Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Look at the USA South- An Open Forum for the Blog Readers

Well the playoff appearance for the USA South was once again short lived. To make it to the second round is something that the USA South conference representative rarely does.

Click here for game recap

When you start a season, everyone is statistically equal. While we enter the season with predictions of who will win, these are not always accurate as we found out this past season in the USA South. The question comes up about the conference's competitiveness on a national scale. Every team has a goal of winning their conference, but there are programs outside the USA South that winning the conference is almost a foregone conclusion. These teams such as
Mt. Union (OH) and University of Wisconson-Whitewater are the preseason favorite to compete in the Stagg bowl for the national championship. There may be a conference title that they have to win first, but their season really begins in late November.
Since 1993, Mt. Union has won the national championship 10 times. They are a powerhouse of DIII football.
When I look at their roster, I see a team that is not all that different in size than Ferrum, or other USA South teams. So what will it take to make a team from the USA South competitive? What will it take to see the conference rep. go past the second round? What will it take for a USA South school to make it to the Stagg Bowl? Wouldn't be cool for Ferrum to play in the Stagg Bowl in Salem, VA (Only @ 30 miles from campus)

So I want to hear from you- Here is the discussion question.

What do you think needs to be done to make the USA South a stronger conference and a contender on the national level?

This is a forum for you the reader- I have never tried this on the blog, and am hoping to get a wide range of input. All comments are welcome as long as they are not profane or offensive. I will moderate all comments. I have final say as to whether the comment is put on the blog.. To make a comment, simply click the comment tab at the bottom of this article. You can leave comments without identifying yourself if you prefer. Thanks so much- Let the discussion begin!


  1. It's an interesting question. The most dominant school in the conference across all sports is CNU but most of the conference doesn't believe a public, state supported university should be in a conference with a bunch of small, private colleges. Would dropping one member school help the conference get stronger overall? I don't think so. So then what to do?

    Ferrum is still on the way up. It hasn't been a four-year college but so long so I think it will be better in the future. NCW has improved in a number of sports.

    I guess it all comes down to two things - the schools need to make great hires for coaches and get great players. Getting the players can come different ways, whether it's by commitments from high schoolers or transfers down from D-1 schools (think Tunde Ogun, Chris Warren). To improve the conference overall, to even the level of the ODAC, would start with building a (winning) tradition.

    In the end I don't have any great ideas. The schools need to build tradition. Other schools have been around longer. Ferrum dropped off after being a tremendous JC and needs to use that tradition to reestablish something today.

  2. I think the two ideas you put forth are very relevant. Initially, I would like to see more discussion on the recruiting aspect of your answer.
    Get elementary- What are the basic fundamentals of recruiting? How do DIII schools go about their recruiting?
    You also raised a valid concern about about public schools vs. private. I have heard and even promoted the concern. Frankly, as far as this goes, I am under the impression that tax revenues cannot be used for athletics. I think this concern is valid, and is most advantageous to the public school in the form of reduced tuition....which I think will directly impact recruiting efforts.

    Thanks Roger-

  3. The first thing that came to my mind when you asked about recruiting was the state of some of the facilities in the conference. Your just not going to get top recruits with sub standard facilities, especially when you want them to pay 30K for tuition. Over half the conference either doesn't have their own facility or have a facility that amounts to a field, few stands and porta potty's. I just don't see how anyone can expect the conference to move into national prominence with those type situations. You simply are not going to draw the type of recruits that you need to accomplish it.

  4. Right on target. Facilities are a definite key to successful recruiting. So this leads to the question of fund raising for improvement/development of facilities. You too are correct that the tuition at a private school is a lot for a student, or his/her family to absorb when the facilities are not up to par. While Ferrum is in the process of raising money for the Hank Norton Athletic Center, there are other schools, as you correctly point out that have to use facilities at local high schools.
    Thank you for your input- I think we are generating positive discussion.

  5. When it comes to fund raising, again you have the have and have nots in the conference. Some schools seem to be a lot more succesful than others. You can blame it on location, number of alums or numerous other things but regardless the situation exists.

    Talking strictly in the context of sports I believe it would be benificial for the conference as a whole to work together to improve the ability to raise funds for facility improvement. Get all the Presidents and AD's together, compare notes and ideas. Possibly even some of the smaller schools could join together in hiring a single firm to represent them in fund raising. Your not going to step on each others toes as fund raising with the exception of alums is pretty much a regional thing. What I mean is a local contributor to Averett probably isnt going to have much interest in say Greensboro. Of course the opposite would be true as well.

    Until the economic conditions improve fund raising is going to extremely challenging. Schools are going to have to think outside the box, be creative in their efforts.

    Everyone has thier own allegience to thier own school but if we really want to see the conference move onto the national scene then we should work at it as a conference and not individual schools.

  6. First off- to Roger Keaton- Ferrum had tremendous success when it first entered ncaa d3 with 4 consecutive playoff experiences, including 2 semi-final appearances- but that was the late 80's and seems so long ago.

    In my opinion what has turned Ferrum from a powerhouse to an average d3 program in the last 20 years has been a combination of events:
    1) The amount of new d3 schools that now exist in VA and NC. There has to be close to 10 new programs that have emerged in the last 20 years- which makes recruiting that much harder.
    2) Ferrum can’t compete with CNU on facilities, location, and tuition. CNU has owned Ferrum from its very first year of football, one would never expect a first year program to have immediate success against Ferrum.
    3) Hank Norton doesn’t coach at Ferrum anymore- kids use to come from coast to coast just to play for him and rightfully so.

    As far as it’s conference- the best thing that could ever happen to Ferrum and it will never happen because the ODAC conference looks down on Ferrum and always has when it comes to academics- would be to join the ODAC conference. The ODAC conference should pick up CNU and Ferrum and drop 2 of it’s non-VA schools. An ODAC conference with CNU and Ferrum would easily be in the top 5 D3 conferences in the country.
    Everything I’ve stated so far- Ferrum has no control of. What Ferrum can control to a certain degree is keeping the kids in their program. Every year Ferrum is rebuilding their program in key positions. It’s tough to build a high level consistent program with freshmen every year. Is it the type of kids that are recruited? Is it the something to do with the school that turns them off? Is it the coaching staff? Whatever it is, until you can keep the majority of kids in your program for more than 1 or 2 years, and build your team, Ferrum will remain what it is today- which is a 5-5 or 7-3 team that plays hard every game but has inexperienced players not coming up with big plays in big games.
    My hats off to Ferrum and the tremendous improvements it’s made to it’s facilities and to the coaching staff for producing a consistent hard playing team- you know you are in a a football game when you play Ferrum. Losing to any team except CNU in the USA South conference to me is a huge disappointment to say the least.

  7. A Conference task force on facility improvements? Interesting to say the least. I agree that the need for facilities are huge, but I also agree that the current economy will hamper efforts.
    Thinking outside of the box is definitely important. I do believe however that there is no reason to re-invent the wheel. There are schools out there that have viable programs in place that generate revenue. The College of William and Mary for example. In the last 5 years, their football program alone has built the Jimmye Laycock Football Center (11 Million) has added lighting, has added a top of the line artificial turf, and added a new scoreboard with video playback capabilities. These additions do not come cheap, but it does show a commitment to the program, and to the athlete. I think it would be worth the investment of time for a conference representative to inquire at William and Mary, and possibly some of the D3 schools that have strong fund raising programs in place.

  8. Let's keep the scope of the question in mind. It's natural to relate your input to Ferrum, and even more understandable since this is the "Ferrum College Football Report", but for this forum, and there will be others,I am hoping to generate thoughts and ideas as to how to make the USA South a more competitive conference on a national basis.
    You make good points in your comments as they relate to Ferrum, but those may be more applicable in an upcoming forum.

  9. While his comments were directed towards Ferrum, athlete retention is a problem. With the exception of CNU I believe if you were to compare team rosters over a 4 year period you might be surprised by the number of upper class man that do not come back to finish out their careers. Although, I don't think it has anything to do with anything other than money. With the high cost of the private school tuition I believe they just simply have to make a choice to give up their sport and finish college elsewhere.

  10. Retention is a definite problem, and I would think that you are correct in the assertion that it is a problem conference wide. Tuition is a factor, but possibly playing time, or lack thereof contributes. This definitely hurts the competitiveness of the conference as these recruits are not contributing in their later years, and the experience level of the teams suffers.

    What about the coaching staffs? Out of curiosity, I looked at the Mt. Union website, and found that they have 11 paid assistant coaches, and 4 student coaches. With their Head coach, they have a total of 16.

    CNU 9

    Ferrum 7

    Greensboro 8

    Averett 8

    Shenandoah 13 (3 Volunteer)

    NCW 10

    Methodist 8

    Maryville 14 (3 Student Assistants/1 Volunteer Assistant)

    This is only brought up to indentify a possible advantage of better specialization for the coaches. The ability for a coach to concentrate on one area rather than several may make a difference.

  11. One more thought regarding recruiting- What about increased Media Coverage for the conference? It would not cost anything to solicit more media coverage. Some conferences do a call in show where a moderator has a 10 min. conversation with the coach of each team. During this time reporters from the local papers, and sometimes from the opponents region will call in the show and ask questions which may help in pre game articles. Just another point to ponder- This could easily be pushed through the USA South office.

  12. I don't know where you got your number of coaches for Ferrum. The team has 8 coaches, as seen in the photo. I don't think Coach Green is listed online but he indeed coaches. Also, you counted student assistants at Mount Union but didn't count Delonte Campbell or Brandon Washington at Ferrum. That puts Ferrum's total at 10.

  13. I got the information from the web sites of each school. In the Ferrum listing, there are only 7 coaches. Quite likely the page needs to be updated. If you are talking about the team photo, Its hard to distinguish who is who, so I went with the written info from each site.
    I mentioned this to compare the USA South coaching staffs to Mt. Union. It just seems to me that if you wast to compete as a conference, look to the most successful schools to see where descrepancies lay.