Ed. Note: Another insightful and well-researched, well-argued post from quzy. FP'd.
Lately, it seems to me that some of the discussion about Jeff Bzdelik (and other coaches, but mainly Bzdelik) has taken a turn to focus on athletic director Ron Wellman. And this is a bit of a problem. While coaches can be graded on how their teams perform, the performance of athletic directors is much more nebulous. How much should we weigh Wellman's selection as the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee head? What about his national Athletic Director of the Year awards from 2007 (such a thing exists... I'm as shocked as you are)?
What I've decided to do is look at each of Ron Wellman's coaching hires. These hires are then graded by a scoring rubric compared to their immediate predecessor to see if Wellman's hire improved or degraded the program in question. Using these grades, we can come up with a GPA of how Wellman's tenure has gone (as well as any emerging trends, since the hires will be judged chronologically).
Methodology: Coaching hires are graded on the typical A-F scale converted to a traditional 4.0 number. I will use the +/- system for third of a grades (example: a B+ would be a 3.33 factored into the GPA). I've excluded all sports that do not feature definite win/loss numbers (golf, track and field, and cross country) as computing the results to evaluate the coaches would've been miserable. I've also decided that football and men's basketball hires will count double, since these are the most important sports financially and for exposure purposes.
I don't do grade inflation. A C grade is considered an average hire. Here are the factors that affect each grade:
General grade: Performance compared to coaching predecessor, including overall record, overall winning percentage, conference record, NCAA tourney appearances and appearance percentage, and NCAA winning percentage. Ties count as half a win for winning percentage computation. If there is no predecessor or the predecessor is too remote to make a valid comparison, hire will be judged as if the coach is starting program from scratch (lowered expectations, which ends as a slight boost to Wellman's hiring average - or viewed another way, a bonus for him for adding scholarship sports teams).
National Title: One full letter grade improvement per title
League Titles (regular season or tournament): One third of a letter grade improvement per title
Successful tenure: One third of a letter grade improvement for eight years spent at the school with a winning conference record
Shiny new coach status: One third of a letter grade bump for current coaches who have coached fewer than three seasons at Wake
Firing: One third of a letter grade decrease if Wellman has to fire his own coach (also includes failure to renew contracts but does not include resignations)
Quick firing: Additional one third of a letter grade decrease if the firing occurs within four seasons of hiring (as this would be the typical amount of time needed for a coach to graduate a group of his or her own recruits)
The Mike Petersen Rule: One third of a letter grade decrease if a coach leaves for a substantially inferior position elsewhere
Unsuccessful tenure: One third of a letter grade demotion for eight years spend at the school with a conference record below .200
Discretionary: I retain the right to move letter grades up or down a third of a letter grade based on extra factors. I will note when this occurs in the grade for the coach.
October 1992: Ron Wellman was hired. Wake had two new coaches this academic year: women's basketball coach Karen Freeman (who will not count towards this grading) and field hockey coach Jennifer Averill. I'm immediately giving Wellman an A for retaining Averill for his entire tenure thus far. Result: three national championships. Had Wellman hired Averill, that's an easy A to his credit - I'll give him credit for retaining her after some initial difficulties.
1993: Wellman made his first big decision, hiring Jim Caldwell to replace departing football coach Bill Dooley on the heels of an Independence Bowl win.
Dooley: 6 seasons, 29-36-2 overall record, .448 winning percentage, 14-29 conference record, no league titles, one bowl (a win in the 1992 Independence Bowl)
Caldwell: 8 seasons, 26-63 overall record, .292 winning percentage, 12-52 conference record, no league titles, one bowl (a win in the 1999 Aloha Bowl), eventually fired
Notes: A significant drop in performance has the Caldwell hire looking like a D. Extra deductions for firing and unsuccessful tenure. Amusingly, Caldwell would end up having a much longer winning streak in his first NFL season as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts (14-0 start) that he ever had at Wake Forest (a maximum winning streak of 2 whole games!). Caldwell's teams were inept to the point where Wake ended up agreeing to play its home games against Florida State in Jacksonville as a way to make some money (because Lord knows we weren't going to win). Only the bowl win saves this from being in the F range. Not a good start.
1994: Ron Wellman created a women's soccer program and hired Chris Turner to be its first head coach. Wellman also hired Jay Vidovich to replace Walt Chyzowych as men's soccer coach.
Turner: 3 seasons, 31-26-3 overall record, .542 winning percentage, 3-17-0 conference record, no league titles, one NCAA appearance (1-1 record), eventually resigned (to take over the soccer program at Forsyth Country Day)
Notes: For a start-up program, this is a rather auspicious start, with an NCAA appearance (and win) within three years of creation. Also, Turner managed a winning percentage above .500. Demerits include that heinous conference record (to be fair, this was in a conference where approximately half of North Carolina's team was playing for the US Women's national team) and the first invocation of The Mike Petersen Rule. I think these things largely cancel out, but the establishment of the program slightly outweighs the negatives.
Chyzowych: 8 seasons, 77-59-2 overall record, .557 winning percentage, 15-25-7 conference record, 1 league title (1989 tournament champion), 4 NCAA appearances (1-4-0 record)
Vidovich: 18 seasons, 241-104-38 overall record, .679 winning percentage, 61-47-24 conference record, 5 league titles (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 regular season champs), 11 NCAA appearances (19-8-3 record), 2007 NCAA Champion
Notes: Pretty much a no-brainer. While Chyzowych had a nice run, Vidovich has proven to be inarguably the most successful Wellman hire (and arguably the most successful coach in recent Wake history along with Jen Averill). He gets bonus points for everything and no demerits. I would like to point out that this is an example of a coach's narrative changing pretty dramatically. For the first eight years of his tenure, Vidovich's career path was remarkably similar to Chyzowych's. Since then? He's overseen arguably the most successful men's soccer program in the country. I'd bump up the grade for Wellman for retaining Vidovich after the initial period in addition to the hire if it wasn't already an A, but since the grading scale only goes up to 4.0...
After a lazy 1995 spent enjoying the men's basketball team's first ACC Tournament championship in 33 years, Wellman was back in action in 1996 by reforming the varsity volleyball team, which had disbanded in 1986. Wellman hired Mary Buczek to coach the team.
Buczek: 4 seasons, 64-68 overall record, .485 winning percentage, 18-46 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances, eventually left to become coach at Georgia
Notes: This is another grade that changes when the program arc is examined closely. Buczek's first few seasons were poor, but the team became strong rather quickly, to the point that Buczek got a (much) better job offer pretty quickly.
In 1997, Wellman made substantial changes, hiring Charlene Curtis to replace Karen Freeman as head of the women's basketball team, replacing resigned women's soccer coach Chris Turner with Tony da Luz, and hiring Jeff Zinn to replace long-standing coach Ian Crookenden in charge of men's tennis.
Freeman: 5 seasons, 58-79 overall record, .423 winning percentage, 20-60 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Curtis: 7 seasons, 67-129 overall record, .342 winning percentage, 21-91 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances, eventually let go by unrenewed contract
Notes: Definitely a step back for the women's basketball program. The Curtis hire gets dinged for eventual firing and narrowly avoids the unsuccessful tenure bonus. The only real saving graces for the hire are that the program wasn't great to begin with and that the program didn't completely bottom out.
Turner: 3 seasons, 31-26-3 overall record, .542 winning percentage, 3-17-0 conference record, no league titles, one NCAA appearance (1-1 record)
da Luz: 15 seasons, 188-105-32 overall record, .628 winning percentage, 32-57-15 conference record, one league title (2010 tournament), fifteen NCAA appearances (12-14-1 record)
Notes: Quick, which Wake Forest program has the longest NCAA Tournament streak? If you guessed women's soccer, you must've been able to put two and two together. Solid improvement on Turner's performance from da Luz is a B, no bonus for the successful tenure (his conference record's not good enough), obligatory bump for the 2010 ACC Tournament title, and a discretionary bump for that NCAA Tournament streak (16 seasons and counting!).
Crookenden: 12 seasons, 160-180 overall record, .471 winning percentage, 27-62 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Zinn: 15 seasons, 231-157 overall record, .600 winning percentage, 78-62 conference record, no league titles, 12 NCAA appearances (9-12 record), eventually left for Penn State
where he will have to forfeit his salary for the next 7200 years to pay the NCAA
Notes: Another case of general improvement that would be in the B range. Added bump for his successful tenure.
Wellman's next change came when longtime women's tennis coach Lew Gerrard resigned abruptly halfway through the 1999 season. Wellman tabbed assistant Brian Fleishman to replace Gerrard on a full-time basis. Note: I have separated the 1999 season between the coaches.
Gerrard: 11.5 seasons, 191-99 overall record, .659 winning percentage, 60-24 conference record, no league titles, five NCAA appearances (2-5 record)
Fleishman: 6.5 seasons, 105-67 overall record, .610 winning percentage, 36-21 conference record, one league title (2000 regular season), four NCAA appearances (9-4 record), eventually resigned
Notes: Drop-offs in terms of overall and conference winning percentages are more than offset by the league title and increase in NCAA appearance and performance once there. In addition, the timing of the hire (mid-season) means I'm awarding a discretionary bump. More bonus points to you if you knew that women's tennis was Wake's strongest program during the 1990's (between the two coaches there were six 7-1, second-place finish seasons sandwiched around the undefeated title season stretching into the early 00's).
In 2000, Wellman had to replace Mary Buczek, who left to take the women's head volleyball coach position at Georgia. Wellman selected Valorie Baker as her replacement.
Buczek: 4 seasons, 64-68 overall record, .485 winning percentage, 18-46 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Baker: 5 seasons, 89-65 overall record, .578 winning percentage, 40-40 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances, eventually resigned
Notes: Again, overall improvement within the program. In this case, the numbers are a little deceiving - Buczek actually got the program to that level in her final two seasons, and Baker is more responsible for sustaining that mark than improving it. Still, the conference record is a drastic improvement, even if there are no postseason efforts to show for it.
In 2001, Wellman had his most important year with regard to the revenue sports. After a lackluster season, he fired football coach Jim Caldwell and tabbed Ohio head coach Jim Grobe as a successor. Then, after a disappointing (read: 33 point halftime deficit) NCAA Tournament performance, men's basketball coach Dave Odom left for South Carolina, and Wellman again looked to the state of Ohio for a replacement, selecting Xavier coach Skip Prosser as the new man in charge.
Caldwell: 8 seasons, 26-63 overall record, .292 winning percentage, 12-52 conference record, no league titles, one bowl (a win in the 1999 Aloha Bowl)
Grobe: 11 seasons, 68-67 overall record, .503 winning percentage, 38-51 conference record, one very memorable league title (2006), five bowls (wins in the 2002 Seattle, 2007 Meineke, and 2008 Eaglebank, losses in the 2006 Orange and 2011 Music City)
Notes: Moving on...
Odom: 12 seasons, 240-132 overall record, .645 winning percentage, 101-87 conference record, three league titles (1994-95 regular season, 1994-95 and 1995-96 tournament), eight NCAA appearances (10-8 record)
Prosser: 6 seasons, 126-68 overall record, .649 winning percentage, 52-44 conference record, one league title (2002-03 regular season), four NCAA appearances (5-4 record), eventually worked himself to death
Notes: These two coaches have eerily similar stat lines. Nearly identical winning percentages, exactly identical NCAA appearance rates AND winning percentages. Since these grades are based on improvement over one's predecessor, St. Skip is looking like a solid C. Two things work in his favor: the league title bumps him up a letter grade. In addition, the fact that I remember exactly where I was when I found out Odom was leaving (and viewed it as a sign of joy) has to count for something. Prosser earns the discretionary bump for making his teams actually fun to watch (unlike Odom) and being generally awesome.
In 2004, Wellman failed to renew Charlene Curtis's contract and replaced her with Mike Petersen as head coach of the women's basketball team. Longtime baseball coach George Greer also stepped down to take a role in the athletic department, and Wellman chose Rick Rembielak to succeed him.
Curtis: 7 seasons, 67-129 overall record, .342 winning percentage, 21-91 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Petersen: 8 seasons, 125-123 overall record, .504 winning percentage, 32-83 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances, eventually left for NORTH MOTHERF*&%$^ TEXAS
Notes: Some substantial improvement in the team's record during Petersen's eight years in charge, both in terms of overall and conference winning percentage. There were even a couple of WNIT berths, not that I'm counting NIT appearances (I refuse to promote mediocrity in Wake Forest athletics... plus it's unfair to other sports which don't have a tournament for teams not good enough to make the NCAA). Overall, I'm willing to award Petersen a B, except that The Mike Petersen Rule is in full effect, so...
Greer: 17 seasons, 608-372-4 overall record, .620 winning percentage, 184-198 conference record, three league titles (1998, 1999, and 2001 tournaments), five NCAA appearances (10-9 record)
Rembielak: 5 seasons, 142-142 overall record, .500 winning percentage, 61-87 conference record, no league titles, one NCAA appearance (1-2 record), eventually let go (contract not renewed)
Notes: It's tough to replace a legend, and Rembielak had to do just that. Still, Rembielak didn't fare too poorly overall, just not to the standards to which Wake fans were accustomed under Greer.
2005 featured two coaching changes. Women's tennis coach Brian Fleishman resigned; Chad Skorupka was appointed in his stead. Lastly, Volleyball coach Valorie Baker also resigned, and Wellman chose Heather Kahl Holmes as her replacement.
Fleishman: 6.5 seasons, 105-67 overall record, .610 winning percentage, 36-21 conference record, one league title (2000 regular season), four NCAA appearances (9-4 record)
Skorupka: 5 seasons, 61-59 overall record, .508 winning percentage, 23-32 conference record, no league titles, four NCAA appearances (2-4 record), eventually resigned
Notes: Women's tennis, previously the strongest Wake program competitively, continues to plummet under Wellman's leadership. Like Rembielak above, Skorupka's overall record isn't terrible, but it doesn't match his predecessor's overall.
Baker: 5 seasons, 89-65 overall record, .578 winning percentage, 40-40 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Kahl Holmes: 7 seasons, 97-120 overall record, .447 winning percentage, 61-83 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Notes: A step downhill for the volleyball program as well. After a decent run under Buczek and Baker, Kahl Holmes as been treading water as a coach, typically alternating a slightly above .500 team with a below .500 team. This simply cannot compare to Baker's stint as coach.
In 2007, Skip Prosser passed away due to a heart attack, leaving Wellman with the difficult job of securing a coach for a rapidly advancing upcoming season. Due to the timing, external candidates were largely uninterested, leading Wellman to promote Dino Gaudio to head coach.
Prosser: 6 seasons, 126-68 overall record, .649 winning percentage, 52-44 conference record, one league title (2002-03 regular season), four NCAA appearances (5-4 record)
Gaudio: 3 seasons, 61-31 overall record, .663 winning percentage, 27-21 conference record, no league titles, two NCAA appearances (1-2 record), eventually fired
Notes: Dave Odom and Prosser had remarkably similar coaching statistics, and Prosser and Gaudio have equally similar statistics. Gaudio has slight advantages in both overall and conference winning percentages, but fares substantially worse in the postseason. Add a recent firing downgrade (two-thirds of a letter grade), but temper that with the hardship of Wellman finding a coach under those circumstances. Could he have found an external candidate? Maybe. But it would've taken a substantial amount of monetary compensation to cause a coach to change jobs at that point in the offseason. Discretionary hardship bump for Wellman on this one.
In 2009, Wellman failed to renew Rick Rembielak's contract as baseball coach, and instead hired Tom Walter.
Rembielak: 5 seasons, 142-142 overall record, .500 winning percentage, 61-87 conference record, no league titles, one NCAA appearance (1-2 record)
Walter: 3 seasons, 76-92 overall record, .452 winning percentage, 36-54 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Notes: A slight step down so far for Walter from the departed Rembielak. However, Walter definitely earns a discretionary bump for the goodwill generated from donating a kidney to one of his players. Hearing about that story was the first time that I was moved to tears in pride of my alma mater.
In 2010, Wellman fired Dino Gaudio and replaced him with current men's basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik. In addition to this change, women's tennis coach Chad Skorupka resigned and Wellman replaced him with Jeff Wyshner.
Gaudio: 3 seasons, 61-31 overall record, .663 winning percentage, 27-21 conference record, no league titles, two NCAA appearances (1-2 record)
Bzdelik: 2 seasons, 21-42 overall record, .333 winning percentage, 5-27 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Notes: Remember how I said earlier that the only things saving Charlene Curtis from a failing grade were that the program wasn't great to begin with and that it didn't completely bottom out? You can scratch both of those excuses for Bzdelik. This is what a bottomed-out program looks like. The only mildly saving grace is the shiny new coach bonus, even if the coach doesn't seem particularly shiny at this point.
Skorupka: 5 seasons, 61-59 overall record, .508 winning percentage, 23-32 conference record, no league titles, four NCAA appearances (2-4 record)
Wyshner: 2 seasons, 9-34 overall record, .209 winning percentage, 0-22 conference record, no league titles or NCAA appearances
Notes: Scratch that. THIS is what bottoming out looks like. When Jeff Bzdelik pulls his professional wrestler turn sometime next season by taking off his suit in a press conference to show Duke warmups underneath, he'll mention in that he only wished he'd tanked his job as bad as Wyshner appears to be doing. Honestly, I am compelled to give the shiny new coach bonus for him, but I'm dropping him back a letter grade on the discretion bump for that 0-22 (!!!) record. My how the women's tennis program has fallen.
In 2011, Wellman made one change, replacing the departed Jeff Zinn with new men's tennis coach Tony Bresky.
In 2012, Wellman replaced departed women's basketball coach Mike Petersen with Jen Hoover .
So, let's figure out Wellman's GPA. Below are the grades, listed by year:
Generally: Retaining Jen Averill (A)
1993: Jim Caldwell (D-)
1994: Chris Turner (C+), Jay Vidovich (A)
1996: Mary Buczek (B-)
1997: Charlene Curtis (D), Tony da Luz (A-), Jeff Zinn (B+)
1999: Brian Fleishman (B)
2000: Valorie Baker (B-)
2001: Jim Grobe (A), Skip Prosser (B-)
2004: Mike Petersen (B-), Rick Rembielak (C-)
2005: Chad Skorupka (C-), Heather Kahl Holmes (D+)
2007: Dino Gaudio (C-)
2009: Tom Walter (C)
2010: Jeff Bzdelik (F+), Jeff Wyshner (F)
2011: Tony Bresky (INC)
2012: Jen Hoover (INC)
And by program (to track progress or regress of each program):
Baseball: Rick Rembielak (C-), Tom Walter (C)
Men's Basketball: Skip Prosser (B-), Dino Gaudio (C-), Jeff Bzdelik (F+)
Women's Basketball: Charlene Curtis (D), Mike Petersen (B-), Jen Hoover (INC)
Field Hockey: retaining Jennifer Averill (A)
Football: Jim Caldwell (D-), Jim Grobe (A)
Men's Soccer: Jay Vidovich (A)
Women's Soccer: Chris Turner (C+), Tony da Luz (A-)
Men's Tennis: Jeff Zinn (B+), Tony Bresky (INC)
Women's Tennis: Brian Fleishman (B), Chad Skorupka (C-), Jeff Wyshner (F)
Volleyball: Mary Buczek (B-), Valorie Baker (B-), Heather Kahl Holmes (D+)
Doing the maths (and factoring in the football and men's basketball decisions twice each), we find that Wellman has earned himself 2.189 GPA, roughly equating to something between a C and a C+, or approximately maintaining (but not necessarily improving) Wake Forest athletics as a whole. He has done a good job of keeping good coaches (Buczek, Zinn, and Petersen are the B-range coaches who got away, but he's kept A-range coaches Averill, Vidovich, da Luz, and Grobe for over ten years each). Furthermore, it seems there is some validity to the criticism of Wellman that he has not done a good job of hirings recently - his last hire who actually improved its program was Mike Petersen in 2004.
Lastly, I would like to say that this is a rough look at Wellman's time at Wake Forest. There are more ins and outs of the world of college athletics than most of us can fathom. Indeed, I mentioned in some of the notes that the statistics given do not necessarily accurately depict the program's arc under the coach. I have tried to point out the most egregious examples of this.
As always, I appreciate any and all comments. I got the statistics from Wake media guides, so if you spot any inaccuracies (for instance, Rembielak's Wikipedia entry has his Wake career numbers listed differently), it's possible that someone was using a different source or that my math is incorrect. If you have any questions, I will try and answer them in the comments.