Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Rough Decade Remembered

How things change.

Ten years ago, Georgetown sat comfortably at the top of the still-fledgling metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, having defeted the final two opponents of the 1999 season by a combined 101-13. A 2000 schedule of eight MAAC opponents, Holy Cross, Davidson, anf Fordham followed.

Georgetown had other plans, however.

Three weeks into the new year of 2000, Georgetown announced an invitation to the Patriot League, beginning a new era on football at the Hilltop. Let's not kid anyone--the results weren't what we expected, but the alternative may have been even worse. Think about this: of the Hoyas' nine wins in 1999, seven were against teams which no longer exist. The collapse of the MAAC was imminent, and Georgetown had a lifeboat, even if it was way in the back.

As number go, the 2000s will go down as the poorest decade in Georgetown football: ten losing seasons, a combined 29-80 (.263), and a just awful 6-49 (.109) in league play. Kevin kelly ended his fourth season with a combined mark of 5-38, lowest of any fourth year coach in Division I.

Looking back on the decade, there are plenty of lowlights (yes, I actually got up at 1:00 am that Sunday to watch the tape delay of Lehigh's 49-0 halftime score to open the 2002 season, it finished 69-0), but there's one game this decade that stands out as a strange turning point for the decade.

On October 18, 2003, Georgetown faced an Ivy League opponent for the first time in 1937 at Cornell. Led with a great performance by senior WR Luke McArdle and a promising efort by freshman QB/RB Alondzo Turner, the Hoyas didn't just upset the Big Red, they beat them, 42-20. At that point, Georgetown was 11-17 over its two and one half years in the league. With a three game winning streak, it appeared to anyone who saw it that Georgetown had turned the corner. We were wrong.

One stat absolutely stuns me from that game. Following the Cornell game, Georgetown reentered PL play with a 3-8 league mark over the prior two seasons. In the intervening six years, the Hoyas are 3-36. Think about that.

However many the heartaches and plain old indigestion of the last ten seasons, there is an opportunity to review and recognize some of the best players of the past decade. For those students or young alumni who only know the last two years and haven't thought much of the talent on the field, know that there have been very good players that gave their all over the past ten years:

Glenn Castergine (TE, 2002,03,04,05): A two year starter at tight end, Castergine was efficient and effective in a position Georgetown has not always focused on.

Frank Terrazino (OL, 2001,02,03,04): A four year starter in a tough position. Got things donwe.

Liam Grubb (OL, 2003,04,05, 06): Maybe one of the best Georgetown linemen I've ever seen--hampered by injuries, Liam was an outstanding performer.

Dan Matheny (OL, 2006,07,08,09): A four year warrior.

Ryan Goethals (OL, 2001,02,03,04): A valuable four year starter that helped elevate the Georgetown running game when it needed it.

Ed Kuczma (OL, 1999,00,01,02): Along with Adam Rini, a consistent leader on the line in the years between the MAAC and PL.

Dave Paulus (QB/P, 2000,01,02,03); A nod ahead of Matt Bassuener (2004-07), Paulus was the best quarterback in a rough era for Georgetown QB's--he probably deserved more time from the coaches but when he was in the games, he made the most of it. Punting wise, he's probably the best punter of the modern era.

Gharun Hester (WR, 1997,98,99,00): An outstanding receiver who ended his career at the beginning of the decade, Hester is the school's all time leader in yards (3,089) and touchdowns (39).

Luke McArdle (WR, 2000,01,02,03): Maybe the best offensive performer of the decade, and the school's all-team leader in punt returns. Georgetown's first all-PL first team selection.

Kim Sarin (RB, 2002,03,04): Georgetown's first 1,000 yard rusher in a season since (maybe) John Gilroy in 1917, Sarin averaged 4.9 yards a carry over a three year career cut short by injury.

Charlie Houghton (RB, 2006,07,08,09): Largely a result of his rookie of the year season as a freshman, Houghton was a solid running back who injuries eventually overtook. Overall, though, the 2000's were not good years for a Georgetown rushing game that sank to the bottom of the subdivision.

Kyle Van Fleet (All-Purpose, 2004,05,06,07): Tight end, fullback, linebacker, whatever, Kyle would play anywhere the coaches asked and did all he could. His five touchdowns in 2007 led all teammates, and Van Fleet received the Duffey-Scholar Athlete Award for the season.

Kenny Mitchell (All-Purpose, 2005,06,07,08): My pick for the most underutilized talent of the decade--Mitchell could have been even better than Gharun Hester with his speed and agility, and was never a focal point of the Jim Miceli offense. His kick return numbers are in the record books but it could have been so much more.

To no surprise, the defensive picks are stronger across the board.

Michael Ononibaku (DL, 2002,03,04,05), Pound for pound, the best defender of the last 30 years. Georgetown's only All-America selection in the decade, this scholar-athlete and Duffey Award winner was a remarkable player in the Benson-era defensive sets.

Alex Buzbee (DL, 2003,04,05,06): Three inches taller and twenty pounds heavcier than Ononibaku, Buzbee leveraged a solid four career into a NFL roster spot in 2007, the first Hoya to do so since Jim Ricca in 1955. An All-PL selection as a senior, Buzbee finished third all time in sacks, one-half sack behind Ononibaku.

Ataefiok Etukeren (DL, 2005,06,07,08): A solid force on the defensive line with quickness and power, Etukeren made it to the last cut of the Buffalo Bills as a free agent signing in 2009.

Scott Pogorelec (DL, 1998,99,00,01): A four year mainstay on the early 2000's line, played nose guard with distinction despite being only 245 lbs.

Andrew Clarke (LB, 2000,01,02,03): Fourth all time in tackles, Clarke was a high school RB who became a defensive standout. His 119 tackles in 2002 is a single season record, with 23 tackles in a single game, also a record.

Jason Carter (LB, 2002,03,04,05); Despite weighing only 215, Carter was a strong tacker and defensive presence as a "rover" in the defensive sets. When there was a tackle to be made, he was there. Sixth all time in career tackles.

Matt Fronczke (DB, 2000,01,02,03): Third all time in tackles, one of GU's best secondary corps in a generation, a second team all-PL selection.

Maurice Banks (DB, 2002,03,04,05): A second team all-PL selection in 2004 and 2005, Banks was a solid secondary performer.

Travis Mack (DB, 2006,07,08,09): A strong three year leader on defense, placing third on the team in tackles with 66 in 2009 and 232 overall, fifth most in the modern era.

Derek Franks (DB, 2003,04,05,06): A three year starter, he finished with 75 tackles in his senior season.

Marc Samuel (PK, 2000,01): Kicking was very much a hit or miss (no pun intended) affair for the Hoyas in the decade, but the University of Kentucky transfer and GU Law student managed to finish in the top three for field goal and extra point accuracy over his two seasons.

As for the next decade, well, the losing must end. Either the coaches have to correct it, find someone who will, or Georgetown is going to be forced into reevaluating the commitment it puts into the Patriot League. This school's tradition and its program deserves a more competitive effort than what was seen in the 2000's, and that's not a knock on the players or the coaches who battled through it, but a call to action in the years to come.

Georgetown can do better, everyone knows that. It's time to start making it happen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Acres of Diamonds

What's the worst thing about being an 0-11 team in November? Being one in December.

The last week or so has seen an outpouring of Internet grumbling over the winless Hoyas, who commanded little or no media attention in their weekly losses but seems to have become a point of discussion following the euthanasia of programs at Northeastern and Hofstra. Bad teams are supposed to clean house the weekend after the season finale, right?

"The alarming thing about Georgetown is they're doing nothing to fix their situation," writes one posted on a I-AA message board. "They haven't fired their coach and they've made no progress in updating their facilities. The fact that the coach has remained is the most curious of all imo. The program has hit rock bottom, shows no signs of life yet the course looks to continue. What's the point?"

Back at the HoyaTalk message board, a familiar writer to the site suggests this:  "I think Georgetown has 5-10 years left to prove to the community that there is still a place for football on the Hilltop. Otherwise, the program will keep falling down the slippery slope of doom, gloom, apathy, irrelevance, and embarrassment that this campus-wide joke has become."

The distinction between these two lines of thought is the difference between the word "won't" and "can't". The first writer thinks Georgetown won't remedy its situaiton, the second suggests it can't, which is a more serious contention; yet, I don't believe either.

But if you're under the age of 30, if you've never seen Georgetown written in an article that didn't involve a sports writer's tongue firmly in cheek, or if the only optimism you've seen on the program is that erstwhile New York Times feature on Bernard Muir and the future greatness of Hoya Football, one can be excused for being melancholy about the whole thing. Excused, but not absolved. Time to look forward.

So in this off-season, as the S.S. Georgetown is stuck on the shoals of college football, now is not the time to drop anchor, but get back out in the water. 

Growing up in Texas, I got to follow some great college football...and some really awful football, too. Chief offenders of the latter were the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University, who endured five winning seasons from 1966 to 1997 and were the source of many a joke in the rugged Southwest Conference.

Esteemed writer Dan Jenkins observed that "Fans in the stadium learned to cheer for first downs, to holler at the offense "Hold 'Em Frogs", and once, a large hand-made sign appeared in the student section proclaiming: "We're #115."

They played in a battered old stadium and their best days were behind them. Attendance was nominal, and recruits took notice. From 1974-78, the Frogs were 8-49, 2-36 in league play.

No one was trying to drum them out of the league or to drop football. But when the SWC met its demise and the big schools went elsewhere, TCU was left behind in a big way, and people got serious about what to do. The school reached out to local businessmen, the so-called "Committee of 100",  to help reinvest local interest (and local dollars) into the program. Facility upgrades followed. Recruiting, still a second of third choice to Big 12 programs, began to pick up gems the big schools missed.

One of them was a running back from San Diego, and today his photo proudly stands at the entrance to its stadium, along with legends from days gone by:

And it was more than just players. TCU started hiring coaches that were good enough to be capable of being hired away elsewhere, and soon were (Pat Sullivan was nearly hired by LSU, Dennis Franchione by Alabama). Following Franchione's exit, the school promoted its defensive coordinator, Gary Patterson, and hasn't looked back. Over the past ten years, only Southern Cal has a better winning percentage among all Division I-A private schools than TCU. (Not even Notre Dame.) Patterson, thought to be in the running for the vacant ND job, just signed a contract extension. And why not? He's built something special.

Two weeks ago, TCU finished 12-0 with a thorough pounding of New Mexico, 51-10 and stands waiting for a BCS bowl. A generation ago, no, a decade ago, this would have been unthinkable. TCU was the Temple of Southwestern football (and look at Temple these days!)

What changed? What got these stands filled time and time again in a region full of Longhorn and Aggie fans?

 What got a student body not much larger than Georgetown to fill these stands?

 What got hundreds of children to line up before the game to "run" with their home town team?

Because TCU has discovered a truism that Georgetown hasn't: you don't need to look far to build a base of support. But first you've got to work at it.

In 1890, a Baptist educator named Russell Conwell toured the countryside telling a story, considered one of the most memorable speeches of the 19th century. Royalties from the speech made him enough money to fund a struggling Baptist school in Philadelphia he called Temple University, and to this day it remains a hallmark among motivational speakers. Known as the "Acres of Diamonds" speech, it carried a simple message--before one goes searching the world for success, take stock of what one has right now, and start using those resources to build wealth.

Wrote Rev. Conwell: "Greatness consists not in holding some office; greatness really consists in doing some great deed with little means, in the accomplishment of vast purposes from the private ranks of life, that is true greatness."

It was true in Conwell's time, as he built Temple into a major research university.

It was true for TCU, as they have built a major college program from the wreckage of years of futility.

Most importantly (for this column), it is true for Georgetown. But first it's got to work at it.

We bemoan (and I am sometimes guilty of same) that Georgetown doesn't have the tools it takes to compete. Not to compete in the Big East, of course, but even among smaller private schools. And yet, look around and see the diamonds on the fringe of that forsaken field called the MSF:

  • This is a University that provides educational opportunities unmatched by any Catholic school in the nation, a peer with the major research universities of the nation. 
  • This is a University that can recruit, educate, and graduate a cross section of conscientious leaders from its football program for generations to come, whether they be CEO's, field generals, or college presidents.
  • This is a school whose contacts provide its football student-athletes significant internship and networking opportunities for careers that will exceed their expectations and open doors that will change their lives and the lives of others.
  • This is a University with a vast network of alumni that have played football for the school, willing and able to devote resources towards student support, facility improvement, and coaching development.
  • This is a University whose representatives can walk in to a recruit's home anywhere in the nation and tell its story.
  • This is a University fully capable of attracting outstanding student-athletes, near as well as far, who can compete at a designated level and provide its students and alumni success on and off the field of play, with or without the comforts that other schools may enjoy.
  • This is a University with a proud football tradition dating back to the very origins of the sport, with a long-term record of competitive success that ought to be cherished and embraced rather than ignored and minimized.

And look around! Look at the diamonds in its midst! This is a University that can certainly compete and win at the Division I-AA level and bring honor and distinction to its legacy. One doesn't have to go to a BCS bowl to do it, either. Georgetown has resources at its disposal Northeastern never had, and Hofstra never will! But first it's got to work at it.

The basketball folks like to say we are Georgetown, and so "we" are. But if Georgetown can excel with honor in basketball, in track, in lacrosse, rowing, sailing, et al., it can do the same in football, I'm convinced of it. That its own students (much less alumni and Internet message boards) haven't heard that message is a problem in need of solving.

It won't be easy, but that's not the issue.

"Difficulty," wrote Edward R. Murrow, "is the excuse history never accepts."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Changes Next Year?

In the last fleeting moments of Saturday's Note Dame game against Connecticut, with a dark cloud hanging over the head of Charlie Weis and his sweatshirt, a producer at NBC drew a proverbial knife and slipped it right in.

NBC switched from the game to a scene at Weis' first press confernce, where a younger, thinner and somewhat cockier New England Patriots assistant confidently told his alma mater, "You are what you are, folks, and right now you’re a 6-5 football team. And guess what? That’s just not good enough. That’s not good enough for you, and it’s certainly not going to be good enough for me."

Weis' record after the game? 6-5.

Kevin Kelly was smarter than to make that claim upon taking over Bob Benson's 4-7 Georgetown Hoyas in January 2006, but he has lots of other questions ahead this off-season. An 0-11 season never goes down very well with fans, but there are some years where a coach can get away with it: a quarterback injury, probation, a mostly-freshman lineup. A one time occurrence.

Except Georgetown had none of these. Georgetown was 0-11 because it wasn't very good, isn't very good week after week, and hasn't been very good for a long while.

Good men can agree to disagree about what it will take to get better sooner, but it raises the key question for the staff during the off-season, the question the staff will hear from parents and recruits and parents of recruits:

What changes next year?

What will be different in 2010 to make this team competitive? A look at the off-season needs makes this a very, very difficult answer.

What changes at quarterback next season? In the last 10 years, only one incumbent has held the starting role the following season (Matt Bassuener), with a revolving door in the post.

At the end of 2007, Robert Lane was the returning QB, but he was passed over for Keerome Lawrence, John O'Leary and James Brady. At the end of 2008, Lawrence and O'Leary were passed over for Brady, who was passed over by Isaiah Kempf by week two, who was passed over eight weeks later by Scott Darby. For all we know, Darby could be starting with O'Leary at WR in 2010, or Tucker Stafford will finally get a chance to start, or that there's yet another high school senior out there prepared to take a pounding to call plays for the Blue and Gray.

The inconsistency at QB has mirrored the inconsistency of the team, and there's no telling if any changes among the positional coaches throws this position into question at spring practice once again. It's no secret that a veteran QB paced Holy Cross to the PL title this season. And it's also no secret that the last time Georgetown had consistency at QB, with there starting QB's from 1993-1999, it was a winning program.

Since 2001? 14 different starters.

What changes at running back next season? Maybe Charlie Houghton and Robert Lane come back for a fifth year next season, maybe not. But the position is still in need of an upgrade, especially with a power back blocking for Houghton or Philip Oladeji or whoever gets a look at tailback. There hasn't been a power back in the lineup in probably ten years, when Rob Belli (1997-99) ran for 826 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Think about those last two numbers: 826 yards, 17 touchdowns. In 2009, the entire Georgetown offense combined for 555 yards and two touchdowns. Outside of Oladeji and Houghton, the Hoyas combined for 124 carries and 52 net yards, So how does it get better next year, because it absolutely has to.

What changes at offensive line next season? A lot of people point to the O-line as the source of Georgetown's frustrations--too small, too slow, and overwhelmed on the line. It's an exaggeration in some cases, but not always. When healthy, the offensive line can hold their own, but it's resembled a MASH unit over the last few years. Three seniors graduate off the line this spring, and none of their replacements are much bigger than 280 lbs. Georgetown is hard pressed recruiting any 300 pounders and relies, if by default, on smaller players. But at what cost? Isaiah Kempf doesn't get sacked nine times in a game for being slow. He's sacked nine times because the line gets beat up all season and was shot by week 11.

Who among the returning players steps up, or is it more of the same?

What changes on defense next season? The front seven will reload, as usual, although the Hoyas cannot seem to establish a consistent run defense. One reason: less pressure on the quarterback. In the Fordham game, the front line combined for 0.5 sacks against Fordham, and the Hoyas ranked 100th in the nation in average sacks per game (1.3). In the season finale, the defensive line gave up 38 pounds, on average, against Fordham's line.So what happens when a 260 lb. lineman meets a 310 lb. one? Don't plan on a sack.

The secondary loses three mainstays in Rau, Jackson, and Mack, with Bodrick a close fourth.  Kyle Miller and Jeff Gazaway have to get up to speed this spring or Georgetown will be vulnerable again in the air.

What changes on special teams next season? A lot. One of the recrurring misfires in recruiting in the last 5-7 years has been special teams, and Georgetown has relied on a wing and prayer to find consistency. Its last punter with more than two years experience was David Paulus in 2002, its last three year kicker dates back to the MAAC era.  

GU was fortunate that walk-on and football newcomer Jose Pablo-Buerba and WR-turned-punter Brian Josephs succeeded under short notice (having seen Kilgo Livingston, Casey Dobyns and Rafael Notario leave the team over the last two years) but both Buerba and Josephs will have graduated this spring. The Hoyas need real help on special teams next year.

What changes on the schedule next year? Richmond is out, Davidson is in, but that doesn't buy you much, given that Georgetown hasn't won a road game outside the District in over two years. OK, so Georgetown beats Davidson and Marist--is 2-9 in 2010 a sign of improvement? I hope not.

There's not much that can be done, of course, as it's not good practice to tear up contracts, but the 2009 schedule was a no-win situation (literally) for the Hoyas.

So what changes next year? It's hard to say in November, but it's time to get to work to do so, even if it is the off-season. Or, as Weis might have said, "You are what you are, folks. And guess what? That’s just not good enough."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Week 11 Recap

Some thoughts following Fordham's 41-14 win to end the 2009 season:

No Quit: Congratulations to the team for not giving up on what has been, by any objective view, an awful season. The ability of the team to keep working hard amidst injuries and talent gaps between Georgetown and its opponents is no less easy when you're winning, but doubly difficult as the losses mount. One can be discouraged in the record and at the same time proud of those that fought the fight.

Thanks Fans: Georgetown's average attendance of 2,527 doesn't sound impressive, but it was the best average in over 10 years and reinforces that well-worn phrase: if you build it, they will come. (And if you actually finish it, even more will.) Give Georgetown fans a winning program and the MSF will be a great place to be in coming years.

Late Season Blues: Georgetown has won one season finale this decade and there's one reason which goes a little unnoticed: familarity.  As teams go, Georgetown does not change its tactics much from game to game--primarily the result of a lack of healthy talent, partly a result of some limited offensive play calling, but most often the lack of options to adapt to players. It is why you see the Hoyas do reaonably well the first game of each year and to start to struggle from there on out--teams are digesting game film and are picking up GU's predicatable game plans as they go along. You saw it in Isaiah kempf's declining numbers since the Yale game--teams figured his style of play out and keyed on it. To build momentum in October, a team must be better than its opponetns or more innovative, and Georgetown didn't have much of either this season.

4th and 22: Did anyone see the play on ESPN where Yale, leading late in the fourth quarter, ran a fake punt on a 4th and 22, but failed and gave Harvard the field position to win the game? Yes, people can criticize it but it shows the kind of faith in a team that Tom Williams has in his young Bulldogs, and that faith is going to pay dividends down the road. had it worked, they'd be calling Williams a genius; this time, he's a goat. But he's a really good coach and better days await Yale.

Georgetown wasn't into much trickery this year; again, the depth of talent wasn't there. I think this is one of the three big issues hading into next season: depth--how can Georgetown get wins when it cannot build depth?

Stat Of The Season, #1: Georgetown was outscored 99-27 in the first quarter of games. Last season it was 72-27, over four seasons, 376-78. The Georgetown offensive sets are not designed for comebacks, so something needs fixing here.

Stat of The Season, #2: Georgetown's offensive line was 25th in the nation during 2008 in fewest sacks allowed. In 2009? 112th.

Some Unofficial Awards: The team awards will be announced in January...or February, or even April, depending on when the awards banquet is held. Here are some very unofficial candidates for such awards:
  • Al Blozis Award (MVP): Hard to focus on an offensive MVP in a winless season, but since it's gone to the defense three straight years, here are three from the D worth a chance to be honored: LB Nick Parrish, DB Travis Mack, and DT Andrew Schaetzke.
  • Jack Hagerty Award (backs): Only one running back has won this in the last decade, as linebackers and secondary have taken over. Parrish, Mack, and sophomore DB David Quintero are all worthy candidates.
  • George Murtagh Award (linemen): If there's a way to honor the efforts of center Dan Matheny, this might be it. DE Chudi Obianwu and OL Rich Hussey deserve a look as well. 
  • Jermiah Minihan Award (coaches award): A hard one to judge, but maybe there is a place to honor the senior special teams. Jose Pablo-Buerba and Brian Josephs weren't even on the radar screen for special teams two years ago and both acquitted themselves well this season.
  • John Burke Award (courage and spirit): Jon Cassidy.
There are a couple of awards the team doesn't give out but probably should. I'll give them a couple of names just for the heck of it:
  • "Lou Little Award" (top freshman): One had to be impressed by how QB Isaiah Kempf stepped up when James Brady walked away. 
  • "Scott Glacken Award" (outstanding senior contribution): Robert Lane did everything that was asked of him throughout four years. He will be missed.
I didn't offer a recommendation on the Maurice Dubofsky Award (outstanding student-athlete) or the Eacobacci Memorial winner, because those are unique awards. But for all the Hoyas' troubles on the field, there are more than a few deserving candidates whose on and off the field leadership make them worthy candidates of such honors.

And so to the entire 2009 Hoyas, this quote from U.S. Supreme Court associate justice Benjamin Cardozo: "In the end the great truth will have been learned, that the quest is greater than what is sought, the effort finer than the prize, or rather that the effort is the prize, the victory cheap and hollow were it not for the rigor of the game."

Your work on the field is done, but for the seniors, we'll need you back as alumni. There's more work to be done. A lot more.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week 10 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Richmond's 49-10 win Saturday:

Zero Hour: One can say it's "for" the seniors, and that's true, but Georgetown is playing "against" the idea of being the first team in Georgetown's long and often storied history not to win a game in a season. Outside of two bad teams in Howard and Marist, they haven't even been close.

The margin of defeat in those two games combined? Four points. And since these were only the two teams Georgetown actually beat in 2008, how close was that team to a zero win season in 2008? One pass play and two missed PAT's. When you think of it that way, this isn't a one year phenomenon, is it?

A winless season happened once before, sort of. The 1984 team was beaten soundly in all seven games that season, but claimed a forfeit win following a 56-6 stomping by Catholic University over charges CUA had an ineligible player; hence, Georgetown history records a 1-6 season. (Like any good rivalry, Catholic still lists it as a win.)

But barring any such technicalities, a loss to Fordham is a mark which cannot soon be erased from this staff nor this team's image among students and alumni. It's also likely to raise heat from a Georgetown alumni community that will grudgingly tolerate a two or three win season, but not 0-11. Never mind selling that to recruits, but try selling that to alumni.

Poor Preparation: A fumble on the first play of the game. An itnterception after three passes. Three series, three turnovers soncerted to touchdowns. What a dismal way to start a game, not only against a nationally respected team, but at home. Even worse--this is week 10, not week one, and when your senior RB coughts up the ball on the first carry, that does not speak well for this team's mental toughness and preparation.

As for Coach Kelly being called on a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? Wow. You can watch a lot of football over the years and not see such a call, but a head coach needs to know better not to even get into that kind of situation. It didn't cost Georgetown the game, but it was the wrong place to make that argument.

Seeing Red: The Richmond Times-Dispatch raised an interesting angle not heretofore discussed in dissecting the Hoyas' 0-10 season--redshirts.

"The Hoyas (0-10), of the Patriot League, do not offer athletic scholarships, nor do they redshirt..." wrote the T-D's John O'Connor. "Richmond works with 63 football scholarships, the maximum in the Football Championship Subdivision, and this season usually starts 15 seniors who redshirted as true freshmen." OK, so the 63 scholarships doesn't hurt, but 15 fifth-year players is a big, big deal.

The Patriot League only allows medical redshirts--it was reported over the weekend that Georgeown could receive a fifth year for both Charlie Houghton and Robert Lane should they choose to stay. But should Georgetown be more proactive with de facto redshirting; that is, not playing freshman players at all? A coach wants the best players out there, but the freshman issue is a crutch of sorts--yes, some recruits get the chance to play, but at the expense of developing upperclassmen. A lineup dominant with freshmen players never gains traction when they are replaced by more underclassmen the following year.

Left unsaid is the financial angle. Richmond can afford to float a kid's education for four or five years, Georgetown can't afford a fraction of that.

Rushing Title: Depending on the severity of an injury suffered against Richmond, senior Charlie Houghton enters week 11 with 61 carries for 276 yards this season. If he ends the season there, it will mark the fewest attempts for a leading rusher since 1983, when Georgetown played only eight games that season, but would still mark Houghton's third rushing title in four years, last matched by Steve Iorio (1994,96,97). Sophomore Philip Oladeji trails Houghton by 49 yards entering Saturday's game.

The Mendoza Line: 14 points is the "Mendoza Line" for Georgetown's offense over the last two seasons, having passed it just twice in the last 21 games. The Hoyas need 14 points in this game to match its points average from last season, 9.6, which was the lowest average for a GU team since 1984. A shutout would leave Georgetown at a lowly 8.7 per game, lowest since 1935.

Running On Empty: With its first and only touchdown Saturday, Georgetown scored its second, repeat, second touchdown on the ground in ten games.

It's inexcusable. It's dead last in Division I--only three schools have fewer than five and one of them is downgrading back to Division II. the subdivision average (average, mind you) is 14. Among 2009 opponents, Colgate has 28, Old Dominion has 24, Richmond 20. This offense has many faults, but look no further than this one: Georgetown has a 30% conversion rate in the red zone for touchdowns, with six in 20 attempts. Opponents have a 63% conversion, 27 for 43.

In the interests of full disclosure, Howard has three touchdowns, one of which came against Georgetown. What is it about local schools and poor football?

Maryland (I-A): 2-8
Virginia (I-A): 2-8
Howard (I-AA): 2-8
Georgetown (I-AA):0-10
Catholic (III): 1-9
George Mason (club):  1-7, one game cancelled for lack of healthy players

So it's on to face Fordham and barring a momentous upset, the die will be cast on Georgetown's worst season ever, 1984 notwithstanding. Georgetown's last home win to end a season was November 20, 1999, a 52-7 runaway against LaSalle. Could anyone have fast-forwarded ten years to see this?

The fact that 0-11 is even a possibility (much less a probability) at Georgetown says a lot about how far this this program has gone off track over the last ten years and the work which lies ahead.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Week 9 Thoughts

Some post-game thoughts following Marist's 23-21 victory on Sunday:

The End of the Line. There's not any good way to get around it: barring a historic upset of Richmond Saturday (and I'm not calling it), this team either finishes with the second 1-10 record in school history or finishes with its worst, 0-11. Over and above the finger pointing which is sure to follow, these next two weeks marks the end the football careers for 21 seniors who worked harder and expected better.

Sadly, the mistakes that you can stomach in week one were in anything but digestible in week 10: two turnovers inside the Georgetown 30 which led to 14 Marist points, four failed fourth down conversions, another early shutdown of the running game. The hardest lesson from this game is how little progress as a team Georgetown has made over the season, and how such progress is vital to a competitive game Saturday with #1-ranked Richmond.

Houghton's Mark: When Charlie Houghton won PL Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 with a 403 yard season, it seemed only the beginning. Houghton needs 136 yards over his next two games just to match that number, and has not scored a rushing touchdown since the 2007 season.

Some Better Numbers. Scott Darby posted some strong numbers passing in the Marist game for his first start of the season: 31-57 for 289 yards. Outside of the 68 yard pass to Brandon Floyd, he averaged seven yards a pass, which should be a point of emphasis for Georgetown in the off-season. Now that GU has receivers like Floyd and Kenneth Furlough with size and speed, the ofense must provide the ability to leverage their skills downfield.

A Great Return: Lost amidst the 0-9 record is the return from injury from senior LB Chris Rau. Hampered by injury much of the season, Rau returned to action in the Old Dominion game and for Marist led the team in tackles with 11.

Injuries have taken their toll on the senior class, but it has not stopped the heart and desire to do better. As written by Mex Carey over at the Hoya Insider blog: "Before [ODU], Chris hadn't played in a game all season. During the spring game in April, Chris tore a ligament in his leg and he spent the summer, all of preseason and the first seven games this year rehabilitating himself so he could get a chance to be back on the field with his teammates. Chris, who finished eighth in the Patriot League in tackles as a sophomore and junior, is one of our captains and his absence on the field of play was evident. It says a lot about him that in his first two games this year, he led the team in tackles, registering a combined 18 tackles against Old Dominion and Marist."

The biggest enemy on the schedule isn't Richmond or Fordham, it's time. There may be a lot to complain about in two weeks time, but the seniors deserve some support in these next two weeks. They've only won five games in four years, but a sixth would not be soon forgotten.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Low Tide

The clocks have swung back and the days grow short for the 2009 season. Georgetown still has three games left, three games to make a stand, but for a lot of fans, the bright lights of September have all but gone out for this team.

The Old Dominion game said as much. Georgetown's cheering section was a family and friends affair, and despite a distance to the game not unlike that to Lehigh or Lafayette (200 miles), there was nary a Hoya Blue shirt or a local alumnus to be found. More than one person at the game asked me if my son was playing out there, as I was one of the few non-parents to make it to the game itself.

The absence of local alumni should be a cause for concern. There are a few hundred alumni in the Tidewater region and more in the Richmond area; granted, not a hotbed for Hoyas, but enough that should have been reached out to to offer tickets. (The alumni population at Georgetown seems to stop at the Alexandria city limits.) Georgetown does not enjoy a reputation as a "traveling" school, even in basketball, but the only way you're going to get more fans motivated in the program is to see it up front. OK, maybe this season isn't the best light to show them, but the dedication of the team is as strong as ever and we shouldn't forget that.

The absence of students, well, can only be solved by winning. Georgetown student support has been spotty for a number of years now; outside the first two games of the season, it seems students cannot focus on any team other than men's basketball these days. To see an attendance of just 1,013 at the Big East men's soccer quarterfinal aginsat DePaul is another example of an increasingly indifferent student sports populace.

Then again, it beats the 191 that saw Villanova to lose to Providence. (191?)

The 0-8 Georgetown record is not alone among underperforming programs locally. Everyone knows about the seemingly wobegone Redskins ("where never is heard a discouraging word, and signs are not allowed all day...") and their growing fan discomfort.  But they are not alone. How about these teams?
  • Maryland (2-6): The Terrapins may talk about a rally to earn a bowl trip to RFK Stadium (Eagle Bowl tickets, anyone?) but don't count on it. With N.C. State (away), Virginia Tech, Florida State (away) and Boston College, the Terps might finish dropping three or four. And with only one Div. I-A win this season, this could be the worst season at Byrd Stadium since Ron Vanderlinden finished 3-8 ten years ago. These are not good days for his successor, Ralph Friedgen, and unlike more polite Georgetown fans, Maryland fans don't mind telling him so.
  • Virginia (3-5): Atterndance is off by an average of 15,000 a game since the opener, and losing to Duke last week has set off alarm bells in Charlottesville. And it probably doesn't help that the recent Associated Press story titled "Virginia AD casts ominous cloud over Groh’s future" strongly suggests Al Groh will be called to account at season's end  for his 29-28 mark over five years. These days, a 29-28 might be enough for tenure at Georgetown.
  • Towson (2-6): The CAA's most recent entrant has posted only two winning seasons since leaving the Patriot League in 2003 and has lost 16 of its last 24. 2009 looks to be more of the same. After a 42-14 loss to Richmond last week, it gets no easier for Rob Ambrose and the Tigers: at William & Mary, Villanova, and at James Madison to close the season.
  • Howard (2-6): Remember the Bison? Since their 14-11 split decision over the Hoyas at Homecoming Weekend and a 7-3 win over Division II-bound Winston Salem State, the Bison have dropped four straight, scoring an average of eight points a game, most recently a 41-6 rout at the hands of  a .500 Norfolk State team. The Bison need a win in either of its final two home games to avoid going winless in the MEAC for a second consecutive year.
  • Catholic (1-7): Across town in Division III, the Cardinals are heading for one of the major collapses in local football history: from a 9-2 mark in 2008 to a one win team in 2009. Two games remain against a 2-6 Guilford team and the 6-2 Bridgewater Eagles.
  • George Mason (1-5): This is shaping up to be the worst season in the Patriots' 17 year club history. After opening with a 28-14 win over a club team at Walter Reed Medical Center, the Pats have been outscored 62-34, 67-13, 55-7, 60-0, and 51-12, and cancelling two of its last three games due to injuries to a depleted roster. Local sports fans might remember that a decision for Mason to join Division I-AA in 1998 fell short by one trustee vote, and they've never been as close since. As Old Dominion football has taken off and George Mason is getting clobbered by lesser teams, once recalls the most painful four words in sports: what might have been.
However struggling these teams are, and they are, they've all won a game this season. All but one, that is.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Week 8 Thoughts

Some (brief) thoughts following Old Dominion's 31-10 win over Georgetown Saturday:

Play Of The Game: Given the number of Georgetown fans at Saturday's game, most of you probably caught the radio feed, if that. The game could be summed up by the first Georgetown series of the game: three incompletions and a snap that sailed over Brian Josephs' head, setting up the Monarchs, already up 7-0. You could literally hear a collective groan from the 19,500 ODU fans and little else from the Hoya section.

What you may forget is the defense holding ODU to a field goal. But with the way Georgetown's offense scores, any doubt about the outcome was still gone. Like Lucy picking up the ball on Charlie Brown's field goal try, Georgetown's 35th loss in 40 games (a mark unseen outside Terre Haute, Indiana) was heading to press.

Bad Night For The Defense: I'm pretty supportive of the Hoyas' defense this season picking up the mes left by the offense but the defense was beaten handily on the run this evening. ODU's Thomas DeMarco was the kind of quarterback Georgetown could have used in the Uzelac-Miceli run packages of old (now that Georgetown seems to reversed course to a pass attack) but DeMarco wears blue and silver, not blue and gold. The blistering 350-39 advantage in total yardage at the end of the first half was bad on both sides--that the defense was made into mince meat by the ODU ground game, and that the Georgetown offense, coming off a two week break, managed 14 yards on the ground and 25 in the air. The defense has a long week in practice ahead of it.

Postcards From Norfolk: The Old Dominion game was my one road game of the year, and marks the sixth straight year I've traveled home with a road loss. But I'm glad I saw the game first hand, because the Old Dominion game experience was impressive, and I say that just two weeks removed from Notre Dame-USC.

Nobody will confuse the New South-style architecture of ODU with the Golden Dome or the Hilltop, but the way that ODU has engaged the campus, the community, and the region with first year football ought to be a case study for every South Alabama and Georgia State coming up around the bend.

The first thing you noticed at Old Dominion was the tailgates. Plural. The group above had prime lcoation outside Foreman Field, but there were, by my count, six different large tailgates going on simultaneously around campus, from a  tented affair for alumni in the main quad (arguably the least crowded), to one nearly a half mile away. Alls eemed were family-friendly, with lots of people taking in the food and drink and frequent games of cornhole (and for our wine-and-cheese readers, I did not say cornholio. check Wikipedia for what cornhole is.)

Many of these tailgates were already underway when I arrived at 2:00 (t-minus 4 hours to kickoff) and ran pre- and post-game, despite the fact that the game ended at 9:00. No satellite dishes beaming in the SEC afternoon game, though. Oh, give them time.

Parking was free. Years ago, I could park right down the road at the TCU games in Ft. Worth for free... no more. A couple of years from now, ODU will be charging $10.00 a car too.

Foreman Field on itself is an average football venue. Built as a WPA project in the 1930's, it can show its age. What you see above is something else entirely.

The Ainslie Football Building covers the south end zone at Foreman (technically, S.B. Ballard Stadium at Foreman Field) and is as impressive as any end zone facility you'll see in I-AA. The smaller photo doesn't do it justice--check this link for a full view. The cost was somewhere around $10 million, or about half the cost of this long-forgotten design:

The lower level is a concession stand/bar for patrons adjacent to the tunnel where the Monarchs enter and exit the field, with three levels of box seats above it. As the ODU site puts it, "Twelve of the suites have their own patio overlooking the plaza south of the complex, while the loge seating area also includes an 8,000 square foot covered patio on the second level of the facility. Another 7,500 square foot enclosed terrace looks directly out over the south end zone." A cost for a suite? $25,000 a season.

More than a playground for Norfolk's elite, it's an immediate "sell" to recruits. And there's no "Phase 1B" or "conceptual planning stage" talk, either. Recruits can see it up front.

Here's the home side of Foreman Field, as the marching band makes way for its pre-game show. Funny, ODU can create a marching band in a year, but Georgetown can't get enough volunteers from its 87 year old band to march at a game. That's for another time, I guess.

And the visitor's side. A few seats open near us, but not many.

And finally, the scoreboard. You really couldn't miss it, especially when the announcer made frequent reference to a "Virginia Lottery First Down!". (Somehow, a "Pizzeria Paradiso Punt" doesn't have the same ring to it.). It's the kind of scoreboard almost all I-AA teams have now, in some form or fashion.

Notice the offer for sponsorship opportunities. It never hurts to remind folks that, wins or not, there's always room on the bandwagon. And perhaps Georgetown could take a few notes from this evening next time MSF 6.0 comes up at the planning table. The total cost of the renovation was $24 million.

The total cost of Georgetown's renovation effort for football remains to be seen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rebuilding A Winning Culture

(They say brevity is the soul of wit. Not for this column...)

Saturday, I was a million miles from Georgetown. Or maybe just a thousand. But I was probably the only person among 80,000 people in northern Indiana checking for the score of the Georgetown-Colgate game on my phone.

Last week I had the good fortune to do one of those "100 Sports Events You Have To See In Your Lifetime" kind of events, namely, the USC-Notre Dame game at historic Notre Dame Stadium. I'm no fan of the uber-Domers (outside of the University of Texas orangebloods, there are few fans more insufferable than a true-blue Irish fan), but one could not help but be impressed by the culture and commitment of the fans to their school and their program. These have not been halcyon days in South Bend, but tradition still tops temporal setbacks.

We arrived four hours early and the campus was full of tailgaters already. A steady stream of fans toured the campus basilica (including Dick Vitale, a few steps ahead of us), and campus buildings were open for visitors, although the basketball team had the Joyce Center arena closed for practice. Within the crisp autumn day, an exciting game settled on the last play, the arrival of the USC Song Girls and the Trojan Marching Band, and the long walk back to the public parking lots in near total darkness (thanks to NBC's frequent commercial interruptions), I thought how the success enjoyed by football has manifest itself across so much of that school. There are no "Village A"'s at Notre Dame--the names of alumni benefactors dot nearly every new building on campus.

Of course, this wasn't Georgetown. When the public address announcer takes breaks during time outs to announce the Mass times available after the game, you sense this is a different place. (Notre Dame has 47 chapels on its main campus, Georgetown has two.) In a stadium with not a shred of advertising, beyond a small "NBC Sports" sign in the upper end zone, the focus is on the teams and the schools they represent. When everyone from the bookstore clerk to the ticket taker to the concessionaire greeted you with the same four words, "Welcome to Notre Dame!", they meant it.

The 2000's won't be considered the glory days of Notre Dame football, and even less for Georgetown football. Glory? OK, it's been a decade just short of deflating. Georgetown had never suffered more than three straight losing seasons in 110 years, it's now at ten straight and counting. Bob Benson's vision for Patriot League football is no more realized now than it was on the wind-swept roof of Kehoe Field in 2001: "Utilize the game of football to create an environment and atmosphere among our students, faculty, and community on an autumn Saturday afternoon and bring to our campus a school spirit on a fall day that is desperately needed."

Georgetown's woes appear to parallel that of Dartmouth, whose winning days of football seem as remote as its Indian mascot of yore. Earlier this year, its athletic director issued a call of arms of sorts to the faithful, who are some of the most loyal Ivy fans you will ever find. He wrote, in part:

"In recent years, our non-league schedule has been daunting, as we near the end of three agreements that were negotiated more than 15 years ago when those opponents were not as strong as they are today. In hindsight, it was probably a mistake to lock into such long-term arrangements, as it has made it difficult for our team to develop confidence and to generate early-season momentum...

"Research showed that our football operating budget is in the same ballpark as our Ivy competitors, but our program has fewer financial resources overall because we are at the bottom of the League in annual giving ... While we’ve been receiving about $300,000 in annual [donations], our Ivy competitors have been raising $500,000-$750,000 annually, providing much more funding for priorities like team travel, recruiting, video equipment, and scouting services. Regardless of the economic circumstances, it is imperative that we increase annual ... giving substantially to provide our program with a level playing field...And I will personally do my best to dispel the persistent myth that increased [giving] prompts the College to reduce institutional support, since I know from first-hand experience that this has not occurred once in my 19 years in Dartmouth Athletics.

"In summary, we are all in agreement that our team’s record over the past 11 years has been unacceptable. I hope I have adequately conveyed our resolve — both institutionally and departmentally — to ensure that Dartmouth Football soon reclaims a level of success worthy of our proud tradition, and adds to our League-leading collection of championship banners. It won’t happen overnight, but we are determined to get there."

Sound familiar?

What he didn't say was that Dartmouth, like, Georgetown, has lost the culture of winning that a Notre Dame, that a Penn State, and on the I-AA level, that a Harvard, a Colgate and a Villanova enjoys. These schools have not been successful by accident, but by applying basic commitments at the right time to give this sport an opportunity to excel--sure, not a given (ask the Irish fans about Charlie Weis), but an opportunity. Right now, for Georgetown and Dartmouth, it isn't there.

As it relates to Georgetown, below are my ten keys to create a culture of winning--not a culture of "excellence", not yet, because one begets the other. When John Thompson was asked if he sought for Georgetown to become, like Lefty Driesell's Maryland, the "UCLA of the East," Thompson dismissed it outright--in 1974, Georgetown basketball had about as much in common with UCLA basketball as it did with Notre Dame football. Thompson's response, that he wanted first to be the "Georgetown of Georgetown" was appropriate. Then and now.

1. Leadership. Georgetown has to have a visible commitment from a head coach, an athletic director, and a University president about college football. Absent an athletic director, Jack DeGioia and Dan Porterfield have provided a good amount of leadership in both, but they need to further build awareness not only within the athletics community, but the overall University of the importance of athletics in general (and football in specific) into the culture of learning (and winning) at Georgetown.

Leadership also comes from the coaching staff. Kevin Kelly  needs to be out front on the need for leadership and winning--not so easy to do when your record is at a historic low, but needed nonetheless. Some of this is at the latitude of their boss--Joe Lang didn't mind Bob Benson getting out in front on the Hoyas, while Bernard Muir wanted coaches to coach and not to be as visible on issues like fundraising. Once the new AD is named, the coaching staff needs to learn what their role in educating Georgetown about winning football is, and embrace it.

2. Tradition. Winning within a tradition of athletic excellence pays multiple rewards, and Georgetown's dusty football archives need to get out in front of people. This isn't ND, but this is a school with four of its former coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, or did you know that? This isn't Penn State, but 51 of its alumni have played in the NFL, or did you know that? This isn't Harvard, but this is a school that was playing football in 1881, when there were only 12 schools in the nation playing the sport. I'm guessing you didn't know that...even I didn't until I looked it up.

Sometime after this season, I hope to announce work on creating a complementary work to the successful site known as the Georgetown Basketball History Project, but for football. Lots of work ahead on it, but it's something that people need to know when they think of Georgetown University and college football. You can't prepare for the future without an appreciation of the past.

3. Facilities. No matter how you slice it, Georgetown cannot escape this verity: it needs a facility that serves the athletic and academic needs of the place. A roof won't cut it. A parking lot won't cut it. And a half.., no, quarter-finished field isn't cutting it. Ask the coaches. Ask the fans. Better yet, ask the kids.

I understand another round of plans is in place for the MSF. May I suggest a call to Notre Dame?

This past fall, Notre Dame dedicated not one, but two new stadia on campus, nearly identical to each other: Alumni Stadium for men's and women's soccer, and Arlotta Stadium for men's and women's lacrosse. Combined, they would have sat 8,000, but ND decided to place each next to each other so as to create their own traditions-- so they have this unusual setup where both are side to side.

Each stadium cost $5.7 million apiece--somewhere around 3,000-4,000 seats on one side, press box, some indoor seating, rest rooms, concessions, a team lounge, locker rooms, and a general permanence to the place. (Unbeknownst to me, a woman in the crowd was mentioning how a classmate of mine in high school was among the two major donors to the soccer project.) Add some bleachers on the east side and it's the 5,000 number Georgetown has been looking for.  Some photos courtesy of the ND site illustrate how a small but functional place can make a difference, and certainly not at the $30-40 million figure once touted for MSF 3.0 could help build a tradition at GU.

Repeat: $5.7 million bought this:

4. Training. One cannot say enough about the fact that while football is a 12 week season, it's the 40 weeks of the off-season that turn contenders into champions. Let's put aside the fact that Georgetown's training facilities are more conceptual than actual, the efforts of Augie Maurelli need to be supported all year around so that Georgetown does not continue to become a punching-bag for opponents. Today's teams are, in general, and not player-specific, too small, too slow, and a step behind their counterparts across the league to compete. To be a winning program, Georgetown must seek, retain, and train their student athletes to be the best they can be, and there's a lot of work to be done.

5. Quarterback. Winning programs are built at QB. The great ND teams were driven by its stars at QB: Bertelli, Lujack, Hornung, Lamonica, Hanratty, Theismann, Montana. In this decade? Not as much: Carlyle Holiday, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen.

By contrast, the Georgetown slot has been a veritable revolving door. Only four QB's were needed in the 1990's: Demarest, Ring, Ward, and Mont. In the last eight years, 14 different quarterbacks (Paulus, Peterson, Booth, Crawford, Turner, Allan, Cangelosi, Hostetler, Bassuener, Lane, Lawrence, Darby, Brady, Kempf) have brought 14 different styles to the team, with no constancy, and Bassuener was, if by default, the only QB to continuously hold onto the job for more than one season.

A winning culture starts with a winning quarterback. Maybe Isaiah Kempf is four year material, maybe not.  Georgetown cannot expect to win with a week to week leader. Sucessful teams do not change horses in midstream.

6. Scheduling. Winning programs know when to schedule up, and when to schedule down. Over the years, Georgetown's schedule has been a mix of non-conference opponents added for need (Charleston Southern, FIU, San Diego), for distance (Howard, Old Dominion Richmond), and for good feeling (Yale, Penn, Brown). What it needs is more than one winnable game a year, though anyone who has Marist penciled in this year might want to wait on that.

With five non-conference games a year (assuming Fordham stays in the fold), the Hoyas need to attract opponents that can provide the Hoyas opportunities to compete and to win--no D-III teams, of course, but not Richmond, either. There's room for a marquee game every year, but scheduling strategy is a key to building a program. Notre Dame night play USC and Michigan, but they still scheduled Nevada and Stanford, too.

7. A Star. Winning programs are built on the shoulders that came before them. Before there was a Tim Tebow at Florida, there was a Danny Wuerffel and even a Steve Spurrier way back when. Even at Colgate, a Nate Eachus at runningback is in the long line of Red Raider runners from Jordan Scott to Jamaal Branch and seemingly back to Mark Van Eeghen.

There is no Long Gray Line when it comes to Georgetown football stars, but it starts, as in any successful program, with someone. In Georgetown basketball, that star wasn't a Ewing or a Mourning but Al Dutch.

"A 25 point, 15 rebound a game Parade All-American at John Carroll HS, Dutch was the first nationally ranked recruit to choose to play for the Hoyas in the John Thompson era, signing with Georgetown over national offers from Notre Dame and Duke," writes the Georgetown basketball History Project. "After two decades of Washington talent heading elsewhere, Dutch's signing elevated Georgetown's visibility to players at home and around the nation." Because without Al Dutch, maybe Craig Shelton and John Duren go elsewhere. Without Shelton and Duren, Georgetown never wins the inaugural Big East title and acquires a national reputation in 1980. Without that reputation, Patrick Ewing might easily have worn Tar Heel Blue instead of Georgetown blue.

Georgetown football needs its own Al Dutch--someone who can energize recruiting and open the doors to the next generation of players who can elevate this program.

8. Leadership Development. All winning organizations--academic, athletic, corporate, military--thrive on leadership opportunities. It does an organization no good to have a talented general and ill-equipped soldiers.

Georgetown has a great opportunity to leverage the resources at its disposal to add a layer of education into the football program available at only a handful of schools--an athletic leadership institute where players (and coaches) are part of ongoing development in character building, personal responsibility, and the tools of leadership that will prepare them for a life beyond the gridiron.

Remember the phrase "learning to win"? Winning must be learned within the context of the resources and commitments required to do so. Leveraging the learning resources at Georgetown to give football players an added advantage to a Georgetown education would be an excellent step-- not only for the final score of a game, but the larger challenges to come.

9. Publicity. In this Redskins-charged media environment, even the bigger colleges tend to be pushed off the Washington front pages, but the lack of print and broadcast coverage of Georgetown is atrocious. A winning culture does nothing if no one sees or hears about it. Some say alumni don't care about the team at 0-7, well, to be frank, how many of them even know they're 0-7? The Hoyas need to be in print, on radio, on TV. Period. And they need to...

10. Win. A culture of winning starts with results, which have been few and far between. Players can't do it alone, neither can coaches. But in the end, we are accountable as well as responsible for success as a community, as a team, and Georgetown cannot succeed in football unless (to mix sports metaphors), all oars are in the water. Right now (and another mixed metaphor ahead), Georgetown football is rowing in an eight man scull with four oars.

In the past, I've referred to a 2003 speech by Georgetown president Jack DeGioia that set the tone for much of athletics today. Delivered just a year before Craig Esherick's dismissal, the speech applies across all sports, not just basketball. It discusses expectations for students and coaches, and why a school like Georgetown is even in intercollegiate athletics to begin with. If Georgetown as a community is to rekindle a culture of winning football, it must be under some of the tenets shared in that speech. Some excerpts:

"Why do we do this? Why does a University like Georgetown invite you in and ask you to compete at the level that we do? For three reasons. First, we want to encourage performance, from young people, at the highest degree possible. We want to do this in the classroom and in the recital hall, in the news room and on the basketball court. One of our former newspaper writers here on campus won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday. Another is the Supreme Allied Commander for NATO...We want to prepare people to make a difference in the world and one of the ways we do that is by exposing them to competition at the highest level possible. We provide hundreds of opportunities for you and your classmates to develop yourselves during your undergraduate years. About 600 of our 6000 students participate in one set of these opportunities - intercollegiate athletics... A rare, special and privileged opportunity to develop yourselves, to make the most of your talents and abilities, to forge your character in a context that is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. We provide this opportunity to you because we believe this is a way in which you can fulfill your promise and potential and prepare yourselves for the world's fight.

"Second, we seek to create opportunities for the community to come together and celebrate this commitment, this expression of excellence. We want to gather this community around the experience of watching you perform at your very best. A celebration of your gifts, that can bring together an entire community.

"Third, it's fun. Enjoy this. For all of us, but especially for you, enjoy this. There is nothing quite like this. You will have other incredible experiences in your lives. Anyone who tells you these are the best years of your lives isn't really telling you the truth. You have incredible adventures ahead of you. But this is special and there is nothing you will experience that is quite like this."

And to the coaches:

"For the coaches, you accept the commitments we ask of you. And here too, there are three: (1) That each student we offer the opportunity in which to participate in this program - that each will accept the responsibilities entailed - and the first of those is to embrace the education provided here. The first commitment - that our students will receive our education and they will graduate; When I say our education, it means more than that they will graduate. It also means that they are prepared to live lives in which they will be leaders in their communities and businesses, lives in which they will be I husbands and fathers, friends, and citizens. You accept this set of responsibilities that is grounded in our 214-year tradition of Catholic and Jesuit education here on the Hilltop. (2) Secondly, that we do it honestly­, that we be above reproach - that we must set the standard for integrity in intercollegiate athletics. And we do; (3) And finally, that we win. We keep score for a reason. Everyone has a better experience when we are winning.

These are the three commitments we ask you to make when you accept the responsibility for this program. You accept the challenge of coaching in a university that places the highest priority on the academic performance of our students. We do not meet our mission if each of these young men do not perform to the best of their abilities in the classroom. You accept the challenge of setting the highest possible moral standards in the execution of our mission. And you accept the challenge of ensuring that our young men are prepared to go out...and win..."

It's time we provide Georgetown football a winning culture that we as Hoyas expect out of most (if not all) its intercollegiate sports. And with a winning team, in a new home, the phrase "welcome to Georgetown" will open the doors even wider to a new generation of Hoyas ready to rebuild football upon a strong foundation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Week 7 Thoughts

Well, it wasn't exactly "the dog ate my blog post", but this is the third attempt at posting thoughts following Colgate's 31-14 win Saturday...that hasn't been eaten by the software. Let's see how it goes.

1. Second Half Adjustments: There are a lot of symptoms here but Georgetown's second half play seems to catch a cold every week. Some of this is opponent-driven adjustments, some of it time of possession (opponents have averaged just under four extra minutes in possession in the second half over the last three games), and some is defensive attrition when the time of possession clock wears them down. Whatever the cause, it has to be more of a priority. No team can average 1.6 points in the second half of games and expect to win, period.

It's too bad Georgetown hasn't adoped the gimmick offense known as the Wildcat. Granted, it's not going to take over college football, but between Isiah Kempf, Keerome Lawrence, and Robert Lane, there's enough running and passing talent in these three to shake up some defensive sets now and then. Instead, line-of-scrimmage passing dominates, and opponents know it. It didn't work for Matt Bassuener's teams,and it's not working now. With four games left in 2009, the offense could use some opening up.

2. What is the Georgetown Offense? Say what you will about Colgate--they ran the ball five years ago, they ran it last week, and as long as Dick Biddle is in Hamilton, they'll run it some more. One of the real questions for the 2009 off-season is whether the coaches can adopt an offense the Hoyas can actually stick with, and, no less importantly,  that recruits will embrace. The use of running backs that were common in 2007 and 2008 has faded as Kempf has channeled Matt Bassuener's old playbook--the "short pass and hope for the best" strategy. Yes, Charlie Houghton should have more than 30 carries his senior season, but the formations aren't there anymore. Is Georgetown really moving in the direction of a pass-intensive operation, or is this another stopgap until the line can protect the backfield?

3. Beware The Monarchs. As Shakespeare might have put it, "Uneasy lies the opponent of the team that  wears a crown." What was once seen as as winnable game for Georgetown is a major surprise in its first Division I season. Old Dominion is 5-2, came back from a halftime deficit to score three straight TD's in its win over Campbell on Saturday, and has leveraged its fans to create a unique home atmosphere.

"Monarch Nation was Loud and Proud once again and made a huge difference in this game for our players," wrote ODU coach Bobby Wilder after the 28-17 win over Campbell. "Not only did you [cause] eight penalties but you also forced Campbell to use four timeouts. The noise level when our opponents have the ball is deafening! Their offensive lineman could not hear the call from the quarterback and their head coach was forced to call the timeouts to avoid a delay of game penalty!"

ODU, with 43 players on scholarship, is getting better every week. While it's still a winnable game for Georgetown, it's no guarantee game, and losing to a first year team would be a bitter pill to swallow for any Patriot League team, including Georgetown. Fordham held off ODU 34-29 in the Bronx, but as five opponents have learned already, ODU is not a team to overlook at their home field.

Were that the same could someday be said at Multi-Sport Field...

A shorter column this time, but stay tuned for a discussion of returning a winning culture to football at Georgetown. Now more than ever, it's time to stand up for the Hoyas, and for fans to follow suit.