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The Seven-Year Itch

On needing a spark in our relationship with Dave Doeren

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Ball State at NC State Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This past summer and fall while fun-employed I dove back into my first love, film, and took the time to watch movies I may never have given the time of day in my youth…except now I had all the time, on all the days. So I started with acclaimed director Billy Wilder’s filmography checking out Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and of course the Seven-Year Itch. The Seven-Year Itch, a great movie, was a commentary on the malaise that begins to form at or around seven years in a monogamous relationship. It’s a farce on how interest begins to wane and a new spark is needed, but this was not just a theory in the film mind you it’s a theory some psychologist still believe to this day. And it reflects exactly where State fans are in the tenure of Dave Doeren. You could feel it in a night-crowd at Carter Finley...despite the header photo, the energy was not there. Throughout CDD’s career, there have been high-highs (Chapel Hill domination, Louisville & FSU wins, bowl victories, almost all of 2017) and low-lows (games with W(t)F, P5 OOC, Clemson heartbreak, all of 2013)…so now, even after the relative success of the prior two years, much of the fanbase has the seven-year itch. And seeing as we don’t have anything close to Marilyn Monroe walking through that door, we must consider how to make this relationship work by igniting that spark again. Whether that consists of a change at QB, at DC or getting our team leaders healthy is for all the other fine articles here this week, right now I want to look at the seven year time frame surrounding other P5 coaches’ records and see if there is any reasonable comparison to inform where we are and where we should be at this juncture.

Coaching Records Years 6-8

Coach (Tenure) School Year 6 Overall Record Year 6 Conference Record Year 7 Overall Record Year 7 Conference Record Year 8 Overall Record Year 8 Conference Record
Coach (Tenure) School Year 6 Overall Record Year 6 Conference Record Year 7 Overall Record Year 7 Conference Record Year 8 Overall Record Year 8 Conference Record
Steve Addazio (2013-) BC 7-5 4-4 3-1^ 1-0^ N/A N/A
Mike Leach (2012-) Wazzou 9-4 6-3 11-2 7-2* 3-1^ 0-1^
David Shaw (2011-) Stanford 10-3 6-3 9-5 7-2* 9-4 6-3
David Cutcliffe (2008-) Duke 10-4 6-2** 9-4 5-3 8-5 4-4
Mark Dantonio (2007-) Michigan State 7-6 3-5 13-1 8-0** 11-2 7-1
Pat Fitzgerald (2006-) Northwestern 6-7 3-5 10-3 5-3 5-7 1-7
Kyle Whittingham (2004-) Utah 10-3 6-2^^ 10-3 7-1^^ 8-5 4-5
Mike Gundy (2005-) OKSU 11-2 6-2* 12-1 8-1** 8-5 5-4
Kirk Ferentz (1999-) Iowa 10-2 7-1** 7-5 5-3 6-7 2-6

^=season in progress, ^^=years outside of the P5

*=division title, **=conference title

(Note: I did not include Saban or Dabo because, well, you get it…also excluded Gary Patterson because during this tenure TCU was hopping in and out of mid-majors)

So what did we notice here? For one Dave is one of the longest serving head coaches at one school in the Power 5 which is a lot to unpack on its own. Outside of Saban, the SEC would’ve had no one else on this list so readily firing coaches before they can build a program to compete against Bama just means more. All that to say each of the coaches on this list have had questions of whether they should stay or go besides Cutcliffe. Leach, Whittingham and Gundy have been openly linked to other jobs throughout their time at their current schools. Ferentz and Fitzgerald have faced questions on if its time to move on before they go rattle off another division title and sign ridiculous contract extensions. Dantonio, well, um, he’s got other issues. Yet if you look around the time frame of the seven-year itch you’ll notice that almost every single one of these coaches have pulled in a division title or conference title to help keep the questions at bay. Evidence is beginning suggest that may not even be enough as David Shaw’s Cardinal are showing signs of a down year which is raising questions in his ninth season.

What does this mean for us? None of these are one to one comparisons, but besides The King of Dudes, its important to note that each of these coaches had the spark of a title to stave off the seven-year itch. They added something spicy to their monogamous relationship that have allowed most of these guys to continue serving over a decade at one university (many going on to win titles later because of that consistency). For programs with our budget and of our stature I believe consistency is the order of the day. I personally would love to avoid having another coaching search in our revenue sports for years to come. I think Keatts can potentially be phenomenal and Doeren’s deliberate program building could one day have us in prime position if, say, Dabo went to Bama. But with all the time, money and energy invested on both ends, it takes two to make this relationship work.

While less important than on Doeren’s side of the coin, its still important for the fanbase side of the relationship to feel comfort in that we’ve had more sustained success these past few years than in decades. Doeren’s recruiting, player development and yes, coaching at times, have won us games and throwing this relationship away when there is no clear other option, no Marilyn Monroe standing over a storm grate, may not be the best move. Also, we have to know that barring a disastrous collapse in wins AND program culture Dave won’t lose his job this year. IMHO, I’d rather what we’ve gotten from Doeren so far than the dysfunction of Chuck’s post-Rivers years or the peaks and valleys of TOB’s time here. Sure 2019 NC State Football doesn’t feel right, the writings may appear on the wall of who we’ll be, but the year is far from over…we’ve got eight games to play and our league competition doesn’t look too daunting...I mean they have to play us too, pal.

All that being said the majority of this is on CDD. It’s on his end of the relationship to realize the same old things just don’t cut it anymore, so if his conservative style of run-the-ball/stop-the-run is just who we are, fine, but at least the results need to look different for folks (like winning the OOC and big games we so rarely have before). He’s got to recognize, and feel, the sense of foreboding if this season goes off the rails, so in that vein he has to be willing to make the personnel changes to play to win the game as opposed to playing not to lose. He also has to see this as a legacy builder, a magical (and it would be magical) 8-4 finish this season will resonate goodwill going into 2020 and 2021 seasons where national recognition shouldn’t just be attainable but demanded. In the final analysis, CDD must know that for the fanbase there is a seven-year itch with no titles to refer back to and enough changes at State and around the ACC to make fans begin to turn their heads a bit.

So Dave we know you are naturally prickly with the media and fans when they question choices you make, we know you are more than willing to talk about the very real success you’ve had, we appreciate all that you’ve done and could potentially do...but seven years is a long time...and seven years in it’s time to light a put the cards on the table that prove in a transition season that you’ve built a solid, sustainable program…so just shut up and deal...

oh, wait…