Friday, November 30, 2012

ICYMI: some links from the past week

SI gathered a mock selection committee to develop a Final Four for football. It is an interesting process and hints that the four-team playoff will expand to eight or 16 teams quickly.

The Sports Pickle made BC the center of their bit on conference shuffling. Do you think the neighbors would complain about the noise created during the raid?

BC Magazine profiled Steve Donahue. Since it came from a BC outlet, it easily could have been a fluff piece, but I thought they were fair and helped inform on Donahue's style and approach.

This is over a week old, but if you haven't seen it already, please watch the ESPN piece on Tom Coughlin and the McGillis family.

Mark Herzlich called this one of the better pieces on him. Definitely worth the watch.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why NFL names are popping up

All of a sudden any NFL assistant with a pulse seems to have his name in the BC mix. This shouldn't be that surprising. There are a lot of reasons why NFL names are being tied to the BC job.

Public interviews help NFL guys. Public interviews hurt college guys.
College head coaches love when their names are rumored for new jobs, but never want to be revealed as a true candidate unless they are going to get the job. If a college guy publicly interviews and doesn't get the job, it undermines his relationship with his recruits and his fans. If an NFL guy interviews for a college head job, it raises his profile within the NFL and with other colleges.

BC is a very appealing job to NFL guys.
NFL guys know that Coughlin and Jags both transitioned from NFL assistants to winners at BC. Plus BC offers more on an NFL lifestyle experience than most college jobs. You live in a major city and not a college town. The job is very light on rubber chicken dinners and boaster functions. While you will still have issues dealing with college kids, in general BC kids are a little more focused and mature than your average BCS program. Recruiting -- which can often feel like pulling teeth for NFL guys -- is not intense at BC. To succeed you are going to have to find good talent, but there is no expectations to go and get all the five stars. Heck, half of the elite recruits wouldn't get by BC's admissions office. If don't want to spend all your time texting and sweet talking high school kids, you can still find BC talent.

There are still only so many opportunities to be in charge
Greg Roman has salvaged Alex Smith's career and groomed Colin Kaepernick and has been a key part of the 49ers revival, yet he is a long shot to get an NFL job this season. Aaron Kromer got an shot as an interim interim in New Orleans, but that might have doomed him with the NFL this year. Pete Carmichael Jr has been the OC of the NFL's best offense but everyone credits Brees and Peyton. Guys like John McNulty or Rob Chudzinski are on struggling NFL teams. There future with their respective positions is uncertain. You don't think they would jump at the chance to take control of their careers and destinies?

This is Bates first chance to seriously talk to NFL candidates
BC has the budget and track record to attract NFL guys. That wasn't the case at Miami of Ohio. Bates admittedly is not as networked into the NFL circuit as he is in college. Given his methodical approach to things, it makes sense that he is exploring all the NFL possibilities.

My ranking of rumored NFL candidates
I am lukewarm on Kromer, but love a lot of the other rumored NFL names. I think Mike Sullivan, Greg Roman and Pete Carmichael Jr would all do really well at BC. If I had to order them, I would give a slight edge to Roman for his recent college success at Stanford. I don't think Sullivan is some sort of Coughlin clone, but there are a lot of similarities. Carmichael's lack of relevant college experience gives me a little pause, but he is one of us and that counts for a lot.

1. Greg Roman
2. Mike Sullivan
3. Pete Carmichael Jr
4. Rob Chudzinski
5. Aaron Kromer
6. John McNulty
7. Jim Turner

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Despite scary stretch, basketball bounces back with a win

After the Bryant debacle, I didn't know what to expect tonight as BC took on Penn State. Fortunately we won. The game was one of many streaks. BC built up a huge lead in the second half as Penn State couldn't buy a shot. Then PSU started pressing...and it got ugly. Remember when Skinner's teams struggled with full court pressure? This was like that only much worse. The lead was cut to four. BC finally calmed down thanks to the freshmen guards. Here are my other thoughts. Leave yours below.

Likes
-- Solid minutes from Van Nest. Who knows when Clifford will be 100%. We are very lucky that Van Nest can step up. He finished close to the basket. He played good D and made some big shots.
-- Hanlan closing out the game. When it looked like things would fall apart Hanlan made some big plays. He also converted most of his foul shots.
-- Improved 3-point shooting. Donahue's system is dependent upon the 3. We haven't been making them until tonight.

Dislikes
-- The ballhandling during the press. This is where we miss Jordan Daniels. I expect other teams to watch this tape and try the same thing.
-- Mental errors from Jackson and Heckmann. There were plenty of errors for the whole team but these two guys had some real headscratchers (i.e. Jackson fouling on a 3-point attempt).

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Louisville doesn't matter, ACC cable network does

The ACC voted to invite Louisville to join the conference. Ostensibly it was about replacing Maryland. The reality was the move was also about protecting the conference from future poaching. Louisville was also a rumored target for the Big XII. The rationale is that if the ACC gets to 16 first, they will protect themselves if or when things truly become four 16-team Super Conferences. The Big XII is only at 10 teams and really only has two heavyweights in Texas and Oklahoma. ACC leadership is betting that it will be easier for the good Big XII teams to find new homes as opposed to the Big XII enticing six ACC teams to join them.

But lost in the Louisville news is a report that the ACC and ESPN are exploring a cable network. I've been calling for this for months and I am glad people in Bristol finally woke up. Having its own cable network is the only way the ACC will ever get to revenue parity with the other conferences and is the only way Florida State and Clemson start to feel more comfortable with the ACC's future. The move makes sense for ESPN too as it provides stability to its exclusive partner (the ACC) and controls all the content on various platforms.

As for Louisville, I am indifferent on actually playing them. They don't fit the ACC's academic profile, but the last few weeks have proven that none of this is about academics.

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Honoring Dick Kelley

Lost amid the holiday and headlines last week was a very important announcement. The Varsity Club honored Sports Information Director Dick Kelley with their inaugural Varsity Club Medal. Dick is a friend of mine, but any BC fan or member of the BC community owes Dick thanks for helping shape the image of Boston College. If you've ever been proud of the stories told about BC athletes or how they present themselves to the world, much of that image, poise and polish is because of the work of Dick and his colleagues in BC's Sports Information Department.

The award isn't just about Dick helping kids with their interview skills. It is also about his love and dedication to BC. People throw around the idea of loyalty to the school, but Dick is living it. For the past year Dick has been battling the effects of ALS. Yet he is still contributing to BC every chance he gets.

The article linked above had a few select quotes from Dick's friends and a few former BC athletes. If BC had wanted to, they could have grabbed another hundred compliments and stories from people who love Dick and are praying for him as he continues his fight against ALS. I am thankful that the Varsity Club created this honor and hopefully they induct him into the Hall of Fame soon.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

These guys won't be BC's new coach

Lots of names get floated during a search process. Some of it is speculation, some of it is a favor to an agent or coach and some of it is reporting. I've been guilty of doing all three.

Occasionally the decisionmakers float a name as a trail balloon or to distract. I don't know how Brad Bates operates yet, so I assume he won't be leaking any names as a power play this time around. But I do know enough about the process that a lot of the names being mentioned already are not real candidates. I assume their names are coming up as speculation or as a favor to the named coach. Here are four that have been floated that will not get the job:

Mark Whipple. Whipple told Gene to shove it six years ago when he realized keeping Spaz on as DC was the only way to get the head job. Hindsight shows he was right about that sort of working environment being untenable. But nothing he has done in the last six years shows that he is the right guy for the job now. He's bounced around the NFL and had a mediocre run as Miami's Offensive Coordinator. It has been ten years since he's been a head coach. His history with this particular job, his age and his record mean that Whipple will not be a factor this time around.

Sean McDonnell.  McDonnell himself is dismissing his candidacy. His record at UNH is nice but there is little to suggest he is the right guy to turn BC around. I think at this point BC is looking for a mix of experience and youthful energy. I don't think a long-time established New England FCS coach is going to come in and have that burning desire to make BC great again.

Tim Murphy. Tim Murphy has a lot of fans in the local media, local coaching community and even at BC. Chip Kelly is also a big advocate. But his record at Cincinnati is one red flag. The fact that BC is watching another Ivy League coach in a major sport struggle with his transition to the ACC/BC is another red flag. This is a recurring theme and makes me sound like an ageist, but Murphy is on the wrong side of 55. Can he go out and find every recruit BC needs? Is he going to adjust his staff and ways of operating to compete in the ACC?

Kevin Gilbride. I like Kevin Gilbride (and in full disclosure I went to high school with his daughter). He may be a favorite of some vocal Alumni, but he is not getting the job this time around. Age (he's 61), his losing record as a head coach, his long time away from the college game and his past history with this particular job all lead to him not being a real candidate this time around.

I've been wrong about these things before (see Ryan Day for OC), but I feel pretty confident these guys are not going to be coaching BC next year. If I had to hedge on any of them it would be Murphy. He is so well liked by so many that Bates may give him a shot, but that would only come after many, many other candidates fell through.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Ranking the MAC candidates

Brad Bates wants a younger guy with head coaching experience. The most logical place to look for an up and coming coach who has hands-on experience and is looking to jump is the MAC. Fortunately for BC, Bates came from a MAC school and knows the personalities well. This process will have many twists and turns, but I expect our new coach to come from the MAC. Here is how I would rate the potential candidates:

1. Pete Lembo, Ball State. Lembo hasn't received the attention that some of the others have, but he is a very strong candidate. He's a New Yorker and coached in the northeast at Lehigh. He played at Georgetown and although he is young, he's been a head coach for a long time. The only hole on his resume is recruiting in a BCS level conference.
2. Darrell Hazell, Kent State. He's a New Jersey native and has Kent State in the Top 25 (where they haven't been in years). He has key recruiting experience in Ohio and New Jersey. I think he will get a long look. The only problem is that he has only had two years experience as a head coach and in his first season he had a losing record.
3. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois. I think Doeren would be ideal. He has an intensity and work ethic that we've been lacking since Coughlin. I think he could come to BC, do big things and restore our talent base quickly. His record at Northern Illinois has been very impressive. But I don't think he'll end up at at the Heights. His name is being mentioned for multiple jobs and I don't see BC chasing after the "hot" name. I've been wrong before, but if Doeren ends up at Purdue, I think it will be a missed opportunity for both sides.
4. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green. This name should be very familiar to BC fans, as he was a candidate in 2007. He's 22-27 at Bowling Green but his wins are trending in the right direction. His ties to the northeast and varied head coaching experience would make him an ideal fit at BC. There is only one problem: his very close relationship with Gene. I don't think it will fully disqualify him, but enough people know about it and enough people would raise the question publicly that I don't see it happening. Bates is his own man, but I doubt he wants to deal with any Gene-related baggage on this hire.
5. Matt Campbell, Toledo. There is young and then there is Matt Campbell. Only 32, Campbell is in his first year as the head guy in Toledo. His record is strong, but his experience is so limited outside of Toledo and Mount Union, that I don't see BC rolling the dice with him now.

The other MAC guys are either too old (Solich) or coming off disappointing seasons. If we go MAC, it will be one of those five guys.

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Six things to remember during the coaching search

Hundreds of names have been posted regarding the coaching search. At least half are utter nonsense. I've already written about some of the names and will profile more this week. In the mean time as we prepare for the search, let's keep these six things in mind:

1. The conference shakeup won't impact things all that much. As a member of the ACC, BC is still part of the "Big Five" and still has access to the playoff. There are a lot of things that still have to unfold and none of it will be decided in the next three weeks. The "A" list might hesitate, but that is because guys like Golden and Mullen already have access to the BCS. If they are going to make a move it will be about improving their chances to win national championships. It won't be about going to a program that is outside of the "Big Four" in three or four seasons.
2. There won't be many real candidates also in the mix at other jobs. The openings at Cal, Colorado, NC State, and Purdue won't greatly impact BC. Dave Doeren might get interest from some of those schools. Mike MacIntyre will have interest from the West Coast schools, but overall we are going to have a much more deliberate plan and won't just chase a "hot" name for a this job.
3. New names will arise. Ball State Pete Lembo is earning attention and will be part of the initial list. Other names will also pop up as agents, friends of BC and Bates begin exploring back channels. I know someone like Lembo doesn't inspire many people but for a B List choice, he is very strong.
4. The new coach will be young. Every school tends to hire the opposite of their last coach. BC is no exception. We are not going to hire someone over 60 or even nearing 60. That means Mike Sherman is not happening.
5. There will be plenty of courtesy calls and interviews. Bates is not a bridge burner like Gene was. If legitimate guys call, they will get a call back. If former BC players call, Bates will speak with them. This doesn't mean that a guy like Jim Turner is a real candidate, but it might lead to him getting a courtesy interview. Those sorts of calls will appease the football alumni and help Bates rebuild the spirit around the football program.
6. NFL guys are the great unknown. Bates knows the MAC and that is probably where our new coach is from, but he respects the NFL aspect of BC. Because of his son and just the way he dealt with things, Gene knew many NFL people. Bates has spent all of his career in college sports. He will talk to NFL guys like Tim Sullivan and Pete Carmichael, but I don't know how they will fare. 

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Four seasons wasted, let's not make the same mistake again

I've already written plenty on why Spaz deserved to get fired. But as we begin a new search the most important lesson the BC Athletic leadership should learn is not to waste players' and fans' time and energy again. We will have losing seasons again...probably even next year. We will have bad head coaches again. We -- the players and the fans -- are not owed permanent success. What we are owed is a reasonable goal and a plan to reach that goal. You can say Spaz had a plan, but anyone who is honest with themselves or their assessment of Spaz as a coach knows that from Day 1 he was never going to take BC anywhere. He was a placeholder and puppet at best. Every day he was in charge at BC was a day lost. We could have been getting better. Or at least trying to get better. Spaz was always trying to hold someone else's vision together without the freedom or instinct on how to handle the staff, the players, the recruiting or the games themselves. It was painful to watch from afar. I can't imagine what it was like to be part of the team.

Players only get four years to play. Student fans are also limited in their SuperFan experience. It is precious time. I hope our new coach respects that finite window in which our future players and fans build their relationship with BC. We've all just wasted four years. I don't want to waste anymore time.

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Spaz fired

The most predictable move of the offseason has occured as BC fired Spaz. Now we begin the unpredictable search. I will have more tonight.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It is over

That is that. I've never been happier for a season to be over.

I am traveling Sunday so I am not sure when I will watch it back. But there will be a lot to write about in the coming days.

In-game comments post: NC State

This is your last time to question Spaz's timeouts or his insistence on taking a knee to start the game. Plus there is the added bonus of commenting on TOB for potentially the last time. And this is the last BC football game for another nine months. It has been bad, but bad BC football is better than no BC football. Comment away!

You can also follow me on twitter.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Rethinking Tom O'Brien and BC


This is probably Tom O'Brien's last regular season game. The Wolfpack are bowl eligible but most expect NC State to fire TOB or come to some sort of retirement agreement. It's somewhat poetic that his last game would be against BC. Six years ago I don't think BC or TOB would have predicted this as the end.

When he left I think BC fans, players and administrators were tired of TOB and he was tired of us. Freed from BC's limitations, TOB thought he would make NC State elite. We thought we would get a fun coach and a big winner. While both sides had their moments, neither is in a better place than they were six years ago. Time tends to change perspective on things.

I don't regret letting TOB go, but I think I appreciate him more now. Perhaps I understand him a little better. His constant hunting for a new job and then biting comments on BC now have to be viewed with what he know about working for Gene. Gene's criticism, the second-guessing and the independent relationships with players and staff probably drove TOB nuts. TOB spent his whole life in the military and football. He's married to hierarchy and the chain of command. Coach Flip didn't (when it came to football).  

I don't think TOB is the type to walk around with regrets, but I bet in a few years he will look back more fondly at his time at BC than his time in Raleigh. NC State was never a great fit for his stoic, introverted personality nor the type of player he wanted to recruit. I am sure he's brought in some great kids but the quantity of great BC guys during his time wins out. I think his pitch worked better from a BC than an NC State. Just looked at his inability to recruit his alma mater St. Xavier of Cincinnati once he left the Heights. When he looks back, hopefully he will remember that BC gave him his first shot at being a head coach (even  after Navy passed), he is the parent of three BC grads, and he is BC's all time winningest coach.

I don't want to rename the Stadium after him or rewrite history. TOB was a good but never great at BC and it was time for us to make a move. But once he is removed from NC State, I think it is important that BC rebuild its relationship with him. He deserves recognition for his accomplishments and could serve as a resource to future BC football coaches and ADs.


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Game Watches: NC State

This is a weird time on a holiday weekend after an awful season. I don't know what sort of turnout the Game Watches will get. If you're tired of turkey though, BC could provide a nice break. Here are the Game Watches I know about. Add yours if it is not listed.

Chicago Game Watch
Tripoli Tap
1147 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago
 
New York City Game Watch
Joshua Tree (on 3rd Avenue btw 34th and 35th Streets)

Phoenix Game Watch 
Gallagher's Sports Grill
7575 N. 16th Street
Phoenix

San Francisco Game Watch 
Shanghai Kelly's in San Francisco 2064 Polk Street (corner of Polk and Broadway)
San Francisco

Washington, DC Game Watch
Irish Whiskey Public House (formerly Porter's)
1207 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

BC-NC State preview

I finish every book I read. It is a weird habit and I have really had to force myself through some awful books just to get to the end. Part of me always thinks that I will find some redeeming quality in the writing. Most of the time I just ask myself "who ever thought this was a good book and worth publishing?" I feel like this game represents the end of a terrible book. There were a few bright spots during Spaz's run, but I think the question many of us will be asking when it is over is: "who ever thought he would be a good head coach?"

Hot Seat Thermometer
NA. I don't know the exact moment Spaz will be fired, but it will happen. It is just understood at this point. I don't think it will take up much of Bates' energy. Sullivan will work out most of the details with Spaz. I think the assistants will be thanked for their efforts, encouraged to communicate with recruits and told they have a chance with the new coach. When these changes happen assistants react in variety of ways. I hope these guys respect BC and Bates enough to do a decent job recruiting while they look for new jobs.

Overlooked Storyline: Players will say anything 
The players had nothing but good things to say about Spaz to the media this week. No one should read anything into it. Players -- especially at a place like BC -- are always going to say the right things about the coach. Mouthing off doesn't do them any favors. Fans have to watch the coach, but the players have to live and work with the guy. 

Three Simple Keys
1. Drop eight into coverage a lot. Glennon is not going to kill us with his legs. If we give him small windows, he will make mistakes.
2. Challenge them deep. Things have improved somewhat, but NC State's DBs have been beaten deep throughout the year. We can be aggressive downfield.
3. Get a big special teams play. Their punt coverage is not good (and cost them the UNC game). Spiffy should get decent returns.

Gambling notes
-- Spaz is 2-1 vs NC State
-- TOB is 1-4 vs BC
-- Spaz is 3-2 in the state of North Carolina
The current line is BC+14.5

Factoid
For all the people who say how tough it is to win at BC -- win or lose -- Spaz will have the lowest winning percentage of any BC coach since Ed Chlebek. Even if Spaz wins his mark will only improve to .442. The much-maligned Dan Henning finished with a .458 percentage.

Scoreboard Watching
I am watching all the MAC games. Odds are our new coach is in that league right now.

I hope to see...
No more redshirts burned. There were plenty of guys who could have redshirted this year but didn't. Spaz owes it to the guys who sat to let them be. Given them a chance to earn that extra year with the new coach. Even someone like Shinskie shouldn't play. He could potentially be a valuable back up next fall.

BC is in trouble if...
We don't pick up their blitzes. As I said, the big plays are there for the taking, but we have to keep Rettig upright to get the ball downfield.

Bottom Line
When Gene was around this game had extra motivation for the staff. I don't think anyone gives a shit any more. If Spaz didn't go for the glory last week, why should this week be any different? I think we will see a low scoring ugly game but TOB gets the bragging rights in the last game for the two long-time colleagues.
Final Score: NC State 20, BC 12

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Putting Charleston behind them

I've been avoiding the topic for a few days, but the Charleston Classic was a disaster for the basketball team. 0-3 with the team looking worse with each outing. I don't think anyone expected a romp through the tournament, but measurable improvement would have been nice.

This afternoon the team gets to prove they've learned from their mistakes when they take on Auburn. The Tigers are the perfect sort of rebound opponent in that they are not particularly good -- in fact they had a disastrous run in Charleston too -- but they are from a major conference.

Although it is a home game, I think the Thanksgiving holiday will make for an empty Conte. Ryan Anderson is expected to play but will not be at 100%. If BC is going to turn their start around, they need to do the following:

-- Find another scoring option. Even with Anderson healthy, this is an issue. Jackson's been ice cold. Clifford hasn't been converting close to the basket. The freshman have potential but still made some bad decisions. Heckmann made tons of errors. I don't know who will step up, but I think the real problem is not being aggressive enough within the offense.
-- Defense. The defense was at its best against Baylor. The other games the guys looked lost, slow and tired. Did fatigue set in? I don't know, but if we stick with man, the guys have to be much better at blocking out and moving with their assignment.
-- Tempo. I know it is hard to push the ball with freshmen running the point and hard when you are not converting, but I think BC needs to push the pace against Auburn. Easier baskets will come and it gets them out of their rhythm.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Understanding the "A List"

When the ideas of the search plan leaked more than a few scoffed at the idea that any current BCS-level coach would ever consider a move to BC. Even with the chaos of the last 48 hours, there is still some underlying qualities that make the BC job attractive. Per ESPN's Insider:

I know a couple of guys who actually want this job, even if it isn't officially open yet. They saw the ACC as vulnerable, even before this new round of realignment. They think there's room for BC, despite the academic limitations that similarly hamstring Duke and Wake Forest.

It's a beautiful city and campus and, let's be honest, the conference isn't that challenging to make the Matt Ryan years seem that distant. A couple of solid players on both sides of the ball, and the Eagles could be equipped to be a conference contender. Frank Spaziani, most everyone believes, is simply in over his head.
The three most well-known names to be rumored targets of BC are Dan Mullen, Bill O'Brien and Al Golden. We can assume all three will be contacted. I don't expect any to take the job, but there is still a chance one might. You make the phone call to find out. All three have specific reasons as to why they would take the call.

Dan Mullen
By everyone's accounts Dan Mullen has done a great job at Mississippi State. But he is a New Hampshire native and has family ties to New England.
Why would he leave? Remember the Cam Newton scandal. Mullen had successfully recruited Newton only to see Auburn boosters buy off Cam's dad to have him sign with the Tigers. That is the world in which Mullen has to operate. Plus he will always be behind LSU and Alabama is his own division. Mullen will leave Mississippi State. It is only a question of when and which job. He will be a top candidate for all the open SEC jobs.
Why BC? Aside from the family issues, Mullen might want to come to BC to escape the SEC. Even if Tennessee or Auburn come calling with promises of more money and the chance to actually compete with the Sabans and Miles, he still has to get dirty. He still has to recruit borderline kids and he still has to look the other way when someone throws money at these kids. I don't want to say that everyone at BC is a choir boy, but it is definitely a different sort of atmosphere. He can win the division in the ACC. He won't at MSU. Also if he comes to BC and rebuilds successfully, he will then have proven himself twice and be able to get any key job out there.
Will it happen? I don't think so. Mullen is going to have his choice of jobs and despite his ties to the area, I don't think that will be enough to have him pass on Tennessee or Auburn.

Bill O'Brien
O'Brien thought he knew what he was getting into at Penn State. Replacing a legend and healing a community is one thing, but the devastating sanctions were not anticipated.
Why would he leave? Losing coaches rarely get a second chance to be a head coach. Even though the team is playing well and even though he is saying the right things, Penn State will be playing with one hand behind their back for the next five years. If O'Brien presides over PSU's decline, no one is ever going to offer him a big time gig again.
Why BC? O'Brien was married in St. Ignatius. His wife is a BC grad. He grew up in the Boston suburbs. He dreamed of coaching in the ACC. He wanted the BC job last year, but BC didn't fire Spaz.
Will it happen? O'Brien has been very non-committal in his recent interviews. Any coach who leaves a school after one year is going to get vilified in the media and on the recruiting trail, but I have to imagine where there is smoke there is fire. Why wouldn't he be more demonstrative in his love and desire to stay at Penn State? He was gung ho right after the sanctions. Has the reality kicked in? If he's going to bail on Penn State, he will only do it for a job he really wants and in a place where he really wants to be.

Al Golden
Even going back to his days at BC, Golden's name always managed to float for a bigger and better opportunity. Now that Miami is facing huge sanctions, his name is popping up again.
Why would he leave? Golden is a smart guy and a guy who is always thinking about his next move. When he took the Miami job, I am sure he worked through scenarios in which he would leave and don't think BC would have been on that "Next Job" list. You take Miami as a path to National Championships or the NFL. But a bomb went off shortly into his first year and there are looming sanctions. His AD bailed and the school self-imposed a second bowl ban. Like O'Brien he needs to get out before sanctions sink his W-L record and his long-term career prospects.
Why BC? If not for timing, Golden would have been BC's head coach. He took the Temple job in 2006. If he had stayed at UVA one more year, Gene probably would have hired him. Our old AD couldn't steal him from Temple after one 1-11 season. Al could have replaced Jags too, but Gene never really looked beyond Spaz. Now BC would be a safe haven. He could rebuild and still be positioned for a very good job in four or five years.
Will it happen? Of the "A List," this is the most probable. He wants out and there are only so many jobs. He will be in the mix for the SEC spots, but I don't see them rushing to hire Golden. To them he is some guy who has been "ok" at Miami. BC fans on the other hand know about his recruiting and work ethic, know what a miracle the Temple rebuild was and know that he was dealt a bad hand at Miami.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Ranking BC among the Musical Chairs participants

Maryland is gone and no one thinks this is that last move. If BC wants to stay a player in college athletics, we better put on our best dancing shoes and get ready for some wheeling and dealing.

Let's assume we are really headed towards four 16 team Super Conferences. That leaves two remaining spots in the Big Ten, two remaining spots in the SEC, six in the Big 12 and four in the Pac 12. That is 14 teams that could move. There are now 14 teams in the ACC. Conceivably the conference could dissolve and all the current ACC members could find other homes. We all know it won't be that clean and we also know that the Big East and MWC teams are fighting for those same spots. 

BC does have some value. As Maryland and Rutgers just proved, this is more about cable subscribers than sports. BC still sits squarely in the seventh largest TV market in the country. A college network could never charge as much as NESN does in the New England area, but even getting a 25% of NESN's fees would be a huge revenue boone for any conference. We also brings a solid athletic and academic reputation. Plus we are non-threatening. If anything these Super Conferences are looking for a bunch of Washington Generals who happen to have good cable potential. BC could fill that need. 

The SEC is not going to come calling, so really our only non-ACC options are the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pac 12. (I will get into the geographic issues of the Pac 12 and Big 12 later.)

Big Ten
If the Big Ten were to expand and follow the same motivations they just established with Rutgers and Maryland, this would be their order of preference:

1. Notre Dame
2. North Carolina
3. Virginia
4. Florida State
5. Virginia Tech
6. BC
7. Duke
8. Georgia Tech


I don't think the Big Ten wants Louisville, UConn or any Big 12 team (other than Texas). If they did want them, they would have already taken them. Being sixth on their list doesn't seem like a good place to be, but you have to consider that ND, UNC, UVA, FSU and Virginia Tech will all have multiple options. The Big Ten money might be attractive, but culturally and geographically they might fit better in the SEC or Big 12 and get the same money. 

In this game BC needs to be flexible and keep dialogue and options open, but if the ACC unravels, we need to focus on the Big Ten. We would be a oddball there, but it would still be the best of the remaining fits.

SEC
The SEC is never coming for BC. Ever. And it would be a terrible fit for us.

Big 12
The Big 12 is intriguing because they need money and teams to keep up with the other conferences. They are very Texas-centric and a seemingly odd fit for BC, but if they went to 16 teams and had a "Northeast Division" of West Virginia, Pitt, BC and Syracuse, it wouldn't seem all that odd to us. I doubt their expansion would be that clean and simple either. All indications are that their first move would be to get the southern football powers. The northeast TV markets would be second.

1. Notre Dame
2. Florida State
3. North Carolina
4. Virginia Tech
5. Virginia 
6. Georgia Tech
7. Duke
8. NC State
9.Clemson
10. BC
11. Syracuse
12. Miami
13. Pitt

This is where things get dicey. This conference has six spots and we would probably be their 10th choice. But I have some belief that if Notre Dame or UNC were really determined to leave, they would not move to the Big 12, leaving spots open for a place like BC.

Pac 12
In 2010 Pac 12 (then Pac 10) commissioner Larry Scott wanted to partner with the ACC to form a national college cable channel. He was rebuffed. That will be a move that haunts the ACC for years, as Scott got his cable deal and the ACC is left scrambling. The conference realignment could bring new life to Scott's old idea. All he needs is an eastern outpost for his Pac 12 channel.

It might seem like the Pac 12 would want closer teams, but once you go to 16, you can start creating regional pods or divisions within the conference.

1. Notre Dame
2. North Carolina
3. Duke
4. Florida State
5. BC
6. Virginia
7. Virginia Tech
8. Miami
9. Syracuse
10. NC State

It might surprise some that I think we are the 5th most attractive ACC program to the Pac 12, but that is based purely on our TV numbers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. If the Pac 12 decides to do something as extreme as an East Coast division, it will be about TV numbers.

What's next
I don't know but the SEC has a TV deal coming up and the sudden urge to be bigger than the Big Ten. They will come to the ACC. Then it becomes a matter of who leaves. From there, it will be more dominoes. There is enough room for BC, but we need our new leadership working every angle. 

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Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Virginia Tech

It was pretty pathetic. We had some guys killing it out there, we didn't play all that well yet still had a chance to win. Only our Head Coach gave up. I will get into Spaz's flawed logic below, but this game was lost on many fronts. It was a sadly fitting end to this home slate.


Offense: C

Rettig was all over the place. He made some nice passes early that his teammates dropped. Then he started forcing things a bit and moving away from pressure that wasn't always there. He settled down enough and was good late. Statistically it was a horrible day. Reality it was okay. When you factor in the season and the circumstances, he played well enough.

Finch and Dudeck were the best part of the offense. They caught passes well. They found holes and both ran hard. They also both had the same negative: blitz pick up.

The WRs and Tight Ends killed the team on Saturday. Larmond dropped some easy passes. Amidon missed a TD. Evans missed a deep ball. Pantale had huge issues blocking. I don't know if the glares were bad from the sun or they are dejected, but if just a few of those guys make one more play, this might have been a different game.

The OLine had their best running blocking game in weeks. Gallik also had his best game. Vardaro was good. Both tackles were inconsistent. The pass blocking wasn't as sound, but there weren't as many breakdowns as you saw in the Notre Dame game.

Doug Martin has some brilliantly designed plays...that he doesn't use enough. The pass to Pantale out of the backfield with a play fake has worked all year (we used it with Kimble early) but we only used it once. There were some other plays that looked good too but weren't emphasized. I am glad the run game started clicking and credit him for faking to Amidon to hold the edge. Our redzone performance was also a mixed bag.

Defense: C

The broadcast team sung the praise of Ricci, but I thought he got pushed off the ball a lot. Credit him for sticking with the plays and making some tackles. Murray was okay. Edebali had his best game in a few weeks. He closed better and made some heads up plays throughout. Abdesmad got a lot of snaps but didn't do much.

Clancy played really well and made some played behind the line of scrimmage. He covered a lot of space and probably had his best game since Northwestern. Divitto was also improved and made some good tackles. VT's passing game was a mess, so they couldn't exploit him like other teams have. KPL made a few nice plays.

Jim Noel had his best game in weeks. Maybe it was because he spent more snaps at Corner. He made some nice tackles and was aggressive. Sylvia struggled a bit in pass coverage. Rositano played well. The batted ball off his teammate into a VT bomb was just unlucky. Simmons was fine. Asprilla was fine.

We substituted much less this week. I don't know if it was because of performance or because the 1st teams played well in the first half. We will never know if it impacted things, but you have to wonder if all the second half points allowed we in part because of fatigue.

Special Teams: C

The killer Special Teams mistake was allowing their long kick return. I still don't know what happened. There wasn't a big mistake. Just guys missing tackles and looking very very slow. It is like we handled the return in a fog.

Spiffy was good. One thing I tweeted about him is that he's our bravest punt returner in years. He's willing to return it even in heavy traffic when he is likely to get hit.

Levano and Freese both punted to mixed results. I did like the use of rugby style.


Overall: D

I wrote a draft of a longer post on the probability of OT but scrapped it. It was getting long-winded and missing the point. This is the summary:

-- The last possession in regulation has real value and is more valuable than an OT possession simply because Virginia Tech is not guaranteed an equal possession (like they would be in the "innings" format of College Football OT)
-- The probability of the worst outcome in regulation (a turnover leading to a VT score) was lower than the probability of best outcome (a BC score). The most probable outcome was a BC punt.
-- A BC punt may have allowed for a VT score and win, but the probability of that score after our possession was much worse than the probability of VT winning in Overtime.
-- Statistically -- using just winning scenarios probabilities -- BC made the mistake of giving up possession and not attempting a regulation win.

Spaz told the Heights that they had studied and practiced those situations. But in his whole explanation he never once mentions probability or advance statistics. I don't know, but I would bet it never even came up in his practice scenarios. I know their are smart guys on the staff, but do you think they want to explain to Spaz that things have changed and you have to approach things differently? Has he created that kind of culture where challenging thoughts and perspectives are welcome? What do you think? Based simply on his four years of misusing the clock, possessions and timeouts, I bet Spaz either hasn't read the data used by guys like Kelly, Belichick or god forbid the Football Outsiders.

These things are not foolproof or infallible. Smart teams and smart coaches lose games all the time. But what Spaz did was cowardly and ignorant and his impassioned and dismissive defense of his mistake shows he still doesn't get it. Thankfully we only have one more game of this nonsense.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

There's nothing BC could have done about Maryland

I don't know how or if it will play out but it appears Maryland and Rutgers are headed to the Big Ten. BC fans and observers have spent endless hours discussing conference realignment and what BC can and should do to protect our interests. Maryland and Rutgers proves that none of it matters. They will be part of one of the power conferences not because of their sports, not because of their money, not because of their academic reputation, nor because of their fundraising. It won't even be about their TV ratings. Neither school drives ratings like other "available" schools. They are being selected because of the number of cable subscribers in their respective home states. The Big Ten doesn't even care if people watch Maryland or Rutgers. They just want people who live in those states to pay $1.50 a month for the privileged of watching Maryland and Rutgers as part of Big Ten football.

In a way the move is a relief. We are starting to remove pretenses about what matters and why the conferences are doing what they are doing.

As always this leaves the ACC vulnerable. If the $50 million exit fee wasn't enough to prevent cash-strapped Maryland from leaving, it won't be enough to keep other schools. As long as the ACC is without its own cable platform, we will never have the revenue or distribution leverage. When the ACC leadership got coldfeet years ago about starting their own network, the die was cast.

The only saving grace is our codependency on ESPN and Notre Dame. Neither are going anywhere and both need BC and a few other castoffs on life support. Notre Dame needs us because this move from the Big Ten signals the Irish are going to be very limited in their Big Ten scheduling. ESPN needs us because the ACC is their only true content partner. They need college football games to fill all their networks. With the Big Ten, Pac 12 and soon to be SEC keeping more and more of their own content away from ESPN, the worldwide leader has no choice but to show ACC games.

This is not the end of conference shuffles. It never is. I just hope BC's leadership keeps all options open. That's the best we can do at this point.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blauds spills the beans on Bates meeting

Early last week Brad Bates met with some key BC-friendly advisers off campus. I knew about it but kept it off the blog for a variety of reasons. Now that Blauds is writing about it, I can add my two cents. He is correct on BC's approach. Bates will explore some bigger names who might at least take BC's call. I don't think BC or Bates would expect the Dan Mullens of the world to leave their current jobs, but it is important to make the call. The other names mentioned in the article are all valid with the exception of Blauds' buddies Tim Murphy and Mark Whipple. Murphy has a huge advocate in Chip Kelly, but I think BC will go with a younger coach. Whipple is just old news at this point and no one at BC is going to go to bat for him this go around.

Blauds hit most of what I heard but missed a few things.

 -- There will be an emphasis on prior head coaching experience. That might seem obvious based on BC's desire to go for a big name. But where it might not play out as expected is in the hot college coordinator vs the MAC head coach. Experience is going to matter and having that knowledge and track record of running a program is going to be a big plus for a candidate. Considering our last three head coaches had never been head guys prior to BC, this is a change.

-- There will be NFL names kicked around. Pete Carmichael Jr.'s name has been out there for a long time, but other names will emerge. Former Coughlin protege Tim Sullivan has fans. Dirk Koetter's name has been floated. Expect Eric Mangini's name to get out there. Greg Roman will be called. Two-time BC bridesmaid Kevin Gilbride is probably going to be passed over based on age. The NFL stuff may seem in conflict with my first point, but I think and some close to the program think that a good process needs to at least explore the NFL names. There is too much upside with some of these guys to ignore.

-- Remember BC's approach during the AD search. There was an emphasis on experience as an AD. There was an emphasis on candidates who respect the student athlete. The coach's values (and although not mentioned, his religion) will be important. BC will operate on its own timeline, not the fans or media. There's not much worry in saving Spaz's recruiting class. It is about getting the right hire for the next five to ten years.

-- Spaz is done and its not going to take up much of Bates' time. Everyone wants Spaz gone but it is just a technicality at this point. Negotiating Spaz's buyout and dealing with all that is involved with be mostly on Leo Sullivan. Bates will be part of the process, but will be dealing with the search and the other demands of his new job.

Blauds has been all over the place with regards to AD stuff, but he got pretty close on all of this. Maybe he'll redeem himself in the coaching search.

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Spaz waves white flag

My outrage is muted at this point. One game just captured how pathetic Spaz is in his approach to BC football.

I will have my normal grades and stuff up late Sunday.

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In-game comments post: Virginia Tech

Senior Day. I've seen plenty of Senior Days when nothing was on the line and the team played really well. Could it happen today? I am not confident but we can always hope. Leave your comments and thoughts on the game below.

You can also follow me on twitter.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Stephanie McCaffrey brouhaha and other links

BC suspended women's soccer star Stephanie McCaffrey for he twitter jokes regarding Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. She will miss BC's NCAA tournament game against the Nittany Lions. I feel like this is a slight overreaction by BC. Clearly what McCaffrey did was stupid and in poor taste, but would she have been suspended if we were playing some program other than Penn State? Let's say BC was playing PSU in football and she made a Sandusky joke on twitter to her brother (Football's James McCaffery) and her team was playing Stanford in the NCAAs. Would she still be suspended? I hope BC wins the game so that McCaffrey's dumb jokes don't cost her teammates. Lesson to all college athletes: think before you tweet!

The men's soccer team is out of the NCAA Tournament after losing to Northeastern.

Erik Johnson got his first win as BC's women's basketball coach. He also added three new recruits.

I know some of you are aware of BC's relationship with JB Harvey, but this article shows how much the team has done for JB and his family.

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Game Watches: Virginia Tech

We are almost to the finish line Game Watchers. While this season has felt like a chore at times, now we are in the home stretch. Use you time with fellow Eagle fans to commiserate, kick around names for the new coach and plan how to make Game Watches better next year.



Austin Game Watch
Shiners' Saloon
422 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
 
Chicago Game Watch
Tripoli Tap
1147 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago
 
New York City Game Watch
Joshua Tree (on 3rd Avenue btw 34th and 35th Streets)

Phoenix Game Watch 
Gallagher's Sports Grill
7575 N. 16th Street
Phoenix

San Diego Game Watch 
The Beer Company
602 Broadway
San Diego

San Francisco Game Watch 
Shanghai Kelly's in San Francisco 2064 Polk Street (corner of Polk and Broadway)
San Francisco

Washington, DC Game Watch
Irish Whiskey Public House (formerly Porter's)
1207 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts on BC basketball's loss to Baylor

This is as encouraging a 10-point loss as you will see at this stage in the basketball season. Last year this team had plenty of games where they looked good for a half and let the game get away from them in the second half. This game was different. Sure, Baylor pulled away, but it wasn't because of a total team collapse. Our best players didn't get weak-kneed or caught up in the moment. If not for a few mistakes and then scrambling as time ran out, BC could have won this game. Here are my likes and dislikes. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Likes
-- Ryan Anderson's post presence. Baylor is long, tall and athletic, but that didn't stop Anderson from having a great game and converting with a variety of moves close to the basket. Anderson would be good in any system but today I dreamed about him thriving in Al Skinner's tight flex. 
-- Solid minutes from Odio and Van Nest. Odio held his own and played good D inside. Van Nest provided some much needed scoring and also has good hands.
-- Hanlan and Rahon playing well against a ranked team. They weren't perfect. Hanlan forced some drives to the basket and Rahon was ice-cold but they handled the pressure and showed they can be responsible for the most of the ball handling.

-- Patrick Heckmann killing all the second half momentum. Last year during our Thanksgiving Holiday tournament, Heckmann was the star. He scored from all over the court and made pretty good decisions. I don't know where things went so wrong. He was terrible today with four TOs and two fouls in 16 minutes. But the worst thing about the turnovers is how careless they are. He is a major liability until he starts figuring things out again.
-- 3-point shooting. Jackson was cold again and so was Rahon. In our offense and with these types of players, we need to convert a higher-percentage.
-- Perimeter defense. We gave them way too many easy looks from outside and paid the price for it.

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BC-Virginia Tech preview

Every year college football fans see down on their luck teams with lame duck coaches sleep walk through their last few games. I am afraid we are about to fall into that category. There will be players and coaches who give their all against the Hokies, but I don't expect to see the whole squad playing well and with maximum effort. If we couldn't convert the excitement and emotion of the Notre Dame game into a win, how are we going to do against Virginia Tech?

Hot Seat Thermometer
After strolling the sidelines for 16 years, this is probably Spaz's last game coaching football in Alumni Stadium. I imagine things will have a weird feeling in that everyone knows its over, but there certainly won't be any official acknowledgement. I guess there is still the chance that Spaz could announce his retirement tomorrow, but I don't expect that to happen. Instead he'll get the unspoken good-bye.
Temperature: NA (it is over)

Overlooked Storyline: Virginia Tech and BC having down years at the same time
Virginia Tech can still pull out a winning season but struggling like this is rare for the Hokies. If they don't get to .500 it will be the first time since the formation of Big East football that both the Hokies and BC finish the season with losing records.

Three Simple Keys
1. Stretch the field. We had two long TD passes just out of the reach of Dudeck and Amidon last week. While they didn't work, it was the right idea. We need to go downfield on the Hokies. It should also help our running game.
2. Stop the run. We haven't stopped anyone this year, but if we for Thomas to put the ball in the air, we could get some big turnovers.
3. Redzone scoring. I've given up on our running game, so maybe now it is time to try some rollouts or try to slip Pantale through traffic over the middle.

Gambling Notes
-- BC is 6-1 on Senior Day since joining the ACC
-- Virginia Tech has won four straight in the series
-- Both of Spaz's wins this season have come at home
The current line is BC+10

Factoid
Frank Beamer now has six wins in Alumni Stadium. That is tied with Joe Paterno for wins by a visiting coach. Former West Virginia Don Nehlen has the most wins at Alumni by a visiting coach with eight.

Scoreboard Watching

I am interested to see how NC State play against Clemson. Most of their fans think TOB is on his way out, so it will be interesting to see if the Pack come out ready for Clemson's offense or if they sleepwalk through the game.

I hope to see...
The Seniors go out with a win. The current 5th years committed when BC was on top of the world. Since then it has been all downhill. I am sure the ones who stayed are frustrated by their time and lack of success. A final win in front of friends and family would be nice.

BC is in trouble if...
Virginia Tech gets to Rettig. Their coverage guys are not great. If they want to shut Rettig down, it will be through hurries, pressures and sacks.

Bottom Line
I think BC will play hard for a while but Virginia Tech controls by pounding the ball. They will lead throughout but we will tack on a late score to beat the spread.
Final Score: Virginia Tech 17, BC 14

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Guest Blogger: The Key Play

We are not the only disappointments in the ACC this season. Virginia Tech's season has been a series of setbacks and have the fanbase questioning the future. To get an understanding of what went wrong and what to expect this weekend, I asked Hokie bloggers The Key Play the following questions. Their answers below.


1. Thomas was supposed to be an elite QB. How much of this season's collapse is on him?

The Key Play: In my opinion, very little. He has definitely shown some concerns in terms of mechanics and decision-making but in all honesty he doesn't have that much around him. I think that the expectations for him to succeed were raised exponentially by his success last season, even though that team was built for him to succeed and this team absolutely needed him to. There are no David Wilsons to pick up the slack if Thomas has an off day. Nor are there any Jarrett Boykins or Danny Coales to not only catch passes, but to do the little things like block downfield. The interceptions may be troubling, but I think Thomas has been the only reason the offense has done as little as they have already.

2. What are the issues on the defensive side of the ball?

The Key Play: They have pretty much figured everything out, after struggles against Pitt, Cincinnati and UNC. The one thing that lingers is the lack of depth in the secondary, which has been made even more troubling with the injury to safety Michael Cole and the recent uncertainty of freshman cornerback Donladven Manning. There will almost definitely be holes in the secondary, and while corner Kyle Fuller have played pretty well down this stretch, and safety Kyshon Jarrett and corner Antone Exum have played phenomenally well. The only problem is that the three of them can't cover then entire field.

3. I know Beamer is not Bowden/Paterno ancient yet, but as he gets closer to social security, do fans fear him losing his edge?

The Key Play: You have no idea. There has always been a "Frank needs to go" camp, but it has certainly grown this season. I think that the general thought behind this is that there is a ceiling of 10 wins, beating the teams he's supposed to, losing to better teams and getting an Orange Bowl birth. Naturally, people have gotten a little restless with that and want bigger or better things. That being said, I think it is pretty obvious that his in-game decisions have not been particularly good for the past few seasons, and his trademark "Beamball" is nonexistent. It is sad to say..but I think everyone knows we're coming to be beginning of the end of the Frankinator (obviously when he retires...because he will never be fired/forced out).

4. What is your prediction for the game?

The Key Play: Well, honestly I think there is a huge possibility for Tech to lose this game. They haven't won one away from Blacksburg, have lost a bunch in a row and are coming off a heartbreaker against Florida State. They obviously need this win in the attempt to become bowl eligible, but I'm not convinced. I think they may squeak one out, so I'll say Tech wins 17-16.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Getting to know Dave Doeren

BC's last three head coaches had been career assistants prior to coming to the Heights. This time around it might make sense to hire someone who has been a Head Coach before and therefore has a different learning curve. One of the popular early names being floated for the job is Northern Illinois Head Coach Dave Doeren. In my opinion Doeren would be an excellent fit at BC and I predict he will be a finalist for the job.

Finding talent
Every potential coach will arrive at BC with a recruiting plan. What I appreciate about Doeren is that his past recruiting success can directly translate to BC. He was recruiting coordinator at Kansas and Wisconsin. He led the efforts that produced a rare Orange Bowl trip for the Jayhawks and Wisconsin's recent run. While neither school is a Northeast Catholic college, both rely heavily on finding and developing three star talent in the Midwest. Doeren didn't (and at Kansas couldn't) really chase after the elite four and five star recruits. Instead the process involved a lot of groundwork with coaches, a lot of player evaluation and leveraging camps and friendly high school programs. Wisconsin even recruited in New Jersey, so he brings those relationships with him too. 

Head Coaching Experience
While it has only been two years, Doeren would come to BC with the understanding of how to run a staff, the demands on his time and how to lead an entire organization. I haven't watched enough NIU games to speak to his Xs and Os, but the guy is currently 20-4 lifetime. He's doing something right. NIU was in a good place when he took over, but he's made them better. Depsite losing his offensive coordinator in the offseason, the team is still trucking along. I don't know if he would bring his whole staff with him to his next job, but he's already shown the ability to find quality assistants and replace them as they move on to better jobs.

In my opinion the only downside to Doeren is his lack of connection to BC or the Northeast. He's a Kansas native and has spent most of his career in the Midwest. But he is Catholic and has worked at private schools before. The lack of familiarity shouldn't be a dealbreaker. Father Leahy and Brad Bates are both Midwestern guys who took jobs at BC even though they didn't have ties to the area.

I don't know if BC and Doeren will be a match, but based on his trackrecord, Doeren is headed for big things.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting the Brady Heslip stuff out of the way

BC plays Baylor on Thursday in the first day of the Charleston Classic. While the storyline should be BC's potential improvement and the chance to test themselves against a ranked team, I suspect many will focus instead on Baylor Guard Brady Heslip's awkward departure from BC before he even played a game.

Heslip gained national attention for his hitting nine 3-pointers in the NCAA tournament last year. He also started all year for the Bears and was one of the nation's best shooters. That wasn't a surprise to BC hoops fans. During his redshirt season at BC, Heslip was rumored to be the best shooter on the team. He supposedly could make a shot from anywhere in the gym during practice. But we never got to see him actually play for BC. Heslip was officially a rare midyear early entree in basketball. Skinner and staff decided to redshirt him and preserve four years of eligibility. Al was fired that Spring and Heslip transferred after the season ended.

While some Heslip's family members took to the internet to complain about Donahue's treatment of Brady, I don't think our -- at the time new -- coach did anything purposely wrong. He gave assessments to each player and told him what they each needed to improve on and what his initial plan was. Most guys bought in. Others did not. This happens with any coaching change at any college sport. Some new leaders will sugar coat things to keep people around. Other coaches are more frank and forward as to motivate or set expectations. I don't know firsthand what Donahue said and in hindsight, maybe he should have taken a different approach with Heslip, but Brady Heslip departure doesn't really change much about where were are today.

Heslip is a great shooter and has improved his quickness and physique since leaving the Heights. He might have made the difference in getting Donahue's first team into the tournament, but I don't think he would have carried last year's team. This season is still a big question mark. I am glad he's had success and I hope he plays well on Thursday but I don't look back at what could have been. It is not fair to Donahue. Heslip, like Rakim Sanders, Matt Humphrey or Jordan Daniels won't be the reason we rise or fall. All were good players, but none are program changers. The key for Donahue is progression and the continued search for a guy who can change things for BC.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts on the basketball's win over FIU

Sorry for the delay in posting about the basketball team's season opening win over FIU. I didn't get around to watching it until today. (Eds note: ESPN3 is going to be a godsend for basketball fans. Every game will be on there.) Overall I was pleased with the start. It wasn't perfect and there are areas for improvement, but overall it was a good win. More:

Likes
-- Anderson controlling the game. He was good in transition. He was good in the post. He grabbed critical rebounds and played solid defense. He won't keep up that pace every game but it looks like Anderson is ready to make a productivity leap.
-- The freshmen guards. Hanlan and Rahon combined for 68 minutes and didn't look confused or pressured. With Daniels gone, they need to get used to those kids of minutes.
-- Production from Odio and Van Nest. I hoped for solid minutes from Van Nest (who is rocking some great basketball goggles) but didn't forsee Odio playing as much as he did in the first half. We need depth, so this is good.

Dislikes
-- Jackson's cold night. I am writing it off to rust. Let's hope he hasn't lost his touch over the summer.
-- 3-point disparity. It is what kept this game as close as it was. Much of it can be attributed to Jackson's cold night but his teammates didn't really pick up the slack either.
-- Heckmann's defense. This did remind me of last year. He's got to be more focused and physical this year.

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One blogger's perspective on the coming Spaz narrative

As I predicted, now that there is no hope that he can turn things around, Spaz defenders and apologists are trying to shape the narrative that Spaz is a “good guy and great coach” who just couldn’t get the job done at BC. That is not reality. Spaz never should have been hired and has not done a good job while head coach. Whenever you talk or write about Spaz, his defenders always bring up Jags. Spaz’s predecessor hasn’t been employed by BC since 2009. He is irrelevant to the conversation and Spaz’s current situation. Spaz’s record is of his own making. It is not Jags or anyone else's. Show me any other fanbase in college sports that would accept that sort of logic in a coach’s fourth season?


The Job 
As we begin a search again it is important to remember what the job entails and why Spaz was never a good fit. Being a head coach is about more than football knowledge. That is the basic requirement. You need to have good people skills, management skills and organizational skills. You are in charge of more than a dozen staffers and grad assistants. A head coach is responsible for more than 100 players. And the job is not just babysitting those players. To be effective you need to develop them as football players and you need to find 20 to 25 high school students to replace your departing players every year. Finally the head coach must be the face of the program. He is the persona you are going to sell to recruits and fans. He is also the lead spokesman to the media. Spaz – even prior to becoming head coach – was considered a bit of a prickly personality, a disinterested recruiter and an awkward media presence. All those factors were the reason he didn’t get the job when TOB left. None of them changed two years later.


The stability of the hire
In the coming weeks you’ll read that BC turned to Spaz during its time of need after the Jags situation blew up. The timing and the situation were of BC’s making but they were highly unique. BC was also coming off two very successful seasons. Making a hire based on continuity and stability was not necessarily a bad decision. Hiring Frank Spaziani was. At the time BC had two better options than Spaz on staff. Steve Logan and Jack Bicknell Jr. were both very interested in replacing Jags. Both had previous experience as Head Coaches and both understood the demands of being a head coach. Of course neither were truly considered because Gene Defilippo wanted to keep his influence on the program. Gene knew that Spaz was more malleable and dependent on him than Logan or Bick ever would have been.


Loyalty
Defenders are quick to write about Spaz’s loyalty to BC, but I’ve never understood how you measure this or justify it as a reason for the hire. What other business, school or team would place a multi-million dollar organization in the hands of someone based on loyalty? You could argue that Barry Gallup has been more “loyal” to BC than Spaz ever was. He wasn’t really considered by Gene. Also where was Spaz’s true loyalty? Most who know him best say that he stayed at BC not solely because of his love of the school, but because he didn’t want to move his family and Gene promised him an important role with the new coach. If BU had an ACC football program and they had hired TOB, do you think Spaz would have stayed at BC out of loyalty? He stayed because it was best for his career and family. That is what 99% of us would do too. He should not be faulted for staying but the act shouldn’t be turned into some noble work of charity by Spaz.

Recruiting and rosters
Spaz has been quick to remind everyone of all the problems he inherited. Regardless of the validity of those problems, he has now had four years to fix them. There should be no holes in the roster or depth chart. If old players weren’t good enough, he’s had ample time to replace them with new players. He is not even using his full scholarship allotment each year. That’s neglect. There are many varied and successful strategies to recruiting. Spaz’s strategy has been to get low-hanging fruit who will commit to BC on his timetable (the summer). I have no problem with that if it works. Based on our declining record I would say it hasn’t. We’ve also had a fair bit of roster attrition. Some attrition is natural in college football, but you have to question the environment created when guys with completed BC degrees leave under varied circumstances. I know there are plenty of great guys on our current roster. But having great character on our roster is not a Spaz thing. BC has been recruiting and molding young men for decades. It predates him and is part of our culture. It will be part of our culture after he is gone too.

Staffs, Coordinators and Kevin Rogers
Coaching football is not a one-man band. You need trusted assistants at every position. Gene influenced Jags’ staff (and forced Spaz on Jags) and then did the same thing to Spaz. Perhaps that dynamic doomed Spaz from the start. How could he expect his staff not to undercut him with Gene when he had whispered to Gene and undercut TOB and Jags when he was an assistant? When the time came for his first staff, he went outside of Gene’s network to bring in his old friend (and twice retired Gary Tranquill). Tranquill could have been a good sounding board and adviser to a first-time coach but he never should have been put in charge of the entire offense. When Tranquill retired for a third time Spaz and Gene disagreed on the new OC. The compromise was Kevin Rogers. We all know how it ended, but no one wants to go on record with what led up to the ending. I was not there (obviously). Only the coaches were. It is alleged that Spaz punched Rogers at halftime of the UCF game. Spaz’s friend and confidant Blauds will acknowledge that Rogers bled from the mouth and there were angry words, but claims there was nothing physical. Did they serve shards of glass in the Coach’s Box at UCF? Did Rogers bite his tongue from arguing? Did he have miraculous case of 30 minute TB? The denials don’t even matter at this point. The staff changes tell enough of the story. This was not a good working environment. And because of that our offense has been dreadful for four seasons. How you prepare, the systems you use and how you teach impact the results on the field. Spaz never seemed to figure that out or trust anyone else enough to fix it for him.

Game Management
All of Spaz issues could be overlooked if we won more. That is that case at every school. But we didn’t. Our strategies and gameplans have been suspect many times. His use of timeout and the clock have caused endless frustration. In four seasons and almost 50 games, Spaz has never comeback from a deficit of more than seven points. How does that happen? We should have lucked into one small comeback over the years. But this is the same guy who trotted out the same defense for a decade. Why did anyone expect him to become a great situational manager once he was put in charge?

History
We will get a new coach and be good again one day. But don’t let BC critics or Spaz apologists rewrite this decline. Spaz wanted the job for a variety of reasons, was a thorn in Jags' side while Jags was here and then led BC down this slow decline once he finally got his turn. He never should have been hired in the first place.

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Help former Eagle Frank Chamberlin fight with cancer

Some of you may remember earlier this year when I wrote about former BC Linebacker Frank Chamberlin's battle with brain cancer. Part of the tumor was removed but the next stage in his fight involves Immunotherapy. Unfortunately the type of treatment Frank needs is performed in Germany and not covered by insurance. His friends and former teammates are trying to raise money for the family so Frank can travel and have the surgery. If you want to read more about his story or learn how you can donate, please visit "Fight for Frank" at fightforfrank.org.

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Second viewing thoughts and grade report: Notre Dame

BC should preserve this game in some sort of time capsule. That way if future BC fans want to know what life was like under Spaz, they'll have the perfect example in this game. You had a fanbase and a team dying to compete and win (to the point that players were crying), yet we had an ineffective offense, breakdowns on defense and got overpowered in the trenches. As we move on from this mess, people are going to debate how much talent our new coach inherits and how long it will take to rebuild BC. I don't know but I think the simple key for whoever takes over is to get back to having great offensive and defensive lines and make sure they execute well. We've done that many times before and can do it again. And great line play covers a lot of other weaknesses. Too bad the buy who spent the past 16 years here never bothered to figure it out.

Offense: D

The only guy I felt remotely happy for after the game was Rettig. I am sure he doesn't care about stats or praise, but he played well against a Top Ten defense and earned some recognition. He moved well in the pocket and rolling. He made a bunch of good tight throws without wasting too many. He had too near TDs on long plays that Dudeck and Amidon should have pulled in. My only gripe is that as the game dragged on he started to feel the pressure in the pocket before it got there and took sacks.

Finch had a nice return to action. He only really had one explosive play, but he showed his value and versatility in catching five balls. Dudeck had some nice moments early but we didn't use him as much once the game progressed. As I mentioned earlier, he has to pull in that TD pass on the wheel route.

The drops and not coming back to the ball killed us. Evans had some momentum killing drops. Amidon was okay, but he needs to come back to the ball more when he is in tight man coverage. Swigert was good. The ball was a little behind Elliot on the INT, but he still should have pulled it in. Pantale was fine catching but has some issues blocking.

The offensive line was not good. We needed them to be great and we didn't get consistent protection or push from them. Cleary had some issues (as I mentioned in a previous post). Gallik struggled. Vardaro was inconsistent. Betancourt got the start in place of White and let a few different guys blow past him on the way to Rettig. Wetzel was fine.

Martin pulled out a lot of tricks, but I don't think we were aggressive in the right way. Notre Dame has killed drives all year. Dinking and dunking was not going to be the way to beat them. We needed to challenge them downfield more. We didn't do that. I also don't understand all the play action once the line started breaking down.

Defense: C

The defensive line was bad. Maybe their worst game all year. No push and no big plays. Wujciak played the best but he was far from a starr. Murray was okay but didn't make any big plays. Appiah played more in the second half and didn't do much. Edabali was quiet. Ricci got pushed around. Mihalik didn't get much pressure.

The linebackers were a mixed bag. Take Divitto for example. He had some big plays like the fumble strip but still missed tackles and was passed on. Duggan was aggressive but got burned in pass coverage. Daniels was covering a lot of ground but always seemed a step behind the play. Joy didn't play as much. Clancy didn't return after his head injury. One thing that killed us was the option. Duggan kept getting blocked leaving Divitto to guess on the QB or pitch each time. Stopping that play only works if either Divitto moves onto the QB and hopes the corner gets the pitch or Duggan gets there too. Either way it was a breakdown by the LBs.

Sylvia was very active and made a lot of plays, but still let his man go free on Notre Dame's first TD pass. They must have seen something in his coverage because they kept throwing to his side. Asprilla wasn't tested as much. I liked what I saw from Simmons. Rositano was okay.

Once again, I don't understand our aversion to risk. When we brought pressure or forced Golson to make a bad throw, it worked. Yet we were dropping nine guys in coverage at few times and giving Notre Dame time to work to someone open. We weren't ready for the option even though we've played Army and Georgia Tech. And our third down performance was embarrassing.

Special Teams: C

Freese was fine. So was Levano. Spiffy tried but didn't break anything significant. We contained them for the most part on our coverage teams.

Overall: D

I don't feel Spaz is mismanaging the games at this point. We went for it on 4th multiple times. You could quibble with his second field goal but at that point you needed multiple scores so you might as well kick the field goal. But as I wrote at the beginning, all the hallmarks for a Spaz loss were in this game. At this point that is on him.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

All our problems captured in one play

Occasionally I will break down one play to show what I feel are bigger problems. No team is perfect so this can feel like I am cherry picking bad moments, but I picked this play because of when it happened, the breakdowns that happen and how it killed the game.

This is the situation. We just forced another Notre Dame turnover and are driving with the hope of making it 21-14. There is over 11 minutes left. We converted on the first series and are at the Notre Dame 38. Incomplete on 1st down. WE CALL A TIMEOUT! I understand. We are behind. We want to make sure everyone is on the same page and we a ready to roll out our best plays. Right? Right? Out of the timeout we come with one back (Finch), Two Tight Ends on either side (Pantale and Naples) and two wide receivers.


Naples motions to the field side and we start the stretch play (zone blocking). This is a bread and butter play for most good offenses in college and pro football. At the snap there are no initial problems. Cleary and Pantale double their man, the middle of the line is losing the battle, but if Duece can get by them, he should have plenty of space to turn the corner and get a nice run.    


This is where things breakdown. Cleary releases to the second level to block Te'o (who is so overrated compare to Kuechly, BTW). The problem is Pantale is losing his battle. Clearly cannot release that early! We have to win upfront before trying the second level. You can also see Vardaro losing his battle. This is important because now Duece doesn't have a cutback if Pantale gets bowled over.


This is where it all blows up. Pantale loses his man. Te'o runs right by Cleary and the right side of the line collapses. It is now 3rd and 13. The drive is effectively dead and the game is over all because BC couldn't deliver on a simple stretch play out of a timeout!


Like I said, this is cherry picking. But one of the failures of Spaz's tenure is to ever establish an offensive identity. Maybe it was the guys he picked to run his offenses. Maybe it was the way the team prepared. I don't think it is talent. Cleary and Pantale are good ACC level players. They didn't play well Saturday, but they've certainly shown the ability to handle this play. But I don't know what goes on on a week to week basis, but this is a breakdown of communication and execution out of a timeout on a critical drive.

People love to rewrite history with regards to Dana Bible and Steve Logan. One things I will credit both with, is that they both had plays they could call on and deliver over and over again. Not home runs. Not game changers, but simple easy to execute plays that kept the ball moving and helped keep drives alive. In five coordinators we have never gotten to that place with Spaz.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Same old, same old for Spaz and Co

Spaz is now 0-4 against Notre Dame. Our offense couldn't score again. Our defense couldn't get them off the field -- allowing Notre Dame to convert 10 straight third downs. Missed tackles, dropped passes, getting pushed around the line...all the trademarks of the season were there for a national audience to see.

The only upside is that Rettig received some positive national attention.

I will have second viewing thoughts and grades up late Sunday night.

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In-game comments post: Notre Dame

Is this it? Does this miserable season turn tonight? I hope so. Win or lose, I am sure there will be plenty to talk about. Leave your thoughts and comments below.

You can also follow me on twitter throughout the game.

Hockey starts weekend on a good note and other links

They hockey team began Notre Dame weekend on a winning note by beating the Irish 3-1.

If you didn't read it earlier this week, here is the moving story on Women's Basketball Coach Erik Johnson's return to Boston and dealing with the loss of his son. Johnson's team lost their season opener.

Soccer players Kyle Bekker and Charlie Rugg, and Derrick Boateng earned 2012 All-ACC honors.

Women's soccer defeated Hofstra 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Here is Romo's pep talk for the football team.

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Heather Cox interview


Although BC hasn't been in the national spotlight much this season, most Eagle fans would probably recognize ESPN's Heather Cox for her work on ABC/ESPN's Saturday night games. Although we couldn't get too specific or turn her interview into an opportunity to bash Spaz, I did want to get her take on approaching coaches on the "hot seat" and how to navigate a halftime interview when the subject doesn't want to talk. My questions and her answers follow. 


1. Notre Dame is the main draw on Saturday, where the BC narrative is more focused on the struggles and possible final days of Frank Spaziani. When you have your pregame meetings and interviews with a coach and staff on the "hot seat" do you ask about the job pressure? 

Heather Cox: Absolutely. We are sensitive to the situation but certainly address any pressures. More often than not, in the situation you describe, the coach actually brings up the pressures before we do. It isn't a big pink elephant in the room. It is almost always addressed and when it is, our goal is to discuss it with compassion and sensitivity without any judgment or bias.
 
 2. Notre Dame is a heavy favorite on Saturday. Most of BC's games have not been close. If a game becomes lopsided do you try to shift your sideline reporting from information to more storytelling and entertainment in hopes of keeping the viewers engaged?

Heather Cox: The way we announce the broadcast and the tone and technique does change based on the score of the game. A game with a close score will be very specific to the action, the calls and reports will be tight and succinct and always looking forward. If the score gets out of hand, we tend to talk bigger picture, national landscape and do more story telling. At that point, we aren't as concerned about calling each specific play and will trend toward a more conversational approach to calling the game.

3. When doing sideline reporting you have to interview the coaches before and after halftime. If you know a coach is not a particularly good quote do you change the type of questions you ask?

Heather Cox: I definitely alter my approach based on the coach and his personality and demeanor. However, that doesn't mean I will avoid a question because I know the coach won't like it. If I believe a subject matter needs to be covered, I will always ask the question. A perfect example of that was with Bill Snyder last week when Collin Klein didn't return to the game. I know that Bill Snyder doesn't discuss injuries and keeps everything very close to the chest. But I would not being doing my job if I didn't ask about his Heisman hopeful's health. I can't avoid a topic just because I think the coach might not like it.

4. There will probably be a few heroes from past BC upsets of Notre Dame in attendance on Saturday. Are there any names that you know of now that Eagle fans can look forward to?

Heather Cox: As of now, no word on past greats attending the game. But I am sure as we get closer to kick, we will hear who is planning to attend. It is always fun in games like this to see who comes back to support his alma mater.

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Game Watches: Notre Dame

Notre Dame brings out the crowds at Alumni and also spikes attendance at different BC Game Watches. If your chapter is having one and it is not listed, be sure to put the information in the comments section. For those of you attending the NYC Watch, please note that they are having a coat drive for victims of Sanday. In more fun news, San Francisco is having free BBQ and prize giveaways.


Atlanta Game Watch
Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub
Brookhaven
705 Town Boulevard
Atlanta, GA 30319
 
Austin Game Watch
Bar Louie
123 West 6th Street
Austin, TX 78701

Chicago Game Watch
Tripoli Tap
1147 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago

Dallas Game Watch
Christies Sports Bar
2811 McKinney Avenue
Dallas

New York City Game Watch
Joshua Tree (on 3rd Avenue btw 34th and 35th Streets)
 
Phoenix Game Watch
Gallagher's Sports Grill
7575 N. 16th Street
Phoenix

San Diego Game Watch
The Beer Company 602 Broadway
San Diego
 
San Francisco Game Watch
Shanghai Kelly's in San Francisco
2064 Polk Street (corner of Polk and Broadway)
San Francisco
 
Seattle Game Watch
Buckley's in Belltown
2331 2nd Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121
 
Washington, DC Game Watch
Irish Whiskey Public House (formerly Porter's)
1207 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC

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