Monday, December 27, 2021

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

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

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

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 However, the whole enterprise is stupid and outdated.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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 25, 2021

BC-ECU preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The most important things Jeff Hafley said about his recruiting class


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

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

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

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

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