The 10-year Rule, Explained

I’ve often talked about the 10-year rule I think all college head coaches should abide by, but I’ve never written it, so here we go. In college sports and specifically at the FBS level, I think coaches should leave their institutions after 10 years. No matter how successful they are, because I think it gives the chance for the program to appreciate the accomplishments of the exiting coach and a chance for schools to reboot. What works in 2005, probably won’t work in 2015. This isn’t to say that some coaches can’t be successful for 15 or 20 years, but it’s super rare. Coaches who could coach for decades, well, decades ago, couldn’t do it in the current landscape. Bear Bryant couldn’t survive 25 years in the modern era and there isn’t a chance in hell Joe Paterno survives 45 years either.

As of November 3, 2015 this is the list of active coaches with 10 or more years at their current job:

Coach School First Season (years)
Frank Beamer Virginia Tech 1987 (28)
Bob Stoops Oklahoma 1999 (16)
Kirk Ferentz Iowa 1999 (16)
Gary Patterson TCU 2000 (15)
Mark Richt Georgia 2001 (14)
Gary Pinkel Missouri 2001 (14)
Mike Gundy Oklahoma State 2005 (10)
Bronco Mendenhall BYU 2005 (10)
Frank Solich Ohio 2005 (10)
Kyle Whittingham Utah 2005 (10)
Les Miles LSU 2005 (10)


That list is impressive. Of those coaches with 10 or more years of experience only two (Bob Stoops – 2000, and Les Miles – 2007) have national championships. If national championships were the only thing in which I based success the rate of turnover would be much lower than 10 years. It would probably be closer to 5.

As of September 2014 the average length of employment with same company is 4.6 years. I personally would have guessed that number to be closer to seven years, but I guess it makes sense. I haven’t been with my big named company for more than three years both times I’ve been employed by them.

It goes to reason that most coaches, and here we can use the national championship as the barometer, are the most successful in their first 4.6 years. Stoops won a national title in his first season and Miles in his second. Stoops’ last championship appearance was in 2008 season in his ninth year. Miles last appeared in a title game in the 2011 season; his sixth with the Tigers.

While Miles is only four seasons removed from his last title appearance but en route to a possible playoff appearance, keep in mind he is in his 10th season in Baton Rouge. Bob Stoops on the other hand has accomplished very little since his last title appearance.

As Dennis Dodd mentioned in his column about Mark Richt, “If you aren't going to win league titles, you at least have to beat your rival.” Stoops is 10-7 versus rival Texas. Side note (fair or unfair), former Texas coach Mack Brown led the Longhorns for 15 years, or seven years longer than he should have.

Many will say that coaches who’ve won national championships or have built solid programs should be allowed to leave on their own terms. That’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Those people are also the people who say athletic departments should be run like a business.

[Merenbloom: "Being 'all business' is not a bad thing"]

I’ll ask you this, when Microsoft basically ousted Steve Ballmer, did they do so because he wasn’t making money for the corporation or because he’d overstayed his welcome? Right, Ballmer’s Microsoft was a money-making machine but it couldn’t make headway into new areas of growth and couldn’t compete with Apple.

Bob Stoops continued Oklahoma’s winning tradition for many years, but in the past five or so the program has been listless. His nickname of ‘Big Game Bob’ has become a joke, one I refer to as ‘No Game Bob’.

Les Miles, who is at exactly the 10 year mark is now better known for being the luckiest coach in America who eats grass than for the consistent success he’s maintained. Full disclosure – in 2015, I think LSU is one of four best teams in America and I still believe Les Miles has a lot of years left in him, but in three years he will have overstayed his welcome.

And yes, in 2017, I will have said the same think about Nick Saban. Universities need to think about what’s best for their programs, not what’s best for coaches who are entrenched.

As Bird (@Autull) and I discussed in this week’s SEC 411, I believe Mark Richt would be an excellent fit at Miami. One, because he’s from there and two, is one of the most grounded and honest people in college football. He’s exactly what Miami needs and he leaving after 15 years is exactly what Georgia needs.

Despite the successful 2015 campaign, Kirk Ferentz should have been forced out of Iowa at least three years ago, but because of an exorbitant buyout he’s still there. I won’t knock Iowa’s 2015 schedule because they can’t control how poor their division is, but it’s fair to say that if one other team played consistently and Iowa had to face one of the three Big Ten East powers, they might be in a completely different position.

What do you think? Should entrenched coaches be allowed to stay as long as they want? What if their most successful season was a while ago, are you still inclined to keep them no matter what?

E-mail Damien at or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.