Numbers don’t lie.
That’s especially true in football. After all, if team A has a higher score then it beats team B.
All day long.
But sometimes, you have to dig a little beneath the surface to find the real truth, and significance, in those numbers.
That’s exactly the case when it comes to Kevin Vaughn, who just resigned as the head coach of the Springfield High School football team.
That Vaughn is stepping down is good news for the members of his family, because to be able to spend more time with them is why he’s doing it. That’s certainly understandable. Coaching today, even on the high school level, takes a lot of time. Those are minutes and hours you can’t get back. They’re gone – forever. So you miss a lot of those cool family events and moments. You have to hear about them from someone who was there. That may not be the best way to live life.
Vaughn will remain as the school’s athletic director, which is a monumental task in its own right. So he will still have his hands full.
Vaughn’s resignation, though, is not good news for the Springfield football program. Of that we can be sure. He will be hard to replace.
You might not come up with that opinion after looking at his overall record of 35-65 during his 10-year stint. This is where the digging comes in.
When Vaughn took over in 2008, he inherited a program that had struggled for quite a while. In the previous season, 2007, the Spartans went 0-10 and were outscored 424-60. They were also 0-10 in 2006, 2-8 in ’05, 1-9 in ’04, 0-10 in ’03, 2-8 in ’02, 3-7 in ’01 and 3-7 in ’00. That adds up to an eight-year mark of 11-69, for a winning percentage of .138.
So Vaughn had a lot to change, rebuild and correct, the most important of which was culture. That can happen, but not overnight. It takes time, often a lot of time.
As such, it’s not surprising, then, that the Spartans went winless, 0-10, in Vaughn’s first season of 2008. To his credit, he changed the culture enough for them to improve dramatically the following year, going all the way to 6-4. It was a hint of what could be at Springfield, but not yet of what it actually was. There was more work to be done. So the Spartans slipped back to 3-7 in 2010, 2-8 in ’11, 3-7 in ’12 and 3-7 in ’13.
But in his final four seasons, Vaughn got the Spartans to improve and, even more importantly this time, to stay there.
They were 4-6 in 2014 and ’15, and then took it up another notch in ’16 and ’17, finishing 5-5 both times. They were 18-22 during that stretch, which is the best four-year record Springfield has had in who knows how long. All that good stuff gets lost in Vaughn’s overall record, but if you’re willing to sift and sift, you’ll find it.
Consistency is the name of the game for any team in any sport at any level. Any team can have a "wow-you" season from time to time. The stars all align in just the right way and the team takes full advantage of it to exceed expectations by a lot.
But can that team do it again? And again? And again? And again? With different players? In different seasons? With different circumstances? With different storylines? Can the team keep doing it to the point where those better records aren’t a surprise anymore, but instead expected?
Ah, that is indeed the acid test. And the Spartans, under Vaughn, have passed it.
Make no mistake about it, that’s not a small achievement by any stretch of the imagination.
Now, are the Spartans where they ultimately want to be? Of course not.
Vaughn would tell you that without any hesitation. So would the players.
Teams don’t play seasons to lose as many games as they win. They just don’t.
They play to win all their games and ultimately to win championships.
And then to come back the following year and do it once more. To be really good for a really long time is as good as it gets. That’s the long-range goal.
In that respect, then, the Spartans have more steps forward to take.
But they are much closer now to where, and what, they want to be than when Vaughn arrived. His successor will not be inheriting a fixer-upper, as it were, like Vaughn did. He will be getting a program that is on firm footing and is poised to grow even more.
So, then, what is Vaughn, the athletic director, looking for in the man to replace Vaughn, the football coach?
Most likely for someone just like himself.
Again, that will take some doing. Those guys don’t grow on trees.
And that’s the truth.