1. WE ARE : Champions again (don’t worry, I am not going to start a Queen themed blog). The rest of this blog is going to deal with the aftermath of the Bowl announcement and various reactions. But before I get to that, OUR TEAM just won a Championship. Everyone should be happy, right? You guys saw McManus score two TDs as a freshman, right? You guys saw Hewitt have a great game, right? You saw Rockhead come in and make a difference, right? You saw Haig kick four FGs, right? You guys saw Cato’s last game in the Joan, right? You saw the goal post being carried out of the stadium, right? You realize that being champion of any conference is a big deal, right?
2. Spy vs. Spy: First off, I think the split between the Power 5 and the Group of 5 is as absurd as MAD’s Spy vs. Spy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onR7PD3Grc0 That being said, I was disappointed that we chose to play in the Group of 5 runner up bowl. While most of us have been thinking about the fairness of the CFP and the Secret Committee of 12’s power, we need to recognize that there has also been a shrinking of Group of 5 opportunities to play Power 5 teams in bowls. Along with the power grab by the Power 5, Bowls have followed suit. The bowls are now classified as Power 5 and Group of 5 on many websites. In place of the days when the Liberty Bowl and the Motor City Bowl gave a Group of 5 team a shot against a Power 5 team, most bowls have gone the Quick Lane approach of having Power 5 play Power 5. In 2014, there are only four bowls that have tie-ins which give a Group of 5 a shot at a Power 5: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (MW v Pac-12), Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (C-USA v Big10), Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (AAC v ACC), and Birmingham Bowl (AAC v SEC). In the new absurd Spy vs. Spy paradigm, I think we should have opted to play against the Power 5 team, even lowly Illinois. As a strong representative of the White Spy (Group of 5), we should be taking every opportunity to lob a bomb on the Black Spy (Power 5). During my exchange of messages with Marshall Mark, he pointed out that the season is over and the Access Bowl has already been decided. To quote Animal House (one more time this year): “nothing is over until we decide it is over!!!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7vtWB4owdE Seriously, I hope in the future, Mike and the Conference make all of our decisions with an eye towards creating a “Body of Work” over the years of beating Power 5 schools when we get a shot. We had a great victory last year against a Power 5. It would have been great to have another win against a Power 5.
3. Not Just Another MAC Team: while I wish we were playing Illinois, that wish as nothing to do with NIU being “just another MAC team.” My criticism of the choice is simply that we need to take shots at the new paradigm. By having the two most powerful crabs in the Group of 5 bucket fight against each other, doesn’t help the Group of 5. Instead it reinforces the paradigm that both of us are second class. While my opinion isn’t always welcome on the board, I still like the MAC. I just wish NIU was beating up on a Power 5 team, and we were beating up on a Power 5. Now we are a sideshow for the entertainment of the Power 5. Luckily, the press seems to be looking at the game differently. It is going to be a good game. Both teams are strong. Hamrick’s comments about playing the best team are probably correct. Unfortunately, many of us had a different definition of what the “best team” actually is. That is why I quickly tweeted to Hamrick. I am sure that is why many people are upset.
4. Holding Myself to My Own Blog Standards: while I still think we should have gone with putting a beat down on a Power 5 team, I don’t know why I was surprised on Sunday when the matchup was announced. In rereading my blogs, I talked about this scenario and the Power 5 vs. Group of 5. In my first blog of the year (September 3, 2014) I noted that “Group of Five Tainting My Thoughts,” (oh yeah…) In my September 9, 2014, blog I talked about “Perspective” (…which appears I may have lost). In my October 21, 2014, blog I wrote about “managing expectations;” specifically, I said “I am excited, but as with many Herdfans, I also realize that we could end up playing a MAC or American Conference team in a lower level bowl”(…oops, I guess I forgot that one too). Probably my best message to myself was written on November 7, 2014, when I blogged: “People will look at the National Champion in years to come, but they won’t be looking at the Poll ranking put out by the Secret Committee of 12. In a year or two, people will look at the final AP Poll, just like they have since 1934” (…oh yeah, that one sounds familiar too…). In my last blog (December 2, 2014), I focused on how a Power 5 program influenced the demise of UAB’s football team. I’ve been thinking about that a lot the past week. While it is not an excuse, I think that event tainted my thinking about which bowl we would choose and why. When I HERD that we were going to pick the best opponent, my mind went directly to a Group of 5 vs. Power 5 paradigm. I wanted to put a beat down on a Power 5 program to punish them on behalf of all the Group of 5 schools. If I would have just re-read my blogs before I started driving back to Michigan, I think I could have managed my expectations better (as I advised everyone to do back on October 21st…oops).
5. Coach Gale: weird night in the twitter and boards worlds on Sunday night. It got really weird when several people, including me, took offense to Coach Gale’s tweet that “Sad there are people out there (obviously not true fans), that instead of celebrating accomplishment of The Herd, complain about which bowl.” In my typical tongue in cheek style, I tweeted back to him that “@MarkGale3 LOL...by my definition anyone who drives less than 14 hour to cheer in the rain isn't a True Herd fan. I am. (wink)” First off, I have nothing but respect for the service that Coach Gale has performed for Marshall. I don’t have any issues with his work product, nor do I have a problem with him tweeting his thoughts (sort of hard for me to do that anyway…). I was just irritated by his tweet. I was even more irritated, by people talking about boycotting the game. This is our team. This is a Championship team. We are all “True” Herdfans, even those who tweet that others are “not true fans.”
6. The Real “True Fan” of the Championship game is: Big City (aka @Herdfansinfo). If you haven’t met Big City yet, he is a great Herdfan. While we have several people on the Board who do a lot of work that doesn’t always get recognized (e.g. Zack, BGA, Wolf, and Dunk), Big City does things that make an actual impact on the games. On Saturday, Big City left the tailgate early to take a box of Thunders Sticks to pass out to the students. Each set of Thunder Sticks had a leaflet that provided information on the board. Before I got into the Joan, I thought that was cool. Once I got into the Joan and watched the kids beat them throughout the game, I realized that this “True Fan” was impacting the game itself. Kudos (I will have to do a shot of Fireball in your honor for this).
7. Horrible Press Conference: If you are fired up, please watch the video of the press conference from Monday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msAHCAXJBFg&list=PLeX7RZ22xXGkjQVA3SQ-XFUdRnlUSq4-Y Many of us don’t agree with the Bowl decision. Many of us are offended by Coach Gale’s characterization of “True Fans” and Hamrick’s comments about bad fans at the end of this presser. I am asking all of my blog readers to please watch the video with some sympathy. I don’t like everything that Mike said during that press conference, but please watch HOW he said it. He was shaken. I personally don’t like seeing Mike being so defensive. Mike has done a great job of getting donations and putting forth a vision, which I will talk more about in No. 8. I don’t think Mike intended to offend anyone during the presser. He was just in a very defensive position. I think everyone should cut him some slack and hope he takes this as constructive input. I think he has found himself being questioned and criticized on something that he didn’t foresee. I also think there is something going on that none of us know about. Mike got some sort of pressure from a source that was more than a bunch of passionate Herdfans on Boards. In turn, it wasn't his best appearance. BTW, the only solid performance during that press conference was from Rouse. He was very professional. I can see him being very successful after football as either a coach or as a leader in a company.
8. JD Powers and Breakthrough Goals: most of my real work is centered around what is in the best interest of my company’s customers and how we benchmark ourselves against other companies. The way we have moved up in the JD Powers rankings is that we develop long term breakthrough goals. I think Mike did something similar when he got to Marshall. During the press conference, Mike talks about trying to get 6 wins when he got here; at that point, 6 wins was a good short term goal to shoot for. I think that was the main goal. I think winning a conference championship was his breakthrough goal in a long term plan. I don’t think that the plan or its metrics contemplated having national recognition. Clearly we ran into a problem when the bowl was announced. I am probably way off base, but it could be that the fanbase and the administration were working off of different visions. That happens. I am thinking that Mike should be benchmarking the Herd against Boise. It appears that he is benchmarking the Herd against the MAC. If Mike was running a business, I am sure he would do a Root Cause Analysis and check his intermediate and breakthrough goals. He has received a ton of input from Herd fans, league office and donors. I hope he calms down quickly and enjoys the Herd’s game on the 23rd, ceases to be defensive, and looks at whether we need to raise our goals. (I probably should strike No. 8. I am on a business trip working on breakthrough goals in my hotel room. It is what I am thinking about right now. I apologize if it is off point. Right now it seems relevant to me).
9. Get to Boca Raton If You Can: as a “far out” fan, I often find myself trying to think like a Townie (which I wish I was). From a Townie’s perspective, this is a great Bowl. Unlike a Townie, I have access to almost any Bowl destination. Townies on the other hand, don’t have decent options out of HTS or CRW. Allegiant does provide convenient service to Florida, so everyone should be taking advantage of that. This is our Team. This is a Championship team. Please do not get caught up in the game of what should have been done, or what could have happened if we would have won in overtime against WKU. OUR TEAM, no matter how anyone defines a “True Fan,” is playing. They are a great Marshall team. They deserve all the support that we as “True Fans” can give them.
10. If You Can’t Make It to Boca Raton, Watch and Support OUR TEAM: all season long, I travel to Huntington for the games and one road trip. My family spends Thanksgiving in Huntington each year mainly so that I can go see the Herd play. We go to my wife’s family for Christmas. So no matter how we cut it. I wasn’t going to be able to make it to a bowl anyway (although I did have flights picked out of ORD to DFW that would have allowed me to be with her family, zip off to the game, and back without them even noticing… #pipedream). So I am going to be in a sports bar in Chicago cheering on MY TEAM. This past Friday, I met a cool guy at Buffalo Wings and Rings on 23 N in Columbus. As I went to take a picture of the Marshall sign on the wall, he told me that he was the reason that sign was up. He introduced himself as a former Marshall football player, who organized game watching parties at Buffalo Wings and Rings. If you live in Columbus, give Buffalo Rings and Wings a try. They have good food. A great Marshall sign, and a True Fan sitting at the corner of the bar. For the rest of us, if you don’t live in Columbus, you can’t get to Boca, make it to somewhere that you can enjoy the game with other Herd Fans. This is a special season. Share the experience with other fans. This is a special team. WE ARE…all True Herd Fans afterall. Go Herd!!!