As the Florida Gators football team prepares for its first game in four years without Will Muschamp, the coach’s legacy remains an open question. Is there a way to objectively evaluate his coaching effectiveness beyond wins and losses?
One approach is to consider how well a coach uses the talent at his disposal through what is known as a Coaching Effectiveness Score.
Coaching Effectiveness Score
This ranking compares the strength of the recruiting classes with players’ on-team performance as measured by the portion of games won. Click here to see how.
By that measure, Muschamp’s four-year record landed him close to the bottom in a comparison with all teams in the Southeastern Conference and with all four-year coaches in the other five “power conferences.”
Over his four-year term, the average recruiting class rating of Muschamp’s players was 3.67 out of a possible 5 stars, or 73.4 percent, or 73.4 performance points. During those four years, he won an average of 57.2 percent of games during the regular season, thus scoring 57.2 performance points.
To calculate the quality of a recruiting class, the three different ratings (ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports) were averaged for each player. Those ratings are compiled on a star rating, with the best players rated as five-star recruits.
For Muschamp, the difference between the ranked quality of the players he had to work with and his teams’ records resulted in negative 16.2 coach effectiveness points.
During his four-year tenure, the difference between the ranking of Muschamp’s players and his teams’ record was the second lowest among all schools in the Southeastern Conference. Nick Saban’s Alabama had the highest score at a positive 24.8 points.
Muschamp was also the second lowest among four-year coaches in the five “power conferences” that dominate college football and third lowest overall.
Although the star ranking systems applied to high school athletes are not necessarily predictive of how they will perform in college, they do offer an objective comparison across the 22 schools analyzed.
Derek Tyson, a Southeastern Conference recruiting analyst for ESPN, said the difference between those two numbers—the relative ranking of the recruited players and the portion of games won—can be viewed as a measure of coaching effectiveness.
“I think, to a point, absolutely you can compare the average of classes over a four year period to on-field success,” Tyson said. “It’s a fair gauge on how good a coach is and the talent he has and how it equates to wins and losses.”
Larry Vettel, host of “The Larry Vettel Show” on ESPN Gainesville Radio 850/900, said while player maturity is difficult to predict in the ratings, coaches do have a role in how a player develops.
“Player development is taking a three star… and making him a five by the time he is a junior or senior,” he said. “You would definitely contribute that growth and performance to the player development by the coaching staff at the individual school.”
Luke Stampini, recruiting analyst for 24/7Sports, said player maturity is really just a matter of speculation.
“You recruit a lot of highly rated kids, you’re going to compete for a national title,” Stampini said. “But it doesn’t always work out. Look at Florida’s past four years. That’s where coaching comes in.”
Muschamp, a former defensive coordinator, led Florida with one of the best defenses in the sport.
But Woody Wommack, a southeast analyst for Rivals, said the inconsistent offensive coaching staff had a huge impact on Florida’s record.
“That’s a hindrance to player development to not have a consistent offensive system that the players are learning,” he said. “You may be better physically, but some guys won’t see the field if they’re not able to pick up the mental aspect.”
Recruiting analyst Tyson agreed the lack of long-term coaches inhibits development of the program.
“A lot of guys recruit players to fit their scheme,” Tyson said. “And with three different coordinators, they all have different schemes and different styles. It’s hard to gauge just how good offensive recruits will be or have been without having some longevity in the coaching staff.”
With all of this said, coaches and recruiting analysts can’t truly predict how a player will mature.
“It’s not an exact science,” Tyson said. “I know there’s a lot of variables that recruiting rankings can’t tell, such as how a player will adjust to coaching, how he’ll adjust to the system, adjust to social life in college.”
Still, star ratings are the standardized numerical value on high school and prospective college athletes.
“We’re not rating who is the best high school player in high school. We are trying to project them forward into college,” Wommack said.
All three systems agree that a five-star recruit has the potential for a first-round draft pick. A four-star recruit will start and benefit the team at the college level and likely turn All-American, while a three-star recruit will play at the college level but most likely not in the NFL.
So if stars are there to project college rankings, for many it would seem fair to compare them to wins and losses on a college field.
McElwain steps in Muschamp’s footsteps now. Out on the road recruiting until the “dead period” begins Monday, McElwain leaves the Gator Nation with high hopes. But only the stars will tell.