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					College Football - Worst to First - Turning Around a Losing Program

<p>Building a successful college football program requires several key
ingredients. Now that the 2008 campaign has concluded for some truly
awful programs, the work to build losers into winners has begun. It is
appropriate now, to look at some of the significant elements required for
building a winning football program. Included on this list
are:</p><p>Finding enough Murray State and Western Kentucky football
programs to build a schedule around, Identifying enough alumni who really
believe in the institution's academic focus to give thousands of hard-
earned dollars so they can be entertained on autumn Saturdays, and
Figuring out a way to attract some decent athletes that are capable of
constructing enough complete sentences to pass Freshman
English.</p><p><b>Scheduling</b></p><p>Early pioneers of creative
scheduling used to rely on sportswriters to simply pick their team as a
contender for the National Championship. In years past, the Cornish Game
Huskers of Nebraska routinely scheduled unbelievably weak opponents to
open their season. They would fill Memorial Stadium in Lincoln with
throngs of beer basted, red nosed (and clad) fans to watch the Huskers
thrash teams that could hardly assemble eleven people for the kick
off.</p><p>The advent of the BCS scoring system changed all that. Instead
of arranging weekly massacres of poor opponents in September, the Big and
Red administration had to try and bring in some quality opponents such as
Southern Cal and Virginia Tech. It is bad enough that Nebraska has to
face serious competition in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas during their
conference schedule. Now, that danged BCS has made the Big and Red Fans
(BaRFs), actually see some real games during the harvest
season.</p><p>The University of Michigan - another of the hallowed
monster football programs - used to try the weak-sister scheduling method
to gather steam for a national championship run. Unfortunately for them
(and a blessedly for the rest of us), over the past two seasons, they
scheduled in Appalachian State and the University of Utah as part of
their September Patsy Parade. The really bad news for the Wolverines is
that both AppState and the Utes actually showed up. In 2008, an early
loss to Utah set the stage for a remarkable skid into the grey land of
bowl ineligibility. Now, all the snow choked Wolverine fans have to make
up a reason to go drink beer in Florida while other teams continue to
play football.</p><p>The Indiana Hoosier football team didn't harbor any
realistic thoughts of attending a bowl game this year, but they followed
the scheduling methodology perfectly. They then hit the tank after a 2-0
start. In taking a closer look, those two early season wins against
Western Kentucky and Murray State didn't actually qualify as genuine
games. Still, the Hoosiers actually played the games and managed to
defeat both. It just didn't prepare them for the rest of the Big Ten
schedule, which quickly relegated Indiana to their usual place sweeping
up the stalls at the bottom of the heap.</p><p><b>Alumni
Relations</b></p><p>It has been said that to be successful as a college
administrator, one must provide three things to three different
constituencies. Students want sex, the faculty wants parking and alumni
want winning sports. While the student interest generally takes care of
itself and a modest effort can pacify the faculty demand for parking
places and hook ups for electric cars, the Alumni demand is quite a bit
more challenging.</p><p>Some of the more creative administrators remember
that alumni were once students themselves and therefore might be more
closely attuned to the student demand. That is why cheerleaders are
instructed to perform in front of the alumni section as much as in front
of the student cheap seats.</p><p>Free beer and chips also keep alumni
pacified during losing seasons, but at some point, the administration
needs to deliver either a winner on the field or provide the hope for
delivering a winner. It is this last point that impacts the career of
football coaches. Coaches are motivators - not only of players but of
alumni as well. Players provide the muscle for on the field execution,
alumni provide the funds for the weight room as well as the recruiting
parties. Some of these alums attend as
well.</p><p><b>Recruiting</b></p><p>A tribute to Dan Hawkins (currently
coach of the Colorado Buffalos and formerly of Boise State), seems
appropriate here. Motivational speaking can only accomplish so much.
However, Hawkins has achieved a level of success rarely touched by
others. Convincing a star pampered athlete to leave the comfortable
confines of his San Diego prep school to play football on the frozen
prairie wasteland of Idaho is a remarkable feat. It is so cold there that
the field turned blue. Still the 'Hawk' hacked a powerhouse program out
of that wilderness due to superior coaching ability and outstanding
motivational skill.</p><p>Now, the University of Colorado - from its
stunningly beautiful Boulder, CO campus - thinks that Hawkins should
never lose another game. Unfortunately for the Buffalo Steaks, that
hasn't quite panned out just yet. Still, Hawkins has had some solid
recruiting success and the CU program at least appears headed in the
right direction. The Buffaloes are the Sage's pick for the surprise team
of 2009.</p><p>When it comes down to it, there is only so much the
coaches can do to produce a winner. They have to put talented athletes on
the field. Unfortunately, they have to put these same athletes in
Freshman English. Have you heard some of these athletes try to give a
radio interview? Ask what it is to conjugate a verb and many will just
ask for the key to the restroom. Success on the field does not guarantee
success in the classroom. This may be why Duke has such a problem putting
a competitive team on the field. Spelling one's name correctly on the
Duke entrance exam is but one requirement. Athletes need to be
academically able to attend the Stanfords, Northwesterns, Notre Dames and
Dukes of the football world. To these schools, the Sage sends his kudos.
You can't put students in the classroom who have trouble distinguishing
verb from pronoun, even if they can run 40 yards in 4.25
seconds.</p><p>There will be a number of new coaches and staffs in place
for the 2009 season. Usually, season one for a new coaching staff is a
disaster. Little recruiting has been done and there is no history for a
star recruit to look at to help in his decision to attend. It is in these
first years though, that the average viewer really learns who can coach
and who can't. If you have a team made up of essentially walk-on players
taking the field to play Oklahoma, you are going to find out who can
motivate his team to play its best. And every now and then, you get a
huge upset. That is why we keep tuning in and buying the College Football
Executive Package from our cable companies. So keep an eye on Sarkisian
at Washington next year...Should the Huskies win a game next year, it
will be because of solid coaching and not necessarily great
recruiting.</p><p>Winning football traditions bring multiple of factors
together for a successful season. But it's the losers that figure out
interesting ways to blow it. The Sage of College Football will be here to
bring you all the fun and interesting tidbits for 2009.</p><p>For more
wit and wisdom, please visit <a target="_new"
href="http://firstworst.com">http://firstworst.com</a></p>

				
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posted:7/13/2010
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