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.