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Thursday, May 24, 2012
Hated for winning? Not in the Big East

By Andrea Adelson

Is there such a thing as a Big East coach being hated because he wins too much?

The answer is clearly no when you look at the current group of head coaches. Three of them have never coached in a Big East game. Three are going into their third seasons in the league and are barely above .500. Paul Pasqualoni has a bushel-full of victories, but nearly all of them came at Syracuse two decades ago.

So let us take a dip back into history to find an answer. Here are the all-time winningest coaches in Big East history, by overall percentage. I am using this statistic because many of the biggest winners do not stick around the Big East for long.
The conclusion is an easy one: Much more than one hated coach, Miami was a hated team because of all the wins it racked up while playing in the Big East from 1991-2003. That includes two national championships and seven Big East titles, more than any other school. Coker was never vilified or hated. The man is impossibly nice.

Davis' image took much more of a hit at North Carolina because he left the place in scandal, with two major investigations hanging over the program. While at Miami, he was lauded as the man who saved the program from NCAA sanctions. It is hard to hate a coach who won 10 games only once in his career.

Erickson simply took over for Jimmy Johnson and continued what was started.

But the assignment is to find a coach hated for winning. Let's look at some of the other names on the list. Kelly and Petrino were hated much more for the ways they left their programs. Kelly only coached three years in the Big East; Petrino only two in the Big East. I can't imagine their short stays struck fear into the hearts of opponents, despite all the victories.

So let's turn the focus to Rodriguez. He, more than any of the aforementioned coaches, probably fits the bill. In his final three seasons in Morgantown, Rodriguez won two league championships and had three 11-win seasons. His team went undefeated in league play in 2005, one of only two teams to accomplish the feat in the past seven years. He won with swagger and style, and some of the best athletes in Big East history.

But I used the word probably. Because as great as Rodriguez was, his on-field coaching career in the Big East will be defined by what he didn't do in 2007. West Virginia was ranked No. 2 in the country going into the regular-season finale against Pitt in the always-heated Backyard Brawl. Win, and the Mountaineers would be playing for the school's first national title. Pitt was already out of the bowl picture, entering the game at 4-7. West Virginia was a 28 1/2-point favorite.

Slam dunk, right? Well, you guys know what happened. Pitt pulled one of the biggest upsets in the series, and Rodriguez went packing to Michigan. The loss will always follow Rodriguez, despite all of his wins in the league. On the day he needed a win most of all, he failed. But that loss did not make him a villain in Morgantown. Leaving did.

That is why it is hard to anoint any Big East coach as somebody hated for winning.

Current Big East coaches' career records in the league: