Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Unkindest Season

Imagine, if you will, studying to become an attorney, only to find out that every year, just around Christmas, 20 percent of the partner-level workforce nationwide is fired; and with it, the partners fire all their associates. Imagine going to work for a brokerage industry where the bottom 20 percent of firms are flushed every December, and where aspiring managers have one month or so to find a new job, moving families to Oregon or North Dakota or Alabama, because that’s where the job takes you.

And if you’re young and don’t get a new job in a month or two, however underpaid or in the middle of nowhere, you might be out of the business for good.

Welcome to the career prospects of a coach in college football. And welcome to the un-happ-happiest time of the year.

Over the past three weeks, the pink slips fly in college football. Schools are great about preaching loyalty, but few practice it. Twenty-four head coaching positions within Division I-AA have changed hands in the last month, only two by retirement:

Alabama A&M
Central Arkansas
Central Connecticut
The Citadel
Eastern Illinois
Grambling State
Jackson State
James Madison
Mississippi Valley State
Morgan State
North Carolina Central
North Dakota
North Dakota State
Robert Morris
Rhode Island
Southeast Missouri State
Stephen F. Austin State
Weber State

Eternal vigilance – and a willingness to resettle on short notice – is the price to become a successful college football coach.. Kevin Kelly’s resume can attest, and he’s one of the luckier ones.

Here is Coach Kelly’s “change of address” forms in the first 20 or so years since he graduated from college:

Springfield, MA
New York, NY
New Haven, CT
Syracuse, NY
Boston, MA
Hanover, NH
New Orleans, LA
Huntington, WV
Brunswick, ME
Syracuse, NY
Huntington, WV
Annapolis, MD

Kelly’s eight years in the Washington area are probably the longest he’s stayed in one place since grad school, which is great for raising a family. The results, less so. In coaching, as in life, you’re as good as your last job.

When Kelly interviewed for the job at Yale in 2011, it was not because of any ill will for Georgetown or an overarching desire to move back to scenic New Haven. Instead, it’s the business. He was coming off an 8-3 season and Yale was interested. If he was 3-8 that year, Yale would not be.

Head coaches in football, as a rule, don’t get the gold watch and don’t set the rules for their retirement. Bobby Bowden didn’t go out his way, nor did or Woody Hayes or Darrell Royal or a thousand others. Joe Paterno once said that he didn’t want to get forced out like Bear Bryant did and die within a month as Bryant did. He was, of course, and he died a month later as well. Mack Brown, of all people, has a .770 winning percentage at Texas, a national title, and only one season with fewer than eight wins. Not good enough in Austin. That’s business. (That, and failing to recruit each of the last three Heisman Trophy winners, all of which wanted to play for you.)

The 2011 season is history. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Kevin Kelly has the lowest winning percentage of any Division I-AA head coach with more than four years experience. Of 25 coaches below .500, eight were let go in the last month (in gray):

Division I-AA Coaches At Or Below .500:
Tom GilmoreHoly Cross10565600.500
Frank TavaniLafayette14767700.497
Pete AdrianNorfolk St.9505200.490
Chris MussmanN. Dakota 6313400.477
Watson BrownTennessee Tech10526000.464
Monte ColemanAR-Pine Bluff6313600.463
Donovan RoseHampton5253000.455
J.C. HarperS.F. Austin7374500.451
Mike KramerIdaho St.168310300.446
Marshall SperbeckSacramento St.7354400.443
Donald Hill-EleyMorgan St.12597600.437
Paul GorhamSacred Heart10466200.426
Sparky WoodsVMI11527120.416
Buddy TeevensDartmouth14578120.407
Nigel BurtonPortland St.4182700.400
Ray WoodardLamar4182800.391
Tony SamuelSE Missouri8316000.341
Chris VillarrialSt. Francis4133100.295
Kevin KellyGeorgetown8246300.276
Charlie StubbsNicholls St.4103500.222
Joe TrainerRhode Island5124400.214
Harold NicholsPresbyterian5114400.200
Karl A. MorganMiss. Valley St.483500.186
Dale CarlsonValparaiso434100.068

Coach Kelly is fortunate that few if any I-AA  schools would have the patience to absorb the depth of losses that the Georgetown program has experienced over the past eight years. VMI? Maybe. Dartmouth? Only if your coach is Buddy Teevens, a former star quarterback for the Indians who won a pair of Ivy titles way back when. Even Columbia, that textbook case of a losing program, has had only one coach make it past six seasons since 1968.

Even in the low-wattage Patriot League, ask yourself: would Andy Coen still be at Lehigh with these kind of records? How about Tom Gilmore at Holy Cross? Will Dick Biddle’ successor at Colgate get the time to build a winner?

A lot of schools won’t want to hear about it. “Did you win?”, they ask. They rarely ask why you didn't.

That’s the business. And for those that don’t understand it, or who underestimate it, it’s a difficult realization. It’s the part of coaching that fans, and even some coaches, don’t understand.

Part of the enmity that former basketball coach Craig Esherick still feels for Georgetown firing him in 2004 was that he thought he deserved better. He had been with the program for 40 years as an undergrad, law student, assistant coach, and head coach, and went so far as to brag he’d be around another 30. He didn’t understand that, to quote the son of a Georgetown football All-American, “you are what your record says you are”. In a revenue sport like basketball, it wasn't enough.

Georgetown has been a bit more patient to more of its coaches. Pete Wilk has been the baseball coach for 14 seasons and has never posted a winning record. Arlisa Williams has been the volleyball coach for eight seasons and Georgetown is 77-124.

Of course, no one is writing a column in the Washington Post of the baseball team doesn’t get to the post-season. Students are not planning a march on Healy if volleyball finishes under .500.  Football web sites don’t use the phrase “hot seat” around Georgetown football. If Frank Tavani or Tom Gilmore was 24-63 after eight seasons, chances are pretty good they would have never see a ninth season…much less a sixth, seventh, or eighth.

But this isn't Lafayette or Holy Cross. What coaches like Wilk, Williams, Kelly, and others at McDonough do share is a sport where the expectations on the field take a back seat to the expectations in the classroom, and these are sports where the kids have been admitted, competed, and have graduated. That’s reassuring to coaches, but it’s not a blank check. Pat Knapp was that kind of academics-first coach for 15 years for women’s basketball, but he didn’t retire at Georgetown either. And while Dave Urick did retire in men’s lacrosse, he did not go out the way he deserved.

In the end, Georgetown does right by its coaches, and for those like Kelly who must fight from behind, without the amenities or admission breaks his colleagues enjoy, it’s very much an uphill climb. That the University is able to recruit (and retain) good people who do their jobs honorably despite the disparity of support functions that fans of other schools could hardly imagine, speaks highly of the place. It doesn’t excuse losing but it does place things in perspective, which is all coaches can ask out of the process.

“I thought we made progress while we were here,” said Army coach Rich Ellerson after the Black Knights dropped yet another loss to Navy, with hours to go before his imminent dismissal. “But I wasn’t hired to make progress.”

Every coach can relate.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 3,000: The More Things Change

Someday next year, a crowd will gather.

Blue and gray bunting will surround a pile of dirt where once there was a tennis court. Coaches, players, dignitaries all, the group will all applaud at a shovel in the ground for a long delayed project and congratulate everyone on having come this far. After nearly seven years of hopes and dreams, the really big gift didn’t come in, but enough of the six figure ones did so that the generically named "Intercollegiate Athletics Center" can oneday say it will be underway. Once a project starts, it gets built.

Just don’t look too far over your shoulder.

A stone’s throw from the future site of the IAC stands Georgetown’s ongoing exercise in inertia, which today passes 3,000 days since construction was halted upon it. On September 17, 2005, with temporary seats left in place for the remainder of the 2005 season, the site once called “the most significant project in the history of Georgetown athletics” was inaugurated in a 34-3 loss to Brown.

And when the Bruins returned this fall, almost nothing had changed.

Because nothing has changed.

“Rumors abound that Harbin Field will eventually be turned into a real stadium, to be used by such teams as soccer, football and lacrosse. If this is the case, it will be a major boost for campus ... The university should do all that it can to provide better accommodations; after all, having sports on campus for all to enjoy follows the Jesuit ideal of educating the whole person - mind and body. We already have the teams ... now let's live up to our reputation and give them the facilities they deserve."

If this HOYA editorial sounds familiar, well, you’ve been reading this site too long.  It was authored on November 17, 1999, 14 years ago. This is a project that has spanned three U.S. presidents, three Popes, three full time athletic directors, not to mention some 30,000 Georgetown graduates across its various schools. While not the longest delayed project at the University (the legal wrangling on the boathouse enters its 27th year in 2014), it is certainly among the more visible ones. Hundreds of prospective students pass by it each day, with more than its share of nonplussed comments by tour guides or the off-putting response, “but we’re no good at football anyway.”

There was a time when comments were uniformly more positive.

“In the first phase, a new playing surface, visitor’s stands on the east side and other game-day facility needs will be installed. This portion of the project is slated to begin following the end of this fall’s competition schedule with completion by September 2005,” wrote a  Hoyas Unlimited newsletter in August 2004.

More follows:

“In the second phase, slated for completion in the fall of 2006, additional amenities will be added, and the focus will be on the home (west) side. New home stands will be constructed. Underneath the stands will be locker rooms, a training room and storage space. A new press box will be added and lights will be installed. This phasing is being done to accommodate a road realignment taking place on the west side of the facility around the same time. To date, over $12.7 million in cash and pledges has been raised for the new Multi-Sport Facility.“

To say this project has had its share of turns is an understatement. At least five different designs have come and gone. And where once Georgetown would comment that the project was just around the corner, perhaps they have learned the lesson of the U.S. government bureaucracy that no starting date means you’re never behind. The last public statement on the progress of this project at was over four years ago.

“In the year to come, we are focusing on developing a strategic plan for two major projects, the completion of which would benefit all of our teams and the University community as a whole,” wrote GU vice president Dan Porterfield (C’83) in September 2009, serving as an interim athletic director between the tenures of Bernard Muir and Lee Reed. Wrote Porterfield:

“First, it is crucial that we complete the Multi-Sport Field, which hosts not only our football and lacrosse games, but also intramurals, club sports, and events such as the annual all-night Relay for Life, a major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Though improvements have been made to the field in the last few years, the project remains unfinished and still requires significant investment to complete. 

"For that reason, I have asked colleagues in Athletics and the University to see if we can develop a cost-effective approach to completing the field. Our goals will stay the same: to improve our teams' game-day experience, to make the venue more fan-friendly, and to construct an aesthetically pleasing facility. As we develop new options for this important project in the coming months, we look forward to sharing its details with our friends and donors.“

And that’s part of the problem. Muir wanted little to do with a project that was assembled before his watch. Reed inherited the project amidst the growing heat that John Thompson III didn’t have a practice facility. Reed won’t be judged on what happens to the MSF, because priority 1 is the IAC. Kevin Kelly doesn’t talk about it publicly, but why would he? It’s been just another roadblock in his recruiting efforts.

Georgetown even went to the unusual step of washing its hands of the MSF in advance of the current capital campaign, noting in its campaign literature that “The Multi–Sport Field was one of the later priorities of the last campaign. Although substantial funds were raised, they were insufficient to complete the project in its ultimate, very expansive scope. The funds raised to date, together with university investment, were used to build the core of the facility, including a new playing field, lighting, scoreboards and stands. We are working to complete the second and final phase of the work outside the context of this campaign. ‘

(In its most recent iteration, the comments on the MSF no longer appear in the online FAQ.)

All of this inaction over this project is not some of struggle against football or athletics. Far from it. It merely plays to an academic bent where little, if anything can be done in a timely manner. What’s a few years in the life of a 225 year old University? After all, it took 23 years to get McDonough Gymnasium built, and stately Gaston Hall sat as an unfinished shell inside the Healy Building for the better part of two decades.

Georgetown has “conversations” on the MSF. It maintains “dialogue”. It seeks “opportunities” to see progress. These are words better suited to a discussion on ethics, not construction projects, and certainly not projects where money was raised and accepted. And according to that story cited above, $12.7 million is not an insignificant number.

Full disclosure: I made a gift of $1,000 to the Multi-Sport Facility when the project was still in active fundraising. In the interim, I’ve not received any correspondence from Georgetown University informing me of the status of my gift (technically, a seat at the new field), what became of the gift, if they want any more money from me, or if they simply reallocated the amount for something else.

Because a the bottom of all this, this project is all about commitment, one which unfortunately speaks loud and clear to recruits, to parents, and to fellow coaches. It’s hurt football recruiting, even if people won’t say it, and it has hurt lacrosse recruiting, even if people won’t say that, either. How can Georgetown be committed to sports like football if it doesn’t even finish what it started?

The University doesn’t need a replica of AT&T Stadium for a facility, even if Jerry Jones himself is the parent of an football alum. It doesn’t need another Byrd Stadium,  named after a former Georgetown quarterback, no less. Porterfield’s goals in that 2009 letter were simple and direct: “To improve our teams' game-day experience, to make the venue more fan-friendly, and to construct an aesthetically pleasing facility.”

This project needs ownership and a frank discussion with its donors about what it is prepared to do…and what it expects its donors to do in return. And those in McDonough Gym that are used to my squawking about this subject understand it’s not personal, that despite talk that things are getting closer, some of us have heard that offer for too many years now.

In the meantime, day 3,000 will be day 3,001 before we know it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

By The Numbers

There's been some lively debate on the HoyaTalk board in recent weeks about Georgetown's commitments to football, of which a special column later this season will discuss this in detail. But how does Georgetown fare against other schools?

For FY 2012, here were the football budgets per school in Division I-AA:

1 Montana State University MT $8,777,441
2 Liberty University VA $8,424,492
3 James Madison University VA $6,608,363
4 Old Dominion University VA $5,936,486
5 Fordham University NY $5,742,437
6 The University of Montana MT $5,656,889
7 University of Delaware DE $5,637,071
8 University of Richmond VA $5,563,301
9 Coastal Carolina University SC $5,420,560
10 Furman University SC $5,414,705
11 Villanova University PA $5,331,113
12 The University of Texas at San Antonio TX $5,140,135
13 Samford University AL $5,065,979
14 Colgate University NY $4,655,304
15 College of William and Mary VA $4,502,955
16 Lehigh University PA $4,486,823
17 Texas State University-San Marcos TX $4,400,906
18 Lafayette College PA $4,307,856
19 Presbyterian College SC $4,267,420
20 University of New Hampshire NH $4,064,025
21 Elon University NC $4,059,394
22 Bethune-Cookman University FL $3,950,538
23 Military College of S.C. (The Citadel) SC $3,915,023
24 Stony Brook University NY $3,909,564
25 College of the Holy Cross MA $3,900,385
26 University of Maine ME $3,864,144
27 Appalachian State University NC $3,769,377
28 Towson University MD $3,758,847
29 University of Rhode Island RI $3,736,644
30 Tennessee State University TN $3,698,630
31 North Dakota State University ND $3,663,103
32 Portland State University OR $3,639,220
33 Wofford College SC $3,629,852
34 Jacksonville State University AL $3,496,695
35 Youngstown State University OH $3,434,264
36 Eastern Kentucky University KY $3,386,349
37 Western Carolina University NC $3,372,801
38 University of Northern Iowa IA $3,329,150
39 Illinois State University IL $3,320,123
40 Virginia Military Institute VA $3,277,337
41 University of California-Davis CA $3,273,095
42 Yale University CT $3,269,637
43 Stephen F Austin State University TX $3,269,083
44 Georgia Southern University GA $3,204,295
45 Eastern Washington University WA $3,189,869
46 Indiana State University IN $3,166,886
47 Bucknell University PA $3,143,317
48 California State University-Sacramento CA $3,135,833
49 Lamar University TX $3,110,092
50 The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga TN $3,026,805
51 Southern Illinois University Carbondale IL $3,026,509
52 Cornell University NY $3,015,349
53 South Carolina State University SC $2,976,432
54 Gardner-Webb University NC $2,915,011
55 University of North Dakota ND $2,882,246
56 California Polytechnic-San Luis Obispo CA $2,877,772
57 Florida A&M University FL $2,839,529
58 Northern Arizona University AZ $2,838,620
59 Monmouth University NJ $2,830,733
60 Alabama State University AL $2,822,717
61 Idaho State University ID $2,816,722
62 Delaware State University DE $2,780,689
63 Tennessee Technological University TN $2,770,566
64 University of Northern Colorado CO $2,758,235
65 Eastern Illinois University IL $2,741,908
66 Columbia University  NY $2,724,416
67 Sam Houston State University TX $2,702,057
68 University of South Dakota SD $2,687,140
69 Western Illinois University IL $2,681,347
70 Texas Southern University TX $2,625,065
71 Weber State University UT $2,613,189
72 The University of Tennessee-Martin TN $2,599,061
73 Northwestern State University of Louisiana LA $2,597,012
74 Murray State University KY $2,585,918
75 North Carolina Central University NC $2,585,474
76 Dartmouth College NH $2,533,590
77 Southeastern Louisiana University LA $2,455,666
78 South Dakota State University SD $2,435,000
79 Alabama A & M University AL $2,406,862
80 Charleston Southern University SC $2,397,756
81 Morgan State University MD $2,386,808
82 Missouri State University-Springfield MO $2,364,352
83 University of Central Arkansas AR $2,354,686
84 Norfolk State University VA $2,332,815
85 Harvard University MA $2,327,799
86 Southern Utah University UT $2,280,246
87 Princeton University NJ $2,234,537
88 Bryant University RI $2,232,225
89 North Carolina A & T State University NC $2,223,483
90 Duquesne University PA $2,197,308
91 Howard University DC $2,146,987
92 Southeast Missouri State University MO $2,107,096
93 University of Pennsylvania PA $2,104,207
94 Alcorn State University MS $2,046,026
95 Grambling State University LA $1,985,964
96 Robert Morris University PA $1,976,296
97 Austin Peay State University TN $1,894,229
98 Central Connecticut State University CT $1,890,549
99 Sacred Heart University CT $1,887,505
100 SUNY at Albany NY $1,863,369
101 Prairie View A & M University TX $1,824,275
102 Nicholls State University LA $1,808,339
103 Savannah State University GA $1,775,645
104 Saint Francis University PA $1,773,629
105 Brown University RI $1,729,613
106 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff AR $1,712,726
107 Georgetown University DC $1,686,269
108 Southern University and A&M College LA $1,554,532
109 Jackson State University MS $1,504,899
110 University of San Diego CA $1,269,465
111 Campbell University NC $1,143,155
112 Jacksonville University FL $1,126,146
113 Mississippi Valley State University MS $1,088,097
114 University of Dayton OH $975,237
115 Morehead State University KY $928,306
116 Valparaiso University IN $879,762
117 Drake University IA $876,039
118 Marist College NY $870,416
119 Davidson College NC $790,295
120 Butler University IN $648,837

That's a low number by any measurement, but let's do some comparison. How does Georgetown rank among Patriot League schools, where five schools rank among the top 25 programs by budget?

5 Fordham University NY $5,742,437
14 Colgate University NY $4,655,304
16 Lehigh University PA $4,486,823
18 Lafayette College PA $4,307,856
25 College of the Holy Cross MA $3,900,385
47 Bucknell University PA $3,143,317
107 Georgetown University DC $1,686,269

Next, how would Georgetown rank among spending in the Ivy League? Better, but still on the bottom looking up:

42 Yale University CT $3,269,637
52 Cornell University NY $3,015,349
66 Columbia University  NY $2,724,416
76 Dartmouth College NH $2,533,590
85 Harvard University MA $2,327,799
87 Princeton University NJ $2,234,537
93 University of Pennsylvania PA $2,104,207
105 Brown University RI $1,729,613
107 Georgetown University DC $1,686,269

And who are Georgetown's peers, financially speaking? A collection of historically black colleges and Pioneer schools.

106 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff AR $1,712,726
107 Georgetown University DC $1,686,269
108 Southern University and A & M College LA $1,554,532
109 Jackson State University MS $1,504,899
110 University of San Diego CA $1,269,465
111 Campbell University NC $1,143,155
112 Jacksonville University FL $1,126,146
113 Mississippi Valley State University MS $1,088,097
114 University of Dayton OH $975,237
115 Morehead State University KY $928,306
116 Valparaiso University IN $879,762
117 Drake University IA $876,039
118 Marist College NY $870,416
119 Davidson College NC $790,295
120 Butler University IN $648,837

But let's take this same group and add their records to date this season. The numbers shouldn't surprise anyone.

106 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff SWAC 2-7
107 Georgetown University Patriot 1-8
108 Southern University and A&M College SWAC 6-4
109 Jackson State University SWAC 7-2
110 University of San Diego Pioneer 7-3
111 Campbell University Pioneer 2-8
112 Jacksonville University Pioneer 4-6
113 Mississippi Valley State University SWAC 2-8
114 University of Dayton Pioneer 6-4
115 Morehead State University Pioneer 3-7
116 Valparaiso University Pioneer 1-9
117 Drake University Pioneer 6-4
118 Marist College Pioneer 7-3
119 Davidson College Pioneer 0-10
120 Butler University Pioneer 8-3

If you've come to the conclusion that Georgetown should simply focus on playing black college opponents and underfunded midwestern colleges, you're missing the point. Money doesn't buy championships-- but there is causality between spending and success. It's no guarantee, of course: Columbia is slogging through its worst season in a generation and it outspends Brown by 45 percent. But it's hard to miss the names at the top with what they accomplish, versus those on the bottom. You are what your budget says you are.

For Georgetown, it needs to stop pleading poverty and chart a sustainable course for budget growth in football. The good news is that it's reasonable and realistic. The bad news is it needs to get some more people behind it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week 9 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Lafayette’s 45-27 win over Georgetown Saturday.

Saturday’s game in one word? Deflating.

Watching the end of the game was, to me, a feeling not unlike the end of the 2005 season, a 34-7 loss to Colgate that marked Georgetown’s third straight loss and, unknown to everyone at the time, Bob Benson’s final game as Georgetown coach. The 2005 season was known for some big losses (Holy Cross, 48-6, Brown, 34-3, Cornell 57-7), but maybe more importantly, close losses. The Hoyas lost three games by a total of 11 points—a 4-7 record could just as easily been 7-4.What might have been.

Such is not the case in 2013. Since the first week of the season, the Hoyas have not lost a game by less than 18 points, and too many games have been out of reach by halftime, with unseemly margins closed only by late quarter scores. Georgetown trailed Lafayette 35-7 when the reserves went in. Whatever “momentum” was gained with a well planned drive was flushed when Lafayette took the return kickoff largely untouched, up the middle, for 99 yards.

So where’s the outrage? Where’s the voices demanding responsibility? Well, they were probably at home. Saturday’s crowd at unfinished Multi-Sport Field was generously billed at 1,789 but it seems a lot of folks attended as unadorned aluminum bleachers. The losing streak and the lack of any public direction on where this square peg of a Patriot League program is headed has too many fans simply not interested. "Is it November yet?" they ask, and that's not a query about football.

Others ask, if Georgetown is getting thumped by 15-scholarship Patriot teams, what happens when it’s 30 scholarships next year? Then 45? Then 60?

Last week, coach Kevin Kelly spoke up about the elephant in the room, Georgetown’s lack of football scholarships. That no one from The HOYA or the Washington Post or WRC-TV has raised this all season is one thing, but other than The HOYA, who else is asking? Kelly’s comments follow below:

“It’s not my choice, but I am seeing this, it is affecting our recruiting. People, the first question they ask is, Are you giving scholarships? And I have to be honest and say that we’re not. And you’re starting to see in the league this year that some of these scholarship athletes are starting to make an impact on the league right away. In fact, just look at the two quarterbacks from Holy Cross and Lafayette last week. There are two great examples right there. Actually, we’re going to have to make a decision what we’re doing here.”

A follow-up from this weekend from veteran PL writer Paul Reinhard:

“Georgetown lost for the seventh straight week. The administration at the university declined to go along with the rest of the league in instituting merit-based scholarships beginning with the [2013] recruiting class. Things are not going to get any better for the Hoyas [if] there is no change of mind from above. I will not be at all surprised if this is the last season at Georgetown for Coach Kelly. He told us [earlier] in the week that the university had to make a decision about scholarships for the future. I’m afraid that decision has already been made.”

The University is not a place that supports out of turn quotes, especially from coaches. A generation of track coaches never publicly complained when their facilities went away, when coaches were left borrowing vans for a nationally ranked program to train off-hours at Washington & lee HS because that was as good as they could get. In fact, for some number of years there was no public comment about track facilities, save for a frank discussion by Ron Helmer at an athletic awards dinner one year. Helmer was later hired away by Indiana, which could offer him full-sized facilities for both indoor and outdoor track which would dwarf anything imaginable at Georgetown.

John Thompson or Craig Esherick didn’t choose to complain about how bad McDonough Gymnasium was for recruiting, though they well could have, and even now JT III is very measured in what he will say about the ongoing delays with the IAC. Georgetown has a field hockey team that practices at American and plays at College Park because Georgetown never fixed Kehoe Field. As a result, the team is 2-16 and struggles to be of interest to any serious recruit in the sport. Even Kevin Kelly has steered clear of any substantive thoughts on the MSF dilemma, even as Benson made no secret about the mess in his last months as coach—and that was after a delay of 30 or 40 days, not 2,972.

Scholarships are different, however. Parents ask. Recruits ask. Reporters north of the Mason-Dixon line ask. But Georgetown seems to have no good answer on what to say. Yes, there are discussions, I’m convinced of that. But institutionally, it’s not the priority to the University as it is for the coaches, because the University isn’t losing credibility over a 1-8 season. But coaches are.

And consider this: Of the 24 seniors graduating next year, 21 were on the two-deep at some point this season. That’s a lot of gaps to fill, and if the results of the last recruiting class is any trend, the talent gap is going to widen even more in 2014. Kelly and his staff are facing a two pronged problem—the opponents are getting stronger and the replacements are getting weaker.

The last sustained statement from Georgetown on this issue? February 2012.

“Georgetown will continue its membership in the Patriot League in the sport of football and explore all of its options, including our ability to compete as a need-based aid program.  We remain committed to our goal of providing our student athletes with an unparalleled academic experience and an athletically competitive football program.”

Meanwhile, the coaches have to go out and recruit, perhaps with a 1-10 season under its belt, four years removed from 0-11 but more importantly, two years removed from an 8-3 season. They have to tell a parent why Lehigh can offer a $60,000 check but Georgetown can’t. Or tell another parent why Lafayette shows lots of pictures of their stadium and field house but Georgetown can't. Or, just as likely, they have to concede that five, 10, or 20 good prospects who were so interested at Georgetown a year ago will end up going somewhere else and there’s nothing they can do about it.

That’s deflating.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 8 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Colgate’s 34-14 win over Georgetown Saturday:

Not much that needs to be said after this game that wasn’t said after the Lehigh game.

Or The Fordham game. Or the Princeton game. Or the Brown game. Maybe even the Marist game.

A beaten up defense, little depth, and some bad luck. Sometimes there is a fine line between a five win team and a one-win team, but not this season. Many of the five points discussed each week could apply to this one as well

This isn’t a team losing games on last second field goals or turnovers. Georgetown has been outscored 103-33 in the first quarter this season. In its seven losses, the average margin at the half is more than two touchdowns. When it gets to the red zone, the Hoyas are pretty good. Problem is, they’ve been there 24 times this season. Its opponents? 44 times.

There will be plenty of times to discuss the state of the program entering 2014, and with an unusually early Senior Day this Saturday versus Lafayette, this question: is it time to honor—and then sit—much the senior class in the remaining three weeks of the season?

With few exceptions, it’s a credit to this class – and a cautionary tale for 2014 – that the Class of 2014 has some of the best players by position on this team. From quarterback to the offensive line, receivers linebackers, secondary, special teams, and more, the seniors are the backbone of this team. The names are familiar to Hoya fans: Kempf, Campanella, Durham, Campbell, Wharton, Caldwell-Meeks. Saturday, the class will be honored for a remarkable four years where they arrived from a 0-11 team, rose to an 8-3 season, then saw it sink under .500 once again.

That having been said, and every senior knows this, the end is in sight. Every one of these young men wants to play every remaining down of football, which may be among the last competitive games they will play going forward. But it’s also a nod to the schedule that it may be time to at least consider a changing of the guard after the Lafayette game, and here’s why.

Senior Day versus Lafayette introduces a late bye week on Nov. 9, followed by two road games which the Hoyas will again be significant underdogs. Yes, Georgetown could go one a roll and finish 4-7, but it could just as easily finish 1-10. Regardless of the record, replacing 26 seniors will be no small task. Is it worth a two week head start on 2014?

The torch has been passed at quarterback, where Kyle Nolan is getting starts that, in any competitive season, might have still gone to Isaiah Kempf. And while many other positions have seen the loss of seniors by injury, the staff has to learn which of the upperclassmen are going to take the mantle of leadership and responsibility. Who is the next Duston Wharton? The next Stephen Atwater? The next Matt MacZura?

That doesn’t mean benching the entire class, far from it. They deserve better. As time allows, they need ton contribute. But as opportunities arise, it may now be time to get some more reps from a Leo Loughery, a Myles Braxton-Johnson, a Ben Priddy. The impact of game experience isn’t reached in spring practice or August two-a-days, but many teams can’t afford the loss of talent to give freshmen enhanced playing time down the stretch of a season. As it stands right now, Georgetown can and whether it’s 3-8 or 2-9 or 1-10, the need doesn’t go away when the sting of the season does.

So what is being lost heading into next season? A lot.

After 2013, Georgetown loses one of the top five or six quarterbacks of the modern era, who fought back from a potentially career-ending injury for one more season for his school. It graduates three of its top four running backs, its starting wide receiver, its starting tight end, and much of its offensive line.

Defensively, Senior Day salutes the transition of its top two linebackers, three of its top four in the secondary, its punter, place kicker, and leading kick returner. And that’s no comfort for what follows.  Next year’s rising senior class is almost exclusively defensive players (16 of 21), putting added pressure on the  freshmen and sophomores on the offense to get up to speed in a big way to prepare for 2014.

Playing a young lineup isn’t “tanking” games or “mailing it in.” Rome wasn’t built in a  day and neither was this season. The Davidson win was nice, but face facts: Davidson is arguably the weakest team in the subdivision this year, having not scored more than 14 points against any Division I team and giving up 98 in its last two games to Marist and Jacksonville. Georgetown’s loss to Marist was far more telling, and it’s been one long first half every week since.

Day by day, practice by practice, game by game, injuries helped expose a team too lean in some positions, too small in others, and ill-prepared to mount the level of defensive intensity to facilitate comebacks. So what now?

Senior Day ought to be the opportunity for Georgetown to put together its best 60 minutes of the season, and extend an unusual three game win streak against Lafayette, where the three games were decided by late game Leopard mistakes in each. Despite its meager non-conference slate, Lafayette is still a contender in a year where the PL race looks a lot like the NFC East. A fourth loss to Georgetown would (almost) be as upsetting as a sixth straight loss to Lehigh. OK, maybe not quite that upsetting, but a deflating setback nonetheless.

After that, it’s time to figure out what November holds for this team and who needs to step up—if not now, then next season. For this year’s senior class, they’ve done their part.