Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Five more questions you may be (and are) asking.

Since the blog started back up, the emails are now coming in again and questions are being asked. Form a review of the message boards, it appears there are a number of questions about the press conference and what was said and what was not said. If you haven't seen the press conference in its entirety, especially the second-half with Steve Orsini, you need to see it.

Without further ado, let’s look at the issues.

Hey, I was listening to the Ticket before the press conference and they proceeded to kick SMU in the groin repeatedly. They made it sound like it was going to be impossible to find someone willing to take this job. Are we actually going to be stuck with some coach from Texas State or I-AA School?

First of all, with regards to the Ticket, nobody except Rich Phillips and George Dunham know a darn thing about college football beyond the top 25. Corby Davidson, who spoke most of the groin-kicking comments, can’t even speak articulately about his own alma mater (TCU), much less another school that isn’t Oklahoma. Make no mistake, SMU football is lucky to be on the Ticket and listen to the Ticket religiously, I just don’t recommend relying on the Ticket to be your SMU Information Station.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the old “Who on earth are we ever going to get to take this awful job?” argument.

This argument, self-loathing and pitiful though it may be, is incredibly uninformed.

Never mind that this cry of woe was made when Jim Copeland retired/got fired. The answer, in that case, was someone better than anyone reasonably expected: Steve Orsini left the equivalent position at a successful university in the same conference.

Never mind that this same cry of woe was uttered again when Jimmy Tubbs was fired as the basketball coach. The answer, again, was someone better than anyone expected: Matt Doherty, former NCAA coach of the year, a coach that some suggested before Jimmy Tubbs was hired and was dismissed “because HE’d never come here” is now looking at paint samples for the walls of his new office in his new practice facility.

One would think people would stop asking this question.

With football, it is even easier; all you have to do is do the math. There are presently 120 Bowl Subdivision teams (that is Division I-A to you and me). Over the last seven years, there have been an average of 18 coaching changes in Division IA. There simply are not that many jobs out there. A lot of people point to Bob Stoops who turned down offer after offer waiting for a job like Oklahoma to come calling. Bob Stoops is not typical. Bob Stoops took the advice of a man who didn’t even follow it: Steve Spurrier.

On average, a little more than half of the eighteen job openings per year have gone to previous head coaches at the I-A or NFL level. A couple more each year will be internal hires. That leaves, on average, seven Division I-A jobs up for grabs each year among assistants at the NFL or Division I-A level or head coaches at a lower level. If you are not a hot name (Urban Meyer leaving Utah for Florida, for example), you are going to listen to almost any offer.

Sub-question: Yeah, but this is a crazy year, there are going to be like thirty job openings this year.

No. No, there won’t. The numbers suggest, despite the chatter, this will be a quiet year for coaching turnover. The numbers say that there is significant turnover every other year and last year was an above-average year. Yes, there is a lot of chatter out there, but there is a lot of chatter every year and the chatter gets worse every year. Sure, Franchione and Callahan look like they are on their way out and it sounds like Houston Nutt will finally be shown the door, but I doubt the veracity of half the claims that “so and so” is on the way out. My gut says that there will be right around the average 18 coaching changes this year, which in some ways is still atypically high.

So Bennett finally came clean pointed out all the ways that SMU is not competitive in recruiting, right?

Well . . . sorta.

Look, everybody likes Phil Bennett. Phil is a great guy. You have heard that a million times in the last 72 hours. And it is true. He comes across as is a very genuine guy and you are inclined to believe every word he says. And if you do that, you are asking for trouble. I am not saying Phil will lie to you, but I absolutely believe Phil will confuse you and allow you to walk away from a conversation with a false impression.

I quit going to Coach’s Breakfasts and Lunch’s because I got tired of the “Phil Bennett bit.” The Phil Bennett bit is as follows: Phil identifies two key decisions (in recruiting, in a game, in anything) that were questionable. The most questionable decision, Phil will defend completely and tell you how smart he is and how you just don’t know enough about football. The second decision, Phil will tell you he was wrong and then go into a laundry list of why he was right even though he just said he was wrong.

Phil is also great at saying he doesn’t make excuses, but then proceed to list a bunch of excuses.

So when Katie the Greek started asking questions about “recruiting restrictions,” Phil was all too eager to agree with the premise and start talking. And why shouldn’t he? It validates him. I am going to watch Phil’s half of the press conference again, but if you can actually decipher what he is specifically talking about, you are a mind reader. I gleaned something about transfers and something about an education major.

Add to that the fact that neither Orsini nor Turner are ever going to publicly talk about these things in specifics and Phil Bennett has free reign to say whatever the heck he wants.

Do not take away from this that I think SMU is on a perfectly level playing field. Bottom line, while I think there is something to it, I also think there is something to what Steve Orsini said about it being its own form of "negative recruiting."


When SMU dropped its Physical/Education major after Ken Pye arrived, that significantly hurt recruiting, right? Most of our opponents, even Rice and Tulane, have majors in which a majority of athletes focus on, such as Education or Physical Education, Sports Management or Kinesiology. That is one of the things Phil was talking about. This is really a big deal, right?

I know some people think so, but I am not one of them. In the interest of equal time, if someone wants to disagree with me on this or anything else I say here, feel to email me your rebuttal and I will be happy to post it.

While there is not a Physical Education, Sports Management or Kinesiology major, there are certain majors where athletes tend to "cluster," which is the faculty and administrative term for all the athletes taking the same cr@p. I was specifically told by one student (a really smart one BTW) that basic equivalent of "Rocks for Jocks" is Markets and Cultures, which is an interdisciplinary business and sociology major that has only been around for a couple of years. I mentioned the major to a faculty member I know (who hates the athletic department and just about every football and basketball player in his/her class) and he/she just rolled his/her eyes.

Further, how many kids really wanted to go to A&M and major in Agricultural Leadership and Development? The answer is “None of them.” Do you realize how easy it is to find football players at A&M majoring in Agricultural Leadership and Development? I randomly clicked on six football players on the A&M roster and two majored in Agricultural Leadership and Development.

Here is a picture of Danny Gorrer; he can be seen here interfering with a cow catching a football. Danny likes cows so much, he decided to major in “Agricultural Leadership and Development.”

If the issue is having majors that potential student-athletes are interested in, I think the answer is kids are interested in anything, but most of all, they are interested in winning and being successful and enjoying their time at a school, not unlike any other kid. If the issue is having classes and majors at SMU where kids can be “stashed” and keep their eligibility, then I have news for you, SMU is not that hard. Besides, read what I said about Markets and Cultures again.

But hey, if the SMU leadership wants to start an Education undergraduate degree or a Sports Management degree because students are interested in it and that happens to help recruiting, then more power to them. I just rank the lack of such majors on the level of excuses for not winning just above chick Peruna handlers and dressing the Mustang Band like Mr. Peppermint.

Bennett said something else about transfers. This is really a big deal, right?

The transfer issue is a really big deal. Or it was. Or it still is.

Make no mistake, Bennett made recruiting junior college players his bread and butter at K-State. And there were so many glaring holes on the SMU roster at times, the failure to recruit junior college players to fill those holes is obviously an issue. Add to that, the public inability to get Division I-A transfers that were previously recruited to either qualify or recruit them.

I point out the "orphan course" policy change at SMU [LINK], which was implemented less than a year ago, which made transferring credits substantially easier. As put into practice and how it applies to the athletic department so far, I can't say. I concede that there has not been an influx of student-athlete transfers in the past year. Maybe Bennett was so obsessed with winning games in October and November 2006, he didn’t focus on junior college recruiting as much as he should have; the numbers were down from even previous years during his tenure.

I will point out that SMU Defensive Tackle Serge Elizee went from JuCo to Minnesota to SMU in less than 9 months and is now playing on Saturdays for SMU, which I find encouraging.

That being said, …


What do you you take away from Orsini's criteria for a new coach?

I took one thing and only one thing away: head coaching experience. And that fits Orsini's previous hires at SMU and UCF. The guy is going to have to have head coaching experience.


Anonymous said...

The problem with jucos as explained to me by former basketball coach Mike DeMent (who BTW was one hell of a nice guy) was that most of them had 2/3 of their "earned" semester hours in P.E. SMU was not interested in watering down degrees by accepting all of those hours, hence, admission was refused. The admissions office would only accept 12 to 21 of those hours, and with the other 20 or so hours, they were not considered juniors. Also, to no one's surprise, the grades in non-PE courses were generally C's.

Perhaps it was just basketball players, but I doubt it. Look, the reason most of those guys went the juco route was that they could not pass the TAKS test or they were marginal talents. Now how Rice is able to accept all those baseball players from the juco level is still a mystery to me. Also, a topic for another time.

Anonymous said...

I hate chick Peruna Handlers