Given the level of scrutiny applied to Coach Fitzgerald for this season and questions around the status of the program (and because I was looking up the data for a response to a previous post), I just thought it would be interesting to share some of the statistics behind Pat Fitzgerald's Win-Loss performance in the context of other Big Ten programs.
First, a word about the source. I pulled all of my data from www.cfbdatawarehouse.com, which provides a specific link to coaching records while they were a coach for each Division I team (i.e. it does not include records for when they coached elsewhere). If a coach has been in charge of two different Big Ten teams (such as John Pont), their record is considered twice for each team they coached for. I have included the entire history of each team currently in the Big Ten. Specifically, I include the full history of PSU and Nebraska, even though they were Independent / in other conferences for most of their history, but have not included Maryland or Rutgers. There are a total of 10 "coaches" associated with these programs that are either "No Coach" (player coach), "Unknown", or "No Team" (yet they still have a few games listed - not sure why). These records are excluded for the purposes of analysis. Looking at Joe Paterno's record, it shows only 298 wins, so the source seems to reflect games that were officially forfeited. To the extent I reference eras, I include any coaches whose last season occurred in that era, even if the bulk of their career took place beforehand.
With regard to wins, believe it or not, Coach Fitzgerald's record at Northwestern is the 39th winningnest record in Big Ten history out of 312 possible entries. At first glance, this appears to be impressive, but it should be noted that only 241 coaches have lasted 10 games in the B1G and current coaches play as many as 5-6 more games than their predecessors per season, so the list of wins tends to be skewed in favor of the modern coaches.
If we look at win percentage, the totals are less impressive with Pat Fitzgerald's .544 win percentage ranking only 164 out of 312 and 132 out of 241 for coaches who were involved in a minimum of 10 games. However, traditional powers such as Michigan and Ohio State tend to dominate the list of coaches with high winning percentage. If they are excluded (and still focusing on records with a minimum of 10 games), Fitz's record would rank 100 out of 205. Further excluding Nebraska and Penn State further improves Fitz's winnning pecentile up to 72/168. Slightly above average, but not particularly impressive.
If we go one step further and start to focus on the modern era of football, Fitz's performance starts to stand out a bit in relation to other Big Ten coaches. For modern era, I have chosen to use the timeframe since 1965, which represents the year that college football permanently embraced modern substitution rules that allowed for a dedicated offense, defense, and special teams. The timeframe also roughly corresponds to the emergence of televised football games, the near-term separation of Division I-A programs from Division I-AA, and the emergence of the "Big 2, Little 8" era dominated by OSU and Michigan, as well as the emergence of a Paterno led Penn State and Nebraska's rise to national prominence. Again controlling for a minimum of 10 games, Fitz's win percentage during this period would rank 33rd out of 90. If you start comparing his record to the non-power teams in the conference (i.e. not Michigan, OSU, Nebraska, or Penn State), his ranking jumps to 15th out of 70.
Fitz's record is more impressive when benchmarked against the historical average of the program. If you take the differential between each coach's win percentage and the all-time win percentage of their program, Fitz has a positive differential of .104, which would rank 57th out of 241 coaching records controlling for a 10 game minimum. If applied to the 1965 modern era, the ranking would be 9th out of 90 coaching records, with only Urban Meyer, Gary Andersen (small sample), Brett Bielema, Jack Mellenkopf, John Mackovic, Jim Young, Tom Osborne, and Bob Devaney posting better results. If measured as a percentage improvement relative to the program baseline, Fitz's ranking would be 7th out of 90.
Obviously, win percentage isn't everything in determining the quality of a coach - few of us would discount Gary Barnett's performance simply because he didn't achieve a .500 record at Northwestern. It's also a "what have you done for me lately" world, and yesterday's darling can quickly become today's scapegoat. Still, out of the hundreds of men who picked up a clipboard and led their team onto a Big Ten field (and especially those who have coached in the modern era), Fitz seems to have accomplished something at a program not traditionally known for success.
Now, if only he wouldn't rush three lineman toward the end of the fourth quarter...