Second year a charm for coaches?

June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
3:15
PM ET
In case you missed it, NittanyNation's Josh Moyer and BuckeyeNation's Austin Ward had interesting looks at the second-year outlooks and challenges facing Penn State coach Bill O'Brien and Ohio State's Urban Meyer, respectively.

We have come to expect some major improvements by coaches in their second years on the job. Four coaches since 2000 have won national championships in their second seasons at a school, including Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Meyer when he was at Florida. The jaw-dropping stat in Ward's story is that Meyer is 34-4 in his second year as head coach at each program where he's worked, which included that BCS title and an undefeated season at Utah. That's pretty incredible.

O'Brien had never been a head coach before last season, when he led Penn State to an 8-4 record and won Big Ten coach of the year honors. But he sees benefits in entering his second year on the job, Moyer writes.
"I think I'm a lot more organized than last year," he added. "I can anticipate what's going to happen in training camp, that our kids are still in class and how the schedule's going to go. I can anticipate all that now. I know how to be more prepared.

"I understand the players a lot better and I understand their skill-set athletically, their academic schedules, their personalities -- and I think our staff understands each other better. It's change, but in the way that I'm more comfortable."

If the second year under a coach is really when teams make giant improvements, then Tim Beckman must be happy. His first Illinois team went 2-10 last season and needs to turn around quickly to keep him off the hot seat. In Beckman's previous job at Toledo, his Rockets went from 5-7 his first year to 8-5 (and more impressively, 7-1 in the MAC) in his second season.

Is the second-year phenomenon real? Here's a look at how the most recent coaches at Big Ten schools fared in their first two seasons:

Of the 23 coaches surveyed, 15 of them improved their win totals from their debut season in their second year, while two won the same number of games in both years. Ten of the 23 coaches won at least three more games in their second seasons, including some major jumps by Walker, who won a share of the Big Ten title in 2000, and Tressel. Some legendary coaches made the second-year leap, including Paterno and Alvarez, though Brewster's six-game improvement did not lead to a long coaching tenure. Of course it's not as easy to show that improvement in Year 2 when you have an outstanding first season, as Pelini, Bielema, Hoke and Tiller did. Interestingly, three of the six coaches who did not improve or maintain their first-year win totals (Lynch, Hope and Smith) were each fired after four seasons. The exceptions are Bielema, who went from 12-1 to a still very respectable 9-4, Fry, who won 143 career games for the Hawkeyes, and Hoke, who made a Sugar Bowl his first year and seems to have the Wolverines on an upward trajectory.

The evidence suggests that teams should expect to see improvement in Year 2, though every situation is different. It will be hard for Meyer to improve on 12-0, but his second-year track record still portends very good things for Ohio State.

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