Monday, February 8, 2016

The Lessons of Life Through Football

It has been said many times that football teaches great life lessons. The sport has been put forth by many coaches as the best way to draw meaningful analogies between the successes and failures on the field and those that we will see as we go through our lives.

Life is not always easy, and neither is football. Yesterdays 50th Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers, and the Denver Broncos serves as a great example of lessons in life. One team that was riding high with only one loss and a quarterback that the day before had been named the league MVP, had to play against a team that had the best defense in the league, but whose quarterback was likely in his last game. Peyton Manning was 39 years old, and yesterday became the oldest quarterback to ever start in a Super Bowl.

There have been better Super Bowls, but there was something about this one that was different. I had told several people before the game that I thought Carolina would win by 20. My brother (a retired football coach)reminded me that Denver was not about to roll over and play dead for Carolina. Boy was he right. Denver played within their capabilities on offense, and played lights out on defense, thoroughly frustrating Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. A game that I thought had a very predictable outcome became anything but predictable, and showed me that when a team works together, anything can be accomplished.

Like in a football game, there are many times in life  that you don't know what is coming next. There are sometimes pleasant surprises, and sometimes unpleasant surprises. Whether in football or life, it's how you deal with each that helps you move forward.

For me personally, I have never played football....not organized anyway. I have always been a fan, and was an equipment manager in both high school and college. In addition to this, my father was a coach, so I have had ample exposure to the sport. During this exposure it has always been the aspect of how football helps to form the athlete as a person that I have found most fascinating.

The coach develops a game plan based on the opponent, and  puts the best players on the field to execute their role to help ensure the teams success. As the game goes on the opposition will make adjustments, and present a different challenge to the team for which the coach will need to adjust etc., etc., etc.,

For me, I have received a new challenge in life. This past Tuesday, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and am currently working  with doctors to develop a treatment plan.
The word cancer for most people, me included, is quite scary to hear. The good news is that there have been huge advancements in the treatment of prostate cancer, and mine is considered very treatable. It will likely involve radiation therapy, but there at this point, are far more questions than answers. I will listen to the doctors (coaches), and do my best to help in the execution of the best game plan possible to win this battle.

How will all of this affect me? I am not sure. I have two jobs that keep me very busy, so I worry about how physically taxing this may be on me. I will do my best to maintain the blog with Ferrum updates, but I cannot guarantee how often I will post. I appreciate your reading the blog, and ask for your patience as it will take a back seat for a while.

My plan is right now however to be at the Emory and Henry game, and see the Panthers be just as victorious in their battle as I will be in mine.

Go Panthers!

An Update From the Last Post

After writing the post regarding the release of the 2016 schedule, I had the good fortune to speak with Gary Holden, and have learned the following. At this time, the dates, locations, and opponents themselves are set and correct. The times, and home game designations are still not totally set. The designations are an easy fix, but the times are going to be more dependent on when the lights are installed and how Coach Grande wanted to proceed. Gary expressed certainty that they would be installed well ahead of the start of the fact, the transformers are in place.

In other news, Ferrum has added yet another assistant football coach. Coach Richan Gaskins. Coach Gaskins bio can be seen through the link below. The addition of coach Gaskins adds one overall position to the coaching staff, giving Ferrum a total of 8 coaches.

Coach Richan Gaskins Bio

Monday, February 1, 2016

New Schedule Released

Ferrum has posted their 2016 football schedule, and at first glance, it looks very much like the 2015 fact exactly like it. The opponents are all the same, and the order that they are played is the same, but the good news is that Ferrum will play all of their home games at home....well with the exception of one. On September 17th,  Ferrum will play Hampden-Sydney at Salem Stadium for a 1p.m. contest.

As has become the custom, Ferrum will open against the Wasps of Emory and Henry at Adams Stadium. This game will have particular significance as it will pit Coach Grande against his former team. While this will make for good stories in the press, Ferrum has recently struggled against ODAC teams, but I believe that the Panthers are working towards being competitive on that level.

The schedule had several things about it that caught me off guard:

>No date is designated as homecoming

>Many TBD game times for away games (Not all that unusual this early)

>Their are no other game designations like Franklin County Appreciation Day, or First Responders

Day. These have been tags assigned to home games in the past.

The schedule had one other thing that left me scratching my head. All games are scheduled at 1p.m.
Usually Homecoming has started at 2p.m., and the fact that all games are scheduled at 1p.m., leads me to wonder  What about night games? The field upgrades were supposed to include lights. I am guessing that this particular upgrade has not happened. I am curious as to what to expect regarding this.

Nonetheless, Ferrum is hopefully on the right track toward returning the program to a level of respectability. I, as much as anyone want to see the Panthers turn things around. What would be a success for the first year under a new head coach?  I would hope for the following:

Winning one non conference game, and picking up three to four conference wins. This would make me very optimistic about the future. I do not expect Ferrum to win the USA South, but I am definitely hoping to see improvement over last year.

Restore the Roar

Go Panthers!

2016 Ferrum Panthers Football Schedule

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Two More Coaches to Join Football Staff

Ferrum fans can expect the formal announcement from Ferrum athletics of the addition of two new coaches to the Panther staff.  Joel Gordon of Shepherd University will be the new Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback coach, and Luke Summers of Muskingham University will be the new OL coach.  Please see Bio's below:

Joel Gordon

Thursday, January 7, 2016

As Expected, Doss joins Ferrum Staff

Today, Ferrum made it official that Marshall Doss, former Assistant Head Coach at Emory and Henry, has been named defensive coordinator for the Panthers. This will fill the position formerly held by Bryan Zyglocke. Presently, Zyglocke is still listed on the Ferrum staff as an assistant coach.

See Link Below:

Doss named to Ferrum staff

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Another Addition to the Coaching Staff is reporting that Marshall Doss will be the new defensive coordinator at Ferrum. Doss was an associate head coach at Emory and Henry. Please see link below for Bio:

Marshall Doss Bio

First Take: Strong Move....Very Strong

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
Institutional Support
Community Support
Sports Marketing
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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reports indicate Ferrum Chooses Grande as new Head Coach

An in-depth article will be up in the coming days....

Ferrum Tabs Grande

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Montel Lee- Best in the Nation TFL

Sophmore Defensive Lineman Montel Lee, has been named by the NCAA as the DIII statistical champion in the category Tackles for Loss. Congratulations Montel!!

I Look for an Announcement Soon

There is no way to be sure, but based on a couple of things I have heard, I am looking for an announcement regarding the new head coach within a week. As the job was posted as an "open until filled" position, and the fact that it is no longer on the Ferrum employment website, along with comments from a source with ties to the program, I believe that we may hear something pretty soon. No guarentees, just a guess.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

So What Happens Now?

I am sure that there have been assistant coaches, players, parents and fans who want to know the answer to this question. The job has been posted, and there will be a whole lot of waiting. This will be a process that may take a couple of months. I personally hope that the process is not rushed, but at the same time realize that any new coach coming into the program will have a lot to do, and will need plenty of time to recruit, among other things.

The positives in attracting a new coach are many. First and foremost, Ferrum has excellent, new facilities. Any coach coming to campus will be impressed with all aspects of the physical football complex. While the record from this year may not be impressive, there is a good amount of talent on the team, and not all that many being lost to graduation. I believe, and I think most coaches will see a team, that if most of the players return, with some basic tweaks, Ferrum can contend. This team is not that far off.

The difficulty of attracting a quality coach may lie in the fact that Ferrum, while having a beautiful campus is for the most part, "off the beaten path." Remember, the coach is likely going to be married, and with children, and it has to appeal to everyone. Beyond that, the salary has to be competitive.  I have no idea what this job pays, and while I am sure that Ferrum has made strides in all salaries, what can be offered makes a have to pay for quality.

What is Ferrum looking for in a coach? I believe the person they choose has to have a record of success. The job announcement indicates that collegiate experience is preferred. That will likely mean a defensive, or offensive coordinator from a DII school, or a DIII school will apply. Preferred is not required, and therefore there may be interest from high school head coaches that have a successful track record.

I think they need to look for a candidate that puts emphasis on defense, and has recruiting experience. The college has invested a lot of money into the facilities, and is looking to turn things around in the W/L column. Ferrum once again needs to be a force to be reckoned with in Division III. I hope, and believe that Ferrum, in their search for a coach, is looking beyond a conference title. I think the incoming coach must have aspirations of national prominence.

With a full staff of assistants, one has to wonder what does the future hold for them? Anything I write is speculation regarding the assistants, but I would guess that there will not be wholesale changes in the assistant/coordinators positions. I do not think that any coach will come in with a ready made staff. I would think that some changes are possible however.

It will be interesting, Time will tell. All we can do is wait, and hope that the right person comes along for the job........Hey I hear Frank Beamer is available.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Beyond the X's and O's
Above the W's and L's

Wednesday;s news of Coach Harper's resignation was for me, as an alumnus, and as a fan, extremely disappointing. Disappointing because Ferrum has lost a very knowledgeable coach that related well to his players. A coach that has given well over twenty years of his life to the college, and a coach that has had a phenomenal level of success as a player, and as both offensive and defensive coordinator.
The comments from former players continue to come in on facebook. All positive, expressing heartfelt thanks for all he had done for their playing days and beyond.
I never played for Harper, and graduated several years before him, but since writing the blog,  I have somewhat gotten to know him. I think he is one of the most genuine people I know, and I have always been honored that he would make time for me when I called him, and would always call me back if we missed each other.
Coach Harper believed that the job of a football coach is not confined to the football field. He is the type of coach that tries to develop the person, not just the player. There are so many life lessons that football teaches the players, and Harper makes sure the players "get it."
I have huge respect for Coach Harper, and all he has done for Ferrum. I do want Ferrum's football team to be successful, but for now, I will reflect on a great coach, and a friend. I will hope for his bright future, and look forward to the day, in what I hope is the not too distant future, that my cell phone will ring and it reads "Coach Harper'