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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
B1G coach turnover most in two decades

By Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten used to be the league of coaching stability.

Rewind to the 2005 season, and the Big Ten featured seven coaches -- Penn State's Joe Paterno, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, Michigan's Lloyd Carr, Minnesota's Glen Mason, Purdue's Joe Tiller, Northwestern's Randy Walker and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz -- who had been in their jobs for at least seven seasons. Paterno obviously had been at Penn State for a lot longer than that, but Alvarez was in his 16th and final season with the Badgers and Carr was in his 11th with the Wolverines.

Look at the Big Ten coaching landscape right now. Only one of those coaches, Ferentz, remains. The next longest-tenured is Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, who took over following Walker's death in 2006. Indiana's Kevin Wilson, who just completed his second season, will be the longest-tenured coach in the Leaders Division in 2013. Eight of the Big Ten's 12 coaches will be in their first, second or third seasons next fall.

When was the last time the Big Ten had this type of coach turnover?

You have to look to the early 1990s to find similar results. Six Big Ten teams made coaching changes between 1989-92: Illinois (after 1991 season), Michigan (after 1989 season), Minnesota (after 1991 season), Northwestern (after 1991 season), Purdue (after 1990 season) and Wisconsin (after 1989 season). The league had 10 teams until 1993, so the 60 percent turnover rate in a three-year stretch certainly was significant.

The bad news is the Big Ten's national profile struggled during that time, much like it is now. The league went 4-9-1 in bowl games between 1990-92 and had just two teams in the final rankings in both 1991 and 1992. The good news is things improved the next few seasons, as the Big Ten posted winning bowl marks in 1993 and 1994 and won three consecutive Rose Bowls. Several coaching hires made between 1989-92 worked out well, namely Alvarez at Wisconsin and Gary Barnett at Northwestern.

The Big Ten hopes history repeats itself in the coming years.