Friday, November 14, 2014

'Ships In the Night

Yes, it's been five weeks since the blog was updated. A little too much work and not enough sleep upset the weekly to-do to get the blog out each Monday, but to be fair, the comments would have been remarkably consistent:

The Hoyas' defense sure played well.

The offensive game plan is conservative and isn't very productive.

The special teams missed another play this week.

Georgetown still makes too many mistakes with the game on the line.

It may be another loss but this teem sure has a lot of fight in it. They might just win next week against...

Over the course of the five game losing streak, the last statement would have applied to any of Georgetown's adversaries, even Harvard. It last three Patriot League losses were all in single digits and there were clear points in those games where a turn here or there could have put the Hoyas in contention to win it. Lafayette. Bucknell. Lehigh.

But no further.

Scenarios which show Georgetown battling Fordham into the sunset skies of the Bronx Saturday afternoon are all but nonexistent. Not only is Fordham ranked as high in the national polls (#8) at any time since Sleepy Jim Crowley's Rams ran roughshod at the Polo Grounds, or that it wrapped up the Patriot League autobid a week ago, or even that Fordham is a 28.5 point favorite for any degenerates in Las Vegas who are absolutely out of things to wager on.

For most of the last century, the football fortunes of Fordham and Georgetown have paralleled one another. Not so anymore. In fact, the last three years have seen these two programs move in distinctly different directions.

On Senior Day, 2011, Georgetown forced four turnovers and held Fordham to just 59 yards rushing as the Hoyas won 30-13, raising its record to 8-2. Fordham stood at 1-9. Over the next 30 games, the Hoyas have won just nine games. Over the next 30 games, the Rams have lost just eight. That's not by accident. While Georgetown has noticeably stood pat in the Patriot League arms race, Fordham is at the front of the line. And while Georgetown's  football budget has been mostly flat for the last decade, Fordham now spends $5.7 million on football each year, more than all but eight Division I-AA schools nationally. In fact, that's more than almost a dozen I-A schools in the Sun Belt and Mid-American Conferences.

More about that later.  But for 2014, budget or not, Fordham is a very, very good team. They have mostly steamrolled the opposition this season, with the exception of a thumping at Villanova, so strangers to the I-AA limelight. Fordham QB Michael Nebrich is a legitimate NFL prospect, and not one of those free agent signings whose career in the NFL never make it out of a early June mini camp. Nebrich is from Lake Braddock HS in Fairfax County, but there's no particular record he was interested in playing for Georgetown. The recruiting services at the time linked him with James Madison , Marshall or Ohio. He ended up at UConn but when Joe Moorhead left Storrs to become the Fordham coach, Nebrich followed, reinvigorating his career. In eight games in 2014. Nebrich averages 325 yards passing per game with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions, an efficiency rating of 163.4.  During that same period, Kyle Nolan has six touchdowns and five INT's.

Nebrich doesn't do it alone, of course. Sixty scholarships allows Fordham to recruit with the best of them, to schedule teams like Temple and Army  (next week's Ram opponent) and to sell the excitement scholarship football in New York.  Attendance hasn't followed suit (the Rams still average less than 5,000 a game), but until Moorhead takes another job outside of the Bronx, Fordham figures to be in the limelight for quite a number of years.

Fordham now spends more on football than Georgetown did on men's basketball in 2005. Think about that.

Georgetown doesn't spend that figure today. The Hoyas' basketball budget has zoomed past $10 million with little discussion nor dissent, but a winning basketball team can draw fans and TV money in March. Fordham can sweep the Patriot and still play before 4,000 people in a first round playoff game seen on ESPN3 from Macomb, IL. One of the perverse ironies is that Fordham's football budget grows while its basketball team is under-invested--the Rams have gone to one NCAA tournament since Digger Phelps was the coach in 1971. Put another way, Fordham's last win in the NCAA's came when John Thompson was a high school teacher and his son was a first grader.

If the Rams were spending on football what it spends on basketball ($3.9 million), they'd be competitive but not dominant; close to the PL budget spend along the lines of a Holy Cross. Conversely, if they were spending $5.7 million on basketball, that would be more than Georgia Tech, Notre Dame or Creighton, probably enough for a big name coach like Larry Brown, a few games at the Garden, and a fairly good chance that as many or more people would be talking about Fordham in march than St. John's, a program in a 15 year slump.

That isn't happening. Fordham averages 2,330 a game in basketball and lost 17 of its last 20 to end the 2013-14 season.

Also not happening: a $5.7 million football budget at Georgetown.

But that's not to say that Georgetown can't improve that budget. Plenty of PL fans go on message boards and assume that since Georgetown doesn't have football scholarships, it can't, or that the Hoyas are hell-bent on the competitive hospice that is the  Pioneer League. Neither are true.

I truly believe there is a scholarship solution (athletic and otherwise) which will get Georgetown to where it wants to be in competitive college football. But, as Jack DeGioia echoed three years ago, it is not going to be at a level where Georgetown will have to spend more on football scholarships than it spends on soccer, lacrosse, track, rowing, golf, tennis, and baseball combined. At some point, but not now, that'll be a point of discussion. For now, there's a game, and a rivalry to attend to, even if the recent results do not resemble a rivalry.

Next week, Fordham plays Army. Next week, Georgetown plays Holy Cross.  If anything explains the divergent road taken among these two schools, that ought to.