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TOB Retrospective: A Study in Blah

Let's take a final final look.

TOB retires as the NCAA leader in most Merca on hats.
TOB retires as the NCAA leader in most Merca on hats.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The news of Tom O'Brien's passing into the coaching sunset brings back a flood of mediocre, mostly forgettable memories: curling up on a couch that is not too comfy, but not so uncomfortable and watching a very average movie, eating leftovers that were pretty good the first time but didn't quite reheat evenly in the microwave but still kind of sort of taste okay, mowing the lawn; watching it grow back, and, above all, the persistent feeling of accomplishing something that was an accomplishment alright, but a good bit less of an accomplishment than what I originally had in mind.

After a six-year run of 8+ win seasons, NC State fandom was right to expect the same and maybe more when O'Brien left Boston College for southern climes, but TOB only managed two eight-win seasons and just three overall winning seasons in six years at the helm (and this with either Russell Wilson or Mike Glennon calling the signals for most of his time on the sidelines). Despite the letdown of the TOB tenure, most of us will probably choose to remember the wry, irascible arm folder for the good times. He beat UNC five straight times. FIVE. STRAIGHT. TIMES. His dry wit was almost a guilty pleasure in press conferences, especially during rivalry week. ("We have syllabuses and instructors that show up.") He kept the tradition of the occasional spectacular win over FSU alive. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Toys for Tots. He ran the program with class, genuinely turning out good humans if not great football players.

And he beat UNC five straight times. FIVE. STRAIGHT. TIMES. He and Dick Sheridan were the only Wolfpack coaches to do so. Here's a handy chart that characterizes the O'Brien era. That third column is awful tasty, and 2010 was such a tease, but the rest? Soup that's gotten cold.


W-L (F+ ranking)

Beat UNC?

Beat FSU?


Highest Ranking

Ranked in Final AP


5-7, 2-6 (64th)

Yes, 31-27

No, 10-27





6-7, 4-4 (50th)

Yes, 41-10

No, 16-27

Yes, L 23-29 vs. Rutgers




5-7, 2-6 (64th)

Yes, 28-27

No, 42-45





9-4, 5-3 (22nd)

Yes, 29-25

Yes, 28-24

Yes, W 23-7 vs. WVU




8-5, 4-4 (58th)

Yes, 13-0

No, 0-34

Yes, W 31-24 vs. Louisville




7-6, 4-4 (63rd)

No, 35-43

Yes, 17-16

Yes, L 24-38 vs. Vandy*



*TOB did not coach the bowl

Some other O'Brien numbers:

  • O'Brien was just the third NC State coach to pilot the team to three consecutive bowls (though Dana Bible lame-duck interim-gigged the last one)
  • O'Brien's 40 wins are the 5th most for an NC State head coach
  • O'Brien's .526 winning percentage ranks 6th among NC State coaches with more than 20 games on the sidelines
  • Though just 2-1 with the Pack, O'Brien's .800 winning percentage in bowl games is tied with Urban Meyer for the best percentage of a coach with 10+ bowls
  • Unofficially leads all NC State coaches in persons hurdled while leap frogging
  • O'Brien beat UNC five straight times. FIVE. STRAIGHT. TIMES.

I wish him nothing but the best in retirement, though we'll always be left to wonder what might have been had we had his best. Had he come to Raleigh 10 years earlier (in place of a flailing Mike O'Cain), perhaps he would have been our Beamer.