Monday, April 5, 2010

Coming Attractions

Bill Parcells' caution to coaches is part of the football lexicon: "You are," he said, "what your record says you are."

But a corollary to the Parcells Principle might just as well be: "You are what your schedule says you are."  So if people are surprised that the 2010 football schedule looks like something out of 2000 rather than 2009, maybe they shouldn't be. It is Kevin Kelly's best chance yet to turn back the clock and turn around the record.

Georgetown played three scholarship teams in 2009, and lost all three. The 14-11 loss to Howard was a winnable game, but a tragedy of errors on both sides, and if Howard acted to end the erstwhile D.C. Cup, it was not for enmity of Georgetown, but to wash its hands of a series that seemed to bring little out on either side.

In contrast to Howard, the ending to the Georgetown-Richmond series was not unexpected. Conceived in more hopeful days when Bob Benson saw Georgetown as a legitimate contender by the end of the decade, the Hoyas caught the Spiders ascendant while its fortunes had fallen. The Hoyas turned the ball over in each of its first three possessions in last seasons game and the 49-10 finish was only due to the generosity of UR coach Mike London.

The Hoyas' 31-10 loss to Old Dominion was more problematic. Playing a first year team, one that had lost to Monmouth and Fordham earlier in the year, Georgetown was embarassed to the point that the Monarchs called off the dogs in the second quarter, up 28-3. ODU was getting better every week, Georgetown wasn't, and it showed. By 2010, ODU didn't need Georgetown anymore, and waived a chance at potentially three more wins through 2012 to further upgrade its schedule.

No one will be surprised in a few years when London, now coach at Virginia, will make a call to ODU's Bobby Wilder to have Old Dominion open the season at Charlottesville. That call will most certainly not come to Kevin Kelly and Georgetown.

But however painful the outcomes, these games showed the ability of Georgetown to at least aim higher than from where it was. There was no shame in losing to the I-AA national champion, at least in comparison to lose to Marist. And had it added North Dakota State, a likely loss with a guarantee fee, at least you could say the Hoyas were "playing up" against someone on its non-conference schedule. There's no "playing up" like that in 2010.

The Hoyas have traded in Howard, Richmond, and Old Dominion (combined 2009 record: 22-13) for Davidson, Sacred Heart and Wagner (combined 2009 record: 11-20). So long, Foreman Field (capacity 19,782), hello Campus Field (capacity 2,000). And outside of a few misguided folks like me that would still rather see 12,000 in the stands at Villanova on the schedule than 1,500 at Sacred Heart, you can look at the Hoyas' record over these past four years and ask, well, maybe this is all they can handle right now.

And that's what it's come to.

The web site known as the College Football Data Warehouse studied the records of 238 Division I teams over the last ten seasons, ranking Georgetown 232nd in win-loss record and 232nd in strength of schedule. (Wagner and Sacred Heart ranked 234th and 235th, respectively, but such is the fate of low-scholarship football.)  And maybe it's fortunate Georgetown was able to pick up these games at such a late date, because universities like GU cannot long tolerate the recent seasons that erode more than Kevin Kelly's record, but his standing at the University.

I mentioned the 2000 schedule, the interregnum between the soft success of the MAAC and the harder ground of the Patriot. Georgetown's schedule that year was a hodge-podge of opponents: five MAAC teams (Duquesne, Marist, and defunct programs at Fairfield,. Iona, St. Peter's), three Patriot teams (Holy Cross, Fordham, and Bucknell), two Pioneer (Davidson, Butler), and one Northeast Conference team (Wagner). The Hoyas finished 0-3 against the Patriot, and 5-3 against everyone else. If the Hoyas could carve out a winning record like that against Yale, Davidson, Wagner, Sacred Heart, and Marist,'s not much but it's a start. The problem is, of course, that this is the kind of schedule better suited for 2000 than 2010, and really doesn't prepare the Hoyas for a move up the PL standings. After ten years, the Hoyas seem no more capable of dominating conference opponents than it was in 2000.

But the contrary scenario isn't a pretty one, either: if Georgetown can't  win against these five schools (combined 2009 record: 22-30), then what does it say? Excepting I-AA newcomers Campbell and Old Dominion, Georgetown is among seven low-rated I-AA schools (Columbia, Dartmouth, Indiana State, Savannah State, Southern Utah, and St. Francis) with a combined record of 57-241 (.191) over the past four seasons. For these schools to get out of their mess, they must start winning, plain and simple.

So sometimes a step back allows you a few steps forward.