, Skip, will coach Louisiana Tech against Doeren on Saturday, tied his first game as N.C. State’s coach in 1972 (24-24 with Maryland). Holtz, who won the highest percentage of ACC games in school history, finished his first season at 8-3-1 and ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 20.

All is not lost if Doeren does lose his first game. Bo Rein, the last N.C. State coach to win an ACC title (in 1979), lost his first game at home, 18-12 to Furman in 1976.

Doeren also has his own history for inspiration. Northern Illinois opened last season with an 18-17 loss to Iowa. Doeren subsequently led the Huskies to 12 straight wins and the Mid-American Conference title before taking the State job in December.

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