Monday, November 29, 2010

It Is Time

Over eight years here, only once have I argued for the head of an executive authority figure. Frankly, I am not a big fan of firing coaches. At a place like Tulane, there is no guarantee the new guy will be any better. Tulane football doesn’t attract the hot assistant, the guy looking for the next step up. Thus, the associated drama, the lost recruiting class, normally isn’t worth it- the “clear and present danger” standard is necessary.

In my opinion, the problems with Bob Toledo are clear and present. Accordingly, Tulane should remove Bob Toledo from his duties as head coach.

The current analysis on Toledo is largely backward looking- yet a coaching change should be predicated on the future. A new coach is hired to elevate existing talent, find new talent and rebuild fan base. Bob Toledo’s record is surely indefensible on those matters. His FBS record is a horrid 10-35 in a four year span- a span where every other C-USA team has played a Bowl game. But ultimately it doesn’t matter unless the new guy can advance the program.

The hypothetical “average Tulane football coach” should be able to do four things: win 4-7 regular season FBS games a year, play a bowl game every few years, graduate tons of players, have zero program embarrassments. The last time things were “normal” at Tulane was the brief stretch between Terry Bowden and the unholy duopoly of Katrina and Athletic Review- and the thoroughly mediocre Chris Scelfo made those targets.

The second half of the Scelfo tenure did not meet those goals. But I argued for his retention on the grounds above- that no one of any real merit would take this job on the heels of losing, Katrina and program review. Rather than attracting a hot SEC property (Tommy Bowden), the Wave was reduced to position coaches at North Carolina and busted coordinators at New Mexico. But now, as the Review and Katrina fades, only the losing remains. A higher class of coach could consequently be recruited to Tulane.

So what exactly about the Toledo regime does Tulane want to continue? I can’t figure that one out.

One semi-popular notion that needs to be totally disabused is that the underclassmen are increasing in talent- that Coach Toledo and staff have turned the corner there. That is simply wrong.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year writing about the disproportionate impact from the down roster player in our League. I had been trying to figure out what exactly gets a bad C-USA team to six wins. All C-USA outfits have a few quality players. But re-populating those next roster spots, the spots after the guys who clearly belong in I-A, the spots from fifteen to forty on the dress chart, with real FBS players- and subsequently removing guys who would be assets at Southern, is key. So Frank helps You Think It All Out has looked at the second tier guys and their production, trying to tear eyes away from Mackey and Smith and Griffin and Wacha.

It is not encouraging. Start with some easy, clear examples. C-USA is a quarterback League. Your second quarterback is definitely one of those guys populating the roster in the fifteen to forty range. Heck, many good-looking underclassmen prospects are already playing against Tulane this season. Well, where are ours? Do you think Toledo would be playing a barely adequate senior, with no future in the program, if he had any viable alternatives with a pulse?

Casey Robottom got hurt. This is a skill position League- so the second, third, fourth, fifth wideouts are important members of the 15 thru 40 club. Lots of room, lots of opportunity to step up. And Banks, Grant, etc. were unable to make a sustained contribution. Sure, they make an occasional play when Tulane can find a similar character on Rice or UTEP or Marshall who also should be at McNeese. Still, which of these down roster guys are as good as Chris Bush?

Same thing at running back. Orleans Darkwa can play- but who else? Of twenty or so skill players in the program- maybe two project to something north of decent, something better than Andre Anderson.

There is no renaissance here. There is no talent surge coming from this roster next year. Give me a potential skill position axis as good as the Jeremy Williams, Andre Anderson, Casey Robottom? Who are the secondary, good prospect quarterbacks like Richard Irvin and Scott Elliott? They don’t exist. And as we watched the defense decay, desperate for a youthful infusion, we learned many other positions are even worse.

Toledo couldn’t coach up the talent he inherited- Tulane has yet to win even the modest four I-A games Toldeo in inherited in 2007. He cannot find new talent. And the increasingly vacant Dome speaks volumes about his program building.

An underreported story of the Toledo era is just how exasperating mainstream fans, the quiet majority, find him. From day one, excuses and sulking and odd character acts- from obtuse lectures on teaching Tulane to win, to blaming fans for canceling the parking lot walk through, to throwing players out of practice before a McNeese State tilt, insisting on summer weight programs as if they were the problem. On and on- who doesn’t have a headshaking moment? The fact that Toledo thinks this nonsense is relevant to his underperformance suggests he just doesn’t get the job he is trying to do.

Ultimately, that is just it. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get non-BCS football. You can’t be a program CEO if you are clueless as to the nature of the business. He doesn’t get how to recuit the right players- even Rice, UAB, Memphis and Marshall win with their recruits on occasion. He doesn’t get the nature of offense in this League. He doesn’t get the raw importance of program development, how to be a public face. In his head, he is still the coach at UCLA.

Unlike four years ago, Tulane is not coming off real external disaster. Coupled with a repeated, demonstrated university commitment to give new coaches multiple years to get the program even semi-pointed in the right direction (back to Greg Davis really), this is a better job than four years ago. So, frankly, let’s give Tulane another chance with another coach. This experiment has run its course.

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