Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 11 November 2008 14:46
This season mirrors many other long seasons in Tabor’s football history. More often than not, the outcome of games is decided well before the fourth quarter, the Bluejays find creative ways to give away points by the bushel, and the sideline resembles a M.A.S.H. unit.
Much could be said about how this year’s team might have led the nation in most points given up in the first half of games, but I’m not going to dwell on the negative.
Even though the outcome of games was rarely in doubt, you have to respect the way the players kept competing. And there were a few bright spots along the way. As a loyal alum and a sports columnist, I feel compelled to offer Tabor, free of charge, a recipe for successfully fielding a more competitive and, on occasion, championship-caliber football team.
The recipe isn't original, but very little is new under the sun.
In a nutshell, here it is: Recruit a heavy dose of talented student athletes from Kansas and surrounding states; mix in some players from California, Texas, Florida or wherever you can find them; and retain the core of the team every year.
I purposely left out the quality of the facilities, because Tabor has already shown you can win a championship with one of the worst facilities in the conference. Improved facilities or flashy uniforms can’t hurt, but neither do they guarantee success.
Coaching stability would be helpful, but that’s extremely difficult given the enormity of the task and the existing pay scale.
Coaching instability has led to players coming and going faster than politicians and financial institutions claiming their innocence in the recent bailout crisis. Few football players who attend Tabor as freshmen are still in Hillsboro as seniors. There’s a reason Tabor hasn’t needed to purchase a revolving door. The football program provides one.
A struggling program typically features a starting lineup with a lot of freshmen and sophomores. At some point you need to have juniors and seniors to be successful.
Tim McCarty was successful after two or three years because of his ability to sell Tabor and its football program to a lot of recruits. He found talented football players who, for the most part, were a good fit for the college. He convinced recruits that Tabor could win, and in time, Tabor did.
The coaching change to Mike Gardner wasn’t much of a change in reality because Gardner was already on staff and well-respected by the student athletes. The first year after McCarty/Gardner wasn’t bad in terms of wins and losses, but clearly the train was off the track.
When Mike Gottsch came on the scene, the program wasn’t in a complete shambles, but it was a far cry from the lofty heights it had enjoyed.
Here’s something to ponder. If Coach Gottsch or any other coach is able to lead Tabor College football back to the top of the KCAC, should the college set aside its current salary structure and double or triple the salary of the head coach and top assistants?
Crazy as that sounds, it might be more cost-effective than having to suffer through multiple coaching changes and watching numerous players leave school every year. The time and energy it takes to recruit new student athletes isn’t cheap.
Football is the one sport that significantly impacts enrollment, and I would guess that an annual roster of about 100 student athletes would result in greater financial stability in the long run.
You have to admire what Bethany College had for decades with Ted Kessinger at the helm—a winning and stable program with a large roster of student athletes.
Of course, every recipe can be tinkered with. What I described isn’t the only one. Each coach will do what he believes is needed to be competitive.
I’ll also concede that it’s one thing to have a recipe. It’s quite another to carry it out.
Why should Tabor listen to someone who only played flag football in college and never played tackle football at any level?
It’s hard to know whether Tabor victories the past two Saturdays are signs of a turnaround or merely close wins over poor teams. Only time will tell.