Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Alarm Clock

It's been one week since the Patriot League presidents met in their showdown over scholarship football, a defining issue over a conference once called "The Last Amateurs". Except that some of them don’t want to be amateurs anymore.

The collective hand of the league was called by Fordham University, which announced nearly two years ago that they would offer football scholarships whether the league liked it or not, and the PL leadership made the mistake of choosing compromise over principle. The league has been clear about football scholarships from the start--it's the reason the league is there in the first place. And amidst a challenge to the fundamental  principle of the league, the PL simply wavered, and followed the precedent a decade earlier when Holy Cross threatened to leave the PL unless it offered basketball scholarships. (The day Columbia walks into the Ivy League and announces it is going full scholarship in basketball, rest assured the Ivies will not make an accommodation.)

Which is, of course, what the Patriot League did. In exchange for making the Rams ineligible for the league title (for whatever that is worth), Fordham was allowed to add scholarships, with the understanding that this would be settled one way or another by the end of the 2010 calendar year, allowing Fordham a chance to stay in the league, or make plans to go elsewhere when it reaches 60 scholarships in 2012. However one viewed the compromise, the understanding was that a decision would be reached, and it would either be to Fordham's benefit or its detriment.

The presidents arrived last week to make a decision, and they decided, well, not to decide at all.  There’s a old saying that “not to decide is to decide.” But in this case, it is not a decision as much as a stalemate, for as Samuel Johnson observed centuries earlier, "Present opportunities are neglected, and attainable good is slighted, by minds busied in extensive ranges and intent upon future advantages."  In football terms, the scholarship issue was on the 20-yard line. The league could go in for the score, or punt. Instead, it took a knee and ran out the clock. What does this mean (or in this case, not mean) for Georgetown?

Aside from the obvious financial issues, there are program-wide issues to be settled for Georgetown over this issue, and it’s not clear if Georgetown will settle them itself or have it settled for them.

Every twenty years or so, Georgetown has one of those “fork in the road” decisions which, by its decision, has charted the course of the program:

  • 1930-31: In the midst of the Great Depression, Georgetown quietly dropped scholarship support for football. While alumni were driving Tommy Mills out of his job with his 11-13-1 record, the decision set back the Hoyas for half a decade. Jack Hagerty got scholarship support returned in 1934, but it wasn’t until 1938 that the impact was truly seen: an undefeated season.
  • 1950-51: In the midst of the Korean War, Hunter Guthrie S.J. saw athletic scholarships as a luxury not matched by the Hoyas’ indifferent attendance patterns. With no alumni that stepped up to support the program or build the stadium that was sitting on the drawing board since the 1920’s, Guthrie unilaterally cut the program and no one was there to say otherwise.
  • 1969-70: The club program had taken hold at Georgetown, but the national club movement was faltering. Georgetown could have stood pat as schools like Marquette and St. Louis did with their club programs, but otherwise made the decision to step up to the NCAA College Division. It allowed the program not only to grow, but ultimately survive as the club level vanished.
  • 1990-91: With an NCAA decision that forced Division III schools to move to Division I, the likelihood of Georgetown football after the 1992 season was no given. Various alternatives were on the table—a return to club football, for one, or dropping it altogether. With consensus and support, Georgetown took the leap forward, and we’re all the better for it.

And now it’s 2010. The scholarship issue, either way, will define the direction of the Georgetown program for another decade or more. Publicly, Georgetown doesn’t talk about it but scholarships (merit and/or need) have to be actively pursued if Georgetown is going to be able to stay on the field with its peers, much less anyone else.  Yes, there are some “endowed” scholarships, but those are fractional gifts and nothing more.  If ten years of getting its collective hat handed to it hasn’t got the message through to Georgetown that you can’t bring a knife to a gunfight, a scholarship Patriot League surely will pound it to them, and will the program be strong enough to stand on its own two feet thereafter?

Georgetown doesn’t have to make a decision today, but it needs a direction. There are any of five different ways this could all shake out in the PL, and the presidential non-decision increasingly points to a league splitting along financial lines. A $5 million Fordham program is, eventually, going to distance itself from the $1.4 million Georgetowns of the world just as Georgetown distanced itself from the MAAC schools, and
before that, the Catholic and Washington and Lee programs of its past. Maybe schools like Georgetown, Holy Cross, and Bucknell can stick together. Maybe not.

The Patriot League faces this brave new world: for all intents and purposes, it has lost Fordham. If even one of the all-sports  members (Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh) leaves the conference, the PL drops football as a sponsored sport and Georgetown is cast adrift. Think it can’t happen? At least two of these schools (Colgate, Lehigh) will give full scholarships a hard look next season and may be tempted to pull the same trump card Fordham pulled—‘we’re going scholarship, what are you going to do about it?” And what will the PL do, if anything? At that point, what can they do, short of disbanding the conference?

Lafayette is on the record in the Allentown and Easton press—it won’t support a 63 scholarship league, the source of considerable consternation in the only media market that really follows the PL anymore. Maybe the PL can’t stomach 63, but it needs a compromise.

Resolved: “In the sport of football, the League shall allow member schools to offer not more than 15 equivalent grants-in-aid that do  not involve financial need.”

Why only fifteen? Six of the seven PL schools already field teams of 40 or more equivalencies. A 15 scholarship addition elevates every PL school but Georgetown to the status of a “counter” to get I-A opponents to schedule them for “body bag” guarantee games, which is what most coaches and fans want anyway. Colgate can schedule Syracuse and pick up a check for $400,000 because it’s at or near counter status. That pays bills, and presidents like paying bills. Fans like the thought of Lehigh and Penn State, regardless of the score. From a financial perspective, this gives them the opportunity to show "improvement" to the alumni without committing $2-3 million to do it.

Fifteen scholarships makes the remaining PL schools immediately better, and, by force of sheer movement, gives them a reason to hang together, rather than, as Benjamin Franklin put it , “to hang separately” and have to commit the capital to add 60 full scholarships, meet Title IX, and face an uncertain competitive climate in conferences like the Big South or CAA. It also keeps them close enough competitively where the Ivy League will continue to play them.

Georgetown can’t be a counter under its current funding formula, but the impact of 15 scholarships  raised directly from the Gridiron Club could become a powerful ally in recruiting. Partnered with the 1789 Scholarship Imperative, $750,000 a year in annual fundraising brings forth 30 new half-scholarships, opening the doors to Georgetown that a lot of recruits aren’t getting near right now. No, Syracuse won’t be calling, but it allows GU to continue to pursue a need-based quotient as it does, or mix in some athletic-based grants as well.

Fifteen scholarships won’t win the Patriot League on its own, but it’s the same 15 that everyone else would have, and at least make Georgetown a more competitive entity in a league where they have mostly been anything but.

It’s clear that there was not the consensus within the league presidents to move to 60 scholarships. Was any other number discussed? No one is saying, but for this argument 15 is a number that may be more palatable; without it, no number will ever be.

The PL's decision merited not one article in the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, The HOYA, or the Voice. Like a tree in some Pennsylvania forest, it fell down and no one heard it, but listen closely: this is an alarm clock ringing on the future of the Patriot League and of Georgetown’s options within it. Georgetown can use this as a clarion call to reengage a increasingly distant alumni population which has grown tired in the Kevin Kelly era, to build a culture of sustained giving, one which men’s basketball and rowing has successfully maintained for two decades, but which football has never mustered the cause to develop. Brining in $650,000 would only be the start of a wave of philanthropy from football alumni--some of the most successful alumni at this institution came through the football program and their support remains untapped. Give them a reason for giving, and you can see the results in winning, and you will see the foundation built for a home in Division I-AA for generations to come.

Or, Georgetown can hit the snooze button and wake up in two years, and found that the house has burned down.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A House Divided

The cold weather of December heralds the traditional end of news on Georgetown football for the year

MSF? No change. Coaches? No comment. Recruits? Not yet. Schedule? Wait until the spring.

Elsewhere in the Patriot League, it's a winter of rising discontent over the issue that seemingly has captivated the league (sans one school, that is): whether the league ought to allow (or, to some minds, mandate) up to 63 athletic scholarships as a means to better compete in NCAA Division I-AA football. Thanks to a dare by Fordham University, the league has a central question before it, the one that founded the group in the first place: can a conference built on the principle of not offering athletic aid for football now embrace it... and what does it do if everyone is not on board?

"Suffice it to say that the Ivy League has become non-competitive outside of the league to the point of being unable to even fill their stadiums," wrote former Colgate beat writer Tom Lazzaro in 1985. "Rather than bring back spring football or institute various other reforms to raise this sad level of competition, the Ivy League presidents looked around for schools which shared, as Brown University president Howard Swearer announced 'our philosophy of sports, and our view of the role of athletics in higher education .'" Such was the aegis of what was originally called the Colonial League, a view that grew from a football-only model to an all-sports league by the early 1990's.

Numbers were the the problem then, as well as today. The Ivy had a stable eight to work with--no one was leaving, no one needed an invitation. The Patriot League had a founding four (Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell, Colgate), adding a reluctant Holy Cross fan base when the Crusaders let the Big East bandwagon pass it by. For the most part, then as well as now, the five agreed on matters and funded its progams at a similar scale. Getting to seven, much less eight, has never quite worked out.

In is earliest days, the league presidents sought out the likes of William & Mary, Delaware, and VMI, according to reports. None were willing to trade football competitiveness (e.g., scholarships) for being able to hobnob around New Haven and Old Nassau. The PL sought out Davidson, in its sunset years as a football power in the Southern Conference, who found the transition so rough (1-20) they got up and moved down to Division III. When the president of the University of Richmond suggested his Spiders join the PL, they ran him out of town, literally. Towson joined as a bridge back to the CAA, and left soon after the league had added an eager but underfunded addition in Georgetown.

The scholarship issue was instigated by Fordham, another school that has never quite bought into the PL's model of Ivy proximity at the expense of a reduced athletic emphasis. The Rams' insistence in the mid-1990's to add basketball schoalrships led them ultimately to leave the PL in sports other than football, and led Holy Cross to threaten the same if the PL did not change its ways. At the risk of losing the league, the PL presidents reluctantly agreed to basketball schoalrships a decade ago, and all have eventually followed. Football is the only PL sport where scholarships are expessly prohibited.

And in 2009, Fordham called the question again. Accept 63 schoalrships or they walk, destination unknown. Surely, most PL presidents would concur, the conventional wisdom held, and if Georgetown didn't, well, who needs 'em. Other Eastern schools would see the wisdom and join the league. Happy days are here again, at least north of Washington.

If this was still the 1990's, with $1.10 a gallon gas and a budget surplus at most schools, maybe this would be a plausible argument. Instead, the fianncial and Title IX logjam between the pros and cons of this situation gets its hearing Monday and Tuesday at the league meetings, with a resolution many will find unpalatable in any form--because there really won't be a true resolution.

A decade after joining the Patriot League, most Georgetown fans don't give it much thought, and are as unaware of the rest of the PL as the PL fans are, frankly, unaware of Georgetown. Some Big East comparisons for the PL football configuration may help:
  • Lehigh and Lafayette are the Pitt and West Virginia of the Patriot League. To them, separated by mere miles and not time zones, the Backyard Brawl means everything, and the schools value the need for fierce competition, if regardless of the other rivalries in the league. Recent comments by Lafayette President Daniel Weiss that he wasn't supportive of football scholarships had more comments asking what would happen to the rivalry game than what it would do to the league.
  • Think of Colgate as Syracuse: a really strong program with a long-time coach, whose fan base doesn't accept falling behind. They've played for a national championship, they know they can compete outside the Ivy League sphere, and if scholarships makes them better, well, sign them up.
  • Bucknell is the Providence of the Patriot League--a founding member, its size and location have made it a tougher sell to compete in the league, but they always find a away to do so. No one can underrate Bucknell in a game, because they always fight hard. Its recent run of second division finishes, however, have led some among the league to ask if the Bison can still find a way to stay with the leaders, or will they remain a permanent step behind.
  • Holy Cross shares a number of comparisons with St. John's--a storied program, a demonstrated commitment to the sport, but a constant battle with its past to avoid those who wish "the good old days" were back. Granted, Holy Cross has been more successful on the gridiron than the Redmen have been on the court of late, but neither can be dismissed as the kind of program that could be nationally relevant again with the right ingredients. "If Villanova can do it, why can't we?", both schools might ask, albeit for different reasons. But let's ask it--if Holy Cross had 63 schoalrships, would they be playing Appalachian State on a Saturday afternoon in December?
  • By comparison, Fordham is a little like Rutgers--a sleeping giant in the big media market who has enjoyed some recent success but certainly not enough of it for their expectations. And much like Rutgers doesn't mind the whsipers that the Big Ten could be a future suitor, Fordham fans have bigger dreams than the Patriot League, realistic or not. Fordham could get its 63 grants and still leave, and the league knows it.
  • As for the last member, Georgetown, think a school on the edge of the Big East conference, a recent addition to the league, a recognizable name in a big media market with next to no success since joining the league (okay, none), and a general lack of interest in its program by many recruits. Sounds a lot like DePaul, doesn't it? Unfortunately.

Problem is, the Big East is not the Patriot League. The Big East is the best basketball conference of its kind in the nation--teams are fully funded, nationally competitive, and there's a waiting list of interested schools who would join. The PL has none of these, and with its declining out of conference performance (the PL has won one I-AA playoff game since 2003, and a sub-.500 record versus the Northeast Conference this season), scholarships are seen by some as the means to turn around the league before it slides into the ditch of irrelevance.

Turnarounds cost money, though. And commitment. Does the Patriot League have this commitment, or is it becoming more of a scheduling arrangement across schools who want to spend $5 million a year to be the next Appalachian State, and those who don't? Will the seven schools fall in line and spend the money, or will the league devolve into three that do, three would like to, and one that doesn't seem motivated to follow? Does the Patriot League want to be more closely associated with the style of competition at Dartmouth, or Delaware? Cornell, or Old Dominion? Georgetown, or Georgia State?

The Patriot League can reject Fordham's motion Monday and lose a school in the process. They can accept the motion, and risk whatver purpose the 1985 agreement provided it. That's the price of progress sometimes. But if they are not united moving forward, this league is adrift and, ultimately, divided.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. Nor a league.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where The East Begins

Georgetown fans of a certain age remember the story. In his first week of practices in the fall of 1972, 30 year old John Thompson pointed to the empty wall on the southern side of McDonough Gymnasium and told his players a national championship banner would hang there. For a team coming off a 3-23 season, it must have sounded crazy.

About as crazy as someone telling his friends, “someday, Texas Christian University will play in the Rose Bowl and play Big East basketball.”

(And even less likely than winning the national championship.)

Monday’s announcement of TCU joining the Big East conference has spun off more than its share of “Why?” from the working press as well as the blogosphere. A world where TCU and Providence College are partners seems as incongruous as a cattle drive down Kennedy Plaza. But a better question is not “Why?” (read=it’s football) but “How?”. That’s a question Georgetown and its football constituents ought to think about.

Much like the Big East in its earliest days, the eight team Southwest Conference was the place where everybody knew each other and almost everyone was a winner. Four private schools (Rice, SMU, TCU, Baylor) stood side by side with four public schools (Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Texas Tech) and, as often as any, the private schools held the upper hand. From 1941 to 1980, Texas A&M qualified for just one Cotton Bowl, but TCU went to five. Indeed, the late 1950’s saw four straight years where the private school team won the conference title.

Soon, things changed. Pro football siphons away fans. State schools began to offer unlimited scholarships, and suddenly Texas and Arkansas were picking off kids to sit on the fifth string that could start at Rice or TCU. And the losses mounted. And mounted. Beginning in 1966, TCU had 25 losing seasons of its next 27, amidst a run where the Horned Frogs were 28-100 over a ten year stretch from 1972-1982.

And it didn’t get any better. From 1971 through 1990, TCU was 5-55 in games against conference heavyweights Texas, Texas A&M, and Arkansas (three of those wins were against Arkansas). It was possible for someone to go through four years at TCU, marry, have a kid, and have that child go to TCU, graduate…and still have not seen a win over Texas in the intervening years. So it was no great surprise when, upon the first major realignment of the modern era, the public schools kicked the private schools to the curb, (with Baylor added only upon the severe arm-twisting of the then-Governor, a Baylor grad.) TCU, the home of Slingin Sammy Baugh, Davey O’Brien and Bob Lilly, was left with poor talent, declining attendance and no real direction for its future.

If left to the vagaries of a university financial analyst after 1994, TCU football would have drifted into the back roads of college football, maybe even Division I-AA. Instead, it discovered the difference between charity and philanthropy, and the upward trajectory was in place.

Former Georgetown vice president Jim Langley isn’t mentioned much anymore in Hilltop circles since his departure from GU last year. At a school which focuses so much on the annual use dollar, Langley tried to make a distinction between the ask (at GU, common) and the give (less so), and was keen on the concept of philanthropy. “Philanthropy provides the margin of excellence; charity provides the margin for survival,” says Langley in his post-GU blog. And in 1994, TCU was a charity case.

It was also about that time that a local Fort Worth businessman, Roger Williams, decided to change that. Instead of waiting around for someone at the school to start find a shovel to pour dirt over the program, he organized a committee of local business and civic leaders, later known as the “Committee of 100”, to buy season tickets to show support for the program. The Committee sold over 12,000 season tickets in one year, effectively improving attendance by 42% in 1995 and flipping on a light inside the school. Instead of trying to be just TCU’s team, this could be Fort Worth’s team. And it could compete in the future.

It was. And it is.

TCU moved to the Western Athletic Conference but were short-timers there—TCU wanted to distinguish its program against the other Southwest Conference jetsam, and then moved to Conference USA. When C-USA expanded in the ACC/Big East realignment, welcoming in the likes of Rice, SMU, and Houston, TCU upgraded to the Mountain West, all with a growing base of philanthropic support, which manifested itself in things like a new football practice facility, an indoor training area, new facilities for baseball, soccer, and track.

Two years ago, with TCU’s star climbing into national polls, local leaders and alumni asked themselves what two steps were needed to get to the next level. Answer? Better facilities and a BCS conference. A call was made with those who could make a difference to raise funds for a $104 million renovation of aging Amon Carter Stadium, built about the time Georgetown built Copley Hall on top of the old football field.

Thirty four people put up the money.

Let me repeat that. Thirty-four people, $104 million.

Without a five year discernment process, without a “Phase 1B”, without a “let’s wait until the next campaign” answer, TCU boldly started construction a week after the end of the season on the project, which will be finished in the 2012 season, not coincidentally, the season where TCU will find a BCS home in the Big East. It has risen from being one of the four or five worst programs in major college football to the #3 program in the nation, playing in the 2011 Rose Bowl, for cryin’ out loud, and now a member of an elite conference trying to figure out how 17 teams are going to play in Madison Square Garden in two years.

"It is a great scenario for us,” said TCU coach Gary Patterson, about the best college coach in America most people have never heard of. “It has been a hard road, an interesting road. But the last two seasons we have gone to BCS games, and I have been proud of how the DFW community has embraced us, becoming Frog fans. It should be interesting, we certainly don't seem to be getting bored."

I mean, think about it. What were the odds a decade ago that Notre Dame, Syracuse, UConn, and even Georgetown (a school that has played all of three basketball games ever in the second most populous state in the Union), is going to make semi-regular stops in Ft. Worth, Texas?

As the late TCU coach Jim Wacker might have said, “Un-belieeevable.”

For those who dismiss the soaring success of TCU as having no relationship whatsoever to the water-logged Georgetown football program, this thought. The ability of a school in Fort Worth Texas to join the Big East Conference is not an accident, but a process cast in motion by the efforts of those businessmen 16 years ago. They stepped up when the school did not. They gave the school institutional confidence that if it invested in football (and all the other sports which have grown and flourished in the interim), that investment would not be in vain. It also allowed the school to be proactive and to defy conventional wisdom by finding a home for its teams even if it, at first, it didn’t seem to fit. TCU in the Big East? Does it make any less sense for to have been in something called the Mountain West Conference?

Paul Tagliabue said it best Monday--if the Dallas Cowboys can compete in the NFC East, TCU can compete in the Big East.
TCU and Georgetown don’t share much in common but each had a point in its history where it had to change the direction. For TCU, it was that moment in 1994. For Georgetown basketball, it was that moment in 1979 when Frank Rienzo understood that if Georgetown did not build a new conference for its basketball team and its up and coming coach, two generations of Hoya athletics would be spent aside teams like UNC-Wilmington and Virginia Commonwealth before friends and family at aging McDonough Gym.

For Georgetown football, that moment is approaching. It needs its own Committee of 100. With the coming fissures in the Patriot League and a University stuck in institutional inertia over numerous competing priorities and fundraising, if Georgetown football continues to wait for the Red Sea to part, all it will do is get is wet. There is no full time fundraising effort for football, the head coach does not make fundraising a public priority, and more people than not give to the Gridiron Club as a charity than as a movement.

Today marks 1,900 days since the debut of the unnamed Multi-Sport Field and the “temporary” halt in construction. Georgetown should ashamed of this, but absent a true effort to get the dirt flying and resist temptation of "manana" that overshadows athletics projects, what changes? Is Kevin Kelly going to walk into Lee Reed and say “Build it, or I’m walking”? Is the Patriot League going to say “Build it, or go elsewhere?” Are students going to stage rallies and protest? No.

Instead of waiting for the one donor that is going to solve all its problems, reach out to the 100 that can do the heavy lifting. Reach out to a community who hears that “D.C. Is Our Playground” but don’t see enough ties that bind beyond the basketball court. Reach out to alumni who trade more securities in a day than the University has in its bank account and make them true partners in this process. Before Georgetown football moves from a charity to a charity case, make it something people are willing to commit their time, talent, and treasure towards. Or Georgetown can sit quiet, heap praise on a troubled four win season, and wait for things to change.

Those who wait for change often have no control over it. TCU understood this. Does Georgetown?

“A lot of great things are happening,” said TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte. “We have a chancellor that allowed us to dream. If you don’t dream, you’re living in a memory.”

A dream? Of course, dreams without support is like faith without works. But look where that got them, a school of 7,000 in a city whose motto is “Where The West Begins”. Now, it’s where the East begins.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Week 11 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts from Saturday's win over Marist (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Peter Carbonara...)

A recent scattershooting for former RB Keion Wade has turned him up in Garden City, KS, a redshirt sophomore for Garden City Community College. Wade was leading the Broncbusters in rushing before suffering a torn pectoral muscle, and will be back on the recruiting mix this season with two years eligibility remaining, and we wish him the best of luck at the next stop on his journey.

A Win Is A Win...Congratulations to the team for Saturday's win. Okay, so Marist isn't Richmond and it's not even Bucknell, but a seventh straight loss to end the season would have been tragic given the 3-1 start, though six losses wasn't great either.The offense showed some improvement but the Hoyas really should have dominated this game offensively and didn't, and it took some big defensive stops (and a tackle from Scott Darby) from turning this one into some serious indigestion.

Another plus: Sticking with Scott Darby. For those that have been following this column, I've grown weary of quarterback by committee, and it would not have worked Saturday, anyway. With Keerome Lawrence graduating, maybe GU needs to consider not a wildcat, but placing two QB's back there and use them to variously run or pass (whereas the Wildcat was nearly always a Lawrence run play). Call it the "bulldog" and see where it goes...

I'm not sure if Marist returns to the 2011 schedule but they are a competitive foe (which you can take however you'd like) and until Georgetown gets better, it beats getting run off the field for Senior Day.

Home Crowd: Congratulations as well to the 2010 attendance average, 2,489  a game, a mere 110th of 117 schools but a more significant 103% of capacity at unnamed Multi-Sport Field. Now, it was clear that not all of the visitors side was filled ina  couple of games, but we continue to see people sitting on top of each other at the weather-worn aluminum stands to the west, and students don't seem to gravitate west. Can someone take the time to consider moving students to the east side stands? Next year's home games (tentatively Lafayette, Colgate, Fordham, Sacred Heart and two schools to be named later) aren't going to bring huge crowds anyway, and a little bit of excitement from across the field wouldn't hurt.

Some Very Unofficial Award Talk: With the Gridiron Club banquet now well into the spring, here are some unsolicited and very unofficial nominations for the team awards. While the season is still fresh, it bears remembering some remarkable efforts by the team this year:
  • MVP: Andrew Schaetzke. Did it all this year, and stands to be the defensive leader heading into 2011.
  • Outstanding Back: Jeremy Moore. A great season on defense and special teams.
  • Outstanding Lineman: One of the offensive line seniors, they all did their part.
  • Coaches Award: Nick Parrish. An outstanding four years in the Georegetown uniform.

A Tighter Budget: Without fanfare, Georgetown updated its disclosures to the Department of Education for the school year ending 6/30/2010. The football budget (as defined by expenses) shrank from from $1.5 million in 2009 to $1.4 million in 2010, likely a result of declines in Gridiron Club support. The school did not do a good job this season keeping people informed, and the coaching record, I think, keeps some donors on the sidelines. 4-7 is not something to be terribly excited about, either.

How does Georgetown's budget fare against the Patriot League? Uh-oh, here goes:

Fordham University: $4,809,131 (up 0.8% from 2008-09)
Colgate University: $4,514524 (up 1.9%)
Lafayette College: $4,198,351 (up 1.6%)
College of the Holy Cross: $3,920,294 (up 7.7%)
Lehigh University: $3,671,791 (up 6.6%)
Bucknell University: $3,008,262 (up 3.0%)
Georgetown University: $1,430,512 (down 7.6%)

Some food for thought as the PL presidents meet on Dec. 13 to debate...more likely, approve, athletic scholarships in football. The rich get richer, and Georgetown stays hungry.

Time Marches On...: Someday to debut on the front page, the "MSF Clock", or the number of days since construction was "temporarily" halted on the Field With No Name. As of today, (Nov. 23, 2010)...1,894 days. Are we any closer to a resolution in this institutional inertia?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Last Call

The days grow short in the middle of November, when the optimism of two-a-days and the bright sun of August has given way to the inevitable enemy of every football player: time. From a pee-wee kicker to the likes of Bret Favre, time takes its toll, and walking away from the game that so many have put their heart, mind, and soul into for so long is no easy task.

Saturday's game with Marist concludes another season of Georgetown Football, another down year for what was (and otherwise should be) a storied program. But it's more than that for the 15 seniors who moved onto campus together in the summer of 2007, who suffered through good times (a few) and bad (more than enough), who sat on bus trips to Worcester and Hamilton and Easton, who kept their heads up high after the losses, and who never quit on themselves or their team.

As fans, there's always next year. For these young men, this is the end of the line.

OK, maybe Nick Parrish will get a tryout somewhere, or a call to play in Europe. Even with his career tackle record, he's one of the more underrated players you will see at linebacker, and with the right amount of luck could be at the right place at the right time for someone to give him a look. For the other 14, perhaps not. But it doesn't diminish the impact of one, just one more afternoon to get out there any play the game they love, because it'll never be the same again. It won't be for an axe or a bell or an old oaken bucket, and it even won't be against a school many of their classmates even have heard of. It's still a game, and it's worth playing.

A season ago, staring at an 0-11 season, senior lettermen offered their thoughts to GUHoyas.com on what it would mean to play that last game. Three are worth repeating.

"It has been 21-straight games since I have seen the field. But yet, I haven't missed a practice unless I was in the hospital," wrote linebacker Jon Cassidy (C'10). "I have this one game to finish my career on a high note, but I may only have a few plays or maybe even one depending on what my shoulder allows. However, what I can tell you is that no matter what I will make that play represent what these other guys mean to me. It has been a rough four years, but they have been there through it all and it demonstrates their character. They dedicated every waking minute to football (20 hours a week does not scrape the surface of what they put in). Football envelops your life whether you want it to or not, and without my teammates I was blessed with it wouldn't have been possible for me to keep coming back. I know I speak for everyone when I say I love football and the way it makes people show their true self. My teammates have shown over these past four years that they are committed, hardworking, and relentless individuals no matter the result. I will miss this game greatly, but I will miss most of all the opportunity to be involved with my friends. I wish everyone nothing but the best."

"The way I feel about playing at Georgetown and this being our last game is that I love playing football and wish I could play it for the rest of my life," wrote lineman Rich Hussey (C'10). "In other sports like basketball baseball and soccer you can always pick up a ball or bat and play again, but with football you're never going to suit up again and be able to go full tilt. I've been playing football since I was 6-years-old and ever since then, I've seen myself as a football player. So now that its almost over it's kind of depressing considering for most of us, it is all we've known and how we've described ourselves for so long as `a football player.' It's the greatest sport on earth since you can go out and act with controlled violence for 60 minutes without being arrested. Not many people can play college football, but many would die to play so you can't take it for granted. Overall I've made a lot of lifelong friends playing here and especially being part of such a big class with 22 seniors. I loved playing with these guys and I'm sad that it's over but I'm grateful I had the experience."

And then there was Dan Matheny (B'10), who gave it his all for four seasons in that most difficult of positions, the offensive line.

"This game means everything to me. Being able to put on my uniform one more time is going to be bittersweet. Playing football has been amazing. I would not trade it in for anything. When high school was over I was not even close to ready to hang it up. It is one of the best decisions and most challenging experiences of my life. The last practice has sunk in. My roommates and I have been talking a lot about it. I have been playing football since I was 8-years-old. August is now [just] a part of summer."

Of course, there's another finality to this game as well. For a number of people beyond the seniors, it's their last game at Georgetown as well; some know it, some don't. last season, 18 underclassmen suited up for the finale with Fordham and didn't come back; they didn't get a Senior Day and it was gone just the same. We never saw Dishon Hughes or Brandon Floyd become the stars they could have been, we never saw Charlie Houghton come back to finish his career. Promising linemen like Chris Bisanzo and Robert Watson probably expected a senior year of great memories, and those summarily ended a year ago.

And it wasn't just the players. Assistant Coaches Dassin Blackwell, Frank Colaprete, and Jim Miceli made the walk back to McDonough Gym that day as well, and a chapter of their professional lives ended that day as well. Ten coaches left the field at MSF after a humbling loss to Colgate to end the 2005 season, but few would have figured only one making the return trip the following season. You just don't know.

And so it is with Kevin Kelly and his staff. Unless you're Joe Paterno, it's part of the itinerant nature of coaching that people move around in their careers. For Kelly, who hasn't dwelled publicly on what his fate will be after this season, otherwise knows that this staff will change as well in some form or fashion.

Eight wins in five years would be grounds for civil unrest at some schools, but not at Georgetown; still, we'd all be foolish to say it doesn't get addressed with athletic director Lee Reed at some point. When Reed arrived at Georgetown, he received only two questions at the press conference: "When are you going to build a basketball practice facility?", and "When are you going to fix the football program?" Sooner or later, he's got to answer both questions, and whether Kelly and his staff are part of the problem or the solution is a question Reed will ultimately answer.

For coach Kelly, who has witnessed Senior Days at places as disparate as Bowdoin College's Whitter Field and Syracuse's Carrier Dome, Dartmouth's Memorial Field to Marshall Unviersity's Edwards Stadium, and from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium west to tiny, unnamed Multi-Sport Field, he has seen it all before. The only constant is change, and for those involved to make the most of it. That's the charge Kelly and his team have to take in its finale with Marist. The seniors will certainly get to sing the fight songs at reunions, at basketball games, and at events in the future, but never again on the field of battle with their teammates. A win Saturday offers that one, that last, that lasting chance.

Seniors, stay active, stay informed, and please stay involved. And to those who will follow in your footsteps, recall the classic verse from days gone by: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Week 10 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts from Saturday's loss to Lehigh (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to John Sims...)

Limping Home: Maybe it's not fair, but it just seems that this season is limping to the finish line. very little in the way of interest or enthusiasm remains after a sixth straight loss, which is why marking down a "W" next to Marist is no sure thing.

Georgetown continues to suffer from the quarterback carousel that produces no consistency and the special teams miscues that haven't gone away. (More on the quarterback situation below.) Maybe Brett Weiss' field goal wouldn't have won the game, but 10-6 Georgetown gives the Hoyas momentum, ever so brief, in a 3rd quarter where it owned time of possession. Instead, Lehigh marches down the field and takes over the clock for the remainder of the game. And fumbling a kickoff return? Maybe in week one or two, but this is mid-November.

This is just not a good way for a season to end, particularly for the coaching staff. Even the Gridiron Club seems to have faded from view--its last post on its Facebook page was September 27. But with any degree of preparation, focus, and/or good luck (take your pick), this could have been a six or seven win team hading into marist--and what would people be saying then about Coach Kelly and such a turnaround?

Not Worth Quoting: I'm still a bit surprised at Coach Kelly's comment last week to the Georgetown Voice that: "We started out strong, but still we're three games ahead of where we were last year and so it's all about how you look at it. Is the glass half full or half empty? Right now it's half full.”

No, it's not. That's the equivalent of saying the 2010 Hoyas are 300% better because won three more games.

Statistically speaking, Georgetown got off to a good start, may have caught a couple teams napping, early but ultimately failed to step up when the season hit its stride. I don't think the team ever recovered from losing on the last play to Yale, was fortunate that Holy Cross meandered through the Sep. 26 game, and it's been one week of shortfalls ever since. The defense still carries smore than its share of the load, the running game is still an easy target for a bigger defense, and the darby/Kempf rotation is as effective as when GU was swapping through the likes of Cangelosi, Allen, and Hostetler. Starting QB's are not baseball pitchers--teams don't respond long term to middle relievers.

Georgetown has one win this season over a team who was not playing in their season opener against the
Hoyas. That ought to say something about how this team has not progressed over the course of the 2010 season...or maybe that other teams have.

A Letter from The Coach: Finally, I found the following letter posted last season from Kevin Kelly's former boss at Navy, Paul Johnson, now at Georgia Tech:

Dear Georgia Tech Family:

I can’t thank you all enough for the great support you have shown our football team this season. The student-athletes, our coaches and staff are working extremely hard to make this a special season for all of us. We can’t complete that task without you.

That is why I am reaching out to you to today. It is important in the coming weeks that you get behind us like never before. Our stadium needs to be packed with supportive Tech fans when we take on Georgia on Saturday night and then we’ll need you all to plan to travel with us as we play for the ACC Championship in Tampa on December 5th.

"But during these critical game days for our football team, I am personally asking that we exhibit the utmost in sportsmanship. Please treat our opponents with respect and dignity. Make sure your actions reflect positively on yourself and on our football program. Your positive actions will continue to raise the profile of this great Institute and of Georgia Tech football across this nation.

Thank you and go Jackets!

Paul Johnson
Head Football Coach
Georgia Tech

Georgetown's coaches don't do enough of this. For fans that only see the box scores and don't know much else about the football program, Coach Kelly should (and should have) been more proactive with such communications. The more people can feel in touch with the program, the more support it will bring.

As Georgetown enters a long off-season in 2011, everyone needs to take positive steps forward: coaches, players, benefactors, fans. If the last decade has taught anything, it is that there is much work to be done, and it doesn't get done by itself. Everyone is needed to get it done.

Hail and Farewell: Six wins in four years is a disappointment by any definition for the class of 2011, but their departures will leave some big shoes to fill for the 2011 Hoyas. Here are three:
  • Running Back. Senior RB's at Georgetown do not have a great history of late, and Philip Oladeji's numbers reflect it: just 329 yards on the season. With Oladeji and slotback Keerome Lawrence graduating, the three returning RB's (Chance Logan, Dalen Claytor, Brandon Durham) combined for just 284 yards this season. Each are smaller backs, and GU still needs a bigger presence in the backfield to give these runners better opportunities.
  • Offensive Line: Dan Semler, Erik Antico, and Rob Bates did the heavy lifting--literally--but the GU line is still too small and a little too slow for its competition. Offensive linemen are one of those positions where recruiting can make a big imapct, and with GU's inability to match other offers, it's one they lose more than they win. If Georgetown is to improve in 2011, it will start with the line.
  • Linebackers: Nick Parrish's numbers speak for themselves, but Patrick O'Donnell and Paul Sant'Ambrogio had a big impact as well this season. Were it not for the defense, a lot of games could have got out of hand quickly, such as last week's Lehigh game. Nate Zimmel is the only returning inside LB on the two-deep, so this should be a point of emphasis in the off-season.
If you can make it to unnamed Multi-Sport Field Saturday, give these seniors (and their parents) a show of support. They have truly earned it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Might Have Been

Men's basketball, a Friday opener at Old Dominion and a home opener Monday versus Tulane. Women's basketball, a home opener on Saturday afternoon. And over at unnamed Multi-Sport Field, a battle for the Patriot League championship. Talk about a Georgetown-centric sports weekend.

Instead, you're likely to see something else.

Like, for example, visitor's stands full of Lehigh people wondering where everyone is on the home side. A Georgetown band that packs up after halftime to go to the women's basketball game. A message from the officials that the game clock will be kept on the field because the scoreboard isn't responding. At least one comment from the parents group asking "where are all the students today"?

And an ever-patient Chuck Timanus trying to make sense of it all online.

Such is the game-time atmosphere that awaits the Georgetown Hoyas as the Lehigh Engineers arrive for what conventional wisdom holds as their PL championship coronation. Six weeks ago, with the Hoyas flying high at 3-1 and Lehigh struggling at 2-2, maybe things looked to be different in November for a decidedly one-way series between the schools. Since then, Lehigh has won five straight and Georgetown has lost five straight.

The Colgate game was lost because, frankly, Colgate was the better team. The Wagner game, however,  was lost on turnovers. The Bucknell game was lost on turnovers. The Sacred Heart game was lost on turnovers. The Fordham game was lost on special teams mistakes. Win four of those games, a 7-2 or even 6-3 record entering November would have been grounds for a parade along O Street; instead, 3-6 and the specter of a 3-8 season is a call for another round of "same old Georgetown" among the Patriot League press and the GU student body at large. Coverage has fallen by the wayside, with one Hoya football blog's latest post reading "Hoyas Set To Tank Against Fordham."

That was two weeks ago.

What might have been Kevin Kelly's biggest moment on the Georgetown sidelines is likely to be pushed off the front page at GUHoyas.com as quickly as you can say, "Say, did you see the basketball game?"

Over at the Allentown Morning Call (one of the last remaining papers to regularly cover PL football), columnsit Keith Groller argues that parity has taken over the league...obvious parties excepted.

"Right now, Bucknell and Georgetown are the only ones who haven't been able to get into the good times," he writes. "The Bison have not won a league crown since 1996, and have gone just 9-24 in the league in the last six seasons. The Hoyas have scuffled even more since joining the league in 2001, going just 9-51 in Patriot play and 26-81 overall in the past 10 seasons.

"It's obvious that some schools are more concerned about football success than others, but in this league, there's a fine line between being a championship contender and a cellar dweller."

A fine line for some, perhaps. A giant leap for others, manifested in a 2010 Georgetown season whose schedule was more than tailor-made for non-conference wins. Georgetown dropped Howard, Old Dominion and Richmond for welterweights like Davidson, Wagner, and Sacred Heart, and has one win to show for it. Kelly enters November 0-8 all-time to schools not named Marist College, and this week's opponent bears no resemblance to same.

Georgetown knows it. So does Lehigh, and for a sixth straight week the Engineer defense will focus on putting pressure on the opponent running game and watching the field position follow. Last year at lehigh, Georgetown rushed 20 times for a net of -26 yards.

A good coach will tell you it's never too late to turn things around, but a wise coach will tell you that sometimes, it is. The Dallas Cowboys are not going to win eight straight and get into the NFL playoffs, and the 3-6 Georgetown Hoyas are not going to solve a season's worth of offensive inconsistency in one week.

"Right now, there's not a wide gap between the league's best and worst," Groller suggests, but if it was, Lehigh would be taking this game much more seriously than it is. And, the Georgetown community would be, too.  But crazy as it sounds in retrospect, Georgetown was probably 10 minutes removed from this week being a chance for a PL title and a I-AA playoff bid. Let's go back to the fourth quarter, Oct. 15, 2010, leading then winless Bucknell 21-17:

"Having the lead into the fourth quarter, all the [Georgetown] offense needed to do was to get out of its own end zone on the ground and control the clock.

Instead, the play from the sidelines was a flare pass that Bucknell LB Sean Rafferty picked off untouched at the 12 [yard line] and went in for the stunning touchdown. The one play not to call, and Georgetown called it.

The shell-shocked MSF crowd saw the pass-only Hoyas go three and out with 10:34 to play, but the defense forced a stop and GU took over with 6:09 to play. Much as it did last week with 14 straight rushing plays against Wagner to ill effect, Kempf was now on a run of 16 consecutive pass attempts, a measure of predictability that was astounding. With a second and three at the BU 27, Kempf was stuffed in the backfield, and on third down, failed to connect with Keerome Lawrence with a sure first down.

With 3:08 to play, down three, PK Brett Weiss was available for a 48 yard attempt with no appreciable wind. Weiss was 5-6 on field goals this season, but the staff opted to go for it. Fourth and seven... but instead of reaching out for the first down with time on its side, the call went for the goal line, with Kempf throwing a 40 yarder past Kenneth Furlough in coverage. Bucknell ran out the clock thereafter."
Optimism for this team began to set as the sun did that day and it hasn't come back up. Which is why Lehigh is making plans for the playoffs and Georgetown is making plans for the men's basketball opener versus Tulane on Monday night.

What might have been.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Week 9 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts from Saturday's loss to Fordham (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Jim Goranson...)

End of an Era? Despite the frequent losses at Jack Coffey Field, a game at Fordham is part of the fabric of Georgetown football. But I can see one, maybe two more games there before the Rams go forward.

As noted in last week's column, Fordham appears to be going in one direction with its football program, Georgetown another. Whether that's in the PL, I don't know, but should Fordham and/or Georgetown move out of the league there seems less and less likelihood that the series with Georgetown would be maintained. And I don't think they're alone, either--in three or four years GU could have a considerably different schedule than it fields today, and not all of the teams you see in 2010 will be there in 2014.

Auto-Focus: The most frustrating take-away from Saturday's game? Well, take-aways. Georgetown's turnover numbers continue to hurt this team time, time, and time again, and that's a function of coaching and player focus. Fumbles in week one, udnerstood. Week three, troublesome but understood. Week nine? Teams that turn the ball over on a regular basis are not well prepared in the spring and summer to do so.

Yes, Brett Weiss' missed kicks hurt, but no kicker is automatic. Weiss missed jsut one field goal attempt and one extra point before Saturday's game, and bad luck came in twos that day. But fumbling an interception led to one Fordham touchdown, Kempfy's intereception a second. Turnovers have cost Georgetown three games outright this season, and what would we all be saying now if this team was 6-3? But you can't teach ball control in October, it's too late. And it's too late to expect much different when Lehigh rolls into unnamed Multi-Sport Field in a week and half, having fumbled the ball only three times all season. Georgetown? 11 in nine weeks.

Recruiting Need: Maybe it's asking too much with Georgetown's meager lot in PL recruiting, but running back is a clear and pressing recruiting need. For the last five or six years, the era of the small back and the slot receivers have been a mess for the rushing game, and the numbers reflect it:

2010: 104.1 yards a game
2009: 56.7
2008: 104.1
2007: 117.3
2006: 115.1
2005: 120.1

OK, maybe I'm a traditonalist and would rather see an old fashioned fullback opening up ground for the running back. The unfortunate trade-off is that opposing defenses have no fear of the Georgetown running game and can tee off accordingly.

251 Yards: Darryl Whiting's 251 yards on the ground was not an opponent record against the Hoyas. Fellow Fordham alumnus Chip Kron stung the Hoyas for 272 yards in 1985. Georgetown has not had a 200 yard rusher since 2003, and its last 150 yard rusher was in 2005, when Georgetown rushers surpassed the 100 yard mark three times that season. Since then, two in five years, and none against a Patriot League team.

Quarterback Carousel: I'll call it a draw. Will Aaron Aiken join the mix before the season ends?

Not So Fast, My Friends: There was plenty of Internet chatter this past weekend that a full scholarship football PL (well, most of the PL, that is...) is a "done deal", a month before the presidents meet to discuss it. Two things to consider as you hear this talk: 1) college presidents don't like being told what to do, so don't assume anything, and 2) for schools that are going to ramp up overnight, where does the money come from, including some 60 women's scholarships commensurate with Title IX? For some of these schools, it may well come from the backs of other team sports. I still think a vote will pass, but the devil is in the details.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Ships

For years, Georgetown football fans have yearned for an old-fashioned rivalry, something that evokes the tales of great rivalries across college football. Turns out they had one all along...at least for now.

On November 20, 1890, St. John's College of Fordham, NY welcomed a college football team from Georgetown University to compete in the new game, ending in a 6-6 tie. It would be another 17 years before Georgetown would make the return trip to the school, renamed Fordham University, but it began a 53 game rivalry which has paralleled each school's rises and falls in college football.

The Rams boast a football tradition every bit as deep as the Hoyas. It looks back proudly upon its teams of the 1920's and 1930's, the "Seven Blocks of Granite", and consecutive appearances in the 1941 Cotton and 1942 Sugar Bowls. It was said that when Homer Marsham founded the NFL's Cleveland (now St. Louis) Rams in 1936, he named the team in honor of the Fordham eleven. (For what it's worth, Marsham ended up selling the team in 1941 to Dan Reeves (C'32), a Georgetown grad and NFL Hall of Fame member.)

In collegiate games from 1925 through 1928, Georgetown teams outscored Fordham by a combined 131-7, so perhaps that was why during the golden age for both schools in the 1930's and early 1940's, the teams kept their distance. With the exception of Notre Dame (and perhaps St. Mary's of California during the days of Slip Madigan), Fordham and Georgetown were among the most prominent Catholic college teams in the nation.

The rivalry resumed after World War II, albeit briefly. Georgetown lost to Fordham 14-13 on Nov. 11, 1950 before 13,130 at the Polo Grounds, and dropped football three months later. The Rams hung on through the 1954 season, finishing 1-7-1. In a moment of supreme bad timing, the school dropped football just as one of its football alumni, an assistant coach at Army, was approached about returning to campus to coach the team. Instead, 40 year old Vince Lombardi took a job in the NFL with the New York Giants.

Ten years later, the two schools would come together again, with football in mind.

When students at Georgetown were planning the revival of intercollegiate football in 1964, they soon realized it would not prove popular unless there were like-minded rivals from which to play. An outreach was made to the student councils at NYU and Fordham, each of which had dropped football within the last 15 years. As Georgetown returned to football in 1964 against NYU, Fordham joined as well, and the Nov. 20, 1965 Homecoming game at Kehoe Field between the Rams and Hoyas drew 9,002 fans, an on-campus record which remains to this day. Five years later, some 13,500 filled Jack Coffey Field for a Fordham Homecoming versus Georgetown, a road record for a GU game only passed last season at Old Dominion.

As club football waned, Georgetown and Fordham moved up to NCAA play as a tandem. From 1970 to 1984, the teams played 12 times, Fordham taking nine. After a 56-0 drubbing of the Hoyas at its 1984 Homecoming game, the series went on hiatus. A few years later, Fordham announced plans to leave Division III for the Patriot League, while Georgetown remained in Division III through the 1992 season.

Fordham's arrival in the Patriot League was a bitter one. In its first five seasons, the Rams were a combined 5-47 (.096), 2-23 in the conference, in ten seasons, 20-85-1 (.188) and 11-42 in league play. Unfortunately, one can compare that ten year mark, in progress, to Georgetown's ten year mark of 27-85 (.241) and 8-48 PL mark in recent years. But unlike GU, Fordham looked to do something about it.

The Rams leveraged one of its most powerful resources, alumni support, into becoming a competitive PL team inthe last decade, increasing its spending on financial aid to the point that, by 2008, Fordham was among the five largest budgets in I-AA and third only to Delaware and James Madison in Eastern football--a budget of $4.8 million that has grown by 47% in the last five years. At Georgetown? A $1.5 million budget that actually decreased slightly from 2005 to 2008.

Alumni rebuilt Jack Coffey Field from old wooden bleachers to a permanent 7,000 seat structure. When the Rams needed a weight room, alumni gifts got one built under the bleachers. This past season, alumni raised $2 million to turn a former swimming pool into dedicated football locker rooms. And when Fordham won two PL titles this decade, taking advantage of its Academic Index for recruits, alumni asked for more.

More, as in something missing at Fordham for 46 years: scholarship football.

As many Georgetown fans know, Fordham has now put the Patriot league into a institutional game of chicken, daring the league not to approve full scholarships. If Fordham gets to keep its 60 scholarships, they stay. Anything less, they're gone, putting the PL autobid at moderate risk, with only six schools remaining and a six team minumum required.

"Fordham strives to compete at the highest level in the FCS division, and we are convinced that the provision of athletic scholarships in football is an important component in advancing this goal," reads a school release. "We also wish to renew rivalries with past opponents, including Army and Villanova, while enhancing our schedule with other high profile opponents, such as Navy and the University of Connecticut."

Caught in the middle of this mess is Georgetown. Most Patriot League schools, both those pro and con on scholarships, still have the wherewithall to convert their existing aid to scholarships if push came to shove (read=shove). Obviously, Georgetown does not. A football program that can't get a stadium built, that has no game day locker rooms, and has almost few equivalencies for dedicated aid doesn't have the $6.1 million annually needed to float 60 full scholarships for football and the accompanying aid for women's sports required under Title IX. (Fact: Per public documetns, Georgetown's entire athletic scholarship budget in FY 2009 for all sports, basketball included, totaled just $6.4 million.)

Basketball forms a curious contrast between the schools. There was a time when Georgetown and Fordham, were basketball rivals, too. Excepting World War II, the schools played every season from 1941 through 1979. Fans of a certain age can still remember Fordham's 1971 win over Georgetown en route to a 26-3 season and a NCAA Sweet 16 appearance under rookie head coach Richard (Digger) Phelps. Unfortunately, Phelps left for Notre Dame after one season and so did the good times. In the intervening years, the Rams have made just one NCAA tournament since, in 1992, and hasn't seen a post-season game since. As Georgetown's star was ascendant in the Big East, it eventually dropped the Fordham series, as the Rams muddled their way through the ECAC, the MAAC, the Patriot League and now the A-10, finishing 2-26 and winless in the conference last season.

As Georgetown put its eggs in the hoop basket (no pun intended), Fordham has been relucantant to follow. The Rams play at Rose Hill Gym, the oldest basketball facility in Division I (25 years older than aging McDonough Gym) and spend about $2.5 million on men's basketball, eighth among the A-10 schools and comparable to the hoop budget of Liberty University. With its move to scholarships, Fordham is positioning itself as a football-first school.

Which brings us back to the rivalry. The sad outcome of the PL scholarship debate/drama is that, for this rivalry, it may well become the academic equivalent of a "loser leaves town" match. If the league presidents vote down schoalrships, Fordham will make a hasty retreat from the league, and with an expectation of 60 scholarships by 2012, is unlikely to pursue long-term arrangements with a nonscholarship team like Georgetown. If the scholarships pass, Georgetown becomes the odd-man out in a league now dedicated to fully funded football, and GU may well have to look at the more modest Northeast Conference as a safe harbor. As the Hoyas dropped three opponents this past season, all scholarship programs with considerably more resources and lesser academic standards for recruiting, it would seem less likely that this rivalry would continue under that disparity.

Over 120 years, through Division I, no football, club, Division II, Division III, and now Division I-AA, these two schools have built, rebuilt, and maintained college football through challenging circumstances among a dwindling number of Jesuit schools that are committed to the sport. Each has built a ship of football that has weathered the storms and carries a considerable legacy in its wake. Over the next few months, we will all learn whether these ships continue to sail together, or pass in the night.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 8 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts from Saturday's loss to Sacred Heart (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Alondzo Turner...)

Which Song Is It? Somehow, I've got two Tom Petty songs in my head after watching the Sacred Heart game and taking time to look ahead to Fordham on Saturday. Is it "I Won't Back Down", or "Free Fallin'"?

(Brief aside: it makes you feel a little older realizing that Petty hasn't charted a song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 16 years.)

What makes the outcome so discouraging is why Sacred Heart was on the schedule to begin with. Though neither school will say as much, this was supposed to be the week of a home game with Old Dominion, whereupon Old Dominion decided it would rather play Norfolk State than travel  to Washington, and/or Georgetown would rather get a win on the schedule than see itself beaten down by the Monarchs at its home field. Instead, Fordham swapped places on the schedule, the Monarchs got the game it wanted, and Georgetown seemingly got what it wanted, an opponent that had lost 14 of its last 17 (and six straight) coming into the game. A winning combination, right?

But were it not for a number of defensive stops, that opponent would have simply run the Hoyas off the field. Or maybe the Hoyas would have run themselves off, because this was another example of a sputtering offensive game plan that gets exposed in games and must expect the defense to carry them. Here are the total yards gained in the ten possessions after leading 10-0:
  • 18 yards, one first down (fumble)
  • 7 yards, no first down (threw inteception)
  • -3 yards, no first down (punted)
  • 32 yards, two first downs (field goal)
  • 17 yards, one first down (punted)
  • 8 yards, no first downs (punted)
  • 4 yards, no first downs (punted, nearly blocked)
  • 0 yards, fumbled kickoff return
  • 13 yards, one first down (punt blocked for touchdown)
  • 2 yards, no first down (punted)
In that sequence the Pioneers outscored the Hoyas 33-3. If this was week one, learning a new offense, well, maybe this makes sense. If this was week eight against Old Dominion or even North Dakota State, it's plausible. But against a team rated near the bottom of its conference in everything but pass offense, it doesn't make sense; but only if you come to a troubling conclusion: the team is reverting to 2009 all over again. Is this the result of the strategy, the play calls, the execution, or the fact that Georgetown offensive sets are an easier read to opposing coaches (i.e., when Keerome Lawrence is in the wildcat, he runs the ball)?

Whatever the cause, you don't turn offensive philosophies around in midstream. Sadly, it doesn't seem that this trend is going to change. If so, this week's opponent will look a lot more like Old Dominion than we'd all like to think.

Turnovers: A lot of time and talk will focus on the Hoyas' inability to hold on the ball Saturday, but I will say that not all of this is what it appears to be. Georgetown was using a backup snapper in the game and any punt team will tell you that such changes are fraught with peril. I'll even give you that even the best teams throw interceptions now and then and none of GU's passes went pick-six this week. But the fumbles...ugh. Fifteen in eight games, 10 lost, compared to just four lost for opponents. If the Hoyas can at least hold on to the ball and not fumble against Fordham, I'd have to call that a step in the right direction. But past signs don't look promising--in the game last year, GU fumbled it five times, losing two.

Team Unity: Nothing tears at a team like a prolonged losing streak. One of the most important things Georgetown can do is to maintain the team concept heading into the bye week. The Fordham game is, for purposes of the Patriot League, a non-conference game, so it's not a make or break game, streaks notwithstanding. But if players begin to bail over the bye week, that's trouble. Only one player has dropped off the roster this season, so that's a good sign to date, even as 14 of the 81 have not seen time in any games this season.

Unfortunately, it's possible that this team is staring at a weary 3-7 a few weeks from now--the Hoyas are 1-17 in the PL era against Fordham and Lehigh, 0-8 in the Kelly era. However, the operative word is "team". Players didn't beat Lafayette and Holy Cross, a team did.

Countdown To December: Does non-conference performance by teams play into the oft-discussed Patriot League vote on scholarship football this December? Probably not. Overall, the PL enters week nine with a 10-19 (.344) mark out of league, and just 1-4 against the once-inferior Northeast Conference (and one point removed from a NEC sweep). Of that league-wide number, three of the least funded programs (Lafayette, Bucknell and Georgetown) are a combined 2-12 (.142) outside the league. Will that play a role in their decision? No.

On the other side of the scholarship ledger, Fordham is on the PL sidelines this year and stands at just 3-5 this season, the same record as Georgetown. Will Fordham be around the Patriot League in three more seasons, or seek other conference affiliations? And what about Georgetown? I'm not fond of the idea that Sacred Heart and Wagner become its new rivals someday, but if five or six of your opponents are funding 60 full rides and you're floating none, that's not a fair fight either.

But it's not like Wagner and Sacred Heart are the MAAC revisited, either. Both are on their way to 40 scholarships in football, and 46 of Sacred Heart's players spent a redshirt season, something the PL is unwilling to do.

Never mind all that. This should have been a winnable game. It was.

And it was lost.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 7 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts from Saturday's loss to Bucknell (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Barney O'Donnell....)

Scatter-what? The "scattershooting" reference pays homage to a legendary Dallas sports columnist who would begin his weekly column asking about the whereabouts of some forgotten player of the recent past. And as for this week's name, well, Google is a great researcher.

Barney O'Donnell, a four sport high school star who was recruited in 2007, left Georgetown after one season and spent a year at a junior college. And he's turned up in the NAIA.

"Georgetown was a great experience for me, and I had a hard time leaving there, but football was not the most important thing there, and I needed a change," O'Donnell said.

Read more about it at http://qctimes.com/sports/college/st-ambrose/article_0a98b27c-cdd9-11df-a32b-001cc4c002e0.html

Hoyas: What Ails Them? There are a lot of clues in Saturday's loss, but these can be summed up in one word: focus.

Maybe it was the warm weather. Maybe it was a long night after Midnight Madness. Maybe it was those road jerseys, I don't know. Teams in week 7 of the college football season shouldn't be making the mistakes  made in this game--penalties, dropped passes, missed assignments on kick returns, or calling a throw to the end zone when you only needed seven yards. Getting picked off for a touchdown is the most visible symptom, but that wasn't the only misstep in this game.

This team, at last in the last two weeks and perhaps since the Holy Cross game, is losing the focus that teams absolutely require down the stretch. Coaches, too. Yes, the officiating was poor, but there are no "make-up" calls in college football like there are in college basketball--arguing at the line judge isn't going to change the outcome and he's not more or less likely to throw the flag the next time around. Sideline penalties reflect poorly on Georgetown and they should be avoided. Then again, the call itself was unnecessary and the officiating crew was overmatched in this game.

Rotating Quarterbacks: I wish it didn't come to this. The staff made the call at the beginning of the season to go with Scott Darby, and barring injury, Darby should get the call. Introducing Keerome Lawrence (who only runs) and Isaiah Kempf (who almost always passes) into the lineups is a sign of distress to opposing coaches. Darby could be a successful passer (and has been)...if he gets the time to do so, and he's not getting that. Kempf showed a bit of running and passing Saturday but that was due to an unfamiliaity Bucknell had on Kempf in recent game films. If Fordham or Lehigh start focusing on Kempf in film work, his effectiveness diminishes, much as it did last season...when Scott Darby played the role of the last season quarterback option. Short of adding Tucker Stafford and Aaron Aiken to the late season rotation, quarterback changes will be less effective as the season progresses.

Backfield By Proxy: What does Philip Oladeji, Wilburn Logan and Dalen Claytor share in common with the Dallas Cowboys' Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice? Both groups have talent on the field but their respective staffs seems ill at ease with committing to a running game.

Dallas cannot win games expecting Tony Romo to throw for 450 yards a game. And Georgetown can't win if its runners are averaging 106 yards a game (and just 73 yards in the last three). There has to be a balance, a balance that went out the window in the second half vs. Bucknell--remember, Georgetownb only ntrailed by seven but the calls were from a team down three touchdowns.

MSF Mess: Can someone take a serious look at the fan experience at the MSF? If it's not the canned music making the band inaudible, the lack of any seating pattern for a full game, or the ongoing clock problems which have still not been fixed, the environment at these games is not winning converts.

One suggestion: Enforce reserved seating on the home side, general admission on the visitors side. Yes, someone will actually have to  mark row and seat numbers, and tickets will have to be enforced. But for the parents and visitors who really want to see the game, they should not have to get bumped from seats when they come back from the concession stand and seats are gone.

If it means moving students east, let's consider it. There is zero enthusiasm with students getting what are essentially 10 yard line seats, leading more and more to simply watch the game outside the fence. With declining road crowds, let the students build their own atmosphere across the field and leave the home crowd to people who will pay for the right to have a seat when they get there.

Video Board? Did I hear this right? McDonough Gym gets two video boards installed, presumably for the volleyball and women's basketball games? Well, good for them, but when is the 1995-era Harbin soccer scoreboard going to get retired? 

I really, really hope that there is some clarity on what Georgetown wants out of the unnamed MSF for 2011 and 2012. The well of hope that the construction cranes are coming has been bled dry by years of false hopes and unclear expectations, and if the project gets pushed out again, what can be done in he interim to make it a better fan experience? The Field With No Name hasn't had any serious upkeep (outside the lights) since construction was halted five years ago, and fans can see this. So do recruits.

“I think what it does more than anything else, it sends a message that we take our athletics, and the interest we have in our student-athletes and their well-being, seriously. Those factors will send a clear message to the prospective students’ families.” That's a quote from the athletic director at Sacred Heart, whose eponymous Campus Field welcomes the Hoyas next week.

Worth Repeating: The NextStep fundraiser was held this weekend in Washington.  If you're anywhere near the Chicago area, a second fundraiser follows on October 28. Information follows at http://www.nextstepfitness.org/.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Underrated Rivalry

Ok, so no one sings about their fight song.

Every Georgetown worth his saxa knows the Boola-Boola from those "loyal fellows up at Yale", the Navy Yell, the "Cornell", etc. We even can give a "chu chu, rah rah" with the best of the Holy Cross rooters. But somehow, somewhere, "Ray Bucknell" never made it into the nomenclature of Georgetown rivals and their songs. But after 10 years, these two schools now share a lot more on the football field than they do in the fight song business, not for losing records but for the promise of a better decade ahead.

And after 22 prior meetings dating back to 1904, perhaps this has finally become a rivalry, if an underrated one.

The two schools first met on the gridiron on what is now Copley Lawn, the erstwhile "Georgetown Field", on November 12, 1904, a 12-0 Georgetown shutout behind two touchdowns from GU Hall of Famer James (Hub) Hart (D'1904). The Bucknellians returned the favor a year later at Georgetown, with an 18-0 shutout of its own.

Three games are among the most notable of the series. It took a game at Georgetown on Nov. 25, 1916 to set records that endure even to this day, thanks to Georgetown's first All-America selection, RB Johnny Gilroy.

"Whatever hope the Bucknell football eleven had of holding Georgetown to a close score today was confined strictly to the first period," wrote the New York Times. "At the end of the opening quarter the Blue and Gray led by only six points, but when the battle ceased Georgetown had a margin of 78, and the Lewisburg (Penn.) team had been unable to get within striking distance of their opponent's goal."

"Bucknell never got farther than the 30 yard line," wriote Morris Bealle in his 1947 history of the program on Georgetown's 78-0 win, still in the 10 largest margins of victory in school history. Gilroy scored on five touchdowns (three of them kickoff returns, two on interception returns) and kicked extra points on six of the the Hilltoppers' 12 touchdown scores in a wet and rainy game. The offensive output by Gilroy put him at the top of rushers nationwide and he finished the season in 1916 as the leading rusher in America. No, not the East, or the small colleges. Everywhere.

Weather factored heavily in the second of three great games between the schools, a muddy and rainy 3-2 Bucknell win at Griffith Stadium that cost the 1925 Hilltoppers an undefeated season.

In retrospect, it's hard to understate how good the 1925 Georgetown team really was, having outscored opponents 281-19 and surrendering just two touchdowns all season. Georgetown posted seven shutouts in nine wins that season, but Bucknell would be the spoiler.

The teams played intermittently through 1938 but the schools were going in different directions--Bucknell was transitioning into a small college program, Georgetown a major college one. The importance of the Hoyas' Oct. 21, 1939 win by the Hoyas, 13-7 at Lewisburg's Memorial Stadium was not lost on the Georgetown head coach, who was the team captain during that fabled loss 14 years earlier: Jack Hagerty. It was the 11th straight game without a loss for the nationally ranked Hoyas, and 12 more were to follow through the 1940 season.

The two schools did not meet for over 60 years until Georgetown has committed to join the Patriot League, and Bucknell joined the line of PL schools that beat up the Hoyas pretty good in its opening two years in the league.

After dropping each of its first 10 Patriot games, none worse than a bitter 69-0 loss at Lehigh to open the 2002 season, Georgetown met Bucknell at Harbin Field on Oct. 26, 2002. Here's an excerpt from the HoyaSaxa.com game recap:

Senior David Paulus threw five second half touchdowns as Georgetown overcame a 17 point halftime deficit in a 32-31 win over Bucknell and its first conference win since joining the Patriot League in 2001. The win was improbable given the turns of the game, which was a study in contrasts between the struggles of recent performances and the promise of better tomorrows.

In prior league games, the Hoyas had consistently dug themselves in a hole in the first quarter, having been outscored 127-19, and things started off poorly on Saturday. The Bison (2-5) opened the game with a 43 yard pass and scored within the first two minutes of play, 7-0. Three series later, Bucknell drove 58 yards in 11 plays to the Georgetown 22, but were stopped on downs. The teams trade punts again until punt returner Luke McArdle fumbled at the Georgetown 24, setting up a Bucknell field goal to trail 10-0.

After Georgetown punted on its next series, Bucknell drove 70 yards in ten plays to increase the lead to 17-0 with 3:55 to play in the half. With under two minutes to play, the Hoyas had two net yards in total offense. But in a sign of the second half fireworks to come, Paulus led the Hoyas on a nine play, 59 yard drive in only 1:14, without a third down in the drive. The Hoyas advanced to the 11 yard line with :04 to play, but a 28 yard field goal was blocked at the end of the half.

To its credit, the team did not give up. Though the Hoyas were a combined 0-12 in games trailing at the half over the last two seasons, the next 30 minutes would make some new history.

Georgetown opened the second half with a six play, 64 yard drive, where Paulus was 4-4 for 60 yards, including a 34 yard pass to Walter Bowser for the TD, 17-7. The Bison answered with a drive deep into Georgetown territory at the Georgetown 26, but on a fourth and four, the Bison were stopped a yard short and turned the ball over on downs. Whatever momentum was short-lived--on its next series, Paulus fumbled at the Georgetown 20 and the Bison converted in four plays to lead 24-7.

Late in the quarter, the Hoyas forcing a Bucknell punt deep in its territory and returned the ball to the BU 46. Paulus found McArdle open on two passes in only 18 seconds, and the Hoyas had cut the lead to 24-14. After holding the Bison to one first down in its next series, Paulus started at mid field and found McArdle on two 20 yard passes, the last for his third TD. The extra point was missed, but the score was now 24-20.

Midway in the fourth, the Hoyas began a drive at its 15. On a fourth down and one at its own 24, Georgetown went for it and was stopped at the line of scrimmage. Bucknell took the gift and fired a 25 yard TD pass to lead 31-20 with eight minutes to play. Would the drive cost the Hoyas a chance to win?

Paulus did not quit. On the next series, he opened with a 34 yard play to McArdle, and rushed for another 14 to put the Hoyas in the red zone. Paulus' fourth TD pass was a 17 yard strike to William Huisking with 5:41 to play, and Georgetown closed to 31-26, failing on a two point conversion. After Bucknell was stopped at the Georgetown 38, Bison punter Billy Windle landed a 19 yard punt that gave GU another chance with 3:06 to play.

A 16 yard pass to Walter Bowser got the Hoyas to midfield, but time was fleeting. On 3rd and 1 with 1:50 to play, Paulus rushed for four yards to keep the drive alive. On the next series, the Hoyas faced 4th and 6, where Paulus found McArdle for seven. With under a minute remaining, Georgetown faced a third test at fourth down, where Paulus took it 10 yards and got out of bounds, saving the day yet again.

Georgetown faced third and two with 19 seconds to play and no timeouts. Paulus found Bowser in single coverage across the end zone and connected for a 19 yard TD, 32-31. Once again, a two point conversion failed.

Bucknell's last hope was a long kickoff return, but the Georgetown defense would hear nothing of it. Freshman Mehdi Hassan stopped Bucknell returner Antwan Kennedy at the Bucknell 11, and the Bison settled for a six yard pass to end the game.

The Hoyas put up 307 yards in the second half with only one punt in its eight second half series. Paulus finished 31-48 for 350 yards and no interceptions, with his 31 completions setting a new team record. Luke McArdle's 14 receptions for 188 yards set a new single game record for receptions, while his 188 yards was 21 yards more than the entire GU offense contributed a year earlier against Bucknell. Defensively, Matt Fronczke and Andrew Clarke combined for 24 tackles and the Hoya defense held the Bison to 2 for 12 on third down conversions and 0 for 2 on fourth.

In the intervening years, close finishes have been regular occurrences: in 2005, a 19-16 overtime win for the Hoyas at Bucknell, matched two years later on the same field. For its part, the Bison have won each of the last three in Washington and none were easy, which is exactly what rivalry games should be.

Naturally, of course, these aren't true rival schools in an athletic sense--outside football, there aren't a lot of contacts and neither student body gets too worked up over the other. Outside of a 1987 first round game, the schools haven't played a series in  basketball since 1935. But in a Patriot League dominated by one (and only one) rivalry, the ability for these two schools to build a healthy series between the two bodes well for the future, a future that, scholarships notwithstanding, should expect each to be more competitive in the 2010's than they collectively displayed in the 2000's.

What each school does have with each other is mutual respect. You can't expect Lehigh or Colgate, a combined 17-0 against Georgetown since 2001, to show the Hoyas much if any respect. But this series, 6-3 to Bucknell in the decade and 12-9-1 to the Bison overall, has the ingredients of a good series: competitive play, close finishes, and a little history behind it. Saturday's game should be no different.

Plus, don't forget the Bucknell colors: orange and blue. If that can't start a rivalry, nothing can.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week 6 Thoughts

Hey, why wait? Some very quick thoughts from Saturday's flatliner of a game to Wagner (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Keion Wade....)

Where To Begin? I don't need to say much here. Seeing the game is not enough. Looking at the numbers of this game ought to make Hoya fans sick to their stomach. Not since Elliot Uzelac has the fan base seen such a mess in the stat sheet, and it bit the Hoyas right back. So let's look at the numbers:
  1. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Philip Oladeji? He had four carries for 27 yards in the First quarter. Second quarter: One carry. Third quarter: One carry. Fourth Quarter? One carry, totalling 12 yards. Averaging 5.5 yards a carry isn't too bad; unless, of course, you get the ball three times in the last 45 minutes of a game.
  2. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Chance Logan? First three carries of the game, 20 yards. Second quarter: One carry. Third quarter: One carry. Fourth Quarter? Two carries.
  3. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Dalen Claytor? Already being tabbed as the fastest player in the backfield, Claytor's first carry goes for 20 yards in the second quarter. Number of carries thereafter? One.
  4. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Patrick Ryan? Two passes, one caught for eight yards, and that's it.
  5. Why didn't the offense use Jeff Burke? Third leading receiver entering Saturday's game at 12.5 yards a reception. The result? One pass thrown, one catch.
  6. When has tight end Mike McIntyre suddenly become Erik Carter? For those who remember, Carter was the workhorse blocking fullback who saw six carries the entire 2005 season. McIntyre has played in six games and has one catch for three yards.
  7. How many passes did Keerome Lawrence drop or miss Saturday? He missed six and caught one for a net of two yards.
  8. How many rushes did the running backs get? 16 carries, 85 yards.
  9. How many QB/wilcdat keepers did Georgetown run? 25 carries, 55 yards.
  10. How many consecutive rushing plays does it take for an opposing defense to get wise to what Georgetown is running? The Hoyas began the third quarter running the ball and did not throw a pass until less than 10:00 minutes in the game. Fourteen straight carries! This isn't Nebraska circa 1971, either. And how much did those 14 consecutive runs net them? 31 yards, or the equivalent of two passes to Jeremiah Kayal and one to Tucker Stafford.
  11. How does a team punt once after halftime, with a 10 point lead, and still lose that lead? Three first downs and three turnovers in the final 30 minutes of a game, that's how.
  12. How many rushing plays in the second half? Seventeen. How many passes? Two.
  13. Third down conversions, first quarter: 1-4
  14. Third down conversions, second quarter: 3-5
  15. Third down conversions, third quarter: 0-2
  16. Third down conversions, fourth quarter? 0-1. That's right, only one series even made it to a third down.
  17. Did I mention 14 straight runs to open the second half? Any pattern here?
    1. Darby
    2. Darby
    3. Oladeji
    4. Darby
    5. Darby
    6. Logan
    7. Wildcat: Lawrence
    8. Wildcat: Lawrence
    9. Wildcat: Lawrence
    10. Wildcat: Lawrence
    11. Logan
    12. Logan
    13. Darby
    14. Claytor
  18. 32%. That was the rate Wagner was holding opponents on third down entering the game. Georgetown was 4-15 (26%). Connect on one other third down and Wagner likely never lines up for that kick to go into overtime, and Scott Darby doesn't drop his third turnover in as many games.
  19. Three. Georgetown conencted on 3-4 fourth down opportunities to put away the win against Holy Cross. Since then, only three attenmpts and none successful. (By the way, those three mised opportunities translated into ten points over two weeks.)
  20. Points off Turnovers: Wagner got 9 points. Georgetown, 3.
If you think I'm ignoring the defense, I'm not. But ask any random defensive coordinator if they would be satisfied holding the #30-ranked team in total offense to three points with 10:04 to go in a game and having picked off its opposing quarterback four times, and most would say yes. Now, ask them what they'd say if the defensive unit had to spend ten of the last 15 minutes of the game on the field.

It's a difficult thing to say, but if this weekend is any indication of Georgetown's intended play calling down the stretch, the Hoyas will not see a fourth win this season.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Place Of Honor

Over the past week, some fans may have missed the Georgetown Athletics blog noting the induction of Al Blozis (C'42) into the New York Giants' new Ring of Honor at the second Meadowlands Stadium. Blozis was one of 30 former Giants saluted at halftime last week, but perhaps among the least remembered, having his #32 jersey number retired 65 years ago.

Every Georgetown fan, however, should know the Al Blozis story. A nationally prominent recruit who chose Georgetown over Notre Dame for its math and science programs, Blozis was a two-sport all American who was named as one of three men for United Press International's Athlete of the Year for 1941 (the other two were Ben Hogan and Joe Louis). Blozis' yearbook entry noted three years of track and three of football, but also notes his membership in the Philodemic Society, one of many pursuits in his young life that led Blozis to be called a scholar-athlete-hero.

Blozis death in the Vosges Mountains in January 1945 was a loss for the University and for the Giants. Blozis had earned All-Pro recognition in only his second year in the league, and returned to help the Giants secure the NFL championship in 1944 before shipping out to Europe. His height (6-6) and pro football celebrity status would otherwise made him eligible for a deferment stateside, but Blozis would hear none of it, and wanted to serve the country which his family had emigrated to a generation earlier from Lithuania.

But beyond a portrait in McDonough Gym or a trophy at the football and track banquets, it would be easy for students and fans to lose sight of Blozis or any of the greats that walked the Hilltop as football stars. Perhaps it's time to give it some more thought.

Of course, a list of the greats can be found at the Hall of Fame Room at the Leavey Center, one of the underrated gems on the campus. In 1994, a corner of the building was transformed into a place of honor for some 200 alumni so honored by the Athletic Hall of Fame awards, dating to 1953 and among the oldest such halls of fame at the college level in the nation. But along the fields, or what passes for them at GU, no such recognition exists.

This past weekend, Holy Cross took a step to honor the many great men who have worn the Purple and White over its storied foorball tradition. Six former players saw their names attached across the west side of Fitton Field, a list so exclusive that a seven time AFC All-Pro selection missed the cut. (That player, Jon Morris '64, played  high school football at Gonzaga in Washington but left for Worcester in an era where Georgetown did not field a varsity team.)

Fitton Field is eminently suitable to honor players from its past; Multi-Sport Field, less so. But the long and winding road of MSF funding should not dissuade Georgetown from honoring those that deserve it, and for the living, to honor them while it is appropriate to do so. Maybe it's as simple as replacing the weathered banners on the north and south side of the field with photos and names of Georgetown's gridiron giants. Maybe the banner across the north wall of the field could note the great teams of Georgetown, the undefeated 1938 and 1939 squads, two bowl appearances, or the school's National College Football Hall of Fame members. And for those All-Americans from major college to club, Division II, Division III, and Division I-AA, we should find a place to honor their contributions.

This weekend, without the fanfare of the New York Giants or even Holy Cross, Georgetown will welcome back many of the over 500 alumni who played in the 23 year tenure of Scott Glacken (1970-92). The youngest of the Glacken era men is now 36, the oldest 62. The release reads, in part, as follows: "This weekend is the Glacken Football Weekend on the Hilltop, as the Gridiron Club and Glacken era players will honor former coaches Harry Jenkins, Tom Folliard and Joe Cardaci, first on Friday night at the Hoyas Grill in the Leavey Center and then during a halftime ceremony during the Wagner game. Dave Goracy ('71) and the Gridiron Club will also host a pre-game tailgate beginning at 11 a.m. at the McDonough Esplanade."

Next year's recruiting class will be the Class of 2015, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the modern era of Georgetown Football in the autumn of 2014. (The schedule has not been announced, but here's hoping an Ivy is on the schedule, or at least Fordham, to celebrate it.) In the intervening years, it's incumbent upon Georgetown to find a means to remember these alumni at the home field, both those among us and those who have passed on, as builders of an important if sometimes forgotten football tradition.

A bust of Al Blozis now sits in Meadowlands Stadium, aside the greats of a proud football tradition with names like Lombardi and Landry, Gifford and Tittle, Simms and Taylor. If Georgetown can't afford a statue of the 6-6, 250 lb. scholar-athlete to stand in front of the unnamed field, he (and many others) deserve the recognition that comes with their achievements on and off the field.

Blozis' high school alma mater, Dickinson High School, closed recently, but for many years played its basketball games in the gymnasium which bore his name. A plaque in the old gym noted his achievements, and perhaps Georgetown would do well to locate the plaque and give it a new home:

BLOZIS, Alfred C. (The Human Howitzer)
Born: January 5, 1919, in Garfield, NJ
Died: January 31, 1945, near Colmar, France
Hgt: 6-6 Wgt: 250 College: Georgetown U. (1939-1941)
College Honors: Played in College All-Star Game - 1942
Nat. FB Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame (1986)
High School: Dickinson H.S., Jersey City, NJ
Draft Choice: 3rd round, New York Giants - 1942
Pro Career: 3 years: 1942-44 New York Giants
1943 All-NFL (1st) A.P., U.P., N.Y. News, PF Illus.
Misc. Notes: Outstanding college shotputter