Friday, December 17, 2010

Yum. I Love Cupcakes

There was anger at the quality of out of conference competition, particularly in light of the shaky C-USA slate, when the 2010-2011 Tulane men’s basketball schedule was announced. I don’t want to say it was unjustified. I mean, it is lousy. If I were a paying client, I’d be rubbing my temples. Start with Lamar and Maryland-Eastern Shore and Alabama State (trust me, it goes on and on), add in UNO (leaving Division I), throw in a couple actual non-Division I programs, and Tulane achieves uninteresting rock bottom scheduling.

But maybe, such misgivings were misplaced?

To that end, I’m starting to get a better feeling about Coach Ed Conroy. While there is an awful lot about Coach that is still undetermined, I sense that he is a guy with a strategic plan that goes past survival.

Readers here know I am about plans- and sport a belief that Tulane basketball is an easier fix than football. Certainly there are more routes to excellence, and a lot of mid-majors with minimal resources enjoy success. And one route teams have used to sustainability is to schedule cupcakes: to give the impression of momentum in the absence of real progress. This blueprint is definable, been executed, quantifiable. Heck, Coach rode such a strategy of manageable opponents right out of Citadel.

The Tulane community is going to be a lot more forgiving about this schedule if Coach pulls it off. Putting a decent win total up, insulating the program from rock bottom will feel better in March. Sure, the knowledgeable fan will know it is largely a mirage. But the fact the Coach Conroy had a vision and executed said vision- exhibiting tactical competence- will go a long way to people giving him a real chance. There is no need, no soul-satisfying penance, to actually achieve utter six-win irrelevance.

Basically, Coach Conroy wants to build a bakery, devouring soft cupcakes in every hue to success. If, to execute right now the design competently, he had to schedule real program disasters- at the very least, we should acknowledge there is a viable scheme being executed. More than one can say about baseball/football.

This should not be underestimated- selecting a path that has been successfully blazed and vetted, then further actually executing. One of my routine frustrations with the Tulane community, particularly with the revenue sports, is the refusal to just look around, see what the success metrics are, and copy them.

More than any League going, C-USA gives you the success template. For example, you have a football League that defines itself by the passing game: star quarterbacks, wild skill position receiving numbers, officials instructed to call endless defensive secondary penalties. And then I get an e-mail this week pointing me to a Facebook page, with 17 “fans”, calling for Tulane to install the triple option.

Well, that is eighteen people who simply aren’t credible discussing macro program woes. It is not just Bob Toledo who does not get it, who seeks to do something real risky and really hard and against the entire League carefully cultivated culture. It is almost refreshing that Tulane might actually have a coach with a realistic strategic plan and seeming tactical execution.

Sure, Coach Conroy can’t get away with it forever. There is no road to the NIT here- just faux momentum. But the chances for success are exponentially greater with an executed plan than ad hoc strategies. Or the triple option.

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