Nine Simple Suggestions
Hello, my name is Kevin and I think I might be able help you out. College football can be frustrating for fans, especially if your expectations are misplaced. I would like to offer the following 9 suggestions for you to consider that might assist you in forming your opinions and arguments surrounding college football. These are only my observations, and you can take them for what they’re worth. You can totally dismiss them and say I have no clue what I’m talking about. That’s fine – again, I’m just trying to help. I have no real resume that gives me the right to make these claims, only a few years as a head football coach at the high school level, multiple D1 coaching seminars and clinics and hours of conversations with high school coaches who have sent a lot of kids to universities to play this game that we love so much. I’ve tried to help my family with these rules, but they are just not ready to listen – I think they enjoy the angst of each season. They are like me when I was in my twenties and just didn’t understand why my beloved Tigers couldn’t build a dynasty football program. Now, I observe the game from 30,000 feet, where I have perspective, and it makes fanhood much easier. Hope it helps and WAR DAMN EAGLE!!!
1. Teams absolutely never EVER take any opponent for granted
It just does not happen. I know you’re reaching for answers for bad play, but this is a multi-million dollar business, and even though you scheduled a lesser team to give your guys a break, you approach every game, every week, the same way because it is your methodology and process for preparation. It’s what you purchased when you bought your coach. You purchased his process for preparation, his methodology. The process is the most important thing, because it gives your team the best advantage for winning. The process is the same for Alabama as it is for Samford as it is for Vandy, and you never abandon it – NEVER. When ULM and App St. beat bama and Michigan, respectively, it was because they had the wrong game plan and were just outplayed on that day. It was not because they looked ahead and spent time on the next opponent.
Recommendation: Quit using this as an excuse for poor play.
2. Cut the defense some slack
The offense has its specific uniqueness and is highly customized in the way it operates. You recruit specific types of players who can perform your plan and run your plays. When we hired Gus, we bought his offense, and it doesn’t change from week to week. We would fire him immediately if he decided to run Bobo’s offense next week because he is a specialist at his offense, and he has recruited for such. Our offensive plan will be the same for all 12 games of the season. Yes, you may run certain plays at a known defensive weakness, but it is the same offense. Each week in practice, the offense is running plays over and over again to ensure that they perform them to perfection. It is a monotonous and boring process, but it is necessary.
Conversely, defense has to adjust each week to the different offensive schemes that other universities purchased. Our defense’s uniqueness is its ability to adjust each and every week to a different team’s offensive scheme, and every team recruits defensive players who have a “pissy” attitude and can bend without breaking. The true “giftedness” for a solid defense is its capacity to morph into what is needed for that specific Saturday, and you have to take into account the offensive personnel on the other team. Oh and by the way, the players only have 3 – 4 days to figure that out and prepare for it.
Recommendation: Don’t create the “Fire Ellis Johnson” Facebook page just yet; you’re better than that.
3. The game has and will continue to change and not necessarily for the better
This ain’t your daddy’s Buick any more… Prepare yourself for the storm coming and decide now if you are going to back the university, the player, the coach, the game or the brand name. You may even decide to just watch games on Sunday. Boosters, administration, Title IX, pay for play, NCAA regulations, crime in the locker room, head trauma, federal intrusion, etc… (Did I leave anything out?) Remember, and long for the days when our heartburn was over video replay and those damn cow bells.
Recommendation: Know where your values lie.
4. They’re still kids. Well sort of…
Please understand that most (not all) of these kids come from tough backgrounds and haven’t experienced a life of love, security, encouragement and discipline, Now they are thrown into a system of schedules, educational requirements, rules and regulations; brand new physical, mental and emotional demands are made on their lives. And, there is a lot of money at stake for how they respond to this demand. Back in high school, most of the guys in the locker room would never even associate with one another unless it was fighting behind the gym after school. Now they are with one another 24/7, and they have to act like brothers. They have been adopted into a new family with surrogate parents and no real free time or ability to adjust. Some excel in this environment, and others rebel and fall into old habits. Shame on us for ever putting them on TV and creating such a public demand on their performance, for hiring coaches at exorbitant salaries, and for using them as cogs for our entertainment pleasure…sometimes I feel dirty about this. Hold them accountable? Absolutely, but just don’t be surprised when they act like kids.
Recommendation: See them as kids, forgive them when they act like kids and don’t get so publicly upset when they make YOUR team weaker because of their immature indiscretions.
5. Know what kind of leader you’ve purchased
Imagine a scale for your coach for where and how he spends his time and energy. On one end are the players and his assistants, and at the other end is the university administration. Now every coach has to spend at least some time on both ends of the spectrum in order to be successful, but where do his loyalties lie? If you have a players’ coach, he will be digging ditches with his boys all week and has to be dragged away from his field work to do the obligatory booster lunches or meetings with the press and AD. You may have a coach who is a figurehead for the team, and the assistants carry the real load while he is pressing flesh and marketing the program and its brand. Either has its place and rate of success, but each requires a different person. You need to know the kind of person you’ve hired. Also, know that he is bound to change over time, which will affect the team in a positive or negative way. Success tends to breed complacency. I believe this is where Chizik failed in his short tenure. I’ve talked to a few bama players over the years, and they do not care so much for their HC as they believe he can get them to the NFL, which is all that matters to them. He is a “means to an end”, and they are closer to their assistant coaches. That is his modus operandi, and it works for him.
Recommendation: Know what type of guy is leading and where his loyalties lie, Hold him accountable to the process that creates success.
6. Coaches are always trying to win
Unless the game has been conceded because it is a blowout late in the game, coaches are always trying to win and come back – ALWAYS. Wins are what they are held accountable for. It represents the week’s worth of work, so don’t think that a coach will take a sandbag loss one week to give him some kind of an advantage the following week. We’re playing football, not spades. It’s just absurd.
Recommendation: Stop. Just stop talking.
7. Don’t get too worked up on signing day
Our group is pretty level-headed on this one. I don’t know too many intelligent people who put a lot of stock into the word of a recruiting agency making money off kids and the family who hires them to brag about their own kid. It is a necessary tool today, coaches do get a lot of information from these agencies, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a 5-star is any better than a 3-star. Are they good athletes? Sure they may have the tools, but just understand that coaches are looking at potential. Attitude over Aptitude, I say.
Recommendation: Continue to have fun with signing days and look at early February as a respite to get you to spring football. (See next rule)
8. The most successful programs are the ones who teach and develop
This is obviously a “no-brainer”, but I hear a lot of people’s frustration when the highly touted athlete doesn’t quite live up to expectations. For whatever reason, he wasn’t developed into the player that he could have been. Maybe he was lazy, maybe he was uncoachable, or maybe he didn’t have enough fiber in his diet, who knows? Gimmicks only get you so far, and the best athletes will eventually be injured or leave the program early, It’s the development and teaching of skills that will create a solid program over time. Hey, kind of like what goes on over at the educational buildings for our regular university students…
Recommendation: See the big picture of your program and its direction. The journey is what’s important, not the destination.
9. You don’t have to defend your team; you just have to support them
I have a friend who is a big FSU fan, and I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed watching him come unraveled on Facebook over all the Jameis Winston antics (alleged rape, crab legs, selling signatures, etc.) amidst the allegations that Jimbo isn’t running a tight ship in Tallahassee, and the ACC isn’t a real conference. It’s been quite cathartic, especially after losing to them last year. Even watching UGA fans go back and forth with FSU fans trying to argue who has the most moral program/coach is just…well, cute. Hell, these people didn’t even go to these schools – they’re just fans. Look, WE didn’t put in the work in the weight room, running bleachers and throwing up during the dog days of summer. The players did that part, and we need to support them in their efforts (no matter the outcome), but I in no way had anything to do with any of the wins or losses on game day. I don’t have to defend the players when they smoke pot, miss a field goal, steal a laptop or turn the ball over because they snapped the ball into their tailbone during the final drive. I’m just not culpable.
Recommendation: Relax. Auburn football is NOT a direct reflection of who you are, but it can be if you don’t handle it properly.
Ok, that’s it. I left out #10 because I want to hear what suggestion you’d add to help the group deal with the inevitable frustrations of fanhood. Even though it’s frustrating at times, IT’S GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER!!!