Mission for The Citadel’s football program: follow up an outstanding season with another solid campaign

Other football-related posts from recent weeks:

Inside the numbers: The Citadel’s 2015 run/pass tendencies, per-play averages, 4th-down decision-making…and more!

Updating history: Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2015

What teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Preseason football ratings and rankings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

In his fall practice preview article, Jeff Hartsell wrote about issues “the Bulldogs must address if they are to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since The Citadel had three straight from 1990-92”. Some of those things are obvious, like avoiding injuries and, uh, suspensions.

There is something else The Citadel’s football program must overcome, and that is its own history. I want to briefly highlight what has happened in the past. It hasn’t always been pretty.

Going back to the end of World War II, The Citadel has had fifteen seasons in which it won seven or more games in a season. That includes last year’s nine-win campaign.

In the fourteen prior post-war years in which the Bulldogs won 7+ games, the following season often did not go as well. Only five of those fourteen occasions saw the program celebrate a winning season the next year.

It is not altogether surprising that big-win seasons have not always been followed by an over-.500 campaign. There are a lot of factors at hand, including players lost to graduation, injuries, differences in scheduling, coaching changes, and plain old-fashioned luck, to name but a few.

They all add up to what a sabermetrically-inclined observer might call regression to the mean. Still, five out of fourteen is not a good ratio.

[Keep in mind, I’m not talking about following up every winning season. I’m discussing the years in which the Bulldogs won more than six games. There have been other times when The Citadel has had back-to-back winning seasons (just to give one example, the consecutive 6-5 campaigns in 1975 and 1976), but my focus in this post is on those teams that won 7+ games.]

Since 1946, here are the five seasons of 7+ wins in which the Bulldogs enjoyed a winning season the next year:

1st year Record 2nd year Record
1959 8-2 1960 8-2-1
1960 8-2-1 1961 7-3
1980 7-4 1981 7-3-1
1990 7-5 1991 7-4
1991 7-4 1992 11-2

One noticeable thing about this list is its connectivity. Four of the five season duos occurred during the two best periods of modern-era football at The Citadel (and the other, the 1980-81 sequence, was preceded by a 6-5 season in 1979).

Here are the other ten years (post-WWII) in which the Bulldogs won 7+ games:

1st year Record 2nd year Record
1961 7-3 1962 3-7
1969 7-3 1970 5-6
1971 8-3 1972 5-6
1981 7-3-1 1982 5-6
1984 7-4 1985 5-5-1
1988 8-4 1989 5-5-1
1992 11-2 1993 5-6
2007 7-4 2008 4-8
2012 7-4 2013 5-7
2015 9-4 2016 ?

For completeness, here is a list of each occasion prior to World War II where The Citadel had a campaign in which the team won at least two more games than it lost:

1st year Record 2nd year Record
1906 3-0 1907 1-5-1
1908 4-1-1 1909 4-3-1
1911 5-2-2 1912 3-4
1915 5-3 1916 6-1-1
1916 6-1-1 1917 3-3
1923 5-3-1 1924 6-4
1924 6-4 1925 6-4
1925 6-4 1926 7-3
1926 7-3 1927 3-6-1
1928 6-3-1 1929 5-4-1
1937 7-4 1938 6-5
1942* 5-2 1946* 3-5

*The Citadel did not field a football team between 1943-1945

Sustaining success has not been easy at The Citadel. Of course, nothing is easy at The Citadel, so it’s not exactly a shock that consistently winning football games at the school can be kind of tricky.

What about the upcoming season, with a new head coach?

It’s the first time The Citadel has ever had to replace a head football coach following a 7+ win season. Heck, it’s the first time The Citadel has had to replace a head football coach following a winning season of any kind since 1942 (for the record, then-head coach John “Bo” Rowland left to take the job at Oklahoma City University prior to the resumption of football at The Citadel in 1946).

New head coach Brent Thompson and new defensive coordinator Blake Harrell were on the staff that led the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record, a share of the Southern Conference championship, an FCS playoff victory and an upset of SEC foe South Carolina a season ago. Offensive coordinator Lou Conte rejoins the staff after a year away.

With 15 starters back from the 2015 squad, the beginning of the Brent Thompson era — he’s the 25th coach in school history — does not feel like starting over.

“It’s more of a continuation than a new beginning,” said senior linebacker Tevin Floyd. “And that kind of ties in with what we are tying to do this year — keep the momentum going from last year.”

Historically, keeping that momentum going has been difficult. However, there is one interesting note about those past big-win seasons worth mentioning.

Of the five 7+ win years in the post-WWII era that were followed up by over-.500 seasons, all five subsequent winning campaigns resulted in at least seven wins. Three of them matched the win total of the year before, and the title-winning 1992 team upped the prior year’s victory toteboard from seven to eleven.

The only one of the five not to match or exceed the number of wins of the previous season was the 1961 squad — and that team won the Southern Conference championship.

In other words, based on past history (and to be fair, a rather small sample size), there is roughly a two-thirds chance the Bulldogs do not have a winning season in 2016. There is a one-third chance, however, that The Citadel wins at least nine games and/or the SoCon title this year.

I would greatly prefer that smaller section of the speculative statistical pie.

Football season is getting even closer…

Inside the numbers: The Citadel’s 2015 run/pass tendencies, per-play averages, 4th-down decision-making…and more!

A few other football-related posts from recent weeks:

Updating history: Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2015

What teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

Preseason football ratings and rankings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

Also, of course, there are the much-discussed TSA “watch lists” for the upcoming league campaign. See if your favorite SoCon football player (or coach) made one of the lists!

TSA watch lists for the SoCon — Offense
TSA watch lists for the SoCon — Defense
TSA watch lists for the SoCon — Special Teams
TSA watch list for the SoCon — Coach of the Year

For the past two years, I have written about tendencies in playcalling by the then-coach of the Bulldogs, Mike Houston (and his offensive coordinator, Brent Thompson, who of course is now The Citadel’s head coach). I compared what Houston had done while at Lenoir-Rhyne to Kevin Higgins’ last two seasons at The Citadel, along with Houston’s initial season at The Citadel in 2014.

Now I’m going to take a look at what Houston and Thompson did last year at The Citadel, and contrast some of those statistics with those from the 2014 season for the Bulldogs, along with the 2013 campaign under Higgins. I decided not to include 2013 Lenoir-Rhyne stats in my comparison this time, though if anyone wants to see those numbers, they are contained in my previous posts on the subject.

My focus is on down-and-distance run/pass tendencies, fourth-down decision-making, situational punting, and assorted other statistical comparisons. This year, I also took a look at the coin toss (?!), after spotting a trend late last season.

Almost all of the statistics that follow are based on conference play, and only conference play. It’s easier and fairer to compare numbers in that way. Ultimately, The Citadel’s on-field success or failure will be judged on how it does in the SoCon, not against the likes of North Greenville or North Carolina (though beating South Carolina in non-conference action is always a plus).

The conference slates looked like this:

  • The Citadel played seven games in 2015 against SoCon teams. The conference schools competing on the gridiron last year: Western Carolina, Wofford, Samford, Furman, Mercer, VMI, and Chattanooga.
  • The Bulldogs played seven games in 2014 versus SoCon opposition. The teams in the league last year were the same as the 2015 opponents: Wofford, Western Carolina, Chattanooga, Mercer, Furman, Samford, and VMI.
  • The Citadel played eight games in 2013 against SoCon foes. As a reminder, those opponents were: Wofford, Western Carolina, Furman, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Chattanooga, Samford, and Elon.

Oh, before I forget: this year, I put most of the numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s a bit involved (there are seven different sub-sheets), but if anyone wants to peruse the numbers, go for it. Individual game statistics in various categories are included.

I’m fairly confident in the accuracy of the statistics, though I will admit that averaging the time of possession numbers gave me a bad headache. I may be off by a second or two on the quarterly TOP averages. If so, it’s too bad — no refunds are available.

Some definitions:

– 2nd-and-short: 3 yards or less for a first down
– 2nd-and-medium: 4 to 6 yards for a first down
– 2nd-and-long: 7+ yards for a first down
– 3rd-and-short: 2 yards or less for a first down
– 3rd-and-medium: 3 to 4 yards for a first down
– 3rd-and-long: 5+ yards for a first down

The first number that will follow each down-and-distance category will be the percentage of time The Citadel ran the ball in that situation in 2015. Next to that, in parenthesis, is the run percentage for The Citadel in 2014, and that will be followed by the Bulldogs’ run percentage for that situation in 2013 (which will be in brackets).

For example, when it came to running the ball on first down, the numbers looked like this:

– 1st-and-10 (or goal to go): 89.1% (88.9%) [77.1%]

Thus, The Citadel ran the ball on first down 89.1% of the time last year, while the Bulldogs ran the ball in that situation 88.9% of the time in 2014 (basically, there was no difference). The Citadel ran the ball 77.1% of the time on first down during its 2013 campaign.

Overall, the Bulldogs ran the ball 86.5% of the time, after rushing on 84.3% of all offensive plays in 2014.

Here are the rest of the down-and-distance categories (in terms of rush percentage):

– 2nd-and-short: 89.2% (84.0%) [95.8%]
– 2nd-and-medium: 89.8% (90.2%) [87.8%]
– 2nd-and-long: 89.2% (82.2%) [75.0%]
– 3rd-and-short: 93.1% (95.5%) [85.7%]
– 3rd-and-medium: 82.4% (90.3%) [90.9%]
– 3rd-and-long: 66.0% (57.4%) [54.0%]

A caveat to these numbers is that there were a few called pass plays that turned into runs. However, if the result of a play was a sack, that counted as a passing down even if a pass wasn’t thrown. There were four such plays in conference action in 2015 for The Citadel.

When compiling NCAA statistics, lost yardage on sacks counts against rushing totals, which may strike the casual observer as counter-intuitive. The NFL, on the other hand, considers sack yardage as passing yardage lost.

I don’t think there is a lot to be surprised about in those numbers, not for anyone who has watched a Brent Thompson offense over the last few years. It is true that the Bulldogs’ passing percentage on 3rd-and-medium is slightly higher than one might expect, but we’re only talking about three pass attempts on seventeen such down/distance situations; subtract one pass attempt, and the average would have been almost exactly the same as it was the previous two seasons.

There were three games in which the Bulldogs threw the ball a bit more often than normal on third-and-long: Wofford, Furman, and Chattanooga.

The Citadel was 4 for 6 passing versus Wofford on 3rd-and-long for 41 yards, including a 24-yard completion. At Furman, the Bulldogs were 1 for 2 (and also suffered a sack).

However, the one completion on third-and-long against the Paladins was a big one, a 50-yard pass from Dominique Allen to Reggie Williams that set up a TD. It was probably the biggest play of the game.

In the game versus Chattanooga, The Citadel was 2-3 for 20 yards (and a sack) on third-and-long. Trailing throughout the contest undoubtedly had an effect on the play-calling.

Prior to the 2015 season, I wrote:

[In 2014], The Citadel attempted four passes on 2nd-and-short. The first three of them fell incomplete.

In the season finale at VMI, however, the Bulldogs did complete a 2nd-and-short toss, a Miller connection (Aaron to Vinny) that went for 26 yards and set up a field goal to close out the first half of that contest. Upstairs in the Foster Stadium press box, Brent Thompson undoubtedly heaved a sigh of relief after calling his first successful 2nd/3rd-and-short pass play in league action in almost two years.

On a serious note, The Citadel has to convert at a higher rate when it passes the ball in 2nd- and 3rd-and-short situations. The offense must take advantage of having the element of surprise in its favor.

Well, The Citadel attempted four passes on 2nd-and-short in 2015, too. The results? An interception, a 36-yard gainer that led to a touchdown, a 24-yard TD strike, and a 22-yard completion.

Not bad. The pick came in the red zone, though. I guess you can’t have everything.

– The Citadel’s offense in 2013 in SoCon action: 69.6 plays per game, 12.0 possessions per game
– The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon action: 75.4 plays per game, 11.0 possessions per game*
– The Citadel’s offense in 2015 in SoCon action: 70.7 plays per game, 11.9 possessions per game**

*This does not include the Bulldogs’ overtime possession against Furman

**I don’t count a drive as an actual possession when it consists solely of a defensive TD via a return, or when it is a defensive turnover that ends the half or game (or both, like Tevin Floyd’s pick-six against VMI). I also don’t count a drive as a possession when the offensive team does not attempt to move the ball forward (such as a kneel-down situation). That’s how I interpret the statistic, regardless of how it may be listed in a game summary.

The Citadel had a time of possession edge in SoCon play of almost four and a half minutes (32:13 – 27:47). That was actually slightly less of a TOP edge than the Bulldogs had in 2014 (32:40 – 27:20).

The offense generally took control of the ball, however, as games progressed. Average time of possession for The Citadel, by period: 6:59 (1st quarter), 7:47 (2nd), 8:31 (3rd), 8:56 (4th).

– The Citadel’s offense in 2013 in SoCon action: 5.41 yards per play, including 5.13 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s offense in 2014 in SoCon games: 5.56 yards per play, including 5.35 yards per rush and 6.8 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s offense in 2015 in SoCon games: 6.09 yards per play, including 5.57 yards per rush and 9.7 (!) yards per pass attempt

The Bulldogs’ offense improved in all three per-play categories listed above for a second consecutive season. Last year, I suggested a benchmark:

I think the goal going forward might be for yards per rush to exceed 5.75, and for yards per pass attempt to exceed 8.0 (or at least 7.5).

Mission accomplished, especially those yards per pass attempt. The Citadel threw 63 passes in seven SoCon games, and gained 609 total yards passing. Three of those tosses were intercepted, which is not a terrible ratio.

How did the yards per play numbers for the defense shake out? Quite nicely, thank you very much:

– The Citadel’s defense in 2013 in SoCon action: 5.47 yards per play, including 4.39 yards per rush and 7.2 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 7.02 yards per play, including 5.69 yards per rush and 9.1 yards per pass attempt
– The Citadel’s defense in 2015 in SoCon action: 5.07 yards per play, including 3.69 yards per rush and 6.7 yards per pass attempt

That will work. After a less-than-stellar 2014 campaign, the defense improved markedly last year. Check out that yards per rush allowed stat — exactly two yards less per play from one year to the next. The defense against the pass was excellent, too.

In 2014, The Citadel allowed more than seven yards per rush in four of seven league contests. In 2015, the Bulldogs allowed fewer than three yards per rush in four of seven conference games. It helped that The Citadel averaged 4.3 tackles for loss (not including sacks) per game in SoCon action.

– The Citadel’s defense in 2013 in SoCon action: 12 sacks, 26 passes defensed in 204 attempts (12.7% PD)
– The Citadel’s defense in 2014 in SoCon action: 8 sacks, 14 passes defensed in 176 pass attempts (8.0% PD)
– The Citadel’s defense in 2015 in SoCon action: 20 sacks, 33 passes defensed in 212 pass attempts (15.6% PD)

Passes defensed is a statistic that combines pass breakups with interceptions.

After a trying season in 2014, everything worked well for the defense in 2015. I don’t think it is too surprising that the PD numbers improved with an increase in sacks, and the Bulldogs were harassing opposing quarterbacks even when they weren’t sacking them (increasing their “hurries” totals in league play from eleven to seventeen).

Big plays! Big plays! Big plays! Big plays! Big plays!

In seven conference games in 2014, The Citadel’s defense allowed 47 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more — 21 rushes and 26 pass plays. In 2015, that number dropped to 23, nine rushes and fourteen pass plays.

That’s a huge improvement, obviously. It isn’t exactly a shock that big plays lead to points, either directly or later in the drive. Preventing those long gainers is a key to keeping teams off the scoreboard.

For example, of those 23 big plays allowed by the Bulldogs, 14 led to touchdowns (either on the play itself, or later on the same drive). That’s 60.1% of the time.

That percentage is actually lower than what SoCon opponents allowed against The Citadel’s offense on big plays, however. In league action, the Bulldogs had 30 plays of 20 yards or more on offense last year (19 on the ground, 11 in the air). Twenty of those thirty plays led directly or indirectly to touchdowns (66.7%).

– The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2014: 46.3%
– The Citadel’s offensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2015: 50.0%

– The Citadel’s defensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2014: 41.5%
– The Citadel’s defensive 3rd-down conversion rate in SoCon action, 2015: 33.7%

In all games last season, the Bulldogs had an offensive 3rd-down conversion rate of 49.4% (second-best to Chattanooga among SoCon squads), and a defensive 3rd-down conversion rate of 36.5% (which was the best mark among league teams).

The Citadel was 3 for 8 on 4th down in conference play (37.5%). In this case, the percentage may not be as significant a story as are the total attempts. In 2014, the Bulldogs had twenty 4th-down tries in SoCon games, converting twelve (60%).

League opponents were 8 for 13 (61.5%) on 4th down against the Bulldogs last year. It’s definitely a small sample size, but it wouldn’t hurt the defense to knock that percentage down a bit in 2016.

First known football usage of “red zone” in print, per Merriam-Webster: 1983.

First known claim that the red zone does not in fact exist: 2013.

– The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2013: 60.0%
– The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2014: 66.7%
– The Citadel’s offensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2015: 56.3%

– The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2013: 66.7%
– The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2014: 60.0%
– The Citadel’s defensive Red Zone touchdown rate in SoCon action, 2015: 52.2%

The Bulldogs’ offensive Red Zone TD rate would have been better if you didn’t include the VMI game, in which The Citadel somehow managed to go 0 for 5 in scoring touchdowns once inside the 20-yard line. That was a disappointing performance, though on the bright side Eric Goins got to pad his stats.

I always like to take a brief look at fumbles. There really isn’t much to say about them as far as last year was concerned, other than the defense recovering seven of eight opponent fumbles was against the odds. Usually, recovering fumbles is a 50-50 proposition.

– The Citadel’s offensive fumbles in SoCon action, 2014: 10 (lost 6)
– The Citadel’s offensive fumbles in SoCon action, 2015: 12 (lost 8)

– The Citadel’s defensive forced fumbles in SoCon action, 2014: 14 (recovered 7)
– The Citadel’s defensive forced fumbles in SoCon action, 2015: 8 (recovered 7)

When it comes to the SoCon, there are two things on which you can rely with absolute certitude: 1) The Citadel’s gridiron opponents won’t get called for many penalties, and 2) no one associated with The Citadel will ever make the league’s Hall of Fame.

– Penalties enforced against The Citadel in SoCon action, 2014: 37
– Penalties enforced against The Citadel in SoCon action, 2015: 42

– Penalties enforced against The Citadel’s opponents in SoCon action, 2014: 22
– Penalties enforced against The Citadel’s opponents in SoCon action, 2015: 29

– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2013, SoCon action: 6 (in eight games)
– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2014, SoCon action: 6 (in seven games)
– Punts by The Citadel while in opposing territory in 2015, SoCon action: 6 (in seven games)

In the spreadsheet I linked earlier (and located on sub-sheet 6), I described the scenarios for each of the punts by the Bulldogs in opposing territory during the 2015 season. Of the six, the most questionable was almost certainly the first of two such punts in the Mercer game.

Trailing 10-0, and facing 4th-and-1 on Mercer’s 40-yard line early in the second quarter, Mike Houston elected to punt. I’m still not sure it was the right decision, but it worked out. Mercer punted the ball back on the next drive, and The Citadel would eventually regroup and take a halftime lead it barely deserved (well, Isiaha Smith deserved it, at least).

There were also three punts by the Bulldogs on 4th down from midfield in conference play. Two of them were inconsequential, but the third (and last) was a different story. After going for a 4th-and-short on The Citadel’s 40-yard line (and making it), Houston was faced with another decision three plays later.

On 4th and 2 from midfield, trailing 24-14 early in the 4th quarter, he elected to punt. Chattanooga scored on the ensuing possession, essentially wrapping up the victory for the Mocs.

I think the coach probably should have gone for it in that situation, but I’m just a guy with a computer. I do wish the Bulldogs hadn’t burned a timeout before punting, though.

Let’s talk about 4th down…

Defining some terms (courtesy of Football Outsiders):

– Deep Zone: from a team’s own goal line to its 20-yard line
– Back Zone: from a team’s own 21-yard line to its 39-yard line
– Mid Zone: from a team’s own 40-yard line to its opponent’s 40-yard line
– Front Zone: from an opponent’s 39-yard line to the opponent’s 21-yard line
– Red Zone: from an opponent’s 20-yard line to the opponent’s goal line

On sub-sheet 7 of the aforementioned spreadsheet, I’ve categorized each fourth down situation for The Citadel in conference play.

The Bulldogs punted on 4th down every time they were in the Deep Zone or Back Zone. In the Mid Zone, The Citadel punted ten times on 4th down, and went for it three times.

Two of the three were late in the UTC game, so they were “desperation” attempts. I tend not to focus on those types of fourth down attempts (or “garbage time” tries, either). The other 4th-down attempt in the Mid Zone, however, was early in the second quarter against Samford:

  • With 14:12 remaining in the half and the game tied 7-7, The Citadel faced fourth-and-1 on the Samford 40. Mike Houston elected to go for it, and Dominique Allen kept the ball for a 13-yard gain. The Bulldogs eventually scored on the drive, taking a lead they would not relinquish.

In the Front Zone, there were two punts on 4th down (both somewhat justifiable decisions), and four field goal attempts (two were made, two were missed). Three times, Houston kept the offense on the field on 4th down in this zone. One was a “desperation” attempt. The other two occasions were as follows:

  • On The Citadel’s first drive of the game against Western Carolina, the Bulldogs faced 4th-and-2 on the WCU 22-yard line. It didn’t work out for The Citadel, as Vinny Miller was tackled for a loss of four yards.
  • Midway through the fourth quarter versus Mercer, The Citadel went for it on 4th-and-2 from the Mercer 30-yard line, clinging to a 14-13 lead. Cam Jackson gained seven yards to pick up a first down. Three plays later, the Bulldogs scored a TD.

In the Red Zone, The Citadel faced 4th down eight times. Here is a quick review of all eight situations:

  • Ahead 36-12 midway through the 4th quarter against Wofford, the Bulldogs reached the Terriers’ 6-yard line. On 4th and goal, Eric Goins made a 23-yard field goal. (This is close to a “garbage time” decision, admittedly.)
  • On 4th-and-6 at the Mercer 19-yard line, leading 14-10, The Citadel lined up for a field goal. The snap was botched, and the result of the play was an incomplete pass.
  • Early in the second quarter, with a 4th-and-goal at the VMI 16 (the Bulldogs were pushed back by a holding penalty), Eric Goins converted a 33-yard field goal.
  • With a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter, The Citadel faced fourth-and-goal at the VMI 2-yard line. The Bulldogs went for it, but only gained one yard, turning the ball over on downs.
  • Midway through the third quarter, now leading 20-14, the Bulldogs again had the ball deep in VMI territory. They were unable to punch it in for a TD, though, and on 4th-and-goal from the Keydets’ 3 yard-line, Eric Goins trotted back on to the field to kick another field goal (of 20 yards).
  • On the Bulldogs’ next possession, ahead 23-14, they drove the ball inside the VMI 10-yard line for the umpteenth time, yet still could not get in the end zone. This time, on 4th-and-1 from the VMI 6, Goins made a 23-yarder.
  • Early in the second quarter, trailing 14-0, The Citadel faced 4th-and-2 from the Chattanooga 5-yard line. The Bulldogs went for it, but only picked up one yard.
  • Late in the game versus UTC, with a 4th-and-goal on the Mocs’ 10-yard line, Mike Houston elected to try a field goal. Eric Goins converted the try, bringing the Bulldogs to within two touchdowns (at 31-17).

I was a little surprised when I realized that the Bulldogs did not convert a Red Zone 4th down situation into a touchdown in league play all of last season. Of course, part of that has to do with the lack of opportunities. If you’re scoring touchdowns on 1st or 2nd or 3rd down, then what you do or don’t do on 4th down doesn’t matter as much.

Incidentally, in 2014 The Citadel had five Red Zone 4th down situations in conference action. On only one of those occasions did the Bulldogs convert a 4th down into a first down. That was a big one, though (and a big call to make), as it came in overtime against Furman and led to the eventual game-winning TD.

I am inclined to believe that Mike Houston was slightly more conservative (just slightly) in his 4th-down decision-making in 2015 than he had been the previous season, primarily because he could afford to be. His team was often in the lead, or within a score of being in the lead.

Houston also knew that he had a good, clutch placekicker, and a solid “directional” punter capable of consolidating field position.

Will Vanvick must have shaken his head when great punts in the Samford game went unrewarded (after having the ball downed at the 1- and 2-yard lines, Samford scored touchdowns on the ensuing drives anyway). He’ll always have the punt against South Carolina to remember, though.

Earlier in this post, I wrote that I had spotted a trend involving the coin toss. To be honest, I don’t know if I really spotted it, or if I just read or heard about it somewhere. I have a vague idea that the subject of the coin toss came up during the weekly coach’s radio show hosted by Mike Legg. It could have been a note in a Jeff Hartsell story, too. Alas, I don’t remember.

At any rate, I wanted to elaborate on the decision-making surrounding the coin toss. I’m not talking about whether or not to call “heads” or “tails”, but rather the idea of deferring the option to the second half after winning a coin toss.

Last year, The Citadel won the coin toss five times (four in SoCon play). Each time, the Bulldogs elected to defer, and wound up kicking off to open the game.

The military college also kicked off three times after losing the coin toss, as three of The Citadel’s opponents (Mercer, South Carolina, and Coastal Carolina) elected to receive the opening kickoff.

The Bulldogs did not automatically defer the option in 2014 when they won the toss, actually electing to receive the opening kickoff three out of the five times they won the flip that season. Therefore, it appears the deferral concept was instituted between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

I don’t know if Bill Belichick was the inspiration for deferring the option whenever possible, but there are worse guys to emulate when it comes to on-field strategy. As a story in The New York Times pointed out:

Two recent New England games illustrate the advantages of deferring. On Nov. 2, on a cold and windy afternoon, the Patriots won the toss against the Broncos. The Patriots deferred and got the ball to start the second half. When the Broncos elected to receive to begin the game, the Patriots then chose the end that would guarantee the wind would be at their back in the first and fourth quarters. The Patriots won, 43-21.

Sunday against the Lions, the Patriots again deferred. New England scored 10 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter. The Patriots then got the kickoff to open the third quarter and drove deep into Detroit territory before Brady threw an interception.

In the same article, Herm Edwards noted that if “the possessions go about as you think they’re going to go, then maybe you end up with the ball at the end of the game. At the very least, you have the ball to start the second half. And that’s a critical time of the game.”

That piece was written in late November of 2014, just after the Bulldogs’ season had ended that year. I suppose it’s possible that Mike Houston read the story and altered his approach. The timing could also have been coincidental, of course.

Absent other factors, I think deferring the option is usually the right decision. It gives a team the chance to score to end the first half, and then put more points on the board in the second half before the other team gets the ball. It also prevents the opponent from having that same opportunity.

By the way, The Citadel lost six of seven coin tosses last season on the road. As a general rule, one of the visiting team’s captains calls the toss. The Bulldogs obviously need to work on their “heads” or “tails” coin-toss calling technique.

 —

Whether or not Brent Thompson will stay the course when it comes to deferring the option is an unknown at this point. He will be in a position to put his personal stamp on that, along with such matters as fourth-down decision-making. Those are just two of the many items of interest for the new gridiron boss.

I suspect that things like run/pass tendencies will not radically change, mainly because Thompson himself called the plays the past two years. If there is an adjustment in that area (for example, if The Citadel passes more often), it won’t be due to a change in philosophy, but will instead simply be a function of his personnel, both in terms of talent and experience.

Summer is crawling along, but the season is getting closer…

Updating history: attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2015

As always, home attendance is never far away from the thoughts of the person responsible for this blog. This year’s review of last season’s attendance follows.

Attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium, 1964-2015

The above link is to a spreadsheet that tracks attendance for The Citadel’s home football games, and which has now been updated to include the 2015 campaign.

For anyone wondering, 1964 marks the earliest year in which reliable attendance figures for all home games can be reasonably determined. Individual game totals prior to 1964 are sometimes available, but not for a complete season.

Thus, I am unable to include seasons like the title-winning campaign of 1961, or any of the other years from 1948 (when the “modern” Johnson Hagood Stadium opened) to 1963 (when the home finale was attended by the former king of Italy, Umberto II).

The spreadsheet lists year-by-year total and average game attendance, and the win/loss record for the team in each given season. There is also a category ranking the years by average attendance.

Other columns refer to the program’s winning percentage over a two-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year period, with the “current” season being the final year in each category. For example, the three-year winning percentage for 1992 is made up of the 1990, 1991, and 1992 seasons.

I include those categories primarily to see what impact constant winning (or losing) has on long-term attendance trends. Last year, I wrote:

…the numbers seemed to suggest that a good season tends to drive walk-up sales more than might be expected, particularly compared to season ticket sales for the following campaign. It is also true that due to The Citadel’s struggles on the gridiron over the last two decades, it is hard to draw hard-and-fast conclusions about what the school’s attendance goals should actually be in this day and age.

I think that was borne out again in 2015, though there are obvious sample size issues. For the first two home games of the season (night games versus Davidson and Western Carolina), the average attendance was 8,356. For the final two games at Johnson Hagood Stadium last season (day games against Mercer and VMI), average attendance was 12,465.

Of course, one of those late-season games was Homecoming, so I decided to go back four more seasons:

  • 2014: First two home games, average attendance of 9,700; final two home games, average attendance of 9,563 (including Homecoming)
  • 2013: First two home games, average attendance of 13,370; final two home games, average attendance of 12,948 (including Homecoming)
  • 2012: First two home games, average attendance of 13,281; final two home games, average attendance of 13,715 (including Homecoming)
  • 2011: First two home games, average attendance of 12,756; final two home games, average attendance of 12,387 (including Homecoming)

During the seasons in which The Citadel finished with winning records (9-4 in 2015 and 7-4 in 2012), home attendance improved over the year, albeit not by a lot in 2012.

There was a similar attendance boost in 2007, when the Bulldogs also finished with a winning record (7-4). I am hesitant to put a great deal of stock in that increase, though, due to a wide variation in the quality of opponents (and the resulting fan interest level for the matchup).

The Citadel beat Webber International 76-0 in the second home game that season before 8,547 diehard supporters. I suspect that if the game had been scheduled later in the year, there wouldn’t have been much difference in the total attendance.

The Bulldogs were 5-7 in both 2013 and 2014, and 4-7 in 2011. That lack of on-field success is arguably reflected in the attendance totals.

Of course, it has to be mentioned that attendance in 2014 was at its lowest point in the 52 years that comprehensive records have been kept. While last year was an improvement, 2015 still ranked only 47th out of the seasons in that 52-year period.

The average attendance at Johnson Hagood Stadium since 1964 is 14,164. However, there have now been ten consecutive years in which that number has not been reached for a season attendance average.

The folks in the ticket office continue to work hard at increasing sales for the general public. The most recent example of this is a Groupon promotion.

Not that anyone in the department of athletics needs me to say this, but I think it’s worth noting that The Citadel cannot afford to relax its sales push once the season begins. Attendance for late-season home contests can’t be taken for granted, regardless of the team’s record or if a particular game is scheduled on Homecoming weekend.

Let’s take a quick look at attendance from the viewpoint of the FCS as a whole (including the SoCon).

Link to NCAA attendance figures for the 2015 season

Montana led the division in average home attendance, with 24,139 (seven games, including the playoffs; all of these numbers include postseason contests). Eight FCS schools averaged more than 18,000 per game, with a significant dropoff after that (the ninth-highest, Delaware, averaged 15,826).

The Citadel ranked 22nd overall (10,678), just behind Mercer (10,692). Chattanooga (25th, averaging 10,152) and Western Carolina (26th, averaging 10,119) were other Southern Conference schools that finished in the Top 30.

Others of varying interest among the 125 FCS squads (counting Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, which are transitioning to the division, but not Charlotte, which is moving to FBS):

  • Jacksonville State — 2nd (20,598 per game)
  • Yale — 3rd (20,547)
  • James Madison — 4th (19,498)
  • Montana State — 5th (19,172)
  • Liberty — 6th (18,990)
  • North Dakota State — 7th (18,497)
  • South Carolina State — 10th (15,629)
  • Harvard — 17th (12,799)
  • Eastern Kentucky — 23rd (10,350)
  • William & Mary — 33rd (8,967)
  • Kennesaw State — 35th (8,820)
  • Coastal Carolina — 36th (8,818)
  • Richmond — 45th (8,099)
  • Elon — 46th (7,841)
  • East Tennessee State — 55th (7,128)
  • Wofford — 58th (7,007)
  • Furman — 60th (6,795)
  • Villanova — 61st (6,767)
  • Samford — 79th (5,544)
  • VMI — 90th (4,778)
  • Charleston Southern — 96th (4,487)
  • Gardner-Webb — 100th (3,882)
  • Presbyterian – 102nd (3,810)
  • Jacksonville — 104th (3,580)
  • Davidson — 113th (2,758)
  • Duquesne — 125th (1,372)

Odds and ends:

– Duquesne, a playoff team last year, ranked last in the division in home attendance.

– Furman finished behind Wofford in home attendance, the second consecutive season that has happened.

– Montana’s home attendance average was higher than 41 FBS programs, including every single school in the Sun Belt and the MAC. It was higher than the average home attendance for the Mountain West and C-USA.

– Montana State may have only had the second-best home attendance in its own state, but that was still higher than 17 FBS programs.

– The Citadel had a higher home attendance average than three FBS schools — Georgia State, Ball State, and Eastern Michigan (which averaged only 4,897 fans per game).

Undergraduate enrollment for those three institutions: 32,842 (Georgia State), 18,621 (Eastern Michigan), and 16,652 (Ball State).

– The decision of the Sun Belt to extend a membership invitation to Coastal Carolina instead of Liberty was definitely not based on money, and it clearly wasn’t based on fan support either, if football attendance is any guide.

– For those curious, without the home playoff game last season Charleston Southern would have averaged 3,694 per home contest.

– Despite declining attendance numbers at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel has still finished in the Top 30 of FCS attendance in each of the last ten years. I think that’s pretty good for a small military college.

While there has been a bit of angst concerning attendance (or lack thereof) at home games in recent years, it has to be remembered that The Citadel still enjoys a wildly greater level of support than would normally be the case for a school of its size — both in terms of undergraduate enrollment, and alumni base.

Sometimes, that gets lost in the shuffle. For example, I distinctly remember at least two members of the local media cohort who forgot that last season.

Football season is getting closer…

 

During the 2016 season, what teams will the Bulldogs’ opponents play before (and after) facing The Citadel?

That’s right, it’s time for the annual July topic. In this post, I take a look at football schedules, and note which teams The Citadel’s opponents face before and after playing the Bulldogs. Sometimes, of course, the answer is “bye”.

Let’s review…

September 1 (Thursday): The Citadel’s first game of the season is a road conference matchup with Mercer. The game will be played on Thursday night, the first time I can recall the Bulldogs not opening the season on a Saturday.

As the opener for both teams, obviously neither will have faced a prior opponent this year. Mercer’s last game was a 47-21 home loss to Samford to close out the 2015 campaign.

After playing The Citadel, the Bears will prepare for another triple option team — Georgia Tech. It will be the first time the schools have met on the gridiron since 1938 (and the first game for Mercer against an FBS opponent since it restarted its football program in 2013).

September 10: Furman makes the trip to Charleston to face the Bulldogs. The Paladins open their 2016 season on Friday night (September 2), travelling to East Lansing for a meeting with Michigan State (the first time Furman has ever played a Big 10 team in football).

The Paladins’ home opener is on September 17, versus Chattanooga. It is the only one of FU’s first four games that will take place in Greenville, as Furman will play at Coastal Carolina on September 24.

September 17: The Citadel makes the journey to Boiling Springs, North Carolina, for a Bulldogs-vs.-Bulldogs battle.

It will be Gardner-Webb’s only home game in the month of September. The Runnin’ Bulldogs open with road games at Elon and Western Carolina before playing The Citadel, and will venture into the world of the MAC on September 24 for a contest against Ohio.

September 24: This is the open week for The Citadel. I’ll be on vacation myself. No, that isn’t a coincidence.

October 1: The Bulldogs will be in Cullowhee on the first day of October, tangling with Western Carolina. Both teams will be coming off a bye week.

WCU plays East Tennessee State in Johnson City on September 17. The game against The Citadel will be the first of two straight home contests for the Catamounts, as they play Wofford on October 8.

Western Carolina has FBS bookends on its schedule this year. WCU opens its season with a game versus East Carolina. There will be plenty of purple in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that night.

The Catamounts will conclude regular-season action with a trip to Columbia for an SEC-SoCon Challenge game against South Carolina. Will the local alt-weekly refer to the game as a “cupcake” matchup? I’m guessing it will not.

October 8: After almost a month away from Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel returns home for a Parents’ Day game against North Greenville.

The Crusaders are at home on October 1, facing Mars Hill. After playing The Citadel, the next game for North Greenville is a road matchup versus Tusculum.

October 15: The Bulldogs play Chattanooga in Charleston on this date. The Mocs are at home for both their prior game (Mercer) and the contest that follows (VMI).

After playing eight SoCon games in nine weeks, Chattanooga finishes its regular season campaign with a non-conference clash against Alabama.

October 22: The Citadel faces Wofford in Spartanburg. The Terriers have a bye on October 15. The week following the game against the Bulldogs, Wofford hosts Mercer.

The Terriers open the season with two road games. Wofford plays Mississippi in the second of those contests.

October 29: The Bulldogs play East Tennessee State in the next-to-last home game of the season. The Buccaneers don’t have a bye the week before, but will get a couple of extra days of preparation, as ETSU hosts West Virginia Wesleyan on Thursday, October 20.

East Tennessee State is at Mercer the week following its trip to Johnson Hagood Stadium. ETSU finishes the season with two home games, against Cumberland (yes, the Cumberland of 222-0 fame) and Samford.

November 5: Samford is the Homecoming opponent for The Citadel this year. With the possible exception of Furman, none of the military college’s other opponents has a tougher task the week prior to facing The Citadel. Samford has a matchup at Mississippi State on October 29.

On November 12, Samford holds its own Homecoming game against Mercer.

November 12: The battle for the coveted Silver Shako resumes once again on November 12, this time in Lexington, Virginia. VMI plays at Western Carolina the week before, and concludes its regular season with a game at Wofford the week following this game.

November 19: There will be lots of light blue in Chapel Hill on November 19, as The Citadel comes to town to face North Carolina. The Tar Heels are at Duke on November 12, and have another rivalry game the following week, versus North Carolina State (with that game taking place on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day).

A couple of observations about the schedule:

– Mercer wound up as a de facto “travel partner” of sorts for The Citadel this season. The Bears play Chattanooga the week before the Bulldogs do. Following that, there are three consecutive weeks in which a team will play Mercer the week after playing The Citadel (those three squads being Wofford, East Tennessee State, and Samford).

– As far as “option preview” situations are concerned…

Western Carolina and VMI both face Wofford the week after playing The Citadel. Only two league teams (Samford and East Tennessee State) play Wofford before matchups with The Citadel; both play the Terriers several weeks before meeting the Bulldogs.

North Carolina will play Georgia Tech two weeks before hosting The Citadel in Chapel Hill. North Greenville has a meeting with Lenoir-Rhyne a few weeks before playing The Citadel, but L-R (which has a new head coach) is moving to a more balanced offense after several years running the triple option.

Football season is getting closer…

Preseason football ratings and rankings, featuring The Citadel (and the rest of the SoCon)

Hey, let’s look at preseason rankings and ratings!

First up, some rankings…

I went to my local Barnes & Noble to check out some preseason magazines. Not all of them include a section for FCS teams, but a few do.

The Sporting News has The Citadel in its preseason Top 25, at #21. However, TSN thinks the Bulldogs will only finish 3rd in the Southern Conference:

1 – Chattanooga (#8 in the Top 25)
2 – Wofford (#19 in the Top 25)
3 – The Citadel (#21 in the Top 25)
4 – Samford
5 – Mercer
6 – Western Carolina
7 – Furman
8 – VMI
9 – East Tennessee State

Lindy’s only has one SoCon team in its top 25 (Chattanooga is ranked 11th). The magazine’s projected conference standings look like this:

1 – Chattanooga
2 – Western Carolina
3 – Mercer
4 – The Citadel
5 – Samford
6 – Wofford
7 – Furman
8 – VMI
9 – East Tennessee State

Athlon doesn’t have an FCS section in its magazine, but its online presence does have an FCS Top 25. The Citadel is ranked 10th in that preseason poll (UTC is #7).

Last season, I started to incorporate the Massey Ratings into my weekly previews as the season progressed. For the uninitiated, a quick primer on this ratings system:

Ken Massey is a math professor at Carson-Newman whose ratings system was used (with several others) for fifteen years by the BCS. He has ratings for a wide variety of sports, but most of the attention surrounding his work has been focused on college football.

A quick introduction of the Massey Ratings, from its website:

The Massey Ratings are designed to measure past performance, not necessarily to predict future outcomes…overall team rating is a merit based quantity, and is the result of applying a Bayesian win-loss correction to the power rating.

…In contrast to the overall rating, the Power is a better measure of potential and is less concerned with actual wins-losses.

…A team’s Offense power rating essentially measures the ability to score points. This does not distinguish how points are scored, so good defensive play that leads to scoring will be reflected in the Offense rating. In general, the offensive rating can be interpretted as the number of points a team would be expected to score against an average defense.

Similarly, a team’s Defense power rating reflects the ability to prevent its opponent from scoring. An average defense will be rated at zero. Positive or negative defensive ratings would respectively lower or raise the opponent’s expected score accordingly.

…the Massey model will in some sense minimize the unexplained error (noise). Upsets will occur and it is impossible (and also counter-productive) to get an exact fit to the actual game outcomes. Hence, I publish an estimated standard deviation. About 68% of observed game results will fall within one standard deviation of the expected (“average”) result.

Preseason ratings are typically derived as a weighted average of previous years’ final ratings. As the current season progresses, their effect gets damped out completely. The only purpose preseason ratings serve is to provide a reasonable starting point for the computer. Mathematically, they guarantee a unique solution to the equations early in the season when not enough data is available yet.

In other words, preseason ratings mean very little. However, it’s July and we certainly need something to keep us going until college football season starts!

Massey rates every college football team — not just FBS and FCS squads, but D-2, D-3, NAIA, junior colleges, even Canadian schools. This season, there are preseason ratings for 923 colleges and universities.

This year, The Citadel is #113 overall in the preseason ratings. As a comparison, the Bulldogs were the preseason #174 squad last season.

As for the teams on The Citadel’s schedule:

  • Mercer — #204
  • Furman — #199
  • Gardner-Webb — #261
  • Western Carolina — #143
  • North Greenville — #312
  • Chattanooga — #106
  • Wofford — #172
  • East Tennessee State — #554
  • Samford — #149
  • VMI — #224
  • North Carolina — #24

Massey gives the Bulldogs a 5% chance of beating North Carolina. You may recall that last year’s preseason odds gave The Citadel a 1% chance of beating South Carolina. You may also recall that The Citadel finished 2016 as the transitive ACC Coastal Division champions.

One of the neat things about the Massey Ratings website is that it has matchup simulations — single games, best-of-seven series, etc. After refreshing a few times, I came up with a simulated result that favored the Bulldogs over UNC (by a 39-38 score). The average score of the simulations was 44-17 North Carolina, but I’m sure that was due to a programming error.

As for the other ten games on The Citadel’s schedule…believe it or not, the Bulldogs are currently projected to win all of them. The likelihood of that happening is remote, obviously, but it’s definitely a far cry from past prognostications.

I’ll go ahead and list the percentage chances of The Citadel winning each of those games, along with the median score, as calculated by the Massey Ratings:

  • at Mercer — 78% (30-17)
  • Furman — 87% (31-14)
  • at Gardner-Webb — 89% (27-7)
  • at Western Carolina — 56% (28-26)
  • North Greenville — 97% (41-10)
  • Chattanooga — 51% (24-23)
  • at Wofford — 66% (28-21)
  • East Tennessee State — 100% (48-3)
  • Samford — 70% (34-24)
  • at VMI — 83% (35-20)

To be honest, I’m not buying all of those ratings, even from a preseason ratings perspective.

I’m particularly dubious about the ratings for Mercer and North Greenville, and I’m not so sure about Furman’s numbers, either (I think all of them should be significantly higher). Also, Massey’s algorithm doesn’t account for SoCon officiating, especially for games played in Spartanburg.

As for FCS-only ratings, here is a list of select schools:

  • North Dakota State – 1
  • Northern Iowa – 2
  • Jacksonville State – 3
  • Illinois State – 4
  • South Dakota State – 5
  • Dartmouth – 6
  • Harvard – 7
  • Chattanooga – 8
  • Western Illinois – 9
  • Youngstown State – 10
  • The Citadel – 11
  • Southern Utah – 12
  • Richmond – 13
  • Charleston Southern – 14
  • Southern Illinois – 15
  • Montana – 16
  • Coastal Carolina – 21
  • Western Carolina – 22
  • James Madison – 23
  • William & Mary – 26
  • Samford – 27
  • Villanova – 28
  • Liberty – 34
  • Wofford – 39
  • Towson – 46
  • Furman – 49
  • Lehigh – 50
  • Mercer – 52
  • Presbyterian – 57
  • VMI – 61
  • Elon – 68
  • Delaware – 70
  • South Carolina State – 76
  • Kennesaw State – 77
  • Dayton – 81
  • Gardner-Webb – 82
  • Jacksonville – 88
  • Campbell – 102
  • Davidson – 120
  • East Tennessee State – 122
  • Mississippi Valley State – 125

The highest-rated FCS school is, naturally, North Dakota State, which checks in at #60 overall. Other schools in the “overall” list that may be of interest:

  • Alabama – 1
  • Ohio State – 2
  • Mississippi – 3
  • Stanford – 4
  • Clemson – 5
  • Arkansas – 6
  • Tennessee – 7
  • LSU – 8
  • Oklahoma – 9
  • Mississippi State – 10
  • Notre Dame – 14
  • Auburn – 17
  • Georgia – 18
  • Florida State – 20
  • Texas A&M – 22
  • Florida – 27
  • Navy – 33
  • Louisville – 35
  • Toledo – 39
  • Texas – 42
  • Miami (FL) – 46
  • Georgia Tech – 48
  • Virginia Tech – 49
  • North Carolina State – 55
  • South Carolina – 58
  • Georgia Southern – 59
  • Duke – 64
  • Virginia – 67
  • Maryland – 69
  • Vanderbilt – 70
  • Appalachian State – 71
  • Kentucky – 72
  • Northwest Missouri – 77 (highest-ranked Division II team)
  • Boston College – 78
  • Air Force – 79
  • East Carolina – 85
  • Wake Forest – 92
  • Calgary – 111 (highest-ranked Canadian team)
  • Kansas – 116
  • Army – 121
  • Idaho – 141
  • Tulane – 144
  • UCF – 154
  • Wyoming – 155
  • UTEP – 156
  • Hawai’i – 157
  • New Mexico State – 158
  • City College of San Francisco – 159 (highest-ranked junior college team)
  • Old Dominion – 161
  • Mt. Union – 175 (highest-ranked Division III team)
  • ULM – 176
  • Eastern Michigan – 181
  • North Texas – 192
  • Charlotte – 198
  • Marian (IN) – 244 (highest-ranked NAIA team)

The overall Top 10 is very SEC-heavy, similar to the MVC flavor for the FCS Top 10.

Football season is getting closer…

A quick glance at minutes for some recent meetings of The Citadel Board of Visitors

When The Citadel Board of Visitors has a meeting, its minutes are eventually published online. I like to peruse the minutes, as it’s just another way to keep up with the goings-on at the military college.

This post is just a short review of the published minutes for the last three meetings — April 1 (a teleconference), April 15-16, and May 3 (also a teleconference). The minutes for the most recent BOV meeting (June 10-11) have not yet been released.

April 1 meeting

It is always dicey to hold a meeting on April Fools’ Day, but the board plunged ahead with its business anyway. Much of the discussion appears to have taken place in executive session.

The board recognized David L. Preston for winning a major award for his book, Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to RevolutionPreston is the Westvaco Professor of National Security Studies at The Citadel. More importantly, he’s a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The Citadel desperately needs to add more Steelers fans to its faculty.

Also honored was a cadet, James McManus, who received a Fulbright scholarship. He will study in Norway. Sadly, McManus will not be able to go speed skating in Oslo with Johann Olav Koss, as Koss now lives in Canada.

It was also noted that the Commission on Higher Education was to meet the following week to consider approving the school’s new nursing program. The commission did indeed make that consideration, and approved the program at a subsequent meeting, subject to State Board of Nursing approval.

The CHE also signed off on The Citadel’s new Center for Cyber, Intelligence, and Security Studies. That led to the school getting a grant from the National Security Agency.

A final tidbit from the minutes: apparently, it’s hip to be a mechanical engineer. There are 161 declared majors from the Class of 2019 in mechanical engineering, the second-most for any discipline.

April 15-16 meeting

After broaching legal matters in executive session, the board discussed tuition and fees for out-of-state students. It was noted that the school’s focus was changing to more need-based scholarship assistance. The importance of ROTC programs was mentioned.

It was reported that the demolition of the school-owned housing units along Hagood Avenue would begin in June. Also of interest: cellular communications equipment on the water tower is being upgraded.

The board decided to cancel a Request for Proposals for the proposed new parking garage. Apparently some technical issues have arisen. Among other things, that does impact varsity athletics (particularly basketball, in my opinion).

Speaking of varsity athletics…

[Director of Athletics Jim Senter] introduced the Athletic Facilities Master Plan. He discussed the details of the purpose/methodology of the plan, comparison schools data, findings, recommendations, projected costs, and way ahead…

…the “Blue and White Auction” netted over $99,000; membership renewals [in the Brigadier Club] are up to 909 through 11 April 2016; and new memberships are at a high of 103 for the same period.

If I read that correctly, as of mid-April there were over 1,000 active members of The Citadel Brigadier Foundation. The minutes also included a report from The Citadel Alumni Association, which stated that as of mid-April there were 11,849 total members in that group.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would like to think that your typical alumni association member also has a stake in the TCBF. However, unless I am reading the numbers wrong (quite possible), that is the case for less than 10% of CAA members.

I’m not saying it should be 100% or anything close to that, but less than 10%?

Other odds and ends from this meeting:

–  John Rosa got a pin for ten years of service to the college. Based on at least one recent news story, I’m guessing he won’t wear it with his uniform.

– “[We] must anticipate less funding from the state.” This is a sentence that could be uttered on an annual basis. I suspect that “we must anticipate no funding from the state” will be a more accurate statement in a few years. I’m not excited about that, but it seems inevitable. That leads to the question, where does the school find more money? Well…

  • “…the Board of Visitors approves the naming opportunity proposed for the space in the future Capers Hall building as the ‘Leidos Center for Diversity and Global Engagement’.”
  • “…the Board of Visitors approves the naming opportunity proposed to designate The Citadel’s Nursing Program as ‘The Swain Nursing Program’ with an option to rename as ‘The Swain Department of Nursing’ in the future.”
  • “…the Board of Visitors approves the proposed donor recognition signage for the Envisioning, Founding, Sponsoring, and Sustaining classes and organizations.”
  • “…the administration is authorized to use $750,000 from unrestricted funds…to support the online revenue growth initiative.”

Incidentally, page 28 of the CHE report on the nursing program indicates the “total signed pledge” to cover some of the startup costs is $4,000,000, so more power to the Swain family. I’m not sure what the issue is concerning the proper name of the program, but I wish it could be finalized before The Citadel has to spend a little extra money making new signs, letterhead, etc., in the event of a name change.

– “[According to a report by The Citadel Foundation]…total funds raised in 2015 exceeded the goal of $34.5 million, with a strong pipeline going into 2016. The total endowment is currently at a record of $271 million…”

– The Citadel Real Estate Foundation, a 501(c)3, has been incorporated. I’m going to assume (always dangerous) that the object of this foundation is to deal with gifts of property to the college.

– A potential new haircut policy for freshman was proposed. The suggestion: male and female haircuts would maintain the current fourth class haircut standards until Parents’ Day. After that, the existing upper class haircut standards would apply to freshmen as well. This policy may start during the 2016-17 school year.

May 3 meeting

This was another teleconference situation. A couple of BOV members couldn’t make it. A reporter from The Post and Courier was in attendance (she is described in the minutes as a columnist).

Notes from this meeting:

– “The College has received over 900 deposits from the Class of 2020, with 80 deposits from female students and 193 minorities — the most ever.”

– There were several motions regarding requests from graduating seniors to have a specific person (presumably a family member or friend) present the cadet with his or her diploma. This was also the case for the April 15-16 meeting, and led to a recommendation by BOV vice-chairman Dylan Goff to have a “formal procedure with a specific deadline be formulated to avoid last-minute requests for diploma presentation exceptions being submitted to the Board”.

One of The Citadel’s better traditions is that it allows an alumnus parent to personally present his son/daughter with his/her diploma. The school has been careful about making exceptions to this policy. From what I can determine, the BOV has no issues with, say, an alumnus grandfather doing the honors, or an uncle who is a grad (particularly if the father is deceased). The majority of recent requests were denied by the board, however.

While the minutes for the June 10-11 meeting haven’t been posted yet, we do know one thing that was presumably discussed: tuition. The school announced late last week that tuition and fees would increase by approximately 3% for the 2016-2017 academic year.

What does it all mean?

It means that football season is getting closer…

Wrapping up The Citadel’s 2015-16 year in varsity athletics: one bright light, but not much else

I haven’t posted on the blog in quite some time, for a variety of reasons. I’ve been rather busy, for one thing, and I’ve also had a little bit of “writer’s block”.

Another reason, at least when it comes to athletics at The Citadel, is that there hasn’t been a lot of things lately that seemed worth writing about. (Now, when it comes to discussing other issues and events at the military college, our cup runneth over.)

It hasn’t been an inspiring year for The Citadel’s varsity sports, other than the football team.

Ah yes, the football team. Now that is a different story. The gridiron squad had one of the more memorable seasons in the school’s long football history.

I wrote plenty about the team during the fall, of course. That group gets the highly desired honor of being the 2015-16 TSA “Team of the Year”.

I only wish there had been more competition for that title.

The Citadel competes in 17 varsity sports, counting rifle as one (co-ed) entity. The military college competes in the SoCon in 16 of them (the exception is rifle, though that will change next year when the league resumes sponsorship of that sport).

The Bulldogs finished last in the conference in exactly half of those 16 sports: basketball, baseball, tennis, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, women’s golf, women’s soccer, and volleyball.

Not all of those are alike, of course. Expectations are different. No one is going to be overly critical of the cross country teams, for example (which were also reasonably competitive).

That isn’t quite the case for some of the other teams. I don’t like being harsh about these things, but the fact is that there were some very disappointing campaigns in 2015-16. A few of those teams have now had several consecutive rough seasons.

It isn’t easy to put winning teams on the field (or court) at The Citadel. Everyone knows this. However, I would like to think that varsity athletics can do a lot better than the sum total for this school year.

It is also true that several of the current coaches are relatively new to their positions (including the head coaches for basketball, tennis, volleyball, and soccer). It takes time to build programs at The Citadel; perhaps in a year or two the department will be bragging about multiple SoCon team titles.

I hope so. Boasting can be therapeutic.

I’m going to try to get the blog going again over the summer. It is probable that not everything I write will focus on The Citadel.

That doesn’t mean I’m not counting the days until the football opener at Mercer, though…

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