Conference realignment, SoCon style: Is it nitty-gritty time?

Update, March 26: It is definitely nitty-gritty time now


Links of interest, with the SoCon meetings (January 29-30) in full swing, and expansion on the agenda:

Jeff Hartsell writes about expansion

John Frierson writes about expansion

ETSU’s student government association supports bringing back football

Georgia Southern AD Tom Kleinlein fires up the troops about a move to FBS

Sun Belt opts for patience

That article about the Sun Belt was tweeted out by, among others, Georgia Southern AD Tom Kleinlein, who stirred up a fair amount of realignment dust at a booster luncheon in Savannah. Kleinlein reportedly said that the SoCon was considering an expansion that involved Mercer, UNC-Wilmington, and Richmond.

He apparently wasn’t on board with that, which is fine. He doesn’t have to be.

This is something that I think needs to be emphasized. It seems reasonable to assume that Appalachian State and Georgia Southern aren’t going to be in the SoCon much longer. If that is the case, there is no reason to expand with any consideration for those two schools’ wishes.

From Frierson’s article:

[Southern Conference commissioner John] Iamarino said the SoCon doesn’t have to wait for another member to leave before acting.

“I do think we need to say, “OK, if X, Y and Z moves are in our best interest, long term, then I think we need to look at them regardless of the situation with App State and Georgia Southern,” he said.

The problem with this is Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are still voting members until they announce they are leaving, and can thus influence any voting for new membership. Since that is the case, I don’t think it is in the best interests of the other schools to come to a decision on the league’s long-term future if those two institutions are a factor in the process.

I’m not being critical of App and GSU here. I’m just saying the schools that will be staying in the conference need to decide what they want the league to be going forward. That means the oft-mentioned “public/private split” may no longer be necessary, or even desired, by a majority of the remaining league members.

It is possible the SoCon could reinvent itself as a league for smaller schools, a la the Patriot League. In fact, from the perspective of The Citadel, I believe that would be the best outcome. I am aware that it would not be the best outcome for all the schools in the league.

Besides the public/private issue,  other considerations may be geography and an institution’s sports portfolio. As an example of the latter, it is possible Davidson (just to name one current SoCon member) may be more interested in a school’s hoops acumen than its location or academic mission.

Let’s fire up the speculatometer to full blast…

— First, this Mercer/Wilmington/Richmond thing. Mercer makes perfect sense, but what about the other two schools?

My theories on UR/UNCW, which are as valuable as any other internet theories (zero value):

1) Richmond would be an affiliate member for football. I cannot imagine UR leaving the A-10 in its other sports to go back to the SoCon. That would be a very hard sell to its supporters. Barring a complete implosion in the A-10 (and possibly the CAA), I can’t see Richmond hoops/baseball/etc. in the SoCon.

Richmond currently plays football in the CAA and I can understand how moving that sport to the SoCon might have some appeal…maybe. The other side of that issue would be the willingness of SoCon schools to let Richmond compete in the league for football only. I am skeptical about that, but it’s not completely out of the question.

2) UNCW is supposed to be rock-solid with the CAA, with its administration on the bandwagon in every way (per UNCW beat writer Brian Mull), especially now that it has a “travel partner” in the College of Charleston.

I’m puzzled as to why the SoCon would have initiated a conversation with UNCW now, though. Could it be the other way around? There may be a little more going on with this one than one might think. Having said that, I don’t believe it will happen.

East Tennessee State is apparently going to resuscitate its football program, and may have a chance to start things off with a well-known head coach if it so chooses. So, is it an automatic selection for the SoCon?

I’m not sure. Assuming that Appalachian State and Georgia Southern leave, the league would presumably want to add two football-playing schools. Perhaps ETSU could be one of those two schools. There are a couple of issues to consider.

1) As I mentioned earlier, it’s possible that some of the old guard SoCon institutions would like the league to focus on bringing in smaller, more selective schools.

2) I think East Tennessee State may have to get in line behind VMI, a school with a much longer tradition within the conference, and the likely preference of most of the small-school bloc (Furman, The Citadel, Wofford, perhaps Elon, maybe Davidson).

There is also the possibility, however remote, that Mercer might be interested in eventually offering scholarships in football. Right now, of course, the Bears haven’t even played a game. Mercer’s gridiron program starts up this fall.

However, Mercer’s facilities will include a 40,000 square-foot field house and a stadium that will seat 10,000 (with 4,500 season tickets having already been sold, months before the opening game). That’s quite a setup for a school that isn’t playing scholarship football. Hmm.

I’ve written about some of this before, but just to update things…

Other schools that have (or will have) football teams and have been mentioned as SoCon candidates in certain corners of the internet:

– Kennesaw State: Reportedly had “preliminary conversations” with the SoCon (and the OVC) in 2011. However, it still hasn’t received the go-ahead to start its football program from Georgia’s Board of Regents. It seems to me that Kennesaw State is a less likely option than may have been thought a few months ago.

I’m going to repeat myself here, but I don’t think Davidson would have elected to remain in the league (instead of joining the CAA) if it thought there was a chance the SoCon was going to add a large commuter school with A) no football program and B) a basketball team that has only five wins over the last 1 1/2 seasons.

– William & Mary: Like Richmond, a former SoCon school. Also like Richmond, unlikely to return to the league, at least as an all-sports member. William & Mary probably would be more interested in the Patriot League if the CAA runs aground, but that league isn’t necessarily an ideal fit for the folks in Williamsburg either. Worth watching.

– South Carolina State: SCSU is bandied about occasionally on various message boards as a possibility. It’s not happening for a host of reasons, not the least of which are the school’s severe institutional problems. Also, I don’t think SCSU would be interested. I could be wrong about that, but it doesn’t really matter.

– Coastal Carolina: Well, admitting Coastal Carolina into the league could potentially result in the SoCon losing several of its longest-tenured members. Because of this, I don’t believe CCU is an option.

It doesn’t do The Citadel, Furman, or Wofford any good to add another instate institution with significant differences in terms of mission and resources. I don’t think the schools on the western side of the league are interested in another Palmetto State school, either.

– Liberty, Jacksonville State: They want to be FBS. They aren’t giving up that dream so easily (especially Liberty).

– Your friendly neighborhood Division II school: No.

– Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian: A pair of Big South schools that would be in the mix if everything fell apart for the SoCon. I don’t think SoConageddon is on the horizon, however.

– Jacksonville: JU would be an interesting candidate if it played scholarship football.

– Tennessee Tech: I don’t think so, but it could be a potential compromise candidate between various factions. Of course, I don’t know if Tennessee Tech would have any interest (it’s currently in the OVC).

Speaking of the OVC, a school that doesn’t play football that has been mentioned in some quarters is Belmont. The Nashville school would be appealing to several league members, from a location aspect for some (UTC, Samford) to an institutional perspective for others (Davidson would probably invite Belmont to the prom).

The problem is twofold, though:

1) Travel costs for Belmont would be very high. It would be a geographic outlier in the SoCon.

2) The OVC is a much better basketball league right now than is the SoCon. Belmont is first and foremost a basketball school (and a very good one).

Other non-football schools that I’ve seen discussed: North Florida (which may be adding football), USC-Upstate, Winthrop, and High Point. I don’t think any of them are realistic possibilities at this time.

I’m like everyone else. I don’t know how things are going to shake out. I suspect you could say the same for John Iamarino and all of his constituents. I just hope that the league does not make a hasty decision. It can still afford to wait. It just has to be ready to act at a moment’s notice. Preparation is good, but the league can still be patient.

McAlister Musings: Time to start winning

Since my last post on The Citadel’s basketball team, the Bulldogs have played four games. One of them was a victory (!), which broke a 12-game losing streak. Alas, The Citadel has dropped two games since then.

This isn’t going to be a long post. I just have a few brief comments on the recent action.

Davidson 70, The Citadel 38

Okay, so Davidson is good and the Bulldogs are something less than good. Also, this game was at Davidson. Still, there is no excuse for any D-1 team not based in Lincoln Parish to average less than 0.6 points per possession for an entire game, as The Citadel did in this contest. 64 possessions, 38 points. Yeesh.

Davidson didn’t even shoot particularly well, and still won going away (and then some) thanks to 26 Bulldog turnovers, which when combined with 31% FG (3-11 from 3) resulted in an offensive debacle. The less said about this game, the better.

The Citadel 70, Georgia Southern 55

Georgia Southern is the most SoConnish of all SoCon hoops squads, as this game came immediately after the Eagles had beaten Davidson and the College of Charleston in back-to-back contests. GSU whipped the Wildcats by 13 points and held the Cougars to 34% FG, but could not stop The Citadel’s offense.

The Bulldogs followed up a 0.59 ppp performance with a 1.23 ppp effort against the Eagles (70 points on 57 possessions). The Citadel scored more than twice as many points per possession against GSU as it did against Davidson. That may be the biggest differential in consecutive D-1 games for any team in the country this season.

Mike Groselle and Matt Van Scyoc combined for 35 points on only 19 shots, and there were several other efficient individual offensive performances.

College of Charleston 69, The Citadel 54

The Bulldogs did not shoot the ball very well (37% FG, 22% 3FG), and when combined with being badly outrebounded (48-29), The Citadel didn’t stand much of a chance. Chuck Driesell mentioned the rebounding; I want to mention the foul disparity.

With less than three and a half minutes remaining in the game, Mike Groselle had the same number of fouls as the College of Charleston’s entire roster: 4. I’m not sure what to make of that.

Now for a commentary on a commentary…

Gene Sapakoff, writing in The Post and Courier:

Town tournament, anyone?

Simple format: Four teams, two days, two games per team.

The College of Charleston, The Citadel and Charleston Southern are locked in every year. S.C. State makes for a fine fourth, or rotate that spot with other state schools.

I vote no.

The Citadel is already committed to one in-season non-exempt tournament every year (the All-Military Classic). Playing in two of them would likely be problematic when trying to put together a manageable schedule. We’ve already seen how less-than-ideal scheduling can have a negative impact on a season (the all-road December slate).

Besides, The Citadel should be aiming for an exempt tournament (like the Charleston Classic), not one that just takes up two more games on the schedule. It seems pointless to hamstring the program for the benefit of a “local” tournament that may not appeal all that much to the locals anyway.

The Citadel can play the CofC and/or Charleston Southern every year if (and when) it wants to do so. It doesn’t need a tournament setting, with the resulting scheduling problems, to do that.

Elon 70, The Citadel 66

This game annoyed me.

I was annoyed that The Citadel could never tie or take the lead. I was annoyed that the Bulldogs missed a layup that would have tied the game midway through the second half, which was immediately followed by an Elon three-pointer. I was annoyed by Elon’s offense, which consisted of a lot of screens (some of which were legal) to set up three-point shots (32 of the Phoenix’s 59 field goal attempts were from beyond the arc).

I was annoyed by costly unforced turnovers, particularly late in the game. One of those turnovers was a pass where the ball eventually made its way to me. That was a problem, because I was in the stands and not on the roster. (Incidentally, our basketball of choice is ‘The Rock’.)

Most of all, though, I was annoyed by the Cub Scouts.

Yes, the Cub Scouts. There was a promotion for scouts and their families for this game. To be fair, most of them spent the afternoon goofing around with each other, eating large quantities of cotton candy.

During the second half, however, four little miscreants decided it would be fun to stand in the corner rafters and shriek at Bulldog players as they attempted free throws. I should say that it’s possible two of them were not scouts, as they weren’t in uniform (two of them were).

I thought about walking up there and suggesting that they could do something else with their time, but it was obvious nobody was going to get through to them, particularly the apparent ringleader — heavy-set, wearing a white t-shirt and sporting a Harpo Marx hairdo. At least Harpo had the grace to shut up in public.

“We’re frustrated that we’re not closing out games that we have a chance [to win].” — Chuck Driesell

The Bulldogs have been close in several of their losses (Elon, CofC at McAlister, Samford, Chattanooga). However, there is a big difference between being close and finishing the job, and that’s the step the team must now take. The Bulldogs face a stretch of winnable games: Wofford, at Furman, at UTC, at Samford, Georgia Southern.

Sure, some of those are on the road, but The Citadel’s win in Statesboro shows that the Bulldogs are more than capable of winning league games away from home.

I will be very disappointed if the Bulldogs don’t put something positive together over the next two weeks. It’s time to start winning.

McAlister Musings: It is darkest before the dawn, but the dawn is running late

Well, no need to sugarcoat things. Let’s get right to the facts:

— The Citadel has lost 11 straight games, and is now 0-5 in SoCon play.

— The Bulldogs are next-to-last in Division I in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency ratings. There are 347 teams in D-1, and The Citadel is 346th.

— The Citadel’s adjusted offensive efficiency isn’t anything to write home about, either. The Bulldogs are actually a decent shooting team, but their turnover rate has been horrific all season. At 25.4%, The Citadel ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in that statistic.

— About halfway through the losing streak, The Citadel started allowing opponents to collect an alarming number of offensive rebounds, which has contributed to the defensive problems. Bulldog foes are rebounding almost two-fifths of their misses. That makes The Citadel one of the 25 worst teams in the country in defensive OR%.

— The failure to control the defensive glass has lessened the impact of a statistic that was beginning to improve. Through seven games, 47.6% of opponents’ field goal attempts were three-pointers. That percentage has declined to a still-high but much more palatable 35.9%. The Citadel has done a better job of stopping teams from taking three-point shots.

— Unfortunately, when they do take long-range shots, the opposition is still making them from beyond the arc at an extraordinary rate, 41.5%. Only three other teams allow opponents to shoot a higher percentage from three-land. Some of that (not all of it) is bad luck.

— The Citadel has had a tendency to get behind early, by scores like 11-3 (against the College of Charleston), 21-14 (Samford), 22-13 (Chattanooga), 18-11 (Western Carolina), 20-3 (Georgia Tech), 24-13 (St. Bonaventure), and 12-4 (Radford, a game that the Highlanders would lead by 22 at one point in the first half).

Five of the games I mentioned were home contests. It’s hard for the crowd (such as it is) to get enthusiastic when the team falls behind so quickly.

After the loss to Samford, I started to wonder if The Citadel would win another game this season. After thinking about it (and the subsequent game against the College of Charleston), I am a lot more confident the Bulldogs will win again this year. I base that partly on The Citadel’s improved play, but also on the less-than-scintillating status of the SoCon as a whole.

At the beginning of the season, I thought that the Southern Conference would be a stronger league than it was last year. However, the conference has been worse. The SoCon returned a lot of last year’s better players, but apparently most of them came back because they didn’t have any other place to go.

The Bulldogs still have 13 league games remaining (plus a “Bracketbusters” contest against an opponent to be determined). The Citadel is going to come out on top somewhere down the line.

That doesn’t make me feel much better about the way the season has gone, though. I am sure the coaching staff is profoundly frustrated, to say nothing about the players’ disappointment. This season wasn’t supposed to look like last year’s 6-24 campaign, but it is on pace to be just as bad from the standpoint of the overall record.

The one excuse I don’t want to hear any more is that “we have a young team”. The Citadel had a young team last year. This year it has a bunch of sophomores and a few freshmen (along with an outstanding senior, Mike Groselle), and the Bulldogs have already played half of the season schedule. Everyone understood what last season was all about. This year was supposed to be about reaping some rewards for running through that youth-infused gauntlet.

Longtime supporters of The Citadel have heard the “we have a young team” line all too often in years past. It gets old after a while. Very old.

I realize that what I wrote above is, well, rather negative. Then again, the Bulldogs have lost eleven consecutive games. Things haven’t gone well so far this season. The record reflects that.  The statistical profile reflects that.

There are positives, though. The addition of Rae Robinson and P.J. Horgan into the rotation has made the Bulldogs a better team. As I noted above, the Bulldogs are starting to defend the perimeter a little better than they were earlier in the season (though there is plenty of room for continued improvement). Offensively, The Citadel has several guys who can put the ball in the basket, and in a variety of ways. That is encouraging.

Against the College of Charleston, the Bulldogs only committed eleven turnovers, a very respectable total in a 60+ possession game. If The Citadel plays every night like it did on Monday, the team is going to start winning. However, that effort has to be constant.

The Bulldogs aren’t good enough to turn the ball over one out of every four possessions and still win. The turnover issue has been the thing that has annoyed me the most, to be honest. I hope the players keep working with the medicine ball.

The Citadel has to continue to get better on defense, and part of that is solving the problem of defending the outside shot while maintaining control of the defensive glass. The Bulldogs have yet to consistently do both at the same time.

I know the players still have hopes of making a breakthrough. Chuck Driesell has said the right things, and clearly hasn’t “lost” the team despite the losing streak. I haven’t given up on them, either. It’s just tough when you’re on the wrong side of the scoreline game after game. I guess it will make an eventual turnaround that much sweeter.

I just wish that turnaround would hurry up and get here…

A Bert Blyleven near miss may have cost Jack Morris a shot at the baseball Hall of Fame

Jon Heyman has arguably been the most prominent advocate for Jack Morris’ Hall of Fame candidacy among higher-profile baseball writers. Heyman currently works for and also appears on MLB Network. After Morris did not get 75% of the vote in this year’s election, Heyman tweeted the following:

Time to start pro Jack Morris hall campaign. Guy can’t get break. All-AL SP in dh era hurt by roid guys and ‘net negativity

Heyman has been the de facto campaign manager for Morris over the last few years anyway, so this tweet wasn’t particularly surprising. There is some angst for Morris backers, as he will only be the ballot for one more year. If he isn’t elected in 2014, he will have to wait and hope for the mercy of the Veterans Committee.

I wanted to point out one piece of bad luck that may have really hurt Morris’ chances. This is going to be a little bit involved, and is somewhat speculative. Nevertheless, here goes…

Bill James, from The Politics of Glory:

Writers tend to balance their ballots. A writer, making out a Hall of Fame ballot, normally looks to include one or two starting pitchers, a reliever maybe, a middle infielder or two, a couple of slugging outfielders, a first baseman or third baseman, a catcher. He looks for the best in each little pocket.

This natural tendency of the BBWAA voters has the effect of occasionally causing a “cratering” of certain players’ vote totals. James pointed to Jim Bunning as a good example of this. Bunning received 74.4% of the vote in 1988, just missing election, but in 1989 Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins appeared on the ballot, and Bunning’s support declined. He would have to wait to be elected by the Veterans Committee. (Something similar also happened to Luis Tiant.)

A more recent, if less dramatic, example of writers “choosing” between players at the same position involved Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage. Both were relievers, and both drew considerable support from the electorate. However, Sutter appeared on the ballot first (in 1994), six years before Gossage became eligible. In Gossage’s first year of eligibility, the two actually drew similar vote totals (192 for Sutter, 166 for Gossage).

That pattern continued for a few years, then Gossage’s totals began to stall. It appeared the writers were struggling to separate the candidacies of the two relievers, and collectively needed to focus on just one of them. Sutter, with more history on the ballot, continued to draw more votes and was finally elected in 2006, in his thirteenth year of eligibility.

With Sutter out of the way, that cleared the decks for Gossage, who then became the leading candidate among relievers. Gossage had to wait one “extra” year when Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. appeared on the ballot, but he was eventually elected in 2008.

By 2008, Bert Blyleven was receiving 61.8% of the vote from the BBWAA and was the top candidate among starting pitchers for enshrinement. It had been a long journey up the ballot for Blyleven, but he was getting closer. In 2009 he finished fourth overall, receiving 62.7% of the vote.

By that time, the next-most-supported pitcher was Jack Morris. This had been the case since Jim Kaat’s final year on the ballot in 2003. In 2009, Morris got 44% of the vote.

In 2010, Blyleven came very, very close to being elected. He was only five votes short of election. Morris moved up to 52.3% of the vote, fourth overall, third among those not elected (Andre Dawson got the nod that year).

Blyleven finally made it in 2011, gaining election. And Morris?

Well, he stalled a bit, at 53.5%. Blyleven’s breakthrough probably cost Morris some momentum, as writers who might have been inclined to vote for just one starting pitcher may have chosen to select Blyleven, then in his fourteenth year on the ballot and on the precipice.

With Blyleven finally off the ballot, Morris became the top choice among starting pitchers on the ballot. He received 66.7% of the vote in 2012, a sizable improvement from 2011.

However, in 2013, his fourteenth year on the ballot, he stalled again, just like practically all the other ballot holdovers, as the writers tried (and seemingly failed) to come to grips with “the steroid era”. Morris now has one more shot, and it won’t be easy for him to gain election. He has to have a historically large jump in support despite being joined on the ballot by several starting pitchers with much better credentials (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Mike Mussina).

Here is where I speculate…

I think Blyleven just missing out in 2010 really hurt Morris’ chances. If Blyleven had been elected that year, it would have given Morris a clear field, in terms of viable starting pitching candidates.

Instead of only getting 53.5% of the vote in 2011, I think it’s likely Morris would have had vote totals similar to what he eventually got in 2012 — and if he had been sitting at 66.7% after 2011, then I think he would have had a very good chance of joining Barry Larkin in Cooperstown in 2012.

As I stated earlier, Blyleven missed election in 2010 by only five votes.

There were writers who voted for Blyleven and Morris that year. There were some who obviously just voted for Blyleven (and some who voted for neither).

There were a few, though, who voted for Morris and not Blyleven, despite Blyleven having demonstrably superior statistical credentials in both standard and sabermetric pitching categories (including wins, ERA, strikeouts, shutouts, innings pitched, ERA+, and WHIP). Blyleven also had a better overall postseason record than Morris, the latter’s outstanding performance in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series notwithstanding.

I wonder if any of those writers who voted for Morris but not Blyleven have ever considered the possibility that by not voting for Blyleven in 2010, they may have cost Morris a later shot at election.

One of those writers, by the way, was Jon Heyman

The Citadel’s new long-range strategic initiative and what it means for varsity athletics: The LEAD Plan 2018


Welcome to The LEAD Plan 2018

The LEAD Plan 2018 (also available as a .pdf)

I didn’t realize until recently that The Citadel’s new strategic planning initiative had been published. Maybe the announcement of its release was made and I just missed it (which is entirely possible). It appears to have been issued on or around December 12, 2012.

From the school website:

More than simply a document, this new six-year commitment to ensure the strong future of The Citadel, serves as the college’s map that all members of the college community can follow to realize strategic growth and innovation during the next six years.

The name of this plan draws from the core mission of the college, spotlighting The Citadel’s strong reputation for Leadership Excellence and Academic Distinction.

As we take stock of the last few years, The Citadel’s strategic planning empowered the college to face historic economic hardships and grow while other institutions of higher education were forced to cut programs. The Citadel has clearly navigated the new landscape and realized innovations. Innovation in curricula and program growth. Innovation in service to our students and families. Innovation in facilities. Innovation in developing regional partners in industry and the Lowcountry community. In true Citadel fashion, the college faces each challenge and emerges stronger.

From the introductory letter:

In the fall of 2011, a collaborative team at The Citadel embarked on an important journey to plan, shape and position the future successes of the college. During the past year, The Citadel conducted a campus-wide planning process that engaged the campus community in a discussion of the institution’s strategic goals and vision, culminating in The LEAD Plan, The Citadel’s 2012-2018 Strategic Plan to promote Leadership Excellence and Academic Distinction.

This planning document communicates The Citadel’s priorities and lays the foundation for a successful capital campaign that will propel the institution to new heights of academic and leadership prominence…

…the following eight strategic initiatives comprise the planning priorities for The Citadel:

ONE – Develop principled leaders in a globalized environment.
TWO – Enhance the learning environment.
THREE – Strengthen the college through institutional advancement.
FOUR – Develop the student population.
FIVE – Enhance the facilities and technological support for the campus.
SIX – Improve institutional effectiveness.
SEVEN – Ensure the college has the leadership and talent to accomplish these strategic initiatives.
EIGHT – Provide outreach to the region and serve as a resource in its economic development.

Later in the document, there is a reference to the financial setup of this plan:

Success of The LEAD Plan 2018 will be realized through the continuing partnership with The Citadel Foundation, which will provide the funding for the plan’s action items. In particular, The Citadel Foundation will operate a six-year capital campaign that will be aligned with the priorities of The LEAD Plan and its primary lines of effort.

This initiative is the successor to the “Blueprint”, which was The Citadel’s 2009-2012 strategic plan.

In March of 2012, I wrote about some aspects of the Blueprint, among other things, in an ambitious, overly long essay about The Citadel’s future as an institution (with a focus on varsity sports). Now the college has announced its plans for the next few years, and beyond.

I’m not going to rehash the entire LEAD plan. I would encourage anyone interested in The Citadel to read it. It’s not that long (35 pages).

I want to discuss a few things in the plan that are directly related to varsity sports at the military college. They are noteworthy, and newsworthy as well. Of course, everything in the document can be said to have relevance for athletics in some way, and the reverse is often true as well.

Just to list two examples, one macro, one micro: one of the school’s stated goals is to maintain a graduation rate for all cadets of 75%. That’s a major statement. Another goal, obviously not as sweeping but important in its own sphere, is to upgrade the organic chemistry and physics laboratories.

These are the types of things that would matter to many prospective recruits (and their families).

However, since this is a (mostly) sports blog, let’s look at items that are immediately associated with the department of athletics.

Below are certain sections of The LEAD Plan 2018. They are denoted in italics. I have some brief comments following each section.

First up, initiative #3…

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #3: Strengthen the College through Institutional Advancement

In the new higher education environment defined by economic challenges and constrained resources, The Citadel must double its efforts to identify alternative funding sources and advancement opportunities. During the next six years, The Citadel will take steps to expand fundraising and grant-writing expertise, increase the financial independence of The Citadel’s athletics program, and enhance regional and national promotion of the institution.

The Citadel’s athletics program will increase its financial independence and generate 100% of the revenues needed to eliminate the need for campus support from unrestricted gift funds.

*** Objective 3.2 Increase the financial independence of The Citadel’s athletics program

Athletics are an integral component of educating principled leaders, fostering institutional loyalty and spirit, and maintaining a vibrant campus community. The institution will execute several actions designed to strengthen both the athletics program and the college during the next six years.


– Create an Athletics Excellence Fund and offer naming opportunities

Create additional fundraising activities

Key Performance Indicators

Increase membership in the Brigadier Foundation by 25%

Increase new endowed scholarship funds by $5M

*** Objective 3.4 Expand regional and national promotion of The Citadel brand

Expanding the marketing infrastructure and programmatic initiatives will help promote The Citadel brand more prominently across the region and country.


– Expand the college’s marketing strategy to include a more competitive brand positioning that spotlights The Citadel generally and in support of key programs

– Develop measurable outreach tactics that target student prospects for high-priority programs

Key Performance Indicators

– Increase applications by 15% by 2015

– Increase website traffic by 5% by 2015

– Achieve positive brand awareness feedback in surveys

I’ve highlighted some of the more interesting goals/expected outcomes.

Increasing the size of the Brigadier Foundation is a must, as I think everyone would agree. Increasing membership by 25% will be tough. It is not impossible. However, the goal in the Blueprint for membership growth wasn’t 25% — it was 35%. The Citadel did not come particularly close to meeting that standard.

To reach an increase of 25%, the foundation would need to add about 450 new members. For a small school, that is not going to be easy.

In addition to the membership drive, the school wants to have an enormous increase in endowed scholarships for athletics.

While objective 3.4 is not specifically about the department of athletics, I included it here because I believe athletics is a key element to the “branding” issue, an idea reflected throughout the strategic plan.

As an aside, shooting for a 5% increase in web traffic strikes me as a very modest goal.

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #4: Develop the Student Population

The Citadel will become the national institution of choice after the federal service academies for academic and military preparation for careers in the armed services.

The Citadel will develop the mix of its student populations to reflect diversity goals. The Citadel will develop and refine its scholarship and financial assistance programs to support its recruitment goals.

*** Objective 4.4 Expand student diversity and sustain an enrollment of 2,135 in the Corps of Cadets

Citadel graduates work, serve and reside in diverse environments. The prospects for their success as principled leaders are enhanced by exposure to diverse perspectives, interpretations and points of view. Supporting that diversity enriches the educational environment.


Recruit quality cadet-athletes—who will add to the institution’s culture of diversity within the Corps of Cadets—by funding full athletic scholarships in all sports

– Expand need-based funding

Key Performance Indicators

– Increase need-based funding to $2 million by 2018

Offer 100% of full athletic scholarships

Well, now this is something to ponder. Does the school intend to fund the maximum number of scholarships in all sports? That’s certainly what it seems to say. I suppose it could mean that it “just” means any cadet athlete on scholarship would be guaranteed a full ride, but that’s not how I am interpreting it.

Maxing out on scholarships is a very laudable goal. It would be a great boon to most of the “Olympic” sports; the one that most immediately comes to mind is actually rifle, which is reportedly only funded at 42% of its maximum scholarship allotment (1.5 out of a possible 3.6 schollies).

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: The Citadel could conceivably win an NCAA title in rifle. If that happened, Big Red would soon have its day flying atop the Statehouse dome. Adding a couple of rifle scholarships would go a long way to making that dream a reality.

It’s an expensive dream, to be sure.

I was surprised when reading the plan to find that basically the entire undergraduate component of “developing the student population” was devoted to increasing funding for athletics scholarships.

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #5: Enhance the Facilities and Technological Support for the Campus 

*** Objective 5.3 Enhance athletic facilities

Athletic facilities represent a core element of the campus educational and co-curricular experience and will be renovated to include more competitive facilities and technological innovations.


Renovate the Altman Center

Renovate McAlister Field House and Vandiver and Seignious Halls

Build practice volleyball and basketball facilities

Key Performance Indicators

Complete athletics renovations by 2018

None of this is a big surprise. I don’t recall a clamor for a practice volleyball facility, but I can certainly understand the need.

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #7: Ensure the college has the leadership and talent to accomplish these strategic initiatives

*** Objective 7.2 Expand the number of qualified personnel able to coach, teach, train and mentor units and individuals across the Four Pillars

The Citadel’s Leader Development Model integrates the academic, military, physical and moral-ethical pillars of The Citadel Experience. Several actions are central in driving further integration of these domains.


– Develop a summer coaching and mentoring workshop for tactical officers

Create a series of endowed athletics positions to include the director of athletics as well as head coaches of football, basketball and baseball

Key Performance Indicators

Endow a strategic athletics position by 2015

– Develop and implement a summer coaching and mentoring workshop for tactical officers by 2014


Ah, this is what I call the “Ivy League” model. What I mean by that:

– At Princeton, Bob Surace is not the head football coach. He is actually The Charles W. Caldwell Jr. ’25 Head Coach of Football. That is how he is listed on every Princeton release.

– Gary Walters is not the director of athletics at Princeton. He is The Ford Family Director of Athletics.

– Mitch Henderson is not the men’s basketball coach at Princeton. He is The Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green ’40 head men’s basketball coach.

You get the idea. It’s not just Princeton, either. Many Ivy League schools have endowed positions. Harvard has them for numerous sports, including tennis, wrestling, and…squash.

That’s why when Ivy League schools issue press releases about their varsity teams, they often look like this one from Cornell:

Andy Noelthe Meakem-Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, has announced that Kent Austin, the Roger J. Weiss ’61 Head Coach of Football, has accepted the joint position of vice president of football operations, general manager and head football coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, effective immediately.

While this would result in a little extra work for the staffers in Athletic Media Relations, having an endowed position would obviously do wonders for budgeting.

Incidentally, some larger schools endow athletic scholarships for specific on-field football positions. At Southern California, every starting position on the football team is endowed in perpetuity, including placekicker and punter.

I think it is clear that as far as The LEAD Plan 2018 is concerned, varsity athletics is a top priority. What the school wants to do is very interesting. I think it’s laudable. It will also take a great deal of money.

Raising that kind of cash, particularly the focus on endowments, is going to be an enormous challenge. However, I don’t think it’s a “pie in the sky” situation. Having said that, does anyone know a billionaire or two who might be willing to help out?

The Citadel administration appears to have some big ideas, and has chosen to make them public. I am glad to see this. Potential donors need to know what the long-term plans of the school will be. Now, they should have a very good sense of where the college wants to go.

I am on record as favoring an expansion in varsity sports offerings at the military college, specifically in sports that could appeal to a wider geographic student demographic (lacrosse being the most obvious example).

It could be argued, with considerable justification, that the school first needs to shore up support for its existing squads. However, I think The Citadel’s fundraising should be two-pronged: focused on improving what it has now, and opening new vistas for the school. That is true both for the overall scope of the college and the department of athletics, and seems to be what The LEAD Plan is all about.

Another point in favor of adding varsity sports is that the current phase of conference realignment may give The Citadel some new opportunities. While there is concern for where the school may wind up in the NCAA landscape when the dust has settled, I think it’s possible that The Citadel may find itself in a revamped Southern Conference with a much larger percentage of schools that are “like-minded” (relatively speaking).

It is also possible that The Citadel may have a chance to join a new league, or relocate to another conference. For that to happen, the school would need to have a sports portfolio in line with other potential league members. I’ve pointed out before that The Citadel has fewer varsity teams than many other schools that are “peers”. In my opinion, that needs to change.

Change. It is a word that can send shivers down the spine of many an alum of The Citadel. I know that is the case for me.

However, while change is inevitable, it can be shaped to fit the overall mission of the institution. Now supporters of the college have a better idea of how the school’s current leadership intends to do that. It will take time, hard work, intelligent planning, and a lot of resources.

That is what excellence is all about.