Tuesday, June 28, 2022

What the new ACC football schedule rotation means for BC

Divisions are out! Rotations are in! The long rumored scrap of the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions finally became official as the ACC unveiled their new football scheduling model. In the new format, each team will have three annual opponents and then fill their remaining conference games with a rotation of the other teams in the conference. In a four year cycle you will play every team. BC's annual opponents will be Pitt, Miami and Syracuse. This all starts in 2023 and is mostly good news for BC.

The Good
BC's annual opponents all make sense. They are all former Big East teams and we have series with each that even predate the Big East. Syracuse and Pitt are schools that we should be able to compete with nearly every year under any circumstance. Miami is more of a Wild Card. Historically they have dominated our series. However they have been mediocre and inconsistent for the last 20 years. If they return to glory that game is an automatic "L." Or they could remain a shell of what they once were. It is a risk for us. I prefer playing the Canes every year to playing Virginia Tech annually.

BC fans are also celebrating that the new rotation means we see all the conference teams more often. As much as it will be disappointing not to play Clemson annually (or even Wake), I am glad we will see Georgia Tech, UNC, and UVA more often. Also, perhaps absence will make the heart grow fonder for opponents like NC State or Louisville, who we currently play annually, but no one really gets up for. 

The mix of familiarity and variety is good. And if it is a mess, they have created an out in four seasons.

The Bad
Losing the annual Clemson game is unfortunate and some of the history we have built in the past 15 years with the rest of our division is gone. But those aren't big deals. What is a big deal in my opinion is it just got that much harder to win the conference. Now you have to be better than 12 teams in the conference just to get to the Championship. In the Division format you only had to be better than six teams. Everything lining up is more realistic for one good run was and is statistically easier with fewer teams. 

Can it happen for BC in the new format? Sure. There might be years where we are good and our schedule is easy. But from a straight odds perspective it is harder now. 

Nothing last forever
There are so many issues looming in college sports, that it is almost a waste of time to get fired up about the divisions going bye bye. Expanded playoffs, NIL rules and even breakaway leagues might make scheduling woes trivial. For now, BC just needs to embrace the change and go out and beat everyone on their schedule. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Why I don't hate the reported Blake James hire

Pete Thamel first reported that BC is close to hiring former Miami AD Blake James as our new Athletic Director. While it is always best to wait on official word from BC, Thamel's report means it is a near certainty. Reaction was mixed among BC fans and cause for laughter and pity from Miami fans. Even considering the Miami fans' reaction, I am fine with the hire. Here is why.

Blake checked all of BC's boxes
Football has been king in college sports for decades, but now even at BC, football is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in focus and mindset. BC was always going to hire someone with real football experience. Even if a non-traditional candidate was considered (say Matt Hasselbeck), he/she was going to need some ties to football. This eliminated someone like Ed McLaughin and anyone else who didn't have operational football experience. 

You also knew that after the short tenures of Jarmond and Kraft, BC was going to over-correct and hire someone who was not in position to job hop, had ties to the area and was willing to sign a significant buyout. James had stints at Providence and Maine (New England ties: check), would probably not be in line for another P5 job anytime soon due to Miami baggage (won't job hop: check) and had no problem signing the buyout because he has enough foresight to read the room and the college landscape and knows no one is buying him out at BC. [BTW, how funny/sad is it that BC leaked the Kraft buyout numbers? They are proud that the last two ADs have basically paid for themselves.]

BC wanted a politician with ACC relationships. Lots of things are in play with the ACC from scheduling to how the conference will handle the SEC's breakaway threats and even the ACC's policies on NIL. BC knows that it needs someone who can walk the tight rope and knows all the parties involved well. James does that.  

What Miami fans are saying
Miami fans really dislike James. Their criticism seems to center on two areas (James' hiring decisions) and his personality. From afar, I give James somewhat of a pass on hiring. While not all of his hires panned out, they all made sense to me and were praised at the time. Plus, barring something unexpected, James won't have to make a major BC hire in the next few years.

A bit more concerning is that they shared that James is very political, very sensitive and holds grudges. He sort of sounds like their version of DeFilippo. While not a comparison any BC fan would like to see, I am willing to give James a fresh start and will just be on alert for GDF like behavior. 

What I hope to see
Is James perfect for BC? No. I would have preferred someone with a little more upside and less baggage. However, he seems like he can handle the internal BC politics and the ACC politics. That is critical in this time of transition and uncertainty. If he can raise money, empower the coaches and stay out of their way, this can and should work for the next four or five years. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Jerry York let us all live the dream

There is no way Boston College, the BC community or any BC fan could every thank Jerry York enough for what he has done for all of us. We will have great coaches again. We will win championships again, but we will never have a legend who was one of us and who handled himself with the grace and class for decades. 

York didn't need to coach at BC. He won a National Championship and was well on his way to the Hall of Fame at Bowling Green. At the time, BC was such a mess that Mike Milbury quit before ever coaching a game. Not only did York take the job when things were at their worst, he rebuilt the team and then made it the premier college hockey program in the country. But even all that only scratches the surface of why we should be so appreciative of York.

Off the ice York was the ultimate "BC Guy." He supported the other teams and coaches. He was warm to the students and fans. As leadership and priorities shifted around him, he always put on a good face and didn't use his soapbox or leverage for internal power plays that happen with so many successful coaches in college sports. 

Like most winning coaches, York was a great recruiter and a great tactician. He could sell the school and develop players, but what stands out is that he also embraced a few great players that others dismissed because they didn't fit the physical mold of traditional hockey stars. 

I am glad he is leaving on his own terms. He earned that right. As much as he wants to be present for his family and grandchildren, I assume he will still be a regular at a variety of BC events...like he always has.

Every time there is a BC coaching search, a former Eagle or two gets floated for the job because we all love the idea of one of our own coming home and returning us to glory. We are spoiled and want another dozen Jerry Yorks. But there will never be another. 

Thank you, Jerry. 

Monday, December 27, 2021

Lots of Elephants in the room with BC's bowl cancellation

I am sure this will piss people off. Please read it all. And let me preface it all by saying: 1. I am fully vaccinated, as is the rest of my family. 2. I have nothing against Annapolis or Shreveport or East Carolina or anything else related to lower-tier bowls. 3. I have experienced plenty of cancellations in work, sports and life since 2020 and understand this will be more common than it ever was prior to 2020.

I feel for the BC players and their families. They missed Christmas with each other and one last chance to play for nothing. I am sure plenty of BC Football families lost money related to travel for nothing. All of this could have been prevented if we acknowledged the following: we need to end these nonsense bowls and we need to let the young, healthy and vaccinated live their lives with COVID.

The Current Bowl System needs to end
I love college football and I love having random bowl games and random matchups on as background noise during the holiday week. However, the whole enterprise is stupid and outdated. Even huge fanbases are not selling out their ticket allotment to prestigious bowls (see Ohio State at the Rose Bowl). Players on elite teams are skipping their games to avoid injury. There is no upside to anyone outside the playoffs. All the talk of reward for the players is hollow when tens of thousands are spent on travel to random undesirable destinations. The fabled "extra practices" are a tired fringe benefit that can't be measured and seem meaningless given the players are under some sort of development schedule year round. When the playoff expands, fans and players will care even less about bowls. 

The bowls are only around because of TV and greed from the people who do get paid (coaches and bowl admins). If ESPN wants to keep NIT level bowls after the expanded playoff, then let's get rid of these weird destination bowls and just have them host a series of inter-sectional matchups in cities with domes and/or good weather and hotel space to host game after game after game the week between Christmas and New Year's. In this example BC would play ECU in Orlando at noon on Dec 27, the next game would be in Atlanta at 3:30, the next in Vegas or Arizona or wherever. Fans who wanted could still travel, but the focus would be on the TV product and the convenience of travel to the site. And the players should get more than a gift package. Pay them the bonuses the coaches get or the money that goes to the host committees. These are just extra TV games. Let's stop pretending they are anything else.

These players should be able to play with COVID
The vaccine won't stop the spread. You can't get more compliant than BC football, yet we still had a significant outbreak. BC was not going to rock the boat -- especially over the Military Bowl -- but let's be honest, they could have played. The vast majority of positives were asymptomatic, young and in great physical shape. They were not going to harm themselves nor their opponents. Everyone knows that at this point. Should high-risk fans and family members comes to a game where there have been positive tests? Probably not, but let them make that decisions. Let the player who want to play, play. If we really cared about player safety we wouldn't even have football, because playing football is much more dangerous to these young men than COVID will be. 

What should BC do? 
It is against BC's nature to lead any risky change or take a stand that might bring controversy. So they will never be the school to lead the charge to end bowl games...but they should. We don't benefit from the bowls, so let's move to a system that benefits BC or at least gives us something productive and tangible to shoot for.

BC should lead the movement to let vaccinated college athletes play regardless as long as they feel healthy enough to play and want to play. (Our players suffered more from food poisoning in Cleveland Circle than this outbreak). The pandemic and the vaccine are politicized. The only way to work to deescalate and bring some pragmatism is for mid-size, mid-profile businesses and institutions like BC to bring some sense to the situation. How we treat young low-risk athletes would be a start. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

BC-ECU preview

Last year BC decided to stay home from the bowls and everyone was ok with it. This year we are playing and it doesn't feel like anyone cares (among the fans). I am always up for more BC Football, but admit a matchup against East Carolina in Annapolis on December 27 wasn't on my bucket list of things to do. I will gladly watch though. I am sure other BC fans will too (we always are a good TV draw). I just hope the players care. The last bowl game we played in -- Birmingham in January 2020 -- was miserable on every front. If you are going to bother going to a game, make it count.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
When we used to win bowls, BC made a big deal of it. Our bowl record since the streak ended has been terrible (and BC obviously downplays it). But in general, I think the bowl record was a mix of the coaches at the time and where BC stood in the college landscape. TOB's BC teams did well in bowl because we usually played teams worse than us and TOB, for all his issues, was pretty good with a month to prepare. Jags lost a chaotic game amidst a chaotic professional week for him and GDF. Spaz was not a good coach but also faced two better teams. Addazio record was bad because he blew two different Pinstripe Bowls with coaching mistakes. This is a fresh start for Hafley and BC. I don't think he brings the baggage of recent losses. If anything this feels a bit like the TOB days where were are the favorite against a lower-level team.

Three Simple Keys
1. Run the zone read ten or more times. Our Oline is a strength and their run D is not great. By doing the zone read, you keep the ball in Jurk's hands and you open up things later in the game.
2. Stop their run game. They are a passing team. We have good pass defense. If they try to shake things up and keep it on the ground, we can't allow big plays.
3. No Special Teams mistakes. As I have pointed out, a few Special Teams mistake led to games unraveling for us. We can't let that happen this week.

Gambling Notes
-- BC is 1-1 against current AAC teams in bowl games
-- BC is 14-13 in bowl games
-- BC has never played East Carolina
The current line is BC-3

BC's last trip to Navy-Marine Corps. Memorial Stadium was September 22, 2001. That was our first game back after September 11. BC is 9-3 all-time in the Stadium.

Scoreboard Watching
To be honest, I will watch a lot of football in the next week, but there are very few games that are must watch. I hope the Playoffs provide some excitement and I am definitely in the anyone but Alabama stage of fandom. I guess: "go Dawgs!"

I hope to see...
A healthy Jurk. The Georgia Tech game was glorious. That is what he can be. That is what he should be. If he is healthy like that he is one of the best QBs in the country and BC can beat anyone.

BC is in trouble if...
We turn the ball over more than the Pirates. ECU thrived off of turnovers this season. We need to be careful with the ball.

Bottom Line
I am not worried about this game. I think we will be healthy and have something to prove. Hafley is extended. He has his first bowl game. He needs this to be a statement about his team and his future. I think BC pounds the ball and gets a few picks to win with ease.
Final Score: BC 35, ECU 17

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The most important things Jeff Hafley said about his recruiting class


Jeff Hafley just signed one of BC's highest-rated recruiting classes since the various internet sites started tracking these things. [ An aside about recruiting...While I do believe that bigger, faster and stronger makes a difference, I remain a skeptic of the recruiting services. There are just too many players out there and too many variables in development to put that much faith in the services. Where I think they have importance is in the positive momentum that they generate among high school players and coaches. Players want to join a winner and if they think other big-time players are headed to BC, it makes Hafley's pitch that much more persuasive.]

We won't have a true measure of this class for a few seasons. In the meantime, I found Hafley's post-Signing Day media appearances very insightful. He is clearly rehearsed and smoother than his predecessors, but still candid. What he had to say was almost as important as who he signed.

1. Hafley admitted he pays attention to the recruiting services and rankings. This is a first for BC. He even pulled back the curtain and said all coaches say they don't pay attention to the services but they all do. While I appreciate his honesty, I thought how he uses them was telling. He said that he asks his staff not to share with him any info on the recruit prior to Hafley's chance to watch the player's tape. Only after he has watched the tape, does he want to know what the services are saying and who is also allegedly recruiting the player. This was music to my ears. It shows a level of detail and doing your homework on a guy but not dismissing other relevant information. I also appreciated Hafley explaining that he only looks at a player after the position coach and coordinator have evaluated the player. Will this system work? I don't know. Hafley has proven to have a good eye for evaluation, so I don't know if he would be more valuable early in the screening process, but it is his team and his system.

2. BC is going to zig instead of zag when it comes to the transfer portal. In my mind, I thought the transfer portal would be a boon for BC. We could clean up on other teams' washouts and get some reclamation products like Jurk. I think a place like BC sells better for a kid who is older and might have been burned. However, that is not what Hafley is going to do. While we will still take transfers, he is going to build the program on traditional high school recruits. What I found interesting is he thinks the transfer portal has made it easier for BC to recruit high school players. He explained that all the colleges are working the portal and somewhat ignoring the high school talent pool. He also explained that fewer high schoolers are getting scholarships. This means BC's pitch is well recieved.

3. He is not yet locking BC into a certain geography or recruiting strategy. While other regimes hit the Midwest hard or tried to build a wall around New England, Hafley is not putting one area above others. He said getting the best players from New England is important, but after that he wants to recruit nationally. We didn't even have our usual allotment from New York and New Jersey. With communication and travel it is probably easier to evaluate kids across the country. But I do think having friendly areas or programs will be needed long-term. Some of our best players have come from either knowing a school real well or getting a tip off from a friendly and trusted high school coach.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Hafley gets off the Coaching Carousel

After a season of speculation, Jeff Hafley finally addressed the coaching world gossip. When asked, Haf said: "I do not plan of leaving. I plan on being here a long time." And with that we are assured of Year 3 of Jeff Hafley at BC.

I am glad Hafley is staying. For all my frustrations with how this season played out, I still feel strongly that he will succeed at BC and in the rest of his coaching career. The parts of the job that might be more innate -- relating to recruits, seeing talent that others might not see, and clock management -- Hafley has. The parts that primarily come from experience (managing a staff, roster management, making in game and in season adjustments when things are spiraling) will hopefully improve. Based on his work ethic and personality, I still have faith in Hafley. I think this year was a learning experience. Year 3 will tell us everything.

But amidst all the talk, I wasn't bothered by any of it. Lots of it is speculation. Much of it comes from agents trying to drum up interest or new deals for their clients. Sometimes schools will leak targets to get some public vetting done and to gauge their fanbase's reaction. I was told the Washington and USC chatter did not come from Hafley's reps. (I don't know if I believe it.) But it doesn't matter. He is not getting the USC job and closed the door on the Washington job. 

But I wasn't bothered by this talk because I never expected Hafley to be here long. When you hire young, ambitious, charismatic people in this profession, you can't count on them staying long. Maybe you will get the lifer but more often than not you will get the guy who is looking for the next challenge and the next payday. That is just the nature of the profession. Maybe one day BC will have its very own Beamer or Bowden, but I don't see Jeff Hafley as that guy.

Now we get to see if Hafley can be something special. I hope he is and if he is, there will always be some speculation. But in general, I will take that trade for attention getting success.