I was in bed when my cell phone chimed. It was just after 10 pm on Tuesday December 15th....I almost ignored it. I am glad I didn't. A parent of a Ferrum player had gotten the word that Ferrum was about to have its seventh head football coach in the programs history, and messaged me. Rob Grande, Associate Head Coach at Emory and Henry was to be announced as the next head coach of Ferrum football.
I knew nothing about this hire, but have learned the following:
He was a Defensive Coordinator. This was obviously important in the search. He was the head of recruiting for the Wasps, and this too is an important qualifier. A source very familiar with the Emory and Henry program indicated to me that this is a great move for Ferrum.
While the coach has many things on his plate, emphasis for coach Grande I am sure will be to meet with the players, and assistant coaches, and then the ball will be rolling. With winter break in full swing, one would think that there may be very little news as to which assistant coaches stay or go, but already there are three openings on the sideline. OC Chris Bache took a job at FCS school Stony Brook as an offensive line coach. Coach Patrick Hill has left the staff, and Coach Dave Keeny has also moved on. Time will tell if more changes are coming. While there is still much to do, I am seeing nothing but positive comments about Coach Grande. From all indications, Ferrum has made an excellent choice.
There are many questions to be answered, and time will answer them all. Questions like what type of offense will the Panthers run? Will they run a 4-3, or a 3-4 defense, and who will the new assistant coaches be? This will all become clear as time goes on. While all of these questions are important in transforming the program, I also want to highlight other things that I believe will go a long way in returning the Ferrum football program to prominence. Below is part of a post from June 5th 2014. It gives an overview of what I think Ferrum needs to address to produce a high caliber program:
In the last article, I referred to pieces of the puzzle as they apply building a winning football program. The question has come up, just what are these pieces of the puzzle?
This list could vary from person to person. There is no set answer, but I will list what, in my mind would be very important elements in building a winning program.
In no particular order-
Quality Coaching Staff
Sports Medicine Staff
Strength Speed and Conditioning Dept.
Quality Recruiting Program
Alumni Interaction and Engagement
This list, now 18 months old, was not posted to be critical of the college, but rather to show how far Ferrum has come in its commitment to athletics. While Ferrum is making progress in many of these areas, I think the one area that needs the most attention is Sports Marketing (Sports Information) Gary Holden, Sports Information Director for Ferrum is doing an unbelievable job in his role. The passion that he brings to his job is unparalleled, and the results he produces are of the highest quality. Gary however is just one man, with only two arms and two legs, and is only able to be in one place at one time. While he is assisted by many students, and coaches on campus, the growth of Ferrum athletics has made it necessary, in my opinion, to expand the office of Sports information.
While Ferrum is not a D1 program like an Alabama or Notre Dame, it needs to be treated as such. The facilities are first class at Ferrum, and the story of the evolution of sports on campus and the facilities is an amazing journey, but to get the word out so that the public is aware takes a huge amount of time.
Ferrum currently has 21 varsity sports and two club sports. In 1991-92, there were 12 varsity sports and two club sports. At that time Ferrum had one full time position in the office of sports information.
Spring ahead 24 years to today, and Ferrum has increased its intercollegiate offerings by 9 additional sports, and yet, Ferrum still has only one full time position in the sports information office.
A quick tour around the internet reveals the following about schools and their sports information staff:
Mount Union University: 21 sports and 3 SID staff
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater: 20 sports- 2 SID staff
College of William and Mary: 21 sports-7 Media Relations Staff
Hampden- Sydney College: 9 sports and 2 SID staff (Men's Only College)
Averett University:13 Sports-3 SID staff
Methodist University: 20 Sports-2 SID Staff
Huntingdon College: 15 Sports- 2 SID Staff
North Carolina Wesleyan College: 12 Sports- 1 SID Staff
LaGrange College: 16 Sports- 1 SID Staff
Greensboro College: 18 Sports- 1 SID Staff
Maryville College: 15 Sports- 2 SID Staff
Emory and Henry: 16 Sports- 1 SID Staff
Notre Dame University: 21 Sports- 12 Media Relations Staff
Virginia Tech: 18 Sports- 9 Communications Staff
UVA: 23 Sports-11 Media Relations Staff
(Numbers above based on information found on each schools website. It is believed to be accurate, but in some cases it was difficult to interpret the departmental roles.)
In the list above, it is easy to say that this list mixes apples and oranges. That some of the large DI programs should not be compared to a DIII school. Yes the budgets are vastly different, but the sports are the same or mostly the same, the programs each crave the best student athletes available, the best coaching staffs, a dedicated fan base, and above all they all want to be successful.
Ferrum is no different in what they want, but the ability to achieve this is greatly affected by the sports information department. There is no doubt that public schools vs. private schools have a huge gap in available funding, but rest assured that even the public schools have to justify the positions for approval. While Ferrum will never have 12 SID staff on the payroll, one or two more cannot be a huge stretch. I hope this can be looked into. It is every bit as important as the facilities upgrade we have seen over the last 15 years.