Coach Harper has completed his second season, and if he can keep this pace up (14-6 after two years) he will break Hank Norton's wins record of 244 in his 35th season....2046. ( Coach Norton, I think you are safe.) On a more serious note, Coach Harper is doing a phenomenal job, and to be at the brink of making the playoffs in both of his first two seasons shows that things are going fairly well at Ferrum.
Some would ask, and in fact some have, what has to happen to get Ferrum in the post season?
I watched the Maryville game on the Internet, and while Ferrum only lost by 7, it really did not seem that close. The emotion of the day, coupled with the necessity to win, placed a huge burden on the Panthers. Do not discount Maryville. They were a well prepared, and very solid team. They seemed to out play Ferrum for most of the day. So how does Ferrum get over the chalk line that takes them to the post season? I think there are 5 areas that Ferrum has to focus on:
Strength, Speed and Conditioning
Continuing Upgrades to the Adams Field Facility
A Full Time Assistant Sports Information Director
As a team, I do not think Ferrum is that far from a conference championship. The progress they have made in the first two seasons under Harper is a strong indication that Ferrum is becoming a more well rounded football team. The areas listed below are just my opinion.
Recruiting- This is an area that Ferrum is making great strides in. It seems recruits are coming from farther away, and to me that is a good thing. There is a lot of competition in Virginia for DIII level talent. Ferrum is not the only show in town. Competition comes from every school in the USA South, as well as the ODAC. Even Mt. Union has 4 players from Virginia.
Ferrum needs to expand their reach, and cast a wider net. This will make the Panthers a stronger team.
Strength, Speed and Conditioning- Ferrum needs to make this a priority, and not by adding this as a responsibility of an assistant coach. Ferrum needs to create a department of Strength Speed and Conditioning. This would dedicate that department staff to the sole purpose of developing the athlete. More importantly, it would provide a structured, tailored workout that would not involve the coaches. Coach involvement with the athlete in the off season could be a NCAA rules violation. This department would benefit and be used by all sports.
Player Retention-Developing the athlete is one thing, but retaining the athlete is an entirely different need. Over the years, Ferrum has been, like many schools in the conference, the victim of players leaving, only to enroll in a less expensive school, or a school that was more advantageous academically. Ferrum is working diligently to improve its academic offerings, and while this will take time, I think there is a major need to find a way to make the Ferrum experience more affordable.I do not have answers to this. Obviously, the tuition has increased, but I visited this topic in a much earlier post, and remember a response that peaked my curiosity. I cannot take credit for this idea, but it at least was an idea on a possible approach to make Ferrum more affordable.The idea involved a sliding tuition scale. This idea was simple, indicating that the base tuition be decreased each year that the student returned. This would be available to all students, not just athletes and would be presented as a policy, and could not be interpreted as a scholarship.
How would this affect Ferrum's operating revenues? Not good I am sure, but I just wonder if this is not an idea that could be reviewed. It seems to me that this reduction in tuition could be based on the college's fundraising efforts, and depending on the amount of monies coming into Ferrum in the form of donations, there would be an opportunity to apply this to the expected tuition revenue, and offer a percentage of discount to the student....Just a thought.
Continuing the upgrades to the Adams Field facility- The addition of the Hank Norton Center has made a huge impact on the field sports at Ferrum. This first rate facility is a major first step in the direction that the Adams Field facility is headed. After an exchange of emails with Kim Blair-Vice President for Institutional Advancement, it appears that the much needed replacement of the Press Box at Adams Field is going to come to fruition.
I expect a new one to be in place before the start of the 2013 season. While this is welcomed news, I am hopeful for a few more enhancements. They are:
Lights for night games
State of the art restrooms
These, while not inexpensive, will round out a very modern facility.
Hiring a full time Assistant Sports Information Director- In my opinion, Gary Holden is one of the most important people on the Ferrum campus. His abilities in the office of Sports Information, are very valuable, and he does a first rate job. Ferrum is extremely lucky to have him. I do see however an athletic program growing by leaps and bounds. Men's swimming is the most recent addition to the athletic offerings at Ferrum. This being said, this new sport joins Women's Swimming, Men's Lacrosse, and Men's Wrestling as part of what is now a 19 sport offering at Ferrum.
Gary not only works as the only full time employee in his department, he also serves as the Assistant Athletic Director. While I know that there are others on campus that have duties of assistant to the SID, these responsibilities are secondary to their primary job.
A full time assistant is imperative to maintain the work load that an increased sports offering demands. This too needs to be a priority.
With this post, I advocate for more facilities, more staff, and less revenue...I guess I will never be on the Board of Visitors, but I think all of the above suggestions are valid, no matter the apparent conflict. Ferrum is riding a wave of expansion, and over the last ten years, the upgrades on campus are phenomenal. I am hopeful these upgrades to Ferrum will continue. Just my Opinion