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The Dollars and Cents of MidMajor Football: A Student Perspective

Ed. Note – From time to time, OTP publishes something outside the normal scope of things around these parts. Today’s particular piece comes to us courtesy of Nathan Pace, BSU student, and is quite the interesting look at finances and money when it comes to college football. It’s been a common refrain from fans and supporters that BSU doesn’t do enough to support the program, so any and all information that can help paint a more complete picture of the way of things is always a welcome contribution. Enjoy…

College football, in the words of Puff Daddy, is all about the Benjamins, baby.

Winston Churchill’s quote, “Victory at all costs” applied to war, but many colleges back in America are applying it to football.

University athletic departments, specifically mid-majors, are spending more money than they are taking in and that includes Mid-American Conference schools like Ball State.

Ball State finished dead last in attendance among Football Bowl Subdivision [formerly Division 1-A] last season and the MAC finished last among the 11 conferences at that level.

Youngstown State in Ohio averaged over 6,000 fans more per home game than Ball State in 2010. Problem is Youngstown State is a Football Championship Subdivision member that has half the budget of its MAC counterpart.
“MAC schools are obviously Division 1 (FBS), they have to fund more scholarships for football,” Rick Love Associate Director of Athletics at Youngstown State said. “We’ve always been able to operate not on a shoestring but just stay within budget and have tried to operate very conscientiously and using the school’s money and budgeting.”

Most MAC schools have a budget of $20 million while FCS programs average around $10 million. According to the USA Today’s database on Division 1 athletic budgets, Ball State subsidizes athletics with student fees and funding from the university. Ball State generates over $9 million in student fees while Youngstown State has no student fees.

“Our budget is easily less than half of what most of the MAC schools operate on,” Love said. “For a long time we’ve done more with less than a lot of people.”

Indiana State is another FCS school but generated $5.58 million in student fees in 2009. The Sycamores have struggled on the field going winless for three years compared to the Penguins of Youngstown who have competed for national championships.

Yet even with lower attendance Indiana State only trails Ball State in ticket revenue for the 2009 season by roughly $200,000. Ball State spent $10 million more than Indiana State.

“In our opinion, at Indiana State, being FBS in football is not worth the costs.” Angie Lansing Assistant Athletic Director for Business Affairs said.

Indiana State’s game with Illinois State this past Saturday was streamed live nationally on ESPN3.com. Ball State’s win over Central Michigan was not, demonstrating that media exposure does not always favor FBS programs.

Student fees make up over 40 percent of the athletic budget at Ball State, but Lansing does not jump to the conclusion that struggling FBS programs should drop down to FCS to save money.

“With rising costs and strained budgets, it’s a difficult economic climate for many athletics programs around the country regardless of the level,” Lansing said.

Another FCS school in the area, Western Kentucky, made the jump up to FBS with mixed results. Western Kentucky’s first season as an FBS member was 2008 where the football team went 2-10 and winless the year after. The Hilltoppers have not made more money right away but believe they are progressing.

“We’re going in the right direction, it’s going to take a little while to get there and I think we realized that,” said Darrell Horn Associate Athletics Director at Western Kentucky. “I think right now we are very competitive in the Sun Belt right now. It’s just going to take a while to get there but we realized that.”

Western Kentucky may not be raking it in like other FBS schools but it has a leg up on Ball State in attendance and ticket sales. Western Kentucky averaged over 5,000 fans per game more than Ball State and a million dollars more in ticket sales. The Hilltoppers were able to raise a million dollars more in private contributions to the athletic department as well.

Horn says that moving up to the FBS level has improved the schools ability to recruit not just football players but student athletes in all sports.

“It helps your recruiting profile,” Horn said. “It helps your recruiting profile to move up to a D-1 school (FBS) in football I think it’s easier to recruit athletes across the board to all your programs.”

Love at Youngstown State says he likes where his school is it as it can compete for a national championship in FCS level.

“We’ve kind of enjoyed the opportunity to go the playoffs and play for a championship on the field and to have playoff games in our stadium and participate in postseasons,” Love said. “We have a pretty good history and tradition here and enjoy the level of football that we’re at.”

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Countdown to Liberty

Will Eric Williams introduce himself to Liberty the same way he did SEMO?

Saturday at 7pm at Scheumann Stadium the Ball State Cardinals will attempt to push their record to 2-0, continue the momentum before their consecutive Big 10 opponents, and avoid an FCS loss which we all endured last season. BSU fans saw a tale of two teams last week against Southeast Missouri State, but when the dust cleared, the team we all thought possible (strong rushing, intense defense) prevailed. This week figures to be significantly more of a challenge than SEMO, as Liberty, while a fellow FCS member athletic program, presents some considerable challenges and a worthy adversary. While fans and the media look down on victories over FCS caliber schools like they are some sort of given, a victory over the Liberty Flames is something that Ball State shouldn’t disregard as “easy”, “expected”, or “a given”. With that in mind, we give you the Countdown to Liberty…

5 Things You Should Know

  1. Liberty Isn’t a Pushover
    The Flames are ranked 18th in the most recent FCS Coaches Poll. Evaluating the Flames only on their divisional classification is a dangerous game, and something that has the propensity to bite teams in the ass. Whether it’s FBS, FCS, or some other acronym, ranked is ranked, and Liberty is one of the best teams in their division according to a jury of their peers.
  2. Liberty Can Score
    Last week, the Flames took St. Francis to the woodshed 52-7. Granted, St. Francis isn’t an FCS power, but a beating like that demonstrates just what this team is capable of. Ringing up 52 points and 599 yards of total offense means that unless the Ball State defense steps it up, we could be looking at a shootout, and it’s clear that Liberty has plenty of ammo for that.
  3. Liberty Can Keep You From Scoring
    Liberty was one play (the opening kickoff) from pitching a shutout in their season opener. Limiting St. Francis to 219 total yards, only 10 first downs, and zero offensive touchdowns means Kelly Page and the offense have their work cut out for them. While it’s tempting to assume we are far better than St. Francis, they say the largest improvement in defense is from week one to week two. The problem is I’m not sure where the room for improvement may be for the Flames. That doesn’t bode well.
  4. LU Head Coach Danny Rocco is the Real Deal
    So often high risers in FCS or non automatic qualifying conferences jump ship the second they get the first hint of success or interest. For Rocco, that doesn’t seem to be the case. He’s building a winner in Liberty that’s far more impressive than their FCS peers in both success and also facilities. Rocco has helped oversee an expansion of the stadium to over 30k, set national records in recent years in both offense and defense, and won the Big South Coach of the Year three times. He runs Liberty like a BCS caliber school and it may not be long before the Flames themselves are indeed FBS.
  5. LU Competes Well Against the Big Boys
    While some FCS schools take payday asswhippings from their FBS brethren, Liberty has no need for the money or the loss that comes with it. Additionally, their FBS opponents of late have not been able to exert significant dominance. Losing by only 13 and 1 to West Virginia and Toledo respectively demonstrate the Flames’ ability to go on the road and make it a game.

4 Players You Should Know

  1. QB Mike Brown
    This redshirt junior from Charlottesville is entering his first season at the helm of this offense, and game one certainly didn’t disappoint. Before yielding way to the reserves, Brown went for 338 yards and 4 TDs on 17-22 passing. Brown seems to be capable of taking over the offense and lighting up the scoreboard. He’s a dual threat as well, able to run as well as pass, and athletic QBs are the ones BSU has had a tendency to struggle with.
  2. RB SirChauncey Holloway
    St. Francis could only sit and watch as Holloway ran over, around, and through them last week, ringing up 49 yards and TD with just under 7 yards per carry. The redshirt sophomore from Florida also is one of the best blocking running backs you’re likely to see, so blitzing Brown could prove to be a challenge.
  3. DB Chris Mayo
    10 total tackles and a tackle for loss make this freshman safety one to keep an eye on when Ball State has the ball. The curious thing, and perhaps the most important, is he’s excellent in run support, which means Quale, Sykes, or Williams may find themselves with him as the “Man to Make Miss” in the running game. A high school track star, Mayo is athletic, agile and loves contact.
  4. WR Chris Summers
    Summers certainly showed his talent in the season opener for Liberty, going for 7 catches, 129 yards, and two scores. This redshirt junior also gives the Cardinals significant matchup problems. With his speed, coverage with a larger stronger linebacker may prove challenging. However, with his 6’4″ height, a smaller defensive back will have his work cut out for him.

3 Ways We Win

  1. Run the Damn Ball
    With a high-powered offense, the fewer times and smaller amount of minutes that Liberty has possession is a good thing. If the Cardinals can keep control of the ground, sustain drives, and not allow Liberty to fall into an up-tempo rhythm, then the outcome of this game shifts its way to the Cardinals.
  2. Hold on to the Damn Ball
    Curious thing about these FCS programs that have reasonable talent and are well-coached… if you gift wrap a victory through mistakes and miscues, they will happily unwrap it and toss it into their bus. This Ball State team cannot make this victory for Liberty an easy one by fumbles, INTs, or special teams mistakes. If BSU holds onto the ball, pays attention to detail, and executes, then a victory is almost a guarantee.
  3. Pressure, Pressure, and Pressure Some More
    For the Cardinals, this will most certainly be the most daunting task of the defense to date. Again, Liberty is no SEMO and the Cardinal defense is smack dab in the middle of a put up or shut up moment. Pressure up front will disrupt the Flame offense and not allow these tall and fast receivers to beat their coverage. If the pressure doesn’t come, and Brown is allowed to sit back and pick apart the D, then it’s anyone’s guess who’s left standing when the clock reads zero.

2 Cardinal Questions

  1. Who Carries the Load for the Cards’ Rushing Attack
    Before this season started, most expected Quale Lewis to get the lion’s share of carries out of the Cardinals backfield. After game one, Eric Williams had the best statistical impact. In truth, that’s a good problem for the Cards to have, as they have three running backs capable of very different skills and very different strengths. No matter how the rushing game fares or how Liberty attacks it, BSU has the ability to throw one of any three talented backs at them, a factor of this game that will become extremely important when the defense begins to wear down.
  2. Who Carries the Load for the Cards’ Defense
    When it comes to pressure and run stoppage, Andrew Puthoff and Robert Eddins will be the straws that stir the defensive drink for the Cardinals. If they, along with the rest of the front seven, struggle to get to Bown and contain Holloway, then the defense may get gashed, resulting in the need to shift the offense away from the run and more to the pass, recently a dangerous game for the Cardinals. The matchup of the Liberty offensive line and the BSU defensive front will be the deciding factor.

1 Bold Prediction
The long and the short of this game comes down to the Cardinals. Taking nothing away from Liberty, as they are a solid team with solid coaching and solid experience, but the brass tacks of this contest and the ultimate outcome will be a direct result of Ball State’s execution. A precise exacting attack that is free of mistakes and it’s a BSU win… easy as that. The difficulty of this prediction is the result of our belief in whether or not that mistake free game actually happens. If Liberty gets some presents from the Cardinals, they’re a talented enough team to take advantage of those and make the journey to victory extremely uphill for the Cards. The official OTP prediction? BSU plays well, not perfect, and this game comes down to Cardinal kicking. Look for Ian McGarvey’s field goals and Steven Schott’s kickoff will ultimately make the difference in this 31-24 victory for Ball State.

Go Cards!

Know the Liberty Flames

People come to OTP for all sorts of reasons. Some for humor, some for football knowledge, others to learn about the Cards and their opponent, others still because RedTube is blocked at work. Different strokes for different folks. Today, OTP shoulders the burden to educate you a bit on Liberty University, the Cardinals’ opponent on Saturday. Rumor has it that some Liberty faithful will be making the trip on Saturday to Scheumann Stadium, so it’s always nice to know a little about the fans and students who will be venturing to the den of sin in Muncie.

Liberty, in Lynchburg, VA (a former home of mine… the city not the school) is quite the different sort of college. Strict religious affiliation and strict rules. Their rules, known as the Liberty Way, has quite the opinion on things that most college students never really have to worry about. Because of the heathens and sinners who read this blog, rather than use simple text, we thought we’d bring you a photo essay on what is and isn’t allowed should you ever find yourself on Liberty’s campus.

Ok. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at the flip side of the allowed coin.

Everyone clear?

Know a ’10 Opponent: Liberty

In an effort to educate, preview, and most importantly, make fun of, the upcoming teams which dare play the Cardinals, OTP is proud to present the Know a ’10 Opponent series. Like we always caution, previewing and attempting to quantify the unquantifiable, especially two months away from the season is basically begging for failure, but we’ll fling some poo and see what sticks, shall we? I mean, after all, we predicted like 10 wins for BSU last season and we totally nailed that one, didn’t we? I can’t find the results, so let’s just go with that. So sit back, boys and girls, and know your ’10 opponents.

Liberty University Flames
I’ll be honest with you, friends and countrymen. Part of me wishes this game was being played in Lynchburg, VA where Liberty is located. I was “fortunate” to spend a year of my life in that city, and if you ever get the chance to visit… pass. However, this preview and post isn’t about the city of Lynchburg proper. It is about Liberty University and their football team, the second opponent for the Cardinals in 2010, and the second FCS opponent that BSU will challenge in as many weeks.

Normally, I would bitch and complain about two consecutive FCS opponents, or really two FCS opponents at all, but quite frankly, after last season, I will take wins however they come. FCS opponents? Awesome. Muncie middle schools? Super. BSU Rec league flag football champions? Suit ’em up. There will be a time to demand excellence in scheduling and a commitment to long-term success. For now, I just want wins. Any wins. The sweet tasty delicious kind that blow the stench of a 2-10 season right out the door. That’s what’s needed, and hence, why it’s only a mild low-level grumble from OTP about two FCS schools.

If you’re like me, you like to know a little about the school we’re playing before you decide your pre-game course of travel down the highway of mockery. You also need to know what they do better than us so as to perhaps see a counter attack of smack before it actually is lobbed across the interweb or the parking lot. The good for Liberty is they have money. Significant money. Fuck me money and fuck you money. Money, money. They are growing by leaps and bounds, new buildings, and an expansion of the football  stadium to around 30,000. Impressive, right? But let’s not cream our jeans in envy just yet.

Liberty was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, whom I actually was behind in line at the Taco Bell drive thru in Lynchburg. He got 2 large diet Pepsis in case you were curious. The mantra of Liberty is the “Liberty Way”, and their code of student conduct is intense. Let me give you the cliff’s notes version… “If it’s fun, and you would enjoy it, then don’t even consider doing it.” There’s a series of punishments and fines for activities like breaking curfew, drinking, smoking, attending dances, watching R rated movies, wearing clothes with any kind of holes, entering the bedroom of the opposite sex, and viewing sexually explicit material. I know… take a moment. Let that sink in.

And more importantly, if the same code of conduct was enforced at BSU, I would have been expelled after weekend 1. Their “Do Not” list was more like the average Tuesday night. Camel Lights, Bud Light, and my aversion to porn are just three of the infinite reasons why I am not a Liberty alum or staff member, since they have to abide by the same code.

Now some of you may be thinking there’s a loophole in the above conduct code. It says “opposite sex”, so perhaps a late night game of tummy sticks is ok? Wrong. Arresting gay rights activists, pulling out from a political action group that had a group of gay republicans, and even hosting an anti-gay conference is all in a days work for the Liberty faithful and the folks that run the school. I would imagine for a gay student, Liberty makes Abu Ghraib look like Disneyworld. (Irony alert… their mascot is the Flames. That made me chuckle when I found that out and it still does.)

For the BSU fans, is it likely that Liberty fans that you’ll encounter in Muncie will condemn you to hell for this drinky, smokey, hole in clothes type “fun” we like to have in the tailgating lots? Most likely not. But play it safe and leave your rainbow flags and assless chaps at home just to keep the peace, mmkay?

What Have You Done for Me Lately?
Perhaps focusing on things like religion and schoolwork actually benefits the football team. BYU agrees, and Liberty has certainly had its share of success recently. 2007, 2008, and 2009 Big South Conference Champions, and a total resurgence of the football team under head coach Danny Rocco has characterized the Flames over the last several seasons. A staunch defense and a high-powered offense make the Flames a very dangerous team. One thing to note, though, is that Liberty does not take the payday games against major opponents as they have no need for the money. So their win-loss record and stats of note are compiled annually against nearly exclusive FCS opponents. They did play West Virginia last season, losing by 13, and Toledo in 2007, losing by 1. Each of the last two years saw Liberty ranked in the Sporting News FCS poll by season’s end, clocking in at 14th and 22nd respectively.

8-3 in 2009 and 5-1 in conference play means this is a team very used to winning regardless of the opponents. Liberty also has knocked off two MAC opponents, Buffalo in 1998 while they were still in the FCS and Eastern Michigan in 1989, a MAC member at the time.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Danny Rocco seems to be the real deal and someone that isn’t deserving of even a cursory barb thrown his way. To take a team that was 1-10 in 2005, increase the wins to 6 in 2006, and then rattle off three straight conference titles means he’s doing something right. He has a ton of experience, both in the NFL and major college BCS level conferences, so Rocco is making a major impact and running this FCS school like a BCS powerhouse. He has energized the fans, the administration, and really the entire area. Focusing on both offense and defense, Liberty has set school and national records in both over the last several years.

The three-time Big South Coach of the Year (06,07,08) just signed a contract extension through the 2014 season, and if this success continues he could have his pick of jobs from the FBS division.

Players and Stats of Note
Offensively, Liberty returns several key skill players, but must replace their QB. Redshirt junior Mike Brown saw action and gametime last season, but this will be the first as the presumptive starter. He is an explosive dual threat, capable of running or passing, and the Cardinal defense will need to step up and play big to stop him. At the running back position, 09’s statistical leader Aldreakis Allen returns for the Flames, after 530 yards and 9 TDs, similar numbers that Mike Brown had. Stop Brown and the Cards win. Plain and simple.

How Worried Are We?

This opponent’s OTP Threat Level is hard to pin exactly. While the worrisome nature of playing the first quality opponent of the year is valid, that first quality opponent is still an FCS team, this BSU team is much improved from last year, and it just doesn’t feel right to peg an FCS opponent as a medium worry level. So we’ll stick them in Category Blue for now… sort of like drinking tequila on an empty stomach. Odds are nothing bad happens, but the potential for waking up next to a lagoon creature of sorts is a definite possibility.

The Tacks-o-Brass
Is Liberty Southeast Missouri State? No… they are far better. Are they New Hampshire from last season? Perhaps. But the key question to ask is whether or not this BSU team has progressed or learned anything since the last time they stepped on the field with an FCS power. Perhaps the saving grace for BSU is the fact that this isn’t game #1 for the 2010 season. If that was the case, our Threat Level may be considerably higher. Expect a win, but take nothing for granted, and if the defense lets Mike Brown run wild, then it could be a very long day in Muncie.

Know a ’10 Opponent: Southeast Missouri State

In an effort to educate, preview, and most importantly, make fun of, the upcoming teams which dare play the Cardinals, OTP is proud to present the Know a ’10 Opponent series. Like we always caution, previewing and attempting to quantify the unquantifiable, especially two months away from the season is basically begging for failure, but we’ll fling some poo and see what sticks, shall we? I mean, after all, we predicted like 10 wins for BSU last season and we totally nailed that one, didn’t we? I can’t find the results, so let’s just go with that. So sit back, boys and girls, and know your ’10 opponents.

Southeast Missouri State
Remember last year when we played an FCS opponent? Remember when they beat us? Remember how you wanted to find the nearest prostitute and chase her naked with a chainsaw?

No? Well, maybe that was just me. Thankfully, no one called my landlord. But the first two items you should remember in plain and vivid detail, because it was during that little contest that real worry and doubt crept into most people’s minds about the potential suckfest we would have to endure in 2009. And by potential, I mean actual.

The Southeast Missouri State Redhawks will venture to the Scheu to open the 2010 season on September 2, a Thursday!, and will hopefully be the sacrificial FCS lamb that we are praying to 6 pound 8 ounce baby Jesus that we need. 09 saw us schedule an FSC power, a literal small school juggernaut. This year? Not so much.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?
SEMO has played in the FCS since 1991, but has never won their conference (the OVC) or played in the FCS playoffs. In 09, they clocked in with a 2-9 record, and were 0-5 away from Houck Stadium, which at 10,000 seats probably still has more restrooms than the Scheu. They’ve also only beaten one FBS team ever, Middle Tennessee State in 2002. Since 1994 they’ve had 2 winning seasons. This season, they return a total 16 starters from that ’09 2-9 squad, so at least they have plenty of players that know how to lose. And knowing is half the battle.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
SEMO’s head coach has quite the impressive resume… as an assistant. Tony Samuel graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1981 after playing defensive end for the Huskers and being part of Tom Osborne’s very first recruiting class. Impressive. After graduating, spent 4 years at Western Michigan and Stanford, then headed back to Nebraska. As an assistant, working with outside LBs and rushing ends, he helped the Huskers to 11 Bowl games in 11 seasons, coached 6 All Americans and 12 future NFLers all while winning 2 National Championships. That earned him a head coaching gig at New Mexico State, where the shine and luster of the Huskers didn’t continue. Mediocre success at NMSU led him to Purdue as an assistant coach in 2005, and he’s been at SEMO since 2006. He’s 13-32 overall and 6-25 in the OVC with the Redhawks, his best season being his first… at 4-7. Samuel has the pedigree to be a winner, I guess. But one does have to wonder if those stellar assistant numbers had more to do with the overwhelming amount of talent he coached than the X’s and O’s he coached them with.

Players and Stats of Note
In terms of players to be worried about…to be truthful? None. SEMO runs multiple offensive sets, averaging just over 21 points per game in 2009. Last year, they shifted slightly more to the run, averaging a smidge over 183 yards per game on the ground compared to 146 through the air. They also averaged roughly 64 yards per game in penalties, a trait that BSU exploited in several opponents last season. Defensively, they gave up 204 yards rushing and 183 through the air on average. Quale should be salivating.

How Worried We Are

The OTP Threat Level opens the season with a nice cool green. Akin to drinking milk a couple days past the expiration date. Is there a possibility that you’ll get the hershey squirts later at work? Potentially, but infinitely small. More than likely, your breakfasty treat will be just as good as ever, and the Cards should win this win in a snoozer. Thursday night, first game of the season, renewed passion and fire that comes with a 0-0 record… all good things and all signs of a victory bound to happen.

The Tacks-o-Brass
Bottom line is these are the kinds of games that BSU simply has to win. This isn’t an FCS power, this isn’t the first game of the Parrish era, this isn’t the first year in a new system, and this isn’t a roster loaded with freshmen who have never seen game speed action. Is it a win? Most likely. Does it have to be? You bet your ass. The one thing that concerns me is this is the only FBS game on the schedule for SEMO this season. It is also their first. The high emotion and potential for trickery could keep them in this one longer than they should be.

Former Cardinals’ Opponent Stops Their Program

Remember Northeastern? You know… the first win of the magical 2008 season that started it all out? I hope you got pictures of it, because that’s the last time Northeastern will be venturing from Boston to Muncie. In fact, Northeastern won’t be venturing anywhere anymore, because as of today their football program is no more. Via CBSSports

BOSTON — Northeastern University is ending its football program after 74 seasons because the investment required to make it competitive was too high.

The school announced the decision Monday after president Joseph Aoun and the board of trustees endorsed on Friday the recommendation by athletic director Peter Roby after a two-year review of the Boston school’s sports programs.

Roby said an investment of “tens of millions of dollars” to replace or upgrade spartan Parsons Field would be required to help make the football program competitive with others in the Colonial Athletic Association.

“I think everybody in higher education is faced with the dilemma of competing priorities and investments,” Roby said in an interview with the Associated Press. “So this wasn’t about what we were already spending. This was about what we were going to really need to spend going forward if we were really going to be fair about allowing people to compete equally.

“The status quo was not an option.”

The school spends more than $4 million annually on the football program while an average of 1,500 to 2,000 people attend home games, Roby said, but the size of the crowds was not a factor in the decision.

The program’s 87 players and 10 coaches learned the news Sunday night at a meeting on campus with Roby, a day after the Football Championship Subdivision team won its final game 33-27 at Rhode Island. The Huskies won their last two games to finish 3-8, their sixth consecutive losing season.

Northeastern began playing football in 1933 and took three years off from 1943-45 because of World War II. Its all-time record was 289-364-17.

The Huskies began their sixth season under coach Rocky Hager with a 54-0 loss to Boston College that started a six-game losing streak.

“Northeastern has always been guided by the principle that we should focus on our opportunities for leadership,” Aoun said in a statement. “This approach ultimately leads to difficult choices, but leadership requires that we make these choices. This decision allows us to focus on our existing athletic programs.”

Several outstanding NFL players, including defensive ends Sean Jones and Keith Willis and tight end Dan Ross, played at Northeastern.

Jones, drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders in the second round in 1984, had 113 sacks in 13 seasons. Willis, signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1982, had 59 sacks in 11 seasons. Ross, a second-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1979, had 290 catches for 19 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons.

The university said players will keep their athletic scholarships through graduation if they obtain their degrees at Northeastern.

Roby was head basketball coach at Harvard from 1985 to 1991 and served as co-captain of Dartmouth’s basketball team in the late ’70s.

“As emotional as this decision is and was,” he said, “and as much as it was impacting so many wonderful people, coaches and athletes, you have to try to think about the big picture and do what you think is right. So that’s what I tried to do.”

It certainly brings up an interesting argument about whether or not being “financially viable” is the measuring stick by which a program’s longevity or even existence is going to be judged. There are probably more than a few FBS programs who would fall on the chopping block if more university staff members begin to allow existence only on financial independence. That’s bad news for a whole lot of programs, and certainly damning for universities that are controlled by administrators in the President’s office who think they know what is “best” and dabble in athletic decisions. I’m sure glad Ball State doesn’t have that problem. I’m thankful we have an athletic department and a football program that is financially awesome and a President that lets the department run the way it needs to. Wait a minute…

Line in the Sand Time

AD Tom Collins and head coach Stan Parrish may be each other's only friend right now

AD Tom Collins and head coach Stan Parrish may be each other's only friend right now

Not going to lie, did not expect to be writing this post this morning. I had a nice Sunday post ready to rock. It was a great concept for a column and a post about how all the Ball State fans that overreacted after the North Texas game were out of their minds. It was to be a column that was basically a “See… I told you so” post that was made possible by a victory. A victory over an FCS school, sure, but a victory all the same. It was the sort of post that was  needed, as was the win, considering the amount of rumblings, grumblings, and chaos that reigned over the last week. Unfortunately, with a 23-16 loss to New Hampshire Saturday night, that column gets put on hold. With the way this team looks, the way this fan base is shattering, and the attitude and atmosphere around the program, perhaps this “hold” may last a while.

From North Texas last week to New Hampshire yesterday, improvement was expected. Improvement never came. The offense sputtered, turned the ball over, and Kelly Page was pressured all game long. The offensive line didn’t open holes for Quale Lewis and they couldn’t protect Page. Anytime an offense only rings up 127 total yards to an FCS school, regardless of how good the FCS school is, that’s problematic. Throw in three turnovers and a safety, and that is pretty much the definition of inept. Complimenting the offensive ineptitude, the defense looked lost, blew coverage, and made mistakes which led directly to points. There were flashes of brilliance, like Robert Eddins, but overall, not a strong defensive showing. Certainly nowhere near the improvement that was wanted or expected after the North Texas debacle.

Perspective-wise, UNH is a very high quality FCS school. According to the FCS rankings, they’re #7, but sure to move up now after their fifth consecutive win over an FBS school. They have talented players, were well coached, etc. Regardless of all those “good” things about New Hampshire, this is a game that BSU needs to win. Period. And the fact that that didn’t happen raises significant questions, significant issues, and is going to make life ridiculously difficult for this team, this program, and this fanbase.

After the season-opening loss to North Texas some questioned whether or not Stan Parrish was capable of winning. There was a much larger contingent of people who defended Coach Parrish, and pointed instead to the losses on offense, the change in scheme defensively, coaching turnover, and youth across the board as reasons why a loss wasn’t so surprising. After last night’s loss, more people are jumping to the side of doubt and disbelief about the ability of this team to succeed, the ability of Stan Parrish to succeed, and the ability of this team to even win a game. What started as a low rumble is growing in volume and certainly drawing a line in the sand for this fanbase to pick which side they’re on.

I consider myself one of the most grounded and centered Ball State fans around. Perhaps that was because I was around for the 21 losses in a row as well as the 12 straight victories last season. But despite being grounded in rational thought and perspective that colored my feelings about this season and the massive amount of rebuilding needed, I am beginning to worry. Rebuilding is one thing. Losses while learning and gelling are one thing. Improvement that just isn’t enough is one thing. Lack of execution, no semblance of improvement, and outright failure is quite another.

I did not expect this team to go 12-0 this year. Losses were possible. Including the two we’ve suffered already. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that this team does not seem prepared, does not seem to be improving at all, and is raising significant doubts, in my mind at least, about avoiding the rest of the season just tanking. It’s not that we’re 0-2. It is how the team looked in the 2.

Next week the Cardinals have their first road game at Army, and I’m hoping that getting this team and this staff away from home, away from the fellow students, and away from the pressure will do well to help them refocus and re-energize. If not, if more negatives occur, and if another loss happens, the volume of the dissent will reach record levels. And that column I had planned will once again be put on hold. Perhaps forever.

Stan-O-Meter
(1-5 Stans, 1 being happy as a Matlock marathon
5 being like Marsh ran out of Metamucil)

stanometerstanometerstanometerstanometerstanometer

Losing to FCS New Hampshire certainly doesn’t decrease week 1’s record level Stan-O-Meter. Losing next week to Army may make us reevaluate the ceiling for this puppy for the rest of the season since 5 may not be high enough.

Cardinal Preview: New Hampshire

Ball_St helmetNew_Hampshire

Ball State vs. New Hampshire

Location: Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, IN
Time: 7:00pm
Television: Online streaming via BallStateSports.com

What a difference a week makes for Cardinal fans. 6 days ago, people were brimming with excitement, ready for the season, ready to stomp ass and take names. Then came the Mean Green and Cardinal Nation was fractured into a million little pieces. The fan spectrum ranges now from wildly unfounded optimism to equally wild and just as unfathomable pessimism, and virtually everything in between.

Do I fall in the camp of “Hell… we’re still going 11-1. Suck it Central!!!”. No. Do I fall in the “Honey, have you seen my pitchfork and angry mob clothes?”. Also, no. There’s a ton of room under that bell curve and that’s where most fans find themselves. On the edge of their proverbial seats, hoping last game was an anomaly in an otherwise successful season. We shall see on Saturday.

The Basics
Ball State University Cardinals
Location: Muncie, IN
Record: 0-1 (0-0)
Last Week: L, 10-20, vs. North Texas

University of New Hampshire Wildcats
Location: Durham, NH
Record: 1-0
Last Week: W, 24-14, vs. St. Francis, PA

Offense
The Wildcats are coming off a solid offensive performance last week, in which they started strong but fizzled late. Gamesmanship from coach Sean McDonnell? An inability to play well for entire games? Who knows. The offense was paced last week by Sean Jellison, a RB who also is capable of catching passes out of the backfield and creating highlights in space. Sort of Reggie Bush-ish in his ability to make defenders miss. However, that game last week wasn’t against D1 athletes. It is my hope that Jellison and company are in for a rude awakening against a defense hungry to prove they do not, in fact, suck ass.

For Ball State, the offense got a little off kilter last week. Sort of like choosing to drive this solar powered hybrid which has great potential rather than the F-150 in your garage that starts like a dream. Hence, Quale Lewis was not the straw that stirred the drink last week. Quale wasn’t even the paper umbrella stuffed in it for looks. This week, it’s time for Quale to get the carries he deserves (read: more than 15) and become the driving force behind this offense. No knock on Page, as the young man will get consistently better, but having a featured back opens up the passing game and creates single coverage and less pressure. All good things for a QB attempting to find their legs.
Advantage: Ball_St helmetIf Quale is the offensive centerpiece, it’s BSU. If he isn’t, it’s a push. I think Stan learned his lesson and you’ll see Quale early, often, and dominant.

Defense
The defense for UNH last week held St. Francis to under 100 yards on the ground. But I’ve met Ball State. And St. Francis, you’re no Ball State. The defense for UNH is formidable and experienced, and if last year tells us anything it’s that this team is not the usual FCS sacrificial lamb that’s quite popular in major football stadiums this time of year. Last season the Wildcats ranked 30th in FCS against the pass and 17th against the rush, and this year they’re off to a bang up start at both. Of special note is Safety Hugo Suoza, who ran roughshod over St. Francis to the tune of a blocked field goal and a recovered fumble.

The Cardinal defense has taken an absolute beating over the last week for their performance against North Texas. The Mean Green did pretty much whatever they wanted whenever they wanted and however they wanted, regardless of the BSU defenders. Running, passing, it didn’t matter much. The Cards were gashed on the ground and taken advantage of through the air because of a large cushion by the BSU secondary. That absolutely has to stop. On the good side of things, Sean Baker picked off a pass in the end zone. Kudos.
Advantage: Push. Depends on which BSU defense shows up. If they play like they’re capable of playing, then they dominate. If they play like last week, they don’t. And I begin to seriously worry.

Coaching
New Hampshire’s Sean McDonnell is in his 11th year. His record is 71-49. Since taking over, he’s built New Hampshire into a consistent FCS powerhouse, and owns several victories over FBS schools. He’s an alum of the program, and has a 47-17 record in the last 5 years. Impressive to say the least.

Ball State’s Stan Parrish is heading for his 2nd game as head coach of the Cardinals, and it would be nice if the real Stan Parrish would stand up. Which Coach do we have? The one who led the offense at BSU to record breaking seasons and two Bowl trips? Or the one who hasn’t won a game as a head coach since October 18th, 1986.
Advantage: Push. What McDonnell has done at UNH is admirable. I also choose to focus on the OC years, where Stan shat all over MAC defenses.

Intangibles
For New Hampshire, they’re gunning for their next victim in a long string of FBS teams they’ve knocked off. Since 2004 UNH has played four FBS teams on the road – Rutgers, Northwestern, Marshall and Army – and beaten them all. Additionally, their conference in FCS has had their share of success this season as there have been three wins by Colonial Athletic Association teams against FBS teams last week – Villanova over Temple, William & Mary over Virginia and Richmond over Duke.

For the Cardinals, it is a chance at redemption in their last home game for nearly a month. The fans are worried, the game last week was a let down, and the balance of the season is on a precarious ledge in need of rescue. Now is the time.
Advantage:Ball_St helmet

Mascot
New Hampshire: Wild E. Cat
WildECat

Ball State: Charlie Cardinal
charlie cardinal

Advantage: Ball_St helmetDios Mio. Wild E. Cat? How about Shit E. Lee-Dunn. Or Awful E. Dressed. Newsflash… when your mascot apparently not only took his name, but also his look from Wile E Coyote, that’s a bad sign. Consider the Ball State offense the Acme rocket about to blow up. Now at Macy’s for Halloween – Pseudo-intimidating generic feline #5, gray with stubby fangs. Throw an oversized university t-shirt on him (or her… meeooow!), and you have an instant mascot for the budget-conscious and brain-numb higher education sports marketing department.

Overall
The key to this game stands at about 5’6” and weighs around 200lbs. He wears number 33 and is needed to destroy the Wildcats defense, their spirits, and their chances for a win. For that to happen, Stan Parrish needs to recognize the importance of ball control and crawling before you can high jump, and Quale is exactly what Dr. Alan prescribes for a team in need of a booster shot of confidence and success. Parrish’s wisdom and sense wins out, and Quale carries it early, often, and over this defense. Close for the first half, Ball State pulls away in the second.

Prediction:
Ball State 27
New Hampshire 10

Crustacean KickOff Bet? Not So Fast, My Friend

lobsterAccording to the University of New Hampshire’s official athletics website, UNH president Mark W. Huddleston and Towson president Robert Caret have wagered a feast from the sea for the winner – lobster or blue crab – and titled it the Crustacean KickOff Bet.

Since we at OTP (both Alan and Edge) are big fans of quality crustaceans and BSU-UNH hook up first, we want in on this wager for Saturday. So, President Huddleston, bring the lobsters for your end of the wager. We’re still deciding the prize should UNH win Saturday, and we’re hoping OTP readers can decide what to wager. Here’s the individual things we would consider a fair trade and Muncie-ish:

  • 15 pounds of QL’s barbecue
  • A coupon for 12 beers from Scotty’s, as well as 6 entrees
  • Equivalent weight in lobsters for Jason Whitlock. Loser also pays for the flatbed.
  • President Gora. Honestly, this is win or lose… just take her. Tom Collins thrown in to sweeten the deal.
  • 3 free lapdances at Jokers Wild. STD tests not included.
  • Quality Muncie Police Department training from WeeMan and Eric Estrada
  • Free Hot Dog Man!
  • 4 free pizzas and 12 beers of your choice from the Heorot. Beer-elitist attitudes included.
  • 5 mix-and-match six packs from Friendly Package
  • Your choice of five courses at Ball State
    • “Remain employed by being a nice guy” – Bill Lynch
    • “How to scare the living piss out of freshman admits with your kooky delivery” – Tony Edmonds
    • “How to piss away the legacy left by your former employer” – Tim Buckley (Emeritus)
    • “The Power of the Written Word” – Ronny Thompson
    • “How to spot a professor you don’t want to party with” – George Mundrake
  • Private screening of “Titanic” at the Delt house. Zima and candles provided.

Suggestions for other bets?

Separated at Birth: New Hampshire

Everyone at one point or another gets a “You look just like….” comparison. Today, OTP revitalizes a message board tradition and begins anew the OTP Separated at Birth, this time for the New Hampshire Wildcats.

DB Dino Vasso and terrorist Richard Reid (watch his shoes)
DinoVasso-RichardRied

LB John Duffey and Brad Dougherty, the oddest racing guru ever.
JohnDuffey-BradDaugherty

QB Josh Vick and actor Michael Shannon
JoshVick-MichaelShannon

OL Tom Neill and actor Luis Guzman, a staple of off color comedies.
TomNeill-LuisGuzman


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