We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jerry Kill as Big Ten Coach of the Year?

Minnesota Gophers head football coach, Jerry Kill, has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year.  Those of us who are Gopher's fans are quite happy with his selection.  It seems warranted.  Some folks in Ohio, however, are not happy.  Urban Meyer, head coach at Ohio State, seems to them a much worthier choice.  Their case has two points.  First, in spite of Ohio State's continued football success over the last twenty years (one losing season, numerous ten win seasons), no head coach has won the coach of the year award.  It is incredible to them that this should be the case.

Second, OSU's record this year is in every sense superior to Minnesota's.  OSU won their head to head clash in Minneapolis.  OSU has defeated several highly considered opponents including Michigan State.  The Buckeyes regularly recruit at a higher level than Minnesota.  Meyer has had to contend with a number of serious problems including losing one of the best quarterbacks in the country for the season.  (It turned out that the replacement QB is arguably even better).  In every regard, these arguments are compelling.

Yet, there is a compelling argument for Kill as well.  Looking at the Gopher's record over the twenty years tells the story: one ten win season, few winning seasons—in short a marked lack of success and prominence most of the time esp. when compared to Ohio State.  That is, Urban Meyer's unarguable success continues the long-standing success of OSU football.  Kill's putting together back-to-back eight win seasons in Minnesota, on the other hand, stands in marked contrast to the team's past when that has happened only once.  Indeed, going back to 1960, Minnesota has had eight-win seasons only seven times including the two under Coach Kill.  Going back just to 1994, OSU has had 17 eight-win seasons or better.

Meyer's accomplishments represent an admirable continuation of the OSU winning tradition built on a superior football culture.  Not every coach can come into a winning situation and keep it going.  Kill's seemingly more modest accomplishments in Minnesota, on the other hand, stand in marked contrast to what has gone before.  He inherited a mess, and he has thus far turned things around in a remarkable fashion.

The question is, in sum, what is the measure of coaching success that would lead to being named coach of the year in the Big Ten?  Is it superior success continuing a tradition of superior success?  Is it measurably improved success turning around a tradition of mediocrity?  Honestly, a case could be made in either direction, but making that choice requires deciding on the measure of coaching success.  The judges this year chose the return of Minnesota to relevance in the Big Ten after two generations largely of irrelevance their standard for 2014.  Gopher fans are glad they did.  We're still not used to winning things like this.