Saturday, November 25, 2006

Stuck in a rut (and I am open to suggestions)

Stuck in the middle: too good to fire, too bad to embrace.

BC fans are in the most unenviable position in sports -- hopeless, frustrated and bored. And it starts at the top with Tom O’Brien. I don't have much of a solution, but I do have a few thoughts for each respective party.

To the TOB apologists,

For those who blame the players for the loss (and other losses), explain this: if the players change yet BC keeps losing to lame duck programs, whose fault is it? For those who credit TOB with our graduation success, explain this: if it is TOB’s work, how come BC has been graduating football players at high rate for 20 years? Did you realize Dan Henning won the graduation award while he was at BC? For those who think BC cannot ever be more than they are, explain Stanford and Northwestern’s Rose Bowl appearances in the last decade, explain Rutgers Lazarus-like rise from the dead, explain Wake Forest or Georgia Tech. My point. Plenty of schools have won the right way. Plenty have recovered or rebuilt after scandal. TOB has done a lot but is not a miracle worker. No one thinks BC should compete for a National Championship every year, but to think BC’s institutional and historical challenges prevent us from ever winning a conference title or excuses bad losses is a loser mentality. Our school motto is ever to excel, not ever to be pretty good.

To Sports Information and the Athletic Department,

Stop pushing these accomplishments: “most wins in a season”, “most wins by a senior class”, and the god-awful bowl streak to the fans and media. These are skewed stats that feel increasingly hollow as we finish our season in the same place over and over. The win total is padded by the longer seasons and the gross bowl expansion. These teams are winning more games because they are playing more games than the Flutie, Leahy or Coughlin teams. The bowl streak is also a really empty stat. Nearly half the NCAA makes bowl games. Past BC squads never had a chance to go to illustrious bowls like the ones held in Boise, Detroit and San Francisco. If TOB ever passes Bobby Bowden's 11-game streak, then he will have something to crow about. Until then, shut up about the bowl streak. I also hope the administration has the guts to tell TOB and his agents to stop whining to the media about his salary. He has done nothing to merit a salary in the top of the conference. If he leaves BC over money it will give both sides the face saving out that I think both might be looking for.

For those of you who want Bible (or Petercuskie or Spaz) fired,

It all starts at the top. If our play calling in big games is suspect again and again…it is on TOB. If our defense continues to have mental lapses or come out flat in key games…it is on TOB. If our special teams allow big plays or cannot find a placekicker after three years…it is on TOB. If the arrogant ass wants to tell ESPN “We’re up, aren’t we?” in response to a harmless halftime adjustments question…it is on TOB. Any fan could see that both our offense and defense needed to make adjustsments. I hope TOB was being snide and did realize we had to make adjustments. Because if he didn't, then our problem is not the assistants.

For those who want to see TOB fired,

I am sorry, but I cannot call for his firing. We need to raise the bar. We cannot allow the school or media to push his accomplishments beyond what they are. But despite his choking in numerous big games, I still don’t think he has done anything to justify his firing. You can talk about our watered-down schedule, but he has still won more than he has lost. His team’s aren’t as disciplined or perfect as we’d like to think but he still has not done anything to embarrass our school. I cannot root for him to fail, because he still represents BC and more importantly, his players are BC students and future alums.

So what do I think can or should be done?

Unfortunately we are stuck. I don’t think the Athletic Administration will ever do anything as they have been as quick as TOB to assign blame to others. I think our only hope is to voice your displeasure directly to the Alumni Association. Give money with a message or don’t give with a message. Regardless, handling our business as the BC family is the only way to go. Leahy needs to hear from us. Leahy needs to raise the bar with Gene and Gene needs to raise the bar on TOB.

That is all I've got. Post your comments below as I am open to solid suggestions. I am afraid that things will not change. TOB will never win the conference. BC will continue to go to lower-rung bowls. We'll see a slow decline until he retires like his mentor George Welch. And I think the BC community will feel the same way UVA feels about Welch: begrudging respect but very little love. And when it is all done, I think BC fans will remember TOB's shortfalls more than his triumphs.

Tell me I am wrong as I would love for things to get better.


Alex L. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex L. said...

Bill, for what it's worth, you make compelling arguments in each paragraph except for the one about TOB being fired. You say we are stuck and we must raise the bar. Is this not part of a coach's job? Doesn't this mean then, that TOB is no longer fulfilling his duties as head coach and should at least be on probation?

I guess it really depends on GDF's expectations of TOB. In my opinion, he has met the job description as spelled out by GDF: be in the top 25 and be competitive for a conference championship every year (note I said "be competitive," not "win"). Along with these are the usual: run a clean program and graduate your players. That's it.

The problem lies with the fact that these were the same expectations of the fans up to maybe 3 or 4 years ago, but no longer. Now we want to be in the top 10 every year and play for or win a conference championship thus placing us in the BCS picture. But since this is NOT expected of TOB by his boss, he will not get fired.

I am with a few of the other regular posters here in that I used to be a TOB supporter up until the Wake game. That result along with Wake and Rutgers coming out of absolutely nowhere this year shows that TOB has been leapfrogged by coaches of competing programs. I used to think that it would be impossible for a small(ish) private school with very little football tradition to become a national power within a short period of time, but Rutgers, Wake et al have disproved that. This was the one crutch supporting TOB in my mind. No more.

Unfortunately for me, my donations to the athletic program probably amount to less than a billionth of the total donations they have received, so my voice will be as proportionately heard when and if I tell them what I think. However, I think I will tell them anyway, for nothing else but to have the satisfaction that this kind of job performance by TOB, while acceptable to GDF, is no longer acceptable to me.

TOB worked hard and brought respectability back to the BC football program. We consistently win more than we lose, we have athletes who are just as talented in the classroom as they are on the field. And they are, for the most part, stand-up guys. However, TOB no longer meets the desires of the fans and alumni who wish to see BC rise from good to great. He needs to be thanked and congratulated for the job he has done in the past 9 years and then shown the door. TOB, thanks, but you're fired.

As far as a new coach, I'd like to see two main things. One, we need reasonable assurances that the new guy does not view BC as merely a stepping stone to some other program. While no one has a crystal ball and we cannot stop him from accepting a truly spectacular offer from another program, we need to at least know that the new coach sees himself settling in at BC for the foreseeable future. Two, we need someone who has enormous football coaching experience, savvy and ambition to be in the top 10, play for and/or win the ACC championship and at least be considered for a NC more often than not. Bill, you say we can afford to pay someone like that. I am not so sure, but if we can, I say do it. This would be GDF's one big hire in his career (if I am not mistaken, GDF did NOT hire TOB). So if we get lucky enough to find someone who fits this criteria, I am more than willing to get thru a few "rebuilding years" and also pay the guy generously.

This is what needs to be done, IMHO.


Anonymous said...

It is not GDF's expectations that matter, it is Father Leahy's and TOB meets those - except for some frustrations reagrding the periodic flirting with other jobs.

I am as frustrated with the TOB as anybody else - my particular bone of contention is the lack of a killer instinct which I believe comes from the coach (Boise State, CMU, NCSU, etc. are all examples of this). The penchant for playing beat-the-clock is unsatisfying.

TOB reminds me, in some ways, of Joe Yukica. Except for one year Yukica had brought BC to certain level of consitant success that had not been seen in decades. At the same time he beat who he should have beat and, outside of Texas and maybe Syracuse in '69, had no signature victories. The style of play was predictable and not overly exciting. (I should add that one thing that set him apart from TOB is the lack of WTF losses. The '72 loss to UMass and the '77 loss to HC are the only ones that come to mind). I remember clearly a great deal of frustration regarding the '75 ND game. Monday night on natinal TV and a big TOB sized egg was layed.

Many people were happy that he left for Dartmouth. The only problem is that Ed Chlebek was his replacement.

I do not believe that there are many great coaches who are willing to view the job as something other than a stepping stone. Given that, I worry about 10 years of horror that could follow his departure.

Also, I do not believe that there is an expectation (by the fan base) that BC finish in the top 10 every year. There is an expectation that BC take advantage of situations. This is the third straight year that BC has choked. PLay to win in Pittsburgh and the Syracuse fiasco does not matter. Don't let UNC run back the opening kick-off and you are in Jacksonville. And then we have this year . . . . . . . .

I like the fact that BC is no a solid top 25 program. I like the fact that all the players graduate. I like the spirit exhibited by the students (compared to when I was there). I hate the missed opportunities.

I don't mind the lousy bowls so much. That is a function of our travel situation and that is something that we will have to live with. I am much more interested in conference championships than whether we go to the number 3 or number 6 bowl.

At the end of the day I am po'ed at the current situation but I wonder if the risk is worth the change.

dixieagle said...

"Also, I do not believe that there is an expectation (by the fan base) that BC finish in the top 10 every year. There is an expectation that BC take advantage of situations. "

This hits the nail squarely on the head. We have had opportunity after opportunity to win the games that really count and could take us to league championships and the story is always the NEVER happens. It's like being a Red Sox fan for all those years before the World Series win - an exercise in utter and repetitive frustration - and I think that fans and media have finally had their eyes opened. At the very least, Leahy needs to light a fire under TOB. But, hope springs eternal, and even the Sox had their day...once.

newsthatfits said...

The current year is and next year is likely to be frustrating with a high skill QB without the skill players to match.

However, BC's current "stuck" is a better place than most programs. Particularly since outside the BC fan base, BC's results are generally thought to be better than the team's overall athletic ability. While speed is improved it is not near as fast as many of the teams trailing BC.

BC should be more concerned with the ability to continue to perform at a consistent nine to ten wins a year as the ACC and BC's OC opponents get stronger. The recruiting holes are there to see. Will
BC ever land a top receiver that can cause Miami or VTech a match-up problem?

The question BC's administration needs to answer is now that they have provided the facilities and TV exposure through the ACC can TOB recruit better and better players each year. When they think not, they better act quickly or the slide will follow.

Anonymous said...

TOB gives "Martyball" a whole new meaning. How on earth a coach can be more conservative than Marty Schottemheimer is beyond belief. I can script every offensive BC series to perfection every time. A run up the middle (he refuses to run off-tackles or sweeps) for 0 yards on first down. He then will throw a crummy screen pass to a back for 2 yards always leaving BC in a third and long situation. Since everyone and their mother knows that BC will have to pass, the defenses blitz the house and either sack Ryan and force him to throw a 5 yard pass to an outlet receiver. This being the case, can anyone please explain to me how TOB calls a 5 yard passing play in 4th down and long situations like he did against Wake and Miami. Isn't the point to get a first down in these situations?

For the past three years, BC had the opportunity to take the next step and go to a BCS or ACC conference Championship game and every year TOB blew it against vastly inferior teams. Three years ago against Syracuse, their fourth string running back/second back-up safety ran for over 200 yards all on off tackle plays leading to an absolute massacre of BC. Last year, BC laid an egg against UNC and this year WTF losses mounted against NC State (who has won three games all year), Wake Forest (one of the most overrated teams in the conference that BC should easily have handled), and then to Miami whose offense couldn't score on a D-1AA team. It is time for the joke TOB to be fired.

Possible replacements would include the Navy head coach Paul Johnson who has turned Navy into a perennial winner despite the recruiting struggles that come with coaching at a military academy. Another replacement who absolutely no one has talked about would be the University of San Diego's head coach Jim Harbaugh (the former Michigan and NFL quarterback). He was passed over on a couple jobs already including Rutgers last year and Iowa State this year. He has transformed the USD program into a winner and had an 18 game winning streak in D-1AA going into this past weekend. He is the coach of the number 1 rated mid-major school in D-1AA and had his program rated as high as 13th this year in D-1AA. This happened despite USD not giving out one athletic scholarship (compared to 53 for the other D-1AA's school). Imagine what these two coached could do with the facilities and recruiting bases BC does have.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with the Marty Schott analogy.

4 things that TOB does that drive practically all hope out of the program.

1. From some public statements he seems perfectly content with winning 3 out of every 4 games he plays. For once can he just pretend that he aspires to reach a meaningful game.

2. I wish they kept track of how many third and longs BC has had where they throw four yeards short of a first down to a tight end. In twenty years of football I have never seen another team utilize this strategy.

3. The lack of concentration on our teams. Did you realize that we have practically 20% more penalities than our opponents. Thankfully the TV announcers remind us game after game that TOB's military background assures BC of a disciplined performance.

4. The lack of any any surprise plays. Have we ever once blocked a punt in TOB's tenure? He does know who Frank Beamer is right? He's lost to him like 15 times or so....Other than the fake field goal a few years back in the bowl game, do we even have a trick play in our playbook? Just once or twice a year, thats all I ask.

Alex L. said...

It's really not the recruits, in my opinion. While TOB is not a recruiting mastermind, I think we get plenty of talent already. We've won 8-9 games in the past 4 years or so. So the talent is there. What's missing is the coaching, the CULTIVATING of that talent.

You can have the best recruiting class in the country year in and year out. But if you're telling those players to throw for two yards on a 3rd and long, you will eventually lose more games than you win, right?

So I am okay with our recruiting these past few years and I don't see it improving. We are already in the ACC, we win most of the time and we are in bowls. Those are the main good points. A new coach isn't going to change any of the bad points: mainly that we are a tough private school with high academic standards and we have snow 5 months out of the year. Oh yeah and we currently have one of the worst fan bases in the ACC.

However, a new coach COULD change the atrocious play calling and in-game decision making. Change that and we are consistently in the BCS. From that result, we would automatically get better recruits down the line. But the way we are now, we have hit the glass ceiling. Our annual record will not improve and neither will our recruits.

Joe Grav said...

You're a fool if you don't think our recruits have improved over the past few years.

Hello, Mr. Kiwanuka;
Hello, Mr. TOAL?

Alex L. said...

Joe, if you're referring to me, then what I meant was I don't see our recruiting improving from this point in time forward. Yes, our recruiting has improved in the past few years. But at this point, I don't see it getting any better.

Anonymous said...

The problem with TOB is not recruits. I read somewhere that 85% of all D1 football players attend school within a 5 hour drive of their school. After Penn State left the region for the Midwest, we cornered the market up in the northeast. As long as Syracuse (our main competition for recruits) is down, we will be OK, unless this season's Rutgers squad is not an aberration. The problem is his approach. He either plays not to lose (NC State, Miami) or refuses to go for the kill (Central Michigan, Florida State). That allows teams to hang around, and the longer they hang around, the more likely those games turn into WTF losses. When was the last time we had a nice comfotable 52-7 blowout win against a non-1-AA team? BC should have crushed Central Michigan, NC State, and Florida State, and had opportunites to win comfortably against BYU and Miami. With TOB's flatline approach though, all of these games had a heart attack quotient and two of them morphed into WTF. This program can take a half a step further, but it won't with TOB. He sucks, he must go, but he won't. Too good to fire, too bad to lead the program anywhere.

Unknown said...

I really like your writing style. Such a nice Post, Can’t wait for the next one.

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