The All Classless Conference

Friday, January 9, 2009

College football is an interesting case study in sociology. Not to sound like a nerd or anything, but there are so many examples of conferences, teams, coaches, athletic directors, and groupings of fans that feel for whatever reason, that their rooting interests are paramount over everyone else's. One can essentially break this down to passion and/or pride, and it's certainly one of the things that makes college football and sports as a whole, so interesting.

I have to say though, that two ACC teams are carrying the torch for the "inferiority complex crowd" at the moment. And because these two teams -- Boston College and Miami -- are former Big East members, it makes for interesting fodder on the Dangerfield Division. Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN sums of the situation of Robert Marve transferring from Miami quite aptly, while also making reference to the firing of Jeff Jagodzinki at Boston College (although he applauds BC for taking a tough stance on Jags).

My impression of the treatment of Robert Marve is that it's completely ridiculous. Sure, Marve made a commitment to Miami and he should be held to the standard of upholding said commitment while working hard in the classroom and on the football field. He had his problems and was rightly reprimanded by the university when off-the-field issues arose. Now that Marve wants to transfer, the U is making life a little tougher for the once highly rated recruit out of Tampa, FL:

  1. They are preventing him from transferring from any ACC school (this is fairly standard due to issues of scheduling, whereby schools typically don't like transfers to play them in upcoming scheduled games).
  2. Miami has specifically singled out LSU, Florida, and Tennessee as school he may not transfer to (Miami backed off an initial ban from ALL SEC schools!)
  3. He may not transfer to any programs within the state of Florida (this has changed as well, being that USF is now an approved program)

The above conditions are all-too-funny for me to bear. It's clear that Miami is very insecure about the way they will be perceived if they "go easy" on Marve. The fact is, Miami is not an elite program anymore. Sure, they've got tradition and a history of winning in the past on their side, but recent events have changed all that. I applaud coach Randy Shannon for trying to change the culture of Miami football, but the situation with Marve isn't helping. They should not feel threatened in any way by Marve going to another program, even if it's a program that is highly competitive or has close proximity to them. Instead, they should take the approach that they have fine recruits coming in the door (a top 10 recruiting class for 2010) and that they will be fine without a quarterback that probably was not going to start for them next year anyway.

In Wojciechowski's article, it was also interesting to see this tidbit about Florida head coach Urban Meyer's policy on players transferring:

Florida's Urban Meyer said his general policy, which can change based on family circumstances (illness, etc.), restricts schools on UF's schedule from receiving permission to speak with a potential transfer.

Okay, so there are restrictions at UF transfers too. But these restrictions change based on "family circumstances (illness, etc.). Guess what? Robert Marve's father is ill and dealing with the onset of cancer. One would think that this might change any perceived policy that a school has toward a player transferring, apparently not at Miami though.

I've already spoken at some length about the Boston College situation. Whether one supports BC AD Gene DeFilippo's decision to dispatch of Jeff Jagodzinski or not, it's obvious that the situation should have been handled behind closed doors. To air this dirty laundry in public is without tact to say the least. But this is also yet another situation where a school thinks it's a bigger deal on the college football scene than they currently are. For sure, the Eagles have performed better in the last four years or so than Miami, but other programs are not seething jealously over the state of football at Boston College. BC has always had a hard time reeling in big-time recruits (as they are again this year), and I can't see things getting any better with the instability brewing among the athletic department and coaching staff. Moreover, I don't see many high caliber coaches wanting to come to Chestnut Hill to roll the dice with DeFilippo (exhibit A: Brian Kelly).

To be fair in all the above criticism, the Big East has had its run-ins with unfair coaches/athletic departments. Everyone knows about the nasty divorce between Rich Rodriguez and West Virginia. But all in all, the Big East tends to keep its powder dry when running into sticky situations that can potentially get blown out of proportion. Observe Louisville's handling of the fickle Bobby Petrino potentially going to Auburn and eventually bouncing to the NFL as a prime example of how an athletic department can handle a tough scenario appropriately. There was no whining or moaning when Petrino ultimately left; Louisville simply turned around and hired Steve Kragthorpe right away. The same can be said of Cincinnati when they hired Brian Kelly immediately after Michigan State nabbed Mike Dantonio (in fact, Cincy is now better off).

Ultimately, I think what at least the Miami situation will produce, is an environment where potential recruits start asking programs more about their policy on transferring. It's only natural to want to know how programs will receive them if things don't go as planned. Frankly, I think recruits SHOULD inquire about this and it is completely understandable to want to safeguard oneself when coming, say, across the country to play for a nationally recognized program. I don't think any ACC programs or programs from other conferences will want to be seen as having an inflexible policy on transferring or the retention of head coaches.