Govs Face Serious Questions in 2020
APSU moves into the 2020 season facing the positive crossroads of building a sustainable football program and moving away from their difficult past. The potential of snowballing a poor stretch of games into a season long spiral is a very real possibility for teams nationwide. The distraction hook has been baited, cast wide and the reeling has already begun at some universities.
This year the leadership of AD Gerald Harrison and new Head Coach Marquase Lovings will reveal the standard for future seasons. Leading the charge will be a couple of unexpected heavyweights the schedule makers slipped into the Govs’ calendar: Covid19 requirements and public displays of protests by players.
What will happen regarding the social distancing requirement's big impact on fan attendance and, potentially, interest levels. There are generally 3 primary building blocks to a strong program, and each must continue to be incrementally improved over time. Currently the Govs lack a critical tool necessary to its program foundations – media access. The recorded average attendance for the Govs home games was 6,300 (not actual gate numbers). Previous season attendance stats are irrelevant to the fact of attendance being exceedingly low in an area heavily interested in football. As Harrison and Lovings continue the heavy lifting, its program remains in desperate need of media outlets to reach fans on game day. When was the last time someone said they listened to a game on radio? The team simply does not have a TV presence and risks falling into a black hole of unadvertised information. Will APSU have an opportunity to live stream on Facebook? Would it be cost effective or even interesting for fans? Can game replays be broadcast from local Nashville stations? Is the option a heavier emphasis on players stories during the week and highlights to satisfy fans? Your guess will be as valid as my own.
2020 will bring kneeling and vocal protests by players and/or coaches. Those distractions are going to appear at random times and Lovings will be expected to manage each of them to near perfection. The coach didn’t sign up for these additional challenges, but I didn’t sign up to have my car sideswiped at Walmart. Never mind … back to the Govs 2020 season.
A key goal of the coaching staff(s) will focus on reducing distractions. For APSU athletes, there unfortunately isn’t an upside to a national media presence on social media. If they stay focused, comment responsibly and maturely, they will be invisible to the media. If they make a questionable or offensive comment? That moment could potentially create a different story with long reaching ramifications. It's important to understand social media posts will be shared by both friend and foe within this is click bait world. The social media posts may not be inflammatory in nature, but it's a good reminder to remember the media will be the media. Good luck explaining context to either side of a given debate after you’ve offended someone.
In the business world, you’ll hear the phrase “managing up”. This is a dangerous possibility within the new culture of college locker rooms. Listening while understanding the true value of feedback, and implementation of those conversational topics, should be the focus. The student-athletes will have their moments of emotional immaturity and those times will need to be kept behind closed doors for teachable moments. Make no mistake about this year’s disappointing teams. Those shortcomings will likely be traced back to a coaching staff’s inability to partner and lead their players - as the professional managers of their programs.
With those extra ordinary challenges being outlined, it does seem like storms could be on the horizon. The real challenge following this year's football season? Finding a long term head coach to manage the football operation. The heat is on Harrison after inheriting excellent hires in the heading coaching roles of both the football and men's basketball programs. Harrison cannot claim credit for those turnarounds, but he can begin establishing his own legacy beginning with the football hire.