Frank Haith recently made the jump from associate head coach at Texas to head coach at Miami Florida. However, his chances for success in his first head coaching job are slim. I think it’s safe to say that Miami comes into the ACC at the bottom, having won a combined 25 games over the last 2 years. The problem Haith faces is that the ACC is a conference with a glass ceiling. If you’re at the bottom, you’re not going up.

Since the 1991-92 season when the ACC last expanded, there have been 30 times that a team has racked up at least 11 conference losses in a season. Three teams account for 22 of those instances – Clemson (9), NC State (7), and Florida State (6). Among the other 6 teams, each has no more than 2 such seasons.

Here’s that idea in table form…

Wins   Expected    Expected     Diff.
this  wins next   wins in 3    over 3
year     year        years     years
 14      11.4         9.8       -4.2 
 13      10.6         9.0       -4.0 
 12      10.3         8.6       -3.4 
 11      10.0         8.6       -2.4 
 10       9.9         8.3       -1.7 
  9       9.5         7.9       -1.1 
  8       8.3         7.6       -0.4 
  7       7.2         7.0        0.0 
  6       6.4         6.8       +0.8 
  5       5.4         6.2       +1.2 
  4       5.3         6.0       +2.0 
  3       5.4         5.6       +2.6 
  2       5.2         5.5       +3.5 

So here’s how you read the table: On the left is how many ACC games a team won in year. The next column gives the number of conference wins they are expected to get next year. The third column contains the number of wins expected in 3 years. The final column is the difference in wins over 3 years. This was generated from ACC records since the league went to 9 teams/16 games in 1992. Thanks to Charlie Board’s site for making this easy.

(There was some mathematical hand-waving done to come up with these numbers due to the small sample size. For instance, the wins in the current season actually includes all seasons within 2 wins of the number given. So the 10 win seasons include data for the 8 to 12 win teams.)

At the bottom of the table, one can see it is very difficult for a team below the 6 win plateau to get above it. It is very easy, or at least expected, that a team can go from 2 to 5 wins in a year. But the 5-11 team isn’t expected to change much the next year. I am averaging data here, so some 5 win teams do improve, but most either get worse or stay the course. Let’s look at the progression of FSU, NC State, and Clemson’s conference wins over the last 13 seasons (most recent years listed last).

FSU      11-12-6-5-5-6-6-5-9-4-4-4-6
NCSU     6-2-5-4-3-4-5-6-6-5-9-9-11
Clemson  4-5-6-5-7-9-7-5-4-2-4-5-3

The difficulty these schools have had in trying to break into the upper half of the ACC is obvious, and Miami can expect the same.

I highlighted a couple key segments. The first being the last 3 seasons for NC State. Herb Sendek gets little acclaim as a head coach, but his job in improving NC State should be regarded more highly that it is.

The four years in bold for Clemson are the Rick Barnes years, the only time the glass ceiling was broken at Clemson. Barnes shrewdly jumped to Texas in what some viewed as a lateral move in prestige. However the success he has had in Austin would not have been easily duplicated at Clemson.

It is possible that Frank Haith will make a name for himself in the ACC, like Barnes and Sendek have done. Merely getting the ‘Canes to .500 in the ACC would prove he’s worthy of a better job.