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…

Game review, 2015: Coastal Carolina

That was a wild one…

Links of interest:

Game story, The Post and Courier

“Notes” section, The Post and Courier

Game story, Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Photo gallery, Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Coastal Carolina post-game news conference

Video from WCSC-TV

Video from WCIV-TV

Video of the winning field goal and the immediate aftermath

School release

Post-game notes from The Citadel

Box score

Eric Goins had this to say after the game…

I came back [to] the sideline [after the blocked field goal attempt], and…General Rosa was there…and he said, ‘Hey, you’re gonna have to kick another one.’ And I believed him, because I felt like that was the way the game was going. And he was right.

John Rosa: former college quarterback, current school president, modern-day Nostradamus.

Very random thoughts on the game:

– Coastal Carolina has a nice setup for its varsity sports, including Brooks Stadium. I don’t know exactly how CCU plans on expanding the stadium to 20,000 seats (as part of its move to FBS), but it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Parking was easy. I just parked in lot “YY”, which was located about a half-mile from the stadium. Shuttles came regularly to take people to the game. I had no issues leaving, either (though I chose to walk back to the parking lot after the game).

– CCU is yet another school (including The Citadel) that believes when it comes to its speaker system, louder is better. In particular, there was a halftime promotional video that featured audio which will surely lead to permanent hearing loss for anyone who was in attendance.

– Not that anyone at Coastal Carolina will (or should) care about my opinion, but I would ditch the “teal” turf. It looks terrible, both in person and on TV.

Like I said, though, they aren’t asking for my opinion.

– Speaking of the ESPN3 broadcast, apparently someone in production thought The Citadel’s starting quarterback was “Dominic” Allen. I watched part of the game when I got home and was disappointed to see that basic error.

I hope it is corrected for next week’s game.

– The analyst for the ESPN3 broadcast was former Boston College and N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien. He was not the most colorful of “color” analysts, to be sure.

However, he knew what he was talking about, not a big surprise given his excellent coaching career. Some of his nuts-and-bolts discussion was really good; you could even call it refreshing.

I think he could become a very good analyst if he called more games.

– Coastal Carolina’s receivers weren’t exactly the headliners coming into the game, but as a group the CCU wideouts made a number of outstanding catches. The Citadel’s defense gave up way too many big plays yesterday, but you also have to credit the opposition sometimes. The Chanticleers made several “velcro” grabs on Saturday.

– CCU linebacker Alex Scearce is apparently okay after being injured late in the game, which is good to know. I would describe that post-play scene as unnerving.

– The officials drew mixed reviews on Saturday. I wasn’t overly impressed with the Patriot League crew, to be honest.

I thought the spot on Dominique Allen’s fourth-down sneak in the first half was dubious, and they missed a potential pick-6 by Nick Willis in the third quarter (which wasn’t even reviewed, arguably more puzzling than the call on the field).

I didn’t understand the sideline interference penalty either. It’s possible I missed something there, so I’ll give the officials the benefit of the doubt on that one.

– With two interceptions against CCU, The Citadel’s defense now has 19 for the season. Somewhat surprisingly (at least to me), that is “only” fourth-best in school history, behind 1970 (23), 1977 (21), and 1981 (20).

Yes, in 1970 the Bulldogs intercepted 23 passes in 11 games.

– The Citadel rushed for 524 yards on Saturday (6.7 yards per attempt). The Bulldogs carried the ball 78 times.

One reason The Citadel had so many rushes is that the Bulldogs consistently converted third downs (11 for 17). Five of The Citadel’s twelve drives lasted 10 plays or more. The Bulldogs did not have a “three and out” during the contest.

– After a late scoring change (due to a misidentified player), it turns out The Citadel had four 100-yard rushers. Dominique Allen, Tyler Renew, Cam Jackson, and (better to be recognized later than never) Vinny Miller all cracked the century mark.

– Given the total offensive output, and the fact The Citadel won the turnover battle 4-1, it may seem strange that the Bulldogs needed a last-second field goal to win the game.

They did need that kick, though. Why?

  • Missed opportunities on offense: two FGs that went awry (one blocked), a lost fumble, a turnover on downs, and that excruciating sequence at the end of the first half
  • Big plays allowed on defense: CCU had pass plays of 91 (TD), 26 (TD), 17, 47, 16 (TD), 26, 42, 17, 16, and 33 yards; the Chanticleers also had rushing plays of 44 (TD), 22, 17, and 16 yards (TD)

– The end-of-half sequence I mentioned above should serve as a useful “teaching moment” going forward. It could have dearly cost the Bulldogs to miss out on a potential field goal.

To give the players and coaches credit, they regained the lost momentum immediately by scoring on the first possession of the second half.

Then Coastal scored on its first possession of the second half…and then The Citadel responded (with that big Cam Jackson run)…and then…

It was that kind of game.

– My best guess is that about half the crowd at Brooks Stadium on Saturday wore light blue. It was an impressive turnout.

Announced attendance for The Citadel-Coastal Carolina: 6,751.

Attendance for the other seven FCS playoff games this weekend: 14,575 (at Montana); 7,062 (Northern Iowa); 4,888 (Chattanooga); 4,395 (William & Mary); 3,303 (New Hampshire); 3,098 (Sam Houston State); 997 (Dayton).

It isn’t easy to draw fans for the post-Thanksgiving FCS playoff games, but having less than 1,000 in the stands for Western Illinois-Dayton is not good.

Speaking of attendance, here is the link to the Charleston Southern ticket office website:


There likely won’t be any tickets available for The Citadel to sell (outside of about 700ish tickets that will be offered to the top 100-120 donors), so if you want to go to the game, you need to go to the CSU website.

You probably need to get them as soon as they become available at 10 am ET on Monday (November 30). Tickets will be at a premium because of the lack of seats (and space) at Buccaneer Field.

In the 2014 game played between the two teams, the announced attendance was 7,954; in actuality, there were probably about 5,500 people there.

I would anticipate the potential for a much bigger crowd this Saturday, but the truth is there really isn’t space for a lot more fans. That is certainly true for seated spectators. CSU only has around 4,000 “permanent seats”.

I’ll have a preview for that matchup later in the week.

Here are some (really bad) pictures I took on Saturday, after I managed to get my camera to work again. At least, as much as it ever works.

The game photos are in sequential order. I’ve annotated a few of them.


Two weeks until gameday for The Citadel: the scrimmage before the storm

I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend Saturday’s scrimmage at Willson Field, but sometimes the sun shines when you expect rain, and I am quite grateful for that. I am not going to claim to have any fantastic observations about what I saw.  That won’t stop me from typing, though…

I got to campus a little late, but that was okay.  Venturing into McAlister Field House, looking for one of the new football posters, I was almost immediately accosted by a gentleman who asked me if I wanted to eat something.  He pointed to a long table filled with hamburgers and hot dogs, and it suddenly occurred to me that I was hungry.

I was a bit dazed, to be honest, and probably looked like I was on drugs (not guilty!), but no matter.  I grabbed a burger and a cookie (which was very good) and wolfed them down.

Then I got one of the new posters (I took the glossy kind, as I didn’t need it autographed), a magnet schedule (nice), and a team roster (very handy) and made my way to the field.

Jeff Hartsell has a nice writeup on the scrimmage, with some unofficial stats (link). You can also read about it at citadelsports.com (link), which also has a lot of cool photos (link) of the scrimmage, along with the meet and greet that followed it.  (I took some pictures myself, but they are mostly awful, and even the decent ones aren’t nearly as good as the school’s offerings.)

Some quick thoughts:

— I really liked the setup for this event.  Good job all around by the department of athletics.  As always, quality cookies are an easy way to please the masses.

— There were several hundred people there, which was nice to see.  I think that if there had been many more spectators in attendance, though, the venue would have been a little too small, something for the administration to keep in mind if the team enjoys a successful season in 2011.

— The Class of 2015 (i.e. the “knobs”) surrounded the field to cheer on the players. Big fan of that move.

— Maybe for future scrimmages Spike (the cartoon mascot) could make an appearance, to entertain some of the kids.

— The officials working the scrimmage wore long black pants.  In August.  In Charleston.  Luckily for them, while it was kind of muggy it was just overcast enough to keep things from becoming truly oppressive.  I left Charleston before the inevitable thunderstorm (at least I assume it was inevitable).

— Aaron Miller, the freshman QB from Clover, had a big run and seemed to have a presence about him.  He’s a very interesting prospect; one of those guys who doesn’t seem super-fast but nobody seems able to catch him anyway.

— The best pass of the scrimmage was thrown by Luke Caldwell, who is a receiver.  It was a really nice pass, though.  Just like the Samford game last season, it went Caldwell-to-Rickey Anderson, who this time caught it in stride.  Anderson seems to be good at making those downfield catches, which can’t be said for every running back. Kevin Higgins will undoubtedly try to take advantage of that.

— There wasn’t an avalanche of turnovers, so unlike last year’s GSU game I won’t be having nightmares about fumbling for two weeks, but there are still some kinks to be worked out.

— The hitting was solid.  No over-the-top pops, although Rod Harland stood out for his enthusiasm in putting people on the ground.

— The placekicking wasn’t awful, but there is still work to do.

— I didn’t see Larry Leckonby, but I assume he was there.  If so, that would mean that every living person who has served as the director of athletics at The Citadel was at the scrimmage.  (Okay, so that’s just three guys.)  General Rosa was also there, resplendent in bermuda shorts.

One thing I found interesting was the undercurrent of intensity in the crowd watching the action.  The players acted with purpose and intent, but that is to be expected.  What struck me was you could also describe many of the spectators as watching with purpose and intent.

I live in a town where the local school’s squad has high expectations for the season to come, as preseason prognosticators have it contending for league and national honors.  Anticipation is mixed with some anxiety.  There is a lot riding on the upcoming campaign.

The Bulldogs are not expected to contend for league or national honors this year. However, in the crowd today you could feel anticipation and anxiety not unlike that present in the capital city, and for good reason.  There is a lot riding on The Citadel’s upcoming campaign, too.

Two weeks until Jacksonville comes to town.  Two long weeks.

Thoughts on The Citadel and transfers

When I write about The Citadel and transfers, I want to first distinguish between basic types.  One of them is the three-year transfer.  It’s a little bit unusual, but not rare, for someone to spend his or her freshman year at another school, and then transfer into The Citadel.

Now, the “system” at The Citadel is designed for a four-year student.  In other words, the typical member of the corps of cadets spends four years at the school, and those four years have very specific benchmarks.  However, it is possible (and not particularly difficult) for a student to transfer in and spend three years in the corps, and have essentially the same experience as a four-year student.  Basically, the sophomore/junior years are combined.

I don’t know anyone associated with The Citadel who has a problem with a three-year transfer athlete representing the school.  I certainly don’t.  It doesn’t happen often, to be sure.  Recently Kenny Manigault, who played high school basketball in the Charleston area for Pinewood Prep, announced he was transferring from Wichita State to The Citadel. Manigault will have three years of athletic eligibility, and will presumably be spending (at least) three years in the corps of cadets.

Another athlete who will be transferring in to The Citadel is Blane Woodfin, who originally committed to Air Force, but was not admitted to the AFA (reportedly because of a physical problem).  Woodfin attended Montana State last year but did not play football, and will thus apparently have four years of athletic eligibility remaining at The Citadel, not three.

These are not transfers likely to cause any cantankerous old alum heartburn, even though Manigault called Chuck Driesell “real laid back”, which is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone call Driesell laid back.  The Citadel as an institution, as Manigault and Woodfin will soon learn (if they don’t know already), is certainly not laid back…

However, there is another type of transfer that has been popping up more and more at The Citadel in recent years, the “fifth-year” transfer.

This started in football, where a player can transfer from an FBS school to an FCS school and play immediately.  The “trailblazer” in this category for The Citadel was Jeff Klein, a quarterback who transferred from Auburn and played one year for The Citadel (2002).

He was followed the next season by former Clemson QB Willie Simmons and ex-Duke defensive back Anthony Roberts.  Those three players played for The Citadel under former coach (and alum) Ellis Johnson.  In recent years, Kevin Higgins has had two fifth-year transfers — his son, wideout Tim Higgins (who originally played for Florida), and tight end B.J. Phillips (North Carolina).

All of these guys graduated from their original schools and played one year as graduate students for The Citadel, except for Phillips (who had two years of athletic eligibility in football remaining after graduating from UNC).

As students in The Citadel Graduate College, none of these players were members of the corps of cadets (indeed, it’s possible none of them even attended classes with cadets, as graduate classes at The Citadel are held at night).

Reports vary on how seriously these graduate student athletes attempted to bond with their teammates, tried to understand/appreciate what cadets go through, etc.  My general impression, which could be wrong, is that Simmons and the younger Higgins made an effort to try and “jell” with the team and school; Klein, not so much.  Phillips, of course, still has one year left on the football team.

These one-year-only players were not a factor in basketball at The Citadel because there was no lower classification within Division I for them to transfer to without penalty (in other words, no FBS/FCS distinction).  At least, they weren’t a factor until last year, when Joe Wolfinger transferred to The Citadel after graduating from Washington.

Wolfinger had his degree and one year of athletic eligibility in basketball remaining, and he used that year to play basketball at The Citadel, thanks to a technicality.  As this article explained:

Wolfinger will be a fifth-year senior next season and is apparently eligible to play immediately at The Citadel because he has graduated from UW and will enter a Master’s program at The Citadel that is not offered at Washington.

Wolfinger is gone, and so is Ed Conroy, but Chuck Driesell has decided to bring in his own tall transfer for this upcoming season:

Mike Dejworek, a 6-11 center from Belmont University, will play one season for the Bulldogs as a graduate student, new coach Chuck Driesell confirmed…

…Dejworek, a native of Ulm, Germany, sat out last season with a shoulder injury after playing three years for Belmont. In 2008-09, he played in 24 games and started one for a 20-13 Belmont team, averaging 1.7 points and 1.6 rebounds. He was a reserve on a Belmont team that made the NCAA tournament his sophomore season.

I presume that, like Wolfinger, Dejworek will be enterering a Master’s degree program at The Citadel that is not offered by Belmont.

There are plenty of alums who are less than crazy about athletes competing on varsity teams without ever being part of the corps of cadets.  Ken Burger, then the sports editor of The Post and Courier, wrote about this as far back as 2003:

…the school’s old guard is very vocal about this troublesome trend. They say these young men never spent a single day at The Citadel and don’t deserve the privilege of wearing the school’s uniform. Even its football uniform…

…Over the next three months we will find out how this experiment works out for [Ellis] Johnson’s program and The Citadel. And, there will be plenty of people watching and judging from the sidelines…

…While it’s easy to say the old school should stick to the old ways, there’s another side of this controversy that can’t be ignored.

The Citadel’s military counterpart, VMI, recently left the SoCon and downgraded to the Big South Conference because the Keydets could no longer compete…

Ah, yes, the old “we just can’t compete” crutch.  Poor, pitiful puppies; how can our coaches ever win?

First, the obvious.  Charlie Taaffe won a Southern Conference title in football without any non-cadet help.  He beat South Carolina and Arkansas and Army and Navy, and all of his players were in the corps of cadets.

Brief tangent:  Just for clarification, Taaffe did occasionally have some fifth-year guys who had already graduated and had an extra year of eligibility remaining after redshirting, but all of them had spent four years in the corps.  That is a completely different situation than the fifth-year ‘program’ I’m discussing in this post, of course.

Eddie Teague won a SoCon title back in the day, too, with members of the corps of cadets.  It’s not easy (after all, The Citadel has just those two league titles in football), but it can be done.

Meanwhile, the fifth-year recruits have not exactly led to dramatic success on the gridiron.  Klein set lots of passing records in 2002, but the team went 3-9.  With Simmons at quarterback (and Roberts in the defensive backfield)  in 2003, the Bulldogs improved to 6-6.  Tim Higgins’ one season at The Citadel came in 2007, the only season since 1997 in which the Bulldogs have finished with a winning record (7-4).

In hoops, Wolfinger did not prove to be a difference-maker last year, as The Citadel went 16-16, a season that followed a 20-13 campaign.  Wolfinger got progressively less playing time as the year went on, as he turned out not to be a particularly good fit for The Citadel’s style of play.

There is another aspect to this, the “recruited over” concern.  If you are a promising high school football player and you are considering The Citadel, should you be worried about the possibility that down the road, when it’s finally time for you to become a regular, the coach will suddenly bring in some graduate student to take your position?  Being recruited over is something normally associated with players at big-time college basketball programs, not The Citadel.

Those are the on-field results and issues.   What about the off-the-field repercussions?

— The essence of The Citadel, the part that differentiates it from other schools, is the corps of cadets.  Our athletic teams are supposed to represent the students at the military college.  What statement is the school making when it elects to offer opportunities to varsity athletes who have never been a part of the military environment?

— For that matter, the athletic teams represent the alumni as well.  Am I supposed to identify with varsity athletes who did not go through the same experiences that I did?

— If I have misgivings as an alumnus about identifying with these athletes, just imagine how the current members of the corps of cadets must feel.

— There is also the public perception.  Many outsiders are impressed that The Citadel can compete at all with the inherent disadvantages of being a military school.  When you bring in players from outside that environment, do you know what the general public calls them?  Ringers. (So do some alums.)

At that point The Citadel becomes “just another school” in the minds of some people.  Is that something that the powers-that-be at The Citadel want?

I might add that the perception issue is magnified when the player plays a high-profile position (like quarterback) in football.  In basketball, there aren’t that many players, so almost any player is highly visible.

Having said all that, I don’t blame any of the individual coaches for bringing in graduate students.  Coaches are trying to win.  Winning is not easy to do at The Citadel, so it’s not surprising that coaches try to work the system as much as possible.

Coaches also tend to have a narrower focus; it’s hard to expect Chuck Driesell, for example, to consider how a graduate student playing basketball may affect the school, in terms of the big picture.   Driesell is just trying to find a big man who can rebound.

The administration has the responsibility of telling the coaches to focus solely on recruiting players who will be part of the corps of cadets.  It appears that, for whatever reason(s), the current administration does not share the concerns that have been expressed by some alums.

Maybe the thinking from General Rosa and company is that one or two exceptions don’t really matter.  I don’t know.  It’s also possible that the school wants to have occasional graduate student varsity athletes, in an effort to promote the Graduate College.

I tend to doubt that having an occasional hoopster or football player in the graduate school is going to raise the profile of the CGC, although I couldn’t blame the school for trying every avenue to promote it.  The CGC is an opportunity for The Citadel to make money, which the school needs to do.

Over the past few years, the military college has gradually become simply a state school, as opposed to a state-supported school.  That’s because the State of South Carolina continues to cut back on funding for higher education (in general, the state legislature believes higher education should end after the third grade).

[Sorry for the political jibe, but honestly, our state’s lack of commitment to education is embarrassing.]

In closing, one thing I want to emphasize is that I don’t have anything against the players who enter the school as graduate students.  They are taking advantage of a great opportunity, as well they should.  I wish them well, and I hope they are successful in class and on the field of play.  I will be rooting for them, as I do anyone who represents my alma mater.

I just wish the administration would revisit the current policy.  I strongly believe that varsity athletes at The Citadel should all come from the corps of cadets.  I know my opinion doesn’t really matter, but I also know that I’m not the only person who feels this way about transfers and varsity athletics.

Yes, I’m ready for football season…

Open letter to Chuck Driesell

Dear Coach Driesell (mind if I call you Chuck?) —

Congrats on being named head coach at The Citadel.  I liked your choice of tie at the press conference.  You and your family will enjoy Charleston.  Whether or not you enjoy your new job will depend on how you approach it.  Here are some tips:

—  Know your history.  I assume Larry Leckonby told you all about The Citadel’s hoops past.  If not, here is a primer:  Link

I hope you’re not having second thoughts…

Now, that post in the link covers everything up to Ed Conroy’s last two years at The Citadel, which were really good by Bulldog standards.  Conroy won 20 games in 2009 and went 16-16 this past season; he parlayed that into a nice gig at Tulane.  This is good news for you, Chuck, if you have designs on moving up the D-1 coaching ladder. Imagine if you actually won the Southern Conference.  That might be worth an ACC job.

(Who am I kidding.  That would be worth an NBA job.)

—  If you want to make the NCAAs from The Citadel, you will have to win the Southern Conference tournament.  The Southern Conference is a one-bid league; there hasn’t been an at-large bid out of the SoCon since 1950.

Winning the SoCon tourney while at The Citadel will be a tall order, however.  The school’s postseason tournament history?  Ugly.

Now, you remember your father’s struggles in the ACC tournament, so you can appreciate a tourney hex — maybe not one quite on the scale of The Citadel’s foibles at the SoCon tourney, but you probably understand the frustration.  Of course, you also were on the team the year Lefty finally won the ACC tourney, so you know it’s possible to climb the mountain. Admittedly, you aren’t going to have the services of anyone as talented as Len Bias while at The Citadel.

—  Speaking of the left-hander, feel free to invite your father to show up at McAlister Field House whenever he wants.  We’re used to celebrities with connections to the program showing up at basketball games now, since Pat Conroy jumped on the bandwagon the last two seasons.  All I ask is that whenever there is an article in The New York Times about the team’s success, or if Wright Thompson writes a long, thoughtful piece on ESPN.com about the basketball program, that maybe the stories might actually mention a current player.  Just once?

It’s like the program got overshadowed by an ancillary figure.  5700 combined words, no mention of any player.  Sigh.

(By the way, there has to be a great photo op involving General (the bulldog, not Rosa) and Lefty Driesell.  Russ Pace, be ready.)

—  Learn as much as you can about The Citadel, but don’t sweat it if you don’t understand everything about the school. I’m a graduate, and I do not understand everything about the place, and never will.  If you really understand everything about The Citadel, you are certifiably insane.

One thing I will say is that you can’t quite lean on your time in the Navy, or at NAPS. There are some similarities but also some major differences.

You’re going to have to get a crash course in a new culture from somebody who was recently in your situation (Leckonby), and you should seriously consider having at least one guy on your staff with connections to the school. It’s kind of like having an interpreter.

—  You have a reputation as a solid talent evaluator.  I’m glad to hear that is the case, because I think that skill is critical to having success at The Citadel, much more so than just being a “getter” of players.  You’re going to have to look for under-the-radar types.

I’ll give you an example, Chuck.  Remember when Maryland was recruiting Jai Lucas? Of course you do, you were front and center on that recruitment.  Maryland didn’t get him, though, which must have been very disappointing, especially with his father (the great John Lucas) having played for your father at Maryland.

Jai Lucas wound up going to Florida, and then later transferred to Texas.  He was a big-time recruit.  Big-time recruits don’t go to The Citadel.

When you were watching his high school games, though, did you happen to notice the other guard for Bellaire?  Skinny kid, but a solid player.  Wasn’t getting offers from any of the high-majors, or any of the mid-majors for that matter.  I’m guessing you noticed him, at least enough to recognize him…even if you saw him now, in his cadet uniform.

His name was and is Cameron Wells, and he’s currently on pace to be the all-time leading scorer at The Citadel.  I would argue that he has had a much better college career than Jai Lucas, and that’s even taking the level of competition into consideration.  That’s the type of player you are seeking.  Wells wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, but it’s not inconceivable he could eventually become the first alum from The Citadel to play in the NBA.

—  Besides finding “hidden” talent, Chuck, there is something else you need to keep in mind, something very important, and something quite a few coaches at The Citadel have found out the hard way.  When you recruit, you have to recruit cadets and make them players.  You can’t recruit players and make them cadets.

You have to bring in guys who are willing to embrace the challenge that is The Citadel. That’s what you’re selling, basically — a unique challenge, one that will stay with you all your life, along with a scholarship and the opportunity to play D-1 basketball.

It isn’t easy. No matter how good a salesman you are, The Citadel is never going to become the UCLA of the East.

The key to long-term success for any coach of any sport at The Citadel is to keep attrition low.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  You have to develop players over a four-year period.  It doesn’t do you any good to recruit some on-court stud if he’s only around for a year or two because he can’t handle the military system.

Also, remember to work with the system, not against it.  Don’t enable your players at the expense of the military side of things, as it will do you no good and will turn the corps of cadets (and a significant number of alumni) against you.  You need to have the corps on your side.

That line you had at the presser about players “taking that experience [of The Citadel’s military system] to the court” — that was solid, Chuck.  You at least talked a good game there.

—  Speaking of the corps of cadets, you need to confer with Leckonby and General Rosa and some of the cadet leadership to figure out how to make McAlister Field House a decided homecourt advantage again.  It wasn’t last season, and that’s a concern, because in the SoCon, you need to defend your homecourt.

The big problem is that league games are usually played on Thursdays and Saturdays.  On Saturday, the corps is generally on leave, and a leave that is both much-anticipated and much-needed.  On Thursday nights, you have a combination of things working against you, but I think you can work with the corps on that night.

See if you can arrange it so that a minimum of one-fourth (or at least one-fifth) of the corps is in attendance on Thursday nights, at least for SoCon games.  Saturday is a tough nut to crack; at the very least, make sure cadets stuck on campus are at the games.  Try to get cadets some rewards for supporting the team.

You have to understand, Chuck, that by and large cadets at The Citadel are not sports fans.  At Maryland, you could count on a large student body with a healthy number of hoops nuts.  You had a built-in student fan base.  That isn’t the case at The Citadel, with just over 2000 members of the corps of cadets, only a very small percentage of whom grew up following college basketball on any level.

—  That’s why, Chuck, you also need to reach out to the community.  In terms of selling the program to outsiders, you’re going to have to be a little bit more like your father, I think.  You’re competing with a lot of entertainment options, and Charleston is not really a sports town. However, it’s something you have to do.  The Citadel has one of the oldest fan bases in the league, if not the country.  You need to find some fresh blood.

— This is sort of an aside, Chuck, but I wanted to warn you in advance about Southern Conference officiating.  It can be, uh, inconsistent.  This is particularly true on Saturdays, when all the high-profile officials are working major-conference games.

Weekday games usually aren’t so bad, because there is sometimes a quality ref or two available for SoCon games. Saturdays, though, are often just short of an officiating debacle (actually, last season’s Davidson-Wofford game in Spartanburg was a debacle).

It’s just another reason why you need to have a good, boisterous crowd at McAlister for Saturday night games.

— Also, if you don’t mind, I would like for you to fix the uniforms.  The next time we break out new duds, please be sure that the lettering on them reads “The Citadel” and not “Citadel”.  It’s a pet peeve of mine, but still.  Get the name of the school right.  I bet General Grimsley would shake your hand if you made a point of correcting that, and it’s always good to be on the right side of the Grimmer.

—  Your predecessor, Ed Conroy, made a point of scheduling quality non-conference opposition, with occasional home games against the likes of Michigan State and Southern California.  I really liked this approach, and hope that you keep doing it.  You probably are going to have to play two or three “guarantee” games at a minimum every year, anyway.

With that in mind, Chuck, see if you can schedule games against Big 10 and/or SEC opponents.  Every Big 10 home game is televised on the Big Ten Network (BTN), and many of the SEC games are on one of the various ESPN platforms.  Even a game on ESPN3.com is worth it for The Citadel.

Last season the Bulldogs were on television a grand total of three times, once on ESPNU and twice on SportSouth.  To raise the profile of the program, and for recruiting purposes, I think it’s important to get on TV as much as possible. Besides, if we’re going to play elite teams to pay the bills, we might as well get something else out of it other than cash.

—  You are going to be in an unusual situation at The Citadel for a new coach, in that you will be inheriting a team that has the potential to be good next season.  I already mentioned Cameron Wells, but you have several other excellent players with whom to work.

At the press conference you mentioned that next season’s team could be “very special”.  I was interested in the way you described the number of returning starters. Instead of saying that “all five starters will be back,” you noted that (I’m paraphrasing slightly) “at the end of the season all five starters were coming back.”

There have been some rumblings that at least a couple of players are considering leaving the school, including two regulars in the rotation, so your first recruiting job is going to be trying to keep them from bolting.  It appears you are well aware of this, which is good.  I hope they stay, as if everyone comes back next season really could be special.

Despite the expectations for next year, you won’t really be under any pressure to win immediately, and can think long-term.  Ed Conroy left for a better job after four seasons.  The three coaches before him had a combined winning percentage of 41.2%, but despite that coached for 11 (Les Robinson), 7 (Randy Nesbit), and 14 (Pat Dennis) seasons at The Citadel.

The job isn’t a career-killer like it’s occasionally been made out to be.  Four of the last eight coaches, in fact, left to coach other Division I schools; one of them, Norm Sloan, would later win the national title.  Sloan and Robinson would actually coach two other D-1 schools after leaving The Citadel (counting Sloan’s two stops at Florida just once).

Congrats again for getting your first shot as a D-1 head coach, Coach Driesell.  Your opportunity comes at a place that is unusual and not for the faint of heart, but very special nonetheless.  Cherish the experience.

We’ll be rooting for you.



Ruminating about off-field football troubles at The Citadel

It’s been a busy and occasionally difficult time for yours truly, which partly explains the lack of recent posts.  With regards to the Rice/Starks situation, I also wanted to wait and see how things shook out.  As it is, things haven’t become that much clearer as of late, but I figured I could make some comments about what we know right now.

They aren’t earthshaking observations, to be sure, but I wanted to weigh in on the matter in a little more detail.  I’m going to concentrate on just a few points.  There are two issues worth addressing that I’m not going to mention right now, because I simply don’t have enough information (not that I have any extra-special info on what I’m actually going to write about).

Before I delve into the recruitment of Reggie Rice and Miguel Starks, I wanted to briefly focus on an article in The Post and Courier from March 10 written by Schuyler Kropf. On the whole, I don’t have a big problem with the media coverage of the Rice/Starks arrests, but this particular piece gave me pause.

Kropf interviewed several alums, asking them about how the arrests might affect The Citadel’s image.  All fine and good, and he got on-record quotes from three different graduates, one of whom I actually know.  Kropf apparently could not get anyone to go on record with a “gloom and doom” quote, however, so he had to do what any intrepid reporter does when faced with such a dilemma.

He got quotes from anonymous message board posters.

Seriously, that’s what he did.  I had to read the article a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

I’m not completely sure Kropf understands the nature of message boards.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, I suppose, but it strikes me as poor reporting.  For one thing, how sure is he that the posts he quotes are from actual graduates of The Citadel?

Now, maybe he did some checking, or asked permission from the posters in question before quoting their comments, but even then can he really be sure they are who they say they are?  (He certainly didn’t indicate that he had confirmed anyone’s identity.  Heck, he didn’t even mention the usernames associated with the quotes.)

Kropf was unable to get a negative quote from any current cadet (or alum) on the record, although he did write this, a time-honored crutch for a struggling scribe:

…several cadets declined to speak about the mood inside the ranks, quickly turning their heads around to see if anyone had seen them talking with a reporter.

With all due respect, Mr. Kropf, get over yourself.

Now, as it happens, the two message board quotes in the article are, I believe, from actual alumni of The Citadel.  I can’t guarantee that, but I’m fairly sure — but then, I’m an occasional poster on that forum myself, and thus may be able to differentiate from regular posters and “trolls”.  Whether Kropf can do so is another matter.

That particular message board doesn’t have nearly as much traffic as you would see from forums devoted to larger schools. Sites such as InsideMDSports or  Phog.net may have several thousand members, with hundreds of posters online at one time, while thelordsofdiscipline.net has slightly over 500 registered members, with about a dozen of them online at extreme “peak” times.

What that means, among other things, is that when you have an event like the Rice/Starks arrests, the board is arguably more susceptible to being overwhelmed by people posting as fans of the school who aren’t really fans, just to stir things up.  It’s been known to happen.

Kropf could easily have wound up quoting a 13-year-old posing as a graduate of The Citadel.

There is obviously a big difference between getting something on record from a living, breathing person and grabbing a comment from the internet.  The first line of the article stated, “Whether The Citadel has an image problem depends on who’s doing the talking.”   Well, not only does the article not adequately identify those behind part of “the talking”, it doesn’t identify them at all.

It appears to me that the reporter wanted to write the story from a certain angle, but could not get the confirming quotes he needed, so he took a cheap way out.  In my view, that is not quality journalism.

Should Reggie Rice have been admitted to The Citadel?  Based on what he has done since enrolling, the answer is no, but should have that been the answer all along?

For those not familiar with Rice’s history prior to receiving an athletic scholarship to the military college, this column gives the basic story:

During Rice’s senior season [in high school], he was spectacular. He had three 200-yard games, including one against perennial state power Lincoln County.

However, his final season was cut short when he was suspended after eight games following his arrest and subsequent guilty plea in juvenile court to a statutory rape charge. Rice [was] tried in juvenile court because the three girls involved were deemed to have been willing participants.

Rice was placed on 24 months of probation and ordered to perform 56 hours of community service. He was given something else after the 2006 incident: a second chance.

Several area leaders went to bat for Rice, and even assisted in him being admitted to The Citadel, where he had been offered a football scholarship.

Early on during his career as a cadet, it appeared Rice was redeeming himself…

There was a racial aspect to the statutory rape case.  Rice (and one of the other males involved) were black, the girls white, and some in the community felt the charges were only brought due to race.  It appears that some of those “area leaders” quoted in the piece thought he was being more or less railroaded, including a superior court judge (and graduate of The Citadel) who sent the case back to juvenile court.

Tangent:  if you think you’ve heard a similar tale before, maybe you have.  I was reminded of another, more notorious case in Georgia, one that involved Marcus Dixon (now of the Dallas Cowboys).

Besides being a fine football player, Rice was intelligent and personable.  He impressed a lot of people, including the aforementioned judge and, later, a prominent businessman in the Charleston area (and alumnus).  It has been interesting to read comments from people — experienced “men of the world” types, presumably naturals at spotting a fraud — who liked Rice, trusted him, and were shocked at his subsequent problems.  Some people might call Rice a born con artist, or maybe even a sociopath.  I don’t know what he is, and it doesn’t really matter now.

Given that background, should Rice have been admitted to The Citadel?  No, he should not have.  It should have been clear then, as it is now.  I lay the blame for that on the admissions office more so than Kevin Higgins, as Rice was in Higgins’ first recruiting class, and the coach would not have been that familiar with the school.  I think it is clear that General John Rosa believes Rice’s admission was in error.  From his March 4 letter to alumni:

As did many colleges in the country, The Citadel revised its admission application process following the tragedy at Virginia Tech. We now require more information from candidates. Additionally, if the director of admissions has any concerns regarding an application, he presents them to me for consideration before final action is taken.

In other words, “that’s not happening again.”

It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.  Most people understand that The Citadel is not a reformatory for wayward boys, but every now and then someone gets confused about the school’s mission and talks about its capacity to “redeem” a student.  In the first column I linked, note that the author says that “it appeared Rice was redeeming himself.”

There are schools, many of them very good schools, where Rice would have been a reasonable candidate for admission.  The Citadel is not one of them.  You don’t go to The Citadel for redemption, because that’s not what the college is about.  The Citadel “experience” tends to highlight your natural, innate personality traits, as opposed to developing others.

The Citadel, at its essence, is about testing yourself, and learning exactly who you are. This is a very good thing, because young men and women fresh out of high school usually have no idea who they really are.  It’s also about learning how to deal with pressure, and about perseverance.

It’s not a second-chance type of place.  Maybe Kevin Higgins didn’t realize that when he first arrived on campus, but there surely were officials in positions of authority who could have guided him.

I can’t give Higgins a pass for the recruitment (and subsequent “handling”) of Miguel Starks, however.  Starks was a project in more ways than one.  He was always the most impressive-looking player on the sidelines during a game, as he looked great in a football uniform.  At The Citadel, though, that’s not the most important uniform.

Higgins saw in Starks the potential of a special player, and treated him accordingly.  Higgins may have chosen to  overlook some red flags that were raised during Starks’ high school career.  Some of those apparently included being dismissed from the basketball team and being suspended for a playoff game (for an on-field fight).

There have been numerous complaints raised in various quarters that Higgins essentially “enabled” Starks at The Citadel, going to bat for him on multiple occasions when Starks got in trouble for not adapting to the military system.  When you give preferential treatment to a star (or potential star) player, you run the risk of alienating the corps of cadets, not to mention his fellow football players.  This may go a long way towards explaining some of the angst expressed by current cadets concerning corps squad issues.

Also, running interference for an athlete (or any cadet, for that matter) is ultimately a pointless exercise.  You can’t make a person want to make it at The Citadel — he’s got to want it for himself.  If he doesn’t, all the interceding and pleading in the world won’t make a difference.

Coaches at The Citadel have a learning curve when it comes to recruiting.  One of the key things they have to learn is that keeping attrition low often correlates directly to on-field success.  One of the important ways to prevent attrition is to recruit cadets who can become good players, as opposed to recruiting players and trying to make them cadets.  Sometimes it takes a coach several years before he figures that out.  There have been coaches at The Citadel who have never figured it out.

I’m not advocating firing anybody.  I’m fairly confident that this episode is an isolated incident.  However, I think coaches and administrators need to be put on notice.  It’s one thing to have a losing record on the football field.  At The Citadel, though, you better be undefeated off the field.  One loss off the field is one loss too many.

The Citadel needs to win at least one more regular season game

The loss to UNC-Greensboro on Saturday was very disappointing, but oddly Ed Conroy wasn’t too worried about it.  At least, that’s what he told Jeff Hartsell of The Post and Courier:

“I thought we did some really good things,” said Conroy. “We shared the ball well, only had six turnovers, shot the ball well from 3-point range. We just didn’t convert a lot of shots on the interior. We got some good looks there, but they didn’t go.”

There was also a reference earlier in the article to “a touch of fatigue and illness,” so perhaps the team’s energy level wasn’t as high as it normally was.  Also less than energetic was a largely absent corps of cadets.  The corps’ apathy and/or lack of presence this season during games at McAlister Field House (not to mention the homecoming game in football) has been noticeable.  It’s an issue General Rosa and company must address.

Back to the court, The Citadel was outrebounded 41-24  by UNCG, which was basically the difference in the game, as it’s hard to overcome such a discrepancy without a huge edge in turnovers or shooting percentage, and the Bulldogs did not shoot particularly well (36%).  The loss means that to clinch an overall winning season, as well as a winning season in Southern Conference play, The Citadel needs to win one of its two final regular season games.

That won’t be easy, as they are both road contests.  Thursday the Bulldogs travel to Greenville to play an improving Furman club, followed by a Saturday game in Spartanburg against Wofford.

The Citadel beat Furman 70-60 in Charleston on January 23.  In that game, Cameron Wells had 22 points and 12 rebounds.  He was only 6-17 from the field, but went to the foul line repeatedly and converted (8-8).  Bryan Streeter also had a double-double in the contest.  The Bulldogs were a solid 8-20 from 3-point land and also won the turnover battle against the Paladins (11-8).

Furman’s Amu Saaka scored 19 points (on only 12 shots) and figures to be a problem again for the Bulldogs this time around.  The Paladins will also have Jordan Miller available for this game after he missed the first meeting.  Miller scored 31 points against UT-Chattanooga, but has followed up that great performance with two games in which he shot a combined 4-14 from the field.

Getting a win against Furman at Timmons Arena would be nice for several reasons. Assuming the two teams don’t meet in the Southern Conference tournament, it would be the first time The Citadel had swept the Paladins in consecutive seasons since the 2000-2001 campaigns.  Of course, there were only three games played in those years, as Furman screwed up in 2000 and scheduled too many games, leading to a penalty that resulted in only one game on the hardwood between the two schools that year.

The Citadel also won the second game played in the 1999 season, so it did win four straight against Furman from 1999-2001.  That was the last time the Bulldogs won four straight in the series.  The last time the Bulldogs won both home-and-away in consecutive seasons against the Paladins?  1939-1940 (part of a six-game win streak against Furman, the longest for The Citadel in the series’ history).  The Citadel hasn’t won consecutive games in Greenville since 1992-1993.

The Citadel had a late lead against Wofford in the game played on January 21, but couldn’t hold on and lost 44-42.  As the score indicates, it wasn’t an offensive masterpiece.  The Bulldogs shot 32% from the field.  Wofford shot no better (30%), but outrebounded The Citadel 38-33 and committed one fewer turnover.  The Terriers’ stated strategy of stopping Cameron Wells worked, as the rest of the Bulldog squad (save Zach Urbanus) combined for more turnovers (10) than made field goals (6).

You can bet Wofford will try to hold down Wells’ production again to win its sixth straight game over the cadets, but it may not be so easy this time, as the other Bulldogs have done a better job in recent games of shouldering the offensive load.  Of course, the Terriers are likely to be better at putting the ball in the hoop on Saturday as well.

Noah Dahlman was his usual solid self in the first meeting (15 points, 6-12 FG, five rebounds).  Odds are at least one of his teammates will provide offensive support.  I anticipate a higher-scoring game this time (but not much higher — we’re not talking about a pair of run-and-gun teams here).

Just a few stats to finish off this post…

— With one more regular season victory, The Citadel will clinch its second consecutive winning season.  The last time the Bulldogs had two straight winning campaigns? 1979-1980.  Before that, you have to go back to 1964-1965.  The Citadel had four straight winning seasons from 1958-1961.  Speaking of the 1958-61 era…

— If The Citadel beats Furman and/or Wofford, it will enjoy a second consecutive winning season in Southern Conference play.  The last time the Bulldogs had two straight winning SoCon campaigns?  1960-1961.

You read that correctly.  Actually, from 1958-1961 The Citadel had four straight winning seasons in conference play.  The first three came under the direction of Norm Sloan, who then became the head coach at Florida.  His successor at The Citadel, Mel Thompson (best known as Pat Conroy’s head coach at The Citadel, I suppose) would go 10-3 in SoCon action in his first season in charge.

Sloan took over a program that had not had a winning SoCon season since 1945. Actually, that doesn’t really tell the story.  Let’s put it this way:  from 1946 to 1956, The Citadel was 12-102 in league play.  The five years preceding Sloan’s arrival in Charleston featured a combined conference record of 2-49.

Sloan was 5-9 in the SoCon in his first season, and then had league records of 9-6, 7-4, and 8-4.

Sloan won the national championship in 1974 while coaching North Carolina State. He had proved his worth as a coach many years earlier, though, at a small military college.

Incidentally, the only other time The Citadel had back-to-back winning years in the Southern Conference came in the 1938-1939-1940 seasons, when the Bulldogs had three straight winning SoCon campaigns, mostly under head coach Rock Norman (who coached the team in 1938 and 1939, and for the first eight games in 1940 before being replaced by Ben Parker).

There is definitely potential for The Citadel to make a little history with a win in either of its two games this week.  I wouldn’t mind if instead of winning one of them, it won both.