George Welsh. Frank Howard. Bobby Dodd. Bobby Bowden. Wallace Wade.
For ACC fans, these names should be as familiar as their next-door neighbors’. They’re the some of the ACC’s most successful coaches, and through years of winning, they became the faces of their programs, the namesakes of their fields and stadiums – and, in one case -- a rock.
ESPN.com this week is looking at the game’s greatest coaches and the impact they had on their respective programs. The project is a measure of which programs have been defined by their most successful coaches, and which have found success from a variety of leaders. For that, we turn to the numbers. The following is a list looking at the most successful coach for each school in the ACC, followed by his win-loss record there, and what the program’s winning percentage is without its No. 1 coach:
Boston College: Tom O’Brien 75-45 (.577 without coach)
Clemson: Frank Howard, 165-118-12 (.594)
Duke: Wallace Wade 110-36-7 .440
Florida State: Bobby Bowden, 304-97-4 (.551)
Georgia Tech: Bobby Dodd, 165-64-8 (.565)
Maryland: Curley Byrd, 119-82-15 (.515)
Miami: Andy Gustafson, 93-65-3 (.645)
North Carolina: Dick Crum, 72-41-3 (.560)
NC State: Earle Edwards, 77-88-8 (.513)
Virginia: George Welsh, 134-86-3 (.511)
Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer, 209-98-2 (.583)
Wake Forest: D.C. Walker, 77-51-6 (.384)
Now that you’ve been introduced to Curley Byrd, and learned Andy Gustafson is Miami’s winningest coach and not Jimmy Johnson, let’s take a closer look at these numbers. Obviously this research is based on total wins, not winning percentage. Jimmy Johnson was 52-9 (.852) and Dennis Erickson (63-9) was .875. Those are the names, along with Howard Schnellenberger, that are synonymous with national titles and tradition at Miami. The other coach that seems a bit out of place is D.C. Walker at Wake Forest. Jim Grobe has been credited with ushering the Deacs through their most successful period in school history, yet he enters his 12th season with 68 wins at the school. There should be little doubt Grobe finishes his career there with more than 77 wins.
While Grobe is likely to end up on this list, there are two current coaches already on it in O’Brien and Beamer. O’Brien, of course, is now at NC State, where he has a 33-30 record in five years. (You’ll notice the Wolfpack’s leader is the lone coach listed who actually has a losing record.) Beamer is currently the winningest active coach in the country. Technically, there are three current ACC coaches listed on the entire database, as Maryland’s Randy Edsall is also the winningest coach at Connecticut with 74 wins (74-70). As for which coach might be considered the most valuable to his program based on its record without him?
Take a look at the numbers for Duke and Wake Forest -- the only two programs that fell below .500 without their No. 1 coach. For all of the praise heaped upon Beamer for building his alma mater into a national contender -- and deservedly so – I would have thought the Hokies struggled more without him. Instead, the numbers remind us what a tremendous impact Walker and Wade also made on their respective programs.
It’s also worth noting that without Bobby Bowden, Florida State only won 171 games. Total. That’s remarkable, considering Bowden alone won 304. It also puts into perspective the longevity of his career, as Beamer is still coaching and enters this season with 251 career wins in 31 years. Bowden won 64 percent of the program’s games (304 of 475). Beamer won 30.3 percent of Virginia Tech’s (209 of 689). Of course, Virginia Tech’s program has played many more games overall than Florida State, but it’s interesting to see just how much of the program’s overall success each coach has contributed to.
Factors such as the length of the coaches’ careers, how long the program has existed, and actual winning percentages should be considered when analyzing these numbers. There’s always more to the story, though, than statistics. Imagine this: What would Florida State and Virginia Tech look like today without the contributions of Bowden and Beamer?
Some things simply can't be measured.