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In the most puzzling
college football season in recent memory, it’s perfectly fitting that
the Bowl Championship Series ended in a mad scramble.
Closer to home, there was
no shortage of head-scratching moments throughout the season, especially
towards the end.
Here are some perplexing
thoughts from the regular season’s final week:
Could you have picked a
worse postseason scenario for East Carolina fans than the Sheraton
Hawaii Bowl? Not unless a new bowl has been scheduled for Christmas Day
Playing in Hawaii on
December 23rd ensures that 99.9 percent of ECU fans must watch the game
from their cozy living rooms. That’s unfortunate considering the
increased enthusiasm that was tangibly displayed in Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium this season.
If you had to pick which
segment of the Pirates program performed the most consistently in 2007,
the fan base takes that honor hands down. East Carolina averaged over
41,000 per game this season, and only the finale against Tulane drew
Yet the fans seemed to be
the forgotten man during the postseason positioning process.
When the GMAC Bowl decided
not to release East Carolina for selection by other bowls, it was widely
believed that the Pirates would be the selection should Central Florida
take the Conference USA title. And it made sense, because most Oklahoma
high schools would travel more fans than tiny Tulsa University.
So, what happened? Why
would the GMAC Bowl pass on ECU when Tulsa was its only other option,
and Bowling Green — another school without a reputation for traveling —
was the MAC selection?
Who knows? But it’s no
secret that East Carolina’s administration made it abundantly clear that
it desired a visit to Waikiki Beach over Mobile Bay.
Aside from the most
obvious reasons — destination, climate, and a luxurious vacation — the
question is why?
Playing in Oahu limits
fans from making the postseason trip, and bowl games are one of the
prime opportunities to charm donors into making bigger financial
commitments. Logistically, though, a trip to Hawaii isn’t feasible for
most given the distance and proximity to Christmas.
Not the case with Mobile.
With the game scheduled on a Sunday after New Year’s, fans would have
plenty of vacation time at their disposal, though they’d be required to
burn very little if any.
Competitively you also
have to question why Hawaii was the preference. Of all the bowls
allotted to C-USA, Hawaii easily provides the toughest possible
opponent, and what many will suggest is an unrealistic scenario for a
Given ECU’s defensive
shortcomings and special teams inconsistency, the Pirates are a definite
underdog against Boise State. Outside of West Virginia and Virginia
Tech, the Broncos are by far the most imposing opponent ECU will have
faced and certainly the most diverse offensively.
Facing Bowling Green in
Mobile would have been more forgiving. Heck, the Pirates are probably a
decent favorite to finish with eight wins in that scenario, a definite
sign of progress after notching seven W's last season.
Three years from now, fans
will point to the overall record, not who ECU beat. If the latter
includes Boise State, it’s a shame the Pirate Nation won’t be on hand to
Jeff Bower’s firing
Smooth move, Southern
Miss. In firing Jeff Bower, you not only terminated the best head coach
in your program’s history, you dethroned the longtime King of Conference
Good luck with the
coronation of the next one. Because my guess is you’ve officially
removed yourself from C-USA royalty, providing such a status exists.
If it does, the Golden
Eagles program has had a virtual stranglehold on it since the league’s
inception. And any explanation behind USM’s seemingly permanent spot
atop the league standings starts and ends with its former head coach,
whose name is etched in boldface within the definition of loyalty.
You certainly can’t
attribute success to facilities. If it weren’t for Tulsa, “The Rock”
would be the official armpit of C-USA, a dreadful eyesore complete with
the bells and whistles of a rundown high school stadium.
Seriously, it makes
Houston’s old digs look like a palatial setting.
Yeah, I know. Improvements
are on the way. So, save your e-mails Southern Miss fans. Awfully nice
of you to offer those luxuries to Bower, who was a master at operating a
porterhouse program on a Happy Meal budget.
Ditto for location. Hardly
anybody is rushing to relocate to Hattiesburg, and that should include
any coach whose credentials mirror Bower’s.
While Bower wasn’t the
first to experience success at USM, he is the only one to do so during
the BCS era. Comparing anyone’s success two decades ago with what Bower
accomplished is a complete apples and oranges experience.
Southern Miss wants to
discard Bower’s 14-consecutive winning seasons and ten bowl berths in
the past 11 years. In the process, USM likely will hire a coordinator
who has never called the shots at a major program.
That includes the
formation of an astute staff, implementation of a recruiting strategy,
and humble glad-handing of overzealous boosters. Instead of a seasoned
veteran overseeing that process, USM will likely break out the training
Where’s the logic in that?
Conference USA defenses
New rule that should be
implemented by C-USA: First team to 40 wins.
That’s about the only way
to prevent league games from exceeding the four-hour plateau.
While it’s tempting to
attribute C-USA’s defenseless tailspin to offensive sophistication, a
quick study of league performance in non-conference games suggests
otherwise. C-USA offensive production took a nosedive when its schools
stepped out of conference, and that spread universally from top to
bottom in the league standings.
Take Central Florida. The
Knights torched Tulsa for 44 points in the championship game Saturday,
but managed only 12 against rival South Florida.
Memphis hardly did the
conference proud when it scored seven against Sun Belt also-ran Middle
Tennessee. And Tulane, boasting the nation’s second leading rusher,
managed only 17 against Army’s soft ‘D’.
If C-USA is to be taken
seriously as a viable football conference, its schools must make a
complete 180 defensively. The league finished the season 13th in the
Sagarin conference ratings (behind the MAC, Sun Belt, and I-AA
Colonial), most of which can be traced to its abundant collection of