Competing for a crowd: alternatives to the action at Johnson Hagood Stadium in 2014

There are a lot of opinions on how The Citadel can attract bigger crowds to its home football games. I have shared more than a few of my own in the past.

However, the purpose of this post is simply to highlight some competition the school will face on each of its six home dates in 2014. It goes without saying that winning is a key factor in producing better attendance, but there is more to it than that.

Anyway, without further ado:

August 30 — The Citadel vs. Coastal Carolina, 6 pm

South Carolina plays on Thursday night (August 28). Clemson plays at Georgia in an ESPN game that starts at 5:30 pm.

South Carolina State plays Benedict in Columbia at 5 pm, while Charleston Southern opens on Thursday.

Those are the nearest football options. Also taking place on August 30:

- Lowcountry Jazz Festival (North Charleston Coliseum)

Multiple jazz performers will be featured. Luckily for The Citadel, festival headliner Bobby Caldwell is performing on Thursday night. Since he will presumably be free on Saturday, perhaps Caldwell can team up with the regimental band at halftime for a unique rendition of “What You Won’t Do For Love“.

- Shrimp and Grits Chefs’ Competition (Charleston Visitor Center)

For $35 at the door, you can sample some of the cuisine. My suggestion: have some shrimp ‘n grits for lunch (or breakfast) instead, and then head out to the game.

September 27 — The Citadel vs. Gardner-Webb, 6 pm

It’s a long time between the first and second games at home, isn’t it?

Clemson and South Carolina are both on home on this date, playing North Carolina and Missouri, respectively. Times have not been announced (which is the case for most of their games this season).

SCSU hosts Hampton at 6 pm, while CSU is at Charlotte.

Other events on September 27:

- Folly Beach Pier Tournament

The good news is that the tournament will be over by 2 pm, so you can get your fishin’ fix in and still make it to Johnson Hagood Stadium with time to spare.

- MOJA Arts Festival

It’s the 30th anniversary of this ten-day happening.

- Taste of Charleston

The main event takes place on Sunday at Boone Hall Plantation. Saturday night will feature catered food on Charleston Harbor. I’m sure you can find more edible fare in Johnson Hagood Stadium’s concessions area.

October 11 — The Citadel vs. Charlotte, 2 pm

This is Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel. Rings ahoy!

South Carolina is off this weekend, while Clemson hosts Louisville.

Meanwhile, South Carolina State tangles with North Carolina Central in Orangeburg, and Charleston Southern is at Vanderbilt.

Horning in on the October 11 action:

- Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Music and Food Festival (Blackbaud Stadium)

This actually doesn’t look half-bad, though perhaps a bit expensive (admittedly, I’m kind of thrifty). The general type of music being featured isn’t really my cup of tea, but I’ve seen worse lineups.

If you must see Big Head Todd, Blues Traveler, and/or Bela Fleck, though, I’m sure they won’t get going until later in the evening, convenient enough when an afternoon football game is in the offing. Be sure to tell all your friends and neighbors the same thing.

October 18 — The Citadel vs. UT-Chattanooga, 1 pm

This game is being televised on the American Sports Network, which may or may not be available in your locale.

South Carolina hosts Furman, with that contest also kicking off at 1 pm. Clemson ventures north to face Boston College, a traditional banana peel of a game for the Tigers.

S.C. State is off this week. Charleston Southern is at home and plays Presbyterian at 3 pm.

Also of note:

- Fly Fishing School (West Ashley)

For $75, you can learn to fly fish, just like Brad Pitt.

November 8 — The Citadel vs. Furman, 2 pm

It’s Homecoming Weekend at The Citadel. All the cool people will be tailgating at Johnson Hagood Stadium. This year’s 25th-anniversary reunion features the Class of 1989.

Neither South Carolina nor Clemson play on this date. The Gamecocks are off for the week, while the Tigers play at Wake Forest on Thursday night.

South Carolina State is on the road, playing Florida A&M. CSU hosts Gardner-Webb, with that game starting at 11 am.

Other events:

- Charleston’s Veterans Day Parade starts downtown at 10 am. If nothing else, those going to the football game might want to make note of that. It should be over by around 11:15 am.

- Lowcountry Hoedown (Charleston Visitors Center)

This event runs from 7 pm to 11 pm and includes “Bourbon, Moonshine, BBQ, and Bluegrass”. Well then. Featured performers: Barefoot Movement (they don’t wear shoes, as you may have guessed) and Seven Handle Circus (an act that, oddly, appears to only include six musicians).

- YALLFest (American Theater ballroom, American Theater cinema, Charleston Music Hall)

YALLFest “is the largest and most renowned festival in the country specifically geared toward Young Adult and Middle Grade Literature, with over 5,000 international fans expected to attend.” A bunch of young adult author types will also be making appearances at this particular shindig.

The official YALLFest band: Tiger Beat. So, so predictable.

November 15 — The Citadel vs. Samford, 1 pm

Clemson, South Carolina, South Carolina State, and Charleston Southern are on the road this week. Their respective opponents: Georgia Tech, Florida, Morgan State, and Liberty.

Remaining in the Charleston metropolitan area:

- Fly Fishing School (West Ashley)

Yes, it’s back! It’s a monthly thing, and this is November’s scheduled date.

- Plantation Days (Middleton Place)

If you’re into sugarcane pressing, gourd making, and leather tanning (and who isn’t?), this is the event for you.

There you have it. That is a sampling of what the folks in the marketing department are up against as they promote The Citadel’s home football schedule this year.

At least the Scottish Games and Highland Gathering (September 20, Boone Hall Plantation) won’t conflict with any of The Citadel’s home games this season. That will come as a blessed relief for bagpiper groupies.

However, if crowds this year at Johnson Hagood Stadium are to become truly massive, the maxim of a former assistant football at The Citadel must come into play:

Just win, baby.

2014 football: what teams will The Citadel’s opponents play before facing the Bulldogs?

Is this relatively unimportant? Yes. Are we still in the month of July, and football season for The Citadel doesn’t start until August 30, and that day can’t get here soon enough, so any discussion about football right now is good discussion? Yes.

I posted about this topic last year too, for the record.

Anyway, here we go:

August 30: Coastal Carolina comes to Johnson Hagood Stadium for the first meeting ever between the two programs. It’s the season opener for both teams, so the Chanticleers obviously won’t play anyone before squaring off against the Bulldogs.

Coastal Carolina’s last game in 2013 was a 48-14 loss at North Dakota State in the FCS playoffs.

September 6: The Citadel travels to Tallahassee to play Florida State. It will be Youth and Band Day at Doak Campbell Stadium, and also the first home game for the Seminoles since winning the BCS title game in January.

FSU warms up for its matchup against the Bulldogs by playing Oklahoma State in JerrahWorld on August 30, and then Jimbo Fisher’s crew get a much-needed week off following the game against The Citadel before hosting a second consecutive Palmetto State squad, Clemson.

September 13: No game, as this is The Citadel’s “bye week”.

September 20: Ah, it’s the Larry Leckonby Bowl, as The Citadel travels up the road to play Charleston Southern, a much-criticized scheduling decision by the former AD. This will be the fourth consecutive home game for the Buccaneers, though they don’t actually play on the Saturday before this game. That’s because CSU’s game against Campbell will take place on Thursday, September 11.

September 27: The Citadel’s first three home games in 2014 all feature opponents that have never faced the Bulldogs on the gridiron. The second of these encounters comes against another band of Bulldogs, the “Runnin’ Bulldogs” of Gardner-Webb. On September 20, G-W will host Wofford.

October 4: Speaking of Wofford, The Citadel will travel to Spartanburg on October 4. It will be the first home game of the season for the Terriers against a D-1 opponent. Wofford tangles with UVA-Wise the week before facing The Citadel.

October 11: The Citadel plays Charlotte, which has back-to-back road games against Bulldogs, as the 49ers play Gardner-Webb before making the trip to Charleston.

October 18: Chattanooga has a very tough stretch in this part of its schedule. The week before matching up with The Citadel in Johnson Hagood Stadium, the Mocs will make the journey to Knoxville to play Tennessee.

October 25: The Citadel travels to Cullowhee to play Western Carolina. It’s Homecoming Week for the Catamounts, which play at Mercer before hosting the Bulldogs.

November 1: Another road trip for The Citadel (and another week as a Homecoming opponent), as the Bulldogs play a conference game against Mercer for the first time. The Bears are at Chattanooga the week before this game.

November 8: VMI is the Paladins’ opponent on November 1, so Furman will play military school opponents in consecutive weeks — both on the road. Furman will play The Citadel in Charleston this year, just as it did last season, due to the turnover in the conference (which resulted in some scheduling adjustments).

November 15:  Samford hosts Western Carolina the week prior to its game against The Citadel. The following week, SU plays at Auburn.

November 22: The Citadel finishes its regular season campaign with a game in Lexington, Virginia, versus VMI. The coveted Silver Shako will be on the line.

On November 15, VMI faces Western Carolina in Cullowhee.

Since Georgia Southern has left the league, there are now only two triple option teams in the SoCon. Only once will a league team face The Citadel and Wofford in consecutive weeks. Furman will play the Bulldogs before facing the Terriers.

Some people think it is important to be the first triple option team on an opponent’s schedule. That is the case for The Citadel when it meets Chattanooga, Mercer, and Furman, but not for its games against the other four league opponents.

Wofford itself will play a triple-option squad before its game against The Citadel, as the Terriers play Georgia Tech on August 30.

VMI actually faces two triple option teams before it plays The Citadel. The Keydets travel to Annapolis for a game against Navy on October 11, and will play Wofford in Spartanburg on October 25.

C’mon, football. Get here…

SoCon football geography: where are the prime recruiting areas for the league?

On Thursday, Benn Stancil of the analytics website Mode published an article called “Where Football Players Call Home“. It includes an interactive map that shows the hometowns of every Division I (FBS and FCS) football player, using ESPN as its information resource. The map further breaks down the findings by conference, team, and position.

You could spend hours looking at the various combinations offered up by the map. I’m not saying it would be healthy, but you could do that…

Some of the results are predictable. While big population centers like Los Angeles and Houston are responsible for the most players in terms of volume, the southeast produces the most on a per capita basis.

Then there is the reach of a program, in terms of how wide a recruiting area it has. Stancil came up with a measure of a school’s geographic diversity, describing it as follows:

 I calculated a rough measure of geographic diversity, based on how many states are represented on each team and how many players come from each state. For example, a team with 50 players from one state would have the lowest diversity score, while a state with one player from each of the 50 states would have the highest.

It probably doesn’t come as a shock that the “least diverse” schools from a geographic perspective are located in large, talent-rich states. The 22 least diverse football programs are all from California, Florida, and Texas. They have no need to expand their recruiting areas, so they don’t.

It is also not surprising that the list of most geographically diverse schools includes all of the Ivy League institutions and a couple of the service academies.  Notre Dame and Holy Cross are also near the top in this category. So are two D.C. schools, Georgetown and Howard.

The Mode map accounts for 907 Southern Conference football players on league rosters in 2013, with another 18 from “unknown or unmapped locations”.

Fulton and Gwinnett counties each had 35 SoCon players, part of the talent overload in metro Atlanta. Cobb County had 23 and DeKalb 15.

Other areas of interest to SoCon recruiters: the Charlotte area (including Mecklenburg County, home to 31 league players); Hillsborough County, FL (with 14 players, the most from a county outside the league’s geographic base); Wake County, NC (19); Guilford County, NC (14); Jefferson County, AL (20); Hamilton County, TN (16); and Spartanburg County, SC (17).

Odds and ends from perusing the map of the 2013 SoCon:

- Hennepin County, Minnesota, had four SoCon players. Three of them were at Wofford.

- Mobile County, Alabama, had nine players in the league. Eight of them were Bulldogs — four from Samford, and four from The Citadel.

- Even though it isn’t in the league’s geographic footprint, I think it’s surprising that only five of last season’s SoCon players hailed from Texas. Also, there were only three players from Mississippi, two from Louisiana, one from Oklahoma (The Citadel’s Nick Jeffreys), and none from Arkansas.

- In order, from most geographic diversity to least in 2013:

Wofford
Elon
The Citadel
Furman
Samford
Appalachian State
Western Carolina
Chattanooga
Georgia Southern

- As for the new members, Mercer would have slotted in between Chattanooga and Georgia Southern. It will be interesting to see if that program continues to recruit mostly close to home in future years.

VMI would have been between Samford and Appalachian State. In what may illustrate one of the issues the Keydets have had in trying to be competitive on the gridiron, VMI had the least geographically diverse squad in the Big South last season.

While the state of Virginia has a lot of talented football players, the dilemma for VMI is that A) many other instate schools are recruiting those players, and B) being a military college significantly reduces the number of potential recruits.

The school needs to extend the geographic reach of its recruiting efforts if it wants to establish football relevancy in the Southern Conference. That may be difficult, given certain restrictions.

All in all, I thought this was a neat tool. It may also help to demonstrate which areas will be swarmed with recruiters in the weeks leading up to Signing Day…

The “unofficial” 2014 SoCon football schedule

Last week the Southern Conference accidentally “leaked” the provisional 2014 composite league football schedule. It has since been removed from the conference website, but here is a .pdf of the document as it (briefly) appeared online:

2014 provisional SoCon football schedule

There are a few things on the provisional schedule that have already been changed. For example, Chattanooga will no longer be hosting Georgia State on September 6. Instead, the Mocs will open their 2014 season at Central Michigan on Thursday, August 28 and will play their home opener against Jacksonville State (apparently on September 6, essentially replacing the Georgia State game).

Not included on the provisional schedule, but announced earlier this year, is a 9/20 meeting between the Paladins and South Carolina State, to be played in Orangeburg. That will be a rematch of the first-round 2013 playoff game won by Furman, of course.

There is also a little confusion about Furman’s opponent on 10/25. Some reports suggest the Paladins will play Chattanooga on that date, but this schedule lists Samford as Furman’s homecoming opponent.

Other “holes” in the provisional schedule include the following:

- The opponent for VMI on 10/18 (a non-league matchup) is unknown. Edit 1/7/14: VMI will play Gardner-Webb on that date, in Lexington.

- Wofford will presumably add at least one more game to its schedule (if not two). As of right now, the Terriers only have four listed home games (including a non-conference game vs. Jacksonville). I’m guessing that Wofford will play another OOC matchup in Spartanburg on either 9/20 or 9/27.

- Western Carolina also will be adding another game or two to its slate. From what I understand, Brevard will almost certainly be an early-season home opponent for the Catamounts.

- Samford has reportedly bought its way out of its game at Southeastern Louisiana, which had been tentatively scheduled for 9/13. SU may want to play a home game on that date instead.

While there are still additions and changes to be made to various schedules, I suspect that the actual league games are more or less official (though the uncertainty about Furman’s home opponent on 10/25 does give one pause). Each team will play seven conference games in both 2014 and 2015, as the league waits for East Tennessee State to restart its football program.

Ultimately, this is just throwing out a little football news to talk about in the middle of December. Nothing wrong with that.

Game review, 2013: Samford

Links of interest:

Game story in The Post and Courier

Three points on the game (from The Post and Courier)

School release

Box score

WCIV-TV report (video)

WCSC-TV report (video)

Postgame comments from Kevin Higgins and Ben Dupree (YouTube video)

Kevin Higgins’ locker room speech (YouTube video)

Radio highlights

I’ll write a little bit more about this game later in the week when I preview the game at Elon. Just a few quick thoughts:

- The Citadel did a lot of things right in this game, and it’s a good thing, because Samford was a solid opponent. Before the game began, I thought the Bulldogs would have to play very, very well to win. They did just that.

- The use of sweeps to get outside against Samford’s “bear” front was well conceived, as was the commitment to continue testing the middle throughout the game, which paid off. The fake punt was timely and perfectly executed.

- My only real quibble with the playcalling/game management on Saturday was the sequence that led to The Citadel punting from the Samford 33-yard line late in the game. You never want to put yourself in position to punt from inside the opposing 35.

- Given the opponent, that may have been the best defensive performance of the season.

- SoCon officials need remedial work in ball-spotting. That hurt both teams on Saturday.

- Samford’s football video game coordinator was not happy with no penalty flag being thrown on the two-point conversion attempt, as can be seen in the comments to the ESPN3.com video highlights review. Those grapes are mighty sour.

Also, he’s wrong. Sadath Jean-Pierre’s coverage on the play was legal and excellent. The throw wound up closer to the end rifleman for the Touchdown Cannon Crew than the receiver (who did not run a particularly good pattern, in my opinion).

- While the effectiveness of the team’s play has been questioned at times this season, the effort certainly has not been. There is no quit in this group.

I was very impressed with the Bulldogs’ collective resolve while trailing 17-0. They didn’t give up, they didn’t go through the motions, they kept trying. On Saturday, that paid off with a victory.

To be honest, as I watched the fourth quarter, I knew that win or lose I was already satisfied with the performance. I had seen what I wanted to see.

Winning the game was nice, though.

Let’s talk about off the field — specifically, the tailgating/homecoming scene. Three quick notes, and then a story…

- Tailgating can be educational. For example, I learned that in Chester, South Carolina, Bi-Lo’s is the default option for quality fried chicken. If you’re ever in Chester, keep that in mind.

- I didn’t meet the gentleman, but I understand a member of the Class of 1943 was in attendance on Saturday, for what would have been the 70th reunion year for his class. Kudos to him.

- There were many, many outstanding tailgates in evidence. However, the biggest bash I saw was definitely the one for the Class of 1968.

The spread for the ’68 party was so large, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out next week that Sus scrofa domesticus was being placed on the endangered species list.

- Okay, story time.

About ninety minutes or so before kickoff, I was with a few friends of mine in the tailgating area adjacent to the Altman Center. As the filling for fish tacos was being carefully prepared, we were discussing important matters of state, such as The Citadel’s urgent need for varsity lacrosse.

At that point, Nancy Mace walked into the area. As you may or may not know, Mace is the first woman to graduate from The Citadel as a member of the corps of cadets, and she is also campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Lindsey Graham. Both Mace and Graham are seeking the Republican nomination.

It wasn’t a surprise to see her at Johnson Hagood Stadium; after all, she’s an alum. She had attended at least one other game earlier in the season. On Saturday, she was with her campaign manager and (I think) one other person.

Mace was introducing herself to folks, chatting tailgaters up, doing the kinds of things associated with retail politics, when a small group of about ten people entered the same space. From among them appeared none other than…Lindsey Graham.

The scene was riveting. The tension in the air was thicker than a tortilla shell. Some people were noticeably uncomfortable.

(Others may have been amused.)

Graham began greeting the same people who had been talking to Mace, shaking hands, talking, hugging at least one person. At least one observer thought Graham purposely avoided acknowledging Mace for as long as possible, which made the whole situation even more fantastically awkward.

Eventually, however, the two did talk. A détente of sorts was reached. Pictures were taken. One of them leads off my photo review of Saturday.

2013 Football, Game 9: The Citadel vs. Samford

The Citadel vs. Samford, to be played at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 2. The game will streamed on ESPN3.com, with play-by-play from Darren Goldwater and analysis by Paul Maguire.

It can also be heard on radio via the thirteen affiliates of The Citadel Sports Network. Danny Reed (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) will call the action alongside analyst Josh Baker, with Lee Glaze roaming the sidelines and Walt Nadzak providing pre-game, halftime, and post-game commentary.

WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station for the network; the station will have a two-hour pregame show prior to each home football game. It is also possible to listen to the game via a smartphone, using a TuneIn Radio application.

Links of interest:

The Citadel game notes

Samford game notes

SoCon weekly release

The Kevin Higgins Show

Kevin Higgins on the SoCon media teleconference

Pat Sullivan on the SoCon media teleconference

The Dogs are “down, but not out”

Jeff Hartsell’s three points about the Chattanooga game

Game story from the Chattanooga contest

Non-football link: my preview of the upcoming season for The Citadel’s basketball team

Hey, it’s Homecoming! Things you ought to know:

Ye olde Homecoming press release, with schedule of events

The Citadel’s freshman and sophomore wrestlers compete in The Citadel Open, beginning at 9 am on Saturday

The rifle and volleyball squads are both on the road on Saturday

Soccer’s season ended on Wednesday

Oh, and there is also a football game…

First, let me be honest here: I didn’t really follow the Chattanooga game as it was going on last week. This is the time of year when I usually take a break from my regular autumn routine, which is normally A) work and B) obsessing over sports.

Taking a respite from the fall sports season can be helpful, at least for me. As it happens [mondo nerd alert], I saw Mussel-Fishers at Berneval in person instead of watching/listening to The Citadel lose a game it led almost the whole way. I feel good about that decision.

Because I am still catching up with last week’s action in the sports world (including The Citadel’s trip to Finley Stadium), and because of other factors beyond my control, this preview may be a bit more random than usual. I apologize in advance for that.

The rest of the season is going to be tough in terms of game previews, not as much because the Bulldogs are struggling, but because I’m going to be short of time. We live in a busy world.

I have no idea how I’m going to write the VMI game preview; I might just write a one-sentence post: “The Dogs better not lose to VMI.” (It’s not like anything else needs to be said for that game.)

Anyway, below are a few comments on Saturday’s opponent, followed by some friendly advice to alums heading down to Charleston for Homecoming.

Note: “Bulldogs” refers to The Citadel, while “Birmingham Bulldogs”, “SU”, or “Baptist Tigers” will have to do for Samford.

Samford is quite formidable this year. The Birmingham Bulldogs appear to be the best team in the SoCon and would be a major challenge for The Citadel even if the Cadets were having a good season.

Last year, I wrote of Samford:

This is a team with a lot of talented players. The question, I suppose, is whether Samford has enough depth across the board to be a contender for the league title.

Samford finished 7-4 last season, not quite good enough to win the SoCon, but still a very solid campaign. SU could not get past Georgia Southern or Appalachian State last year, and also lost a tough defensive battle at Chattanooga.

In 2013, Samford still has a lot of talented players, but it has made the jump to the top of the conference. SU has already taken care of business against App and GSU, and last week won at Wofford. Only UTC seems to stand in the way of a league title for the folks from Birmingham.

Offensively, Samford has been excellent. Taking Georgia Southern and Appalachian State out of the equation (because the NCAA doesn’t count those two schools in its FCS database), the Birmingham Bulldogs lead the SoCon in total offense, passing offense, and scoring offense, and are in the top 30 nationally in all three of those categories.

Samford’s numbers are skewed slightly by its pace of play, though this season SU is only averaging 67.1 plays per game, down slightly from 71.4 in 2012 and 75.6 in 2011. However, Samford has been much more efficient this year, averaging 6.6 yards per play, a significant increase from the 4.9 yards per play it averaged in 2012.

By contrast, The Citadel is averaging 63.8 plays per game on offense, and 5.7 yards per play. Last week, Wofford ran 82 plays against Samford (with 69 rushing attempts), but only averaged 4.1 yards per play.

Oddly, Samford has had issues in the second quarter this season, being outscored 71-42 in that frame. In the other three periods, Samford has a decisive edge in points.

The Citadel has lost two straight to Samford, and that streak could easily be three; the Bulldogs’ 13-12 win in 2010 was achieved thanks mostly to special teams and inspired D inside the red zone. Samford’s defense has had all the answers for The Citadel’s triple option attack in the three years Kevin Higgins has employed the offense.

In three games against Samford’s “Bear” defensive front, The Citadel has mustered a combined total of 34 points. In those three games, the Bulldogs faced third down on 39 occasions. The Citadel only converted six of them for first downs.

Samford’s D has basically forced The Citadel to beat it by going outside or over the top, and the Bulldogs have been unable to do so with any consistency in any of those games.

In terms of yards per play, Samford defensively has not been quite as good this season (5.3 this year, after holding opponents to 4.8 y/p in 2012). One thing that will probably help Samford’s defense is that The Citadel will be the third triple option team the Birmingham Bulldogs have faced in their last four contests.

Andy Summerlin is Samford’s starting quarterback, and is enjoying his sixth (and presumably final) season of college eligibility. Yes, I said sixth.

Summerlin is 25 years old. He started his career at Memphis, although even his stint there was delayed by a semester:

He’s seven years out of high school, and is listed as a sixth-year senior after being granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA because of injuries. He delayed college enrollment by a semester because of a high school injury.

Though he’s been at three different schools…

To tell the truth, I’m okay with Summerlin still getting a chance to play, but then I tend to lean to the “when in doubt, give the athlete a break” side of the ledger on these matters. It does seem a bit unfair, though, that Summerlin is good to go while The Citadel’s All-American wrestler, Khishignyam Undrakhbayar (better known as “Ugi”), is out of NCAA options after just one year as a competitor. Such are the vagaries of the NCAA.

At any rate, he’s having a fine season, completing passes at a 63.8% clip for an average of over 285 yards per game, with 17 TDs (to eight different receivers) against 7 interceptions. Summerlin has made his share of big plays this year, completing 15 passes for 30+ yards.

Summerlin is joined in the backfield by the outstanding Fabian Truss, one of the elite backs in the SoCon. Truss is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season (the same as he did last year), and he is also a threat to catch the ball, with 27 receptions, good for 9.7 yards per catch.

Truss is also a great kick returner. He already has two 100-yard TD returns this season. Truss currently leads the nation in all-purpose yardage.

The top receiver for Samford is Kelsey Pope, who has 36 receptions this year, averaging a shade over 15 yards per catch. Against Georgia Southern, Pope had receptions of 58 and 83 yards (the latter for a TD).

Samford’s offensive line is big, averaging 6’3″, 288 lbs. Left guard Kasey Morrison, a preseason second-team All-SoCon selection, has started 30 games in his career.

On defense, expect Samford to stack the middle of the line and deny the give to the B-back. Two key players to watch along the d-line in this respect are DT Jeremy Towns (like Summerlin, a sixth-year player) and noseguard Jeremy Mathis, another experienced lineman (18 starts). Both Towns and Mathis are listed at 290+ lbs.

Middle linebacker Justin Shade is a tackling machine, and he’ll put you down before or after you get to the line of scrimmage. Shade has 90 tackles so far this season; he made 19 stops against Southeastern Louisiana and 15 versus Wofford. Shade has 12.5 tackles for loss, including seven sacks.

His father, Sam Shade, is Samford’s DBs coach. If you have a good memory, you may recall the elder Shade starring at Alabama before playing eight years in the NFL.

One of Sam Shade’s pupils, Jaquiski Tartt, is Samford’s best defensive player, and one of the best defenders in the league (if not the best). So far this season he only has one interception, but Bulldog fans will remember his pick-6 against The Citadel in last year’s contest.

Samford has a solid punter in Greg Peranich, now in his third year of handling the punting duties. Peranich is averaging 43.1 yards per punt, with 16 of those landing inside the 20. Seven of his punts have gone for 50+ yards.

The placekicker for the Birmingham Bulldogs is redshirt freshman Warren Handrahan, who is 11-13 on field goal tries with a long of 48. He has only missed one PAT.

Handrahan chose to wear a bow tie for his personal team picture, however, which automatically makes him a suspicious character.

So you’re an alum about to travel to Charleston for Homecoming weekend. Maybe you’re a season-ticket holder, maybe you go to a game or two each season, or maybe you haven’t seen a game since Johnson Hagood Stadium was renovated.

You probably know that The Citadel’s football team was supposed to be good this year, but instead has a record of 2-6, and is looking at a 3-9 or 4-8 type of season. Perhaps you would like to ask some questions about this, or some other things that are related to athletics.

I’m here to help!

First, however, there is one thing you should not do. It’s hard not to do, because it’s kind of traditional, but don’t do it…

Don’t complain about or blame the corps of cadets for any shortcomings.

Is the corps perfect? No. Was it perfect when you were in school? No, it wasn’t.

There will always be a bum (or two or three) in the crowd — and as a group, they may not show a great deal of enthusiasm about the gridiron festivities. Expect this.

Also expect, though, to find almost all of the cadets to be polite, respectful, smart, and driven. Today’s corps of cadets isn’t as good as it was in your day — it is better.

When you see problems within the corps, keep in mind that those problems are usually symptoms of a larger issue with the school itself. It’s not necessarily a reflection on the student body.

I think I’m lucky in that I am around campus just enough to get a general idea of things, but not enough to become disillusioned. You can get very cynical about The Citadel in a hurry if you’re there too long, as anyone who was ever a senior at the military college can attest.

If you’re not around at all, though, then it’s possible to assume the worst.

This isn’t to say the cadets should be completely immune from criticism; it’s just that some other things need to be fixed first before worrying too much about the corps. Let Leo Mercado worry about the corps.

It also doesn’t do the school any good when it is trying to recruit the best and the brightest, and at the same time some of its alums are whining about the current crop of students. That’s just counter-productive.

The bottom line: don’t go bananas about any slacker cadets. There have always been slackers. Maybe the notion of being a slacker cadet cuts a little close to the bone…

If you’re still with me following that harangue, here are some topics that are worth discussing. I’m assuming that the average alum reading this is the biggest of big shots, someone who knows all the major players at the school in the department of athletics and within the administration in general, and who can get a personal one-on-one with any school official at any time.

Here are some questions you might consider asking:

- With last week’s loss to Chattanooga, the Bulldogs are guaranteed to finish with a non-winning record. The Citadel has not had consecutive winning seasons in football since the 1990-92 campaigns.

That stretch of futility, now at 21 years and counting, is the longest such period in the history of the school, going back to the first football season (1905).

Your question(s): is it acceptable for The Citadel to not have any stretch of consistent success on the gridiron? What are the school’s goals on that front?

- You may have noticed that The Citadel isn’t doing a lot of winning in almost any sport as of late. Even the baseball team has had losing seasons in two of the last three years (though that program appears to have rebounded). The basketball team has averaged eight wins per season over the last three years, and has a winning percentage of 26% in SoCon play during that time.

There are several varsity sports (including tennis and golf) that have been particularly non-competitive in recent years.

Your question: given that the school seems to be doing very well overall, why hasn’t that institutional success crossed over into varsity athletics?

- The Citadel’s new (as of this year) long-term strategic plan is called the LEAD Plan 2018, which I wrote about in January. I would urge anyone with an interest in The Citadel to read the plan itself.

Included in the LEAD plan are goals such as increasing membership in the Brigadier Foundation by 25%, funding full scholarships in all sports, and endowing athletic scholarship funds by an additional $5 million.

Your question: is significant progress being made towards accomplishing any of those (or other) goals?

- There is soon going to be a changing of the guard, at least of the canine variety. General and Boo IX are retiring, and will be officially replaced as the school mascots on November 15 by the relentlessly cute G2 and BX.

Donations for care and upkeep of the dogs are always appreciated. The Citadel does not provide any funding for the dogs, which strikes more than a few people as ridiculous, given the popularity of the mascots.

To be fair, I can understand why the school doesn’t allocate funds for the mascot program. What puzzles me is why the powers that be don’t publicize the need for donations more often. I’m sure it’s just an oversight.

It was suggested to me a while back that at least one administrator is afraid that people will contribute to the mascots in lieu of something else. I choose not to believe that; if it were really true, then I would happily wait in line to dump that administrator into a vat of hydrochloric acid.

Your question (if you have some spare cash): would the school be interested in starting an endowment for the mascot program?

- While you were travelling to Charleston on your private jet, you noticed while perusing your favorite college football TV listings page that all six Big South teams will either be on TV and/or ESPN3.com this Saturday. Two of those games will be on regional nets or affiliates.

Meanwhile, Samford-The Citadel will be on ESPN3.com, an online platform. This is the second ESPN3.com appearance for The Citadel this season; the football team will probably get a PPV-only TV appearance at Clemson, but other than that the Bulldogs will not appear on television in 2013.

You probably remember the days when The Citadel appeared on regional TV once or twice per season. You may wonder why the SoCon can’t do a better job of getting its teams exposure, especially when you see what similarly-sized (or even smaller) conferences are able to do in that respect.

Your question: what can The Citadel do to increase its television exposure?

The last few questions should only be asked after you enter the stadium to watch the game.

- Why don’t we have any cheerleaders?

Note: this is a trick question. No matter what answer you get to that question, it will be wrong. There is no correct answer, as The Citadel obviously should have cheerleaders.

- How come the band only plays a few times during the game?

- Is there any reason why the loudspeaker system should play the (truly horrific) pop song “Come on Eileen” instead of having the band play during that time period?

- If the band isn’t going to play, could the school make more money by renting it out for weddings and bar mitzvahs during the game?

- Is it true that prior to the Furman game, the freshmen lined up in the ‘Block C’ formation and started to chant “C-I-T-A-D-E-L”, only to be drowned out by the loudspeaker system as it played a selection from ’80s glam-rock band Poison?

- Is it possible the atmosphere at the stadium is so dominated by the ad-intensive videoboard and the ridiculously loud (and ill-used) loudspeaker system that fewer fans go to the games as a result?

- Is there anyone in the department of athletics brave enough to inform adidas that the name of the school is “The Citadel”?

Okay, I think that’s enough…for now.

Last week, The Citadel started well and Samford started poorly. The Citadel led by 10 points at halftime; meanwhile, Samford’s first offensive possession resulted in a pick-6 for Wofford, one of four turnovers SU had in that game. Ultimately, though, one group of Bulldogs could not hang on for a victory, while the other overcame an early shock to win a critical road game.

The effort in Chattanooga was very good. The team has obviously not quit, which is a credit to the players (and the coaches). Still, effort in itself is not enough, and everyone knows it.

I don’t know how the team will play on Saturday. Samford is a very difficult matchup. I cringe just thinking about the Birmingham Bulldogs’ big-play capabilities, particularly through the air (as The Citadel has been susceptible to those types of passes).

I’ll be there on Saturday, meeting a few old friends and settling in to watch some pigskin. I’m hoping for the best. I’m not counting on it.

Social media and the SoCon: the age of Twitter and Facebook

Last week, I saw a ranking of college sports twitter feeds posted at Tennessee’s athletics website. I thought it was interesting, though I wouldn’t want to draw any immediate conclusions from the data.

I decided to see how the SoCon schools compared to each other when it comes to Twitter and Facebook presence. This proved to be difficult, because schools don’t necessarily approach Twitter and/or Facebook in similar ways.

The league is almost evenly split between schools that have football-specific twitter feeds and those that do not. Samford has nine different sports with dedicated twitter feeds; meanwhile, Wofford doesn’t have any. There is significant variance in the number of Facebook pages created by the individual schools. Those are just a few of the differences.

Part of the reason for the contrasting approaches is probably manpower, and part of it is likely philosophical. Not everyone thinks having multiple Twitter feeds and Facebook pages is such a great idea for smaller schools. Says one social media consultant:

In college sports, unlike professional sports, fans usually have an allegiance to a school, not a team. To say that fans would be annoyed by news from other school sports in their Twitter feed might be an error…

We found that the majority of…fans appreciated news from other sports, and wanted one main feed where they could get all the news. Most of the sports communicators I’ve talked with at non-BCS schools say their fans feel the same way. Their allegiance is to the school, not a particular team.

The opportunity to showcase the team across multiple channels is much more important to a school than having a sport-specific Twitter feed or Facebook page…smaller schools (non-BCS schools) need to think about scale, not volume…Their fans bases are simply too small.

Another consideration is the percentage of people who use the different social media elements. A survey taken at the end of last year suggested that usage among internet users breaks down this way: 67%, Facebook; 16%, Twitter; 15%, Pinterest; 13%, Instagram; and 6%, Tumblr.

I would say that if your school decides to have a dedicated feed for a sport on Twitter, then it should have a Facebook page for that sport as well — and vice versa. I also am of the opinion that Instagram is on the rise, and that not using YouTube to promote your school and its teams is a major mistake.

Included in my mini-survey are all current SoCon schools, the school that just left (College of Charleston), and the three schools that will enter the league next year (East Tennessee State, Mercer, and VMI). The numbers listed (“follows” and “likes”) are as of the weekend of July 13-14.

What follows are a few observations, and then some tables, with two caveats:

1) I may have missed a couple of school feeds/pages. If I did, it’s not my fault. It’s the fault of the school(s), for not making it simple for an easily confused person like myself to find their feeds/pages.

2) Twitter and Facebook are far from the only things happening in social media, of course. For example, The Citadel has done an excellent job in recent months using YouTube, and it is not alone on that front. A few schools have taken a spin with Pinterest.  Instagram has been embraced by several of the league members (as well as the SoCon office itself). However, Twitter and Facebook are the focus of this post.

- The league website has a “Social Media Directory” that needs to be updated. For one thing, CofC isn’t in the conference any more [Edit 8/16: the CofC links have now been removed from the directory]. The feeds themselves also need to be checked; some are not valid, and there are also a number of omissions.

I don’t really blame the SoCon office for this as much as I do the individual schools. It’s probably very difficult, if not impossible, for the league office to keep up with team-specific feeds.

On the other hand, someone at the conference probably ought to know that @CoachMikeDement shouldn’t be the listing next to UNCG’s “Head MBB Coach” line, since he hasn’t been the Spartans’ coach for over a year and a half. Wes Miller is clearly upset about this.

- Speaking of UNCG, its AD, Kim Record, is on Twitter, and she is listed as such in the SoCon directory…but her feed is protected.

- Furman’s most-followed feed is its general athletics feed, which is not a surprise. The second-most followed Furman feed, however, is for a coach of a program that has yet to win a game. The Paladins will start playing men’s lacrosse in 2014, and head coach Richie Meade (formerly the longtime lacrosse coach at Navy) has 1024 followers.

- The twitter feed for Furman’s baseball program is run by players.

- Davidson, a basketball-first (if not only) school if there ever was one, doesn’t have a dedicated feed for men’s hoops, and head coach Bob McKillop isn’t on Twitter.

- At least one SoCon head football coach follows two different Jenn Brown accounts.

- Chattanooga’s wrestling feed has 2574 followers, which stacks up fairly well when compared to other programs across the country. The most I found for a collegiate wrestling feed was for Oklahoma State (11857). Defending national champion Penn State has 5750.

The other two SoCon schools with wrestling feeds are Appalachian State and The Citadel, though I should mention that UNC-Greensboro has a dormant feed as well (one that became inactive when the school dropped its wrestling program).

- Several SoCon schools have twitter feeds for their equipment room/staff. They tend to be fairly well-followed, too, partly because equipment room staffs from across the country all follow each other. Equipment guys circle the wagons.

- The new head football coach at East Tennessee State, Carl Torbush, isn’t on Twitter. However, there are two different parody Carl Torbush accounts, though both are inactive. ETSU’s athletics twitter feed is following one of them.

- I only found one other fake twitter feed for a conference football coach. Western Carolina’s Mark Speir has been so honored. Also parodied: SoCon commissioner John Iamarino.

- As of this weekend, Samford only had 44 followers for its men’s hoops feed, but that’s because it only established the feed on July 2.

- VMI seems to have two different official university (non-athletic) twitter feeds. Neither has many followers; perhaps I’m just missing the “real” feed.

- Of the six SoCon schools that have dedicated twitter feeds for both baseball and men’s basketball, five of them have more baseball feed followers, which may say something about the league’s status in each sport. I didn’t include College of Charleston in that group of six since it is no longer in the league, but it also has slightly more baseball feed than hoops feed follows.

- East Tennessee State doesn’t have a football twitter feed yet, or a pigskin Facebook page, but it does have a notable fan “bring/brought back football” presence for Twitter and Facebook.

- Wofford athletics only follows one feed, that of PGA pro (and Wofford alum) William McGirt. Similarly, the Facebook page for Wofford athletics only “likes” one entity — the 2012 Southern Conference basketball tournament.

- GSU head football coach Jeff Monken takes it one step further than Wofford, however. Just like Jay Bilas, Monken doesn’t follow anybody.

- With VMI being admitted to the league, the Southern Conference facebook page made sure it “liked” VMI’s university facebook site. Unfortunately, it appears the actual “active” VMI school facebook page is this one.

- UNCG is the league school with the most sport-specific Facebook pages, having one for eleven different varsity sports.

- I found a few sport-specific facebook pages that are essentially dormant. However, they are still “official”, and since they have not been deleted I included them in the tables.

- Of the lower-profile SoCon sports, volleyball may be the most active in terms of social media. Seven conference schools feature Facebook pages for volleyball, and that doesn’t include CofC or ETSU, both of which also have pages for their volleyball teams. CofC and ETSU join six SoCon schools that also have twitter feeds for volleyball.

Some of the Twitter and Facebook statistics for follows/likes are grouped in tables below. I didn’t list all the sports feeds/pages that are on Twitter/Facebook, just some of the ones that tend to draw the most interest.

Twitter

Athletics
Appalachian State 10644
The Citadel 2292
Davidson 3970
Elon 4300
Furman 2951
Georgia Southern 8493
Samford 3131
UNC-Greensboro 3466
UT-Chattanooga 4144
Western Carolina 3773
Wofford 3171
College of Charleston 4726
East Tennessee State 2651
Mercer 1578
Virginia Military Institute 1521

Football
Appalachian State 1133
The Citadel 692
Furman 759
Samford 939
UT-Chattanooga 900
Mercer 1270
Virginia Military Institute 261

Head Football Coach
Appalachian State 2585
The Citadel 555
Furman 236
Georgia Southern 4515
Samford 1005
UT-Chattanooga 571
Western Carolina 1301
Mercer 679
Virginia Military Institute 382

Men’s Basketball
Appalachian State 700
The Citadel 190
Elon 956
Furman 149
Samford 44
UNC-Greensboro 866
UT-Chattanooga 637
College of Charleston 2135

Head Men’s Basketball Coach
The Citadel 335
Furman 675
Georgia Southern 730
Samford 370
UNC-Greensboro 7572
UT-Chattanooga 2438
Western Carolina 1418
East Tennessee State 412
Virginia Military Institute 584

Women’s Basketball
Appalachian State 1338
Davidson 102
Elon 341
Furman 416
Georgia Southern 347
Samford 398
UNC-Greensboro 505
UT-Chattanooga 827
College of Charleston 590
East Tennessee State 374

Baseball
Appalachian State 2141
The Citadel 1263
Davidson 444
Elon 1015
Furman 427
Georgia Southern 1030
Samford 1206
UNC-Greensboro 332
College of Charleston 2413
East Tennessee State 579
Mercer 561

Facebook

Athletics
Appalachian State 5946
The Citadel 2301
Davidson 4771
Elon 4426
Furman 2629
Georgia Southern 12302
Samford 3590
UNC-Greensboro 6276
UT-Chattanooga 6459
Western Carolina 13546
Wofford 4586
College of Charleston 2405
East Tennessee State 3951
Mercer 1865
Virginia Military Institute 3632

Football
Appalachian State 45948
The Citadel 2117
Elon 867
Georgia Southern 3482
Samford 256
Western Carolina 235
Mercer 2244

Men’s Basketball
Appalachian State 2474
The Citadel 74
Davidson 554
Elon 982
UNC-Greensboro 1491

Women’s Basketball
Appalachian State 61
Davidson 187
Elon 648
Furman 612
Georgia Southern 241
UNC-Greensboro 476
UT-Chattanooga 731
College of Charleston 221
East Tennessee State 552

Baseball
Appalachian State 1659
The Citadel 408
Elon 307
Furman 177
Georgia Southern 745
Samford 1282
UNC-Greensboro 170
East Tennessee State 274

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