Govs: A Tough Pill to Swallow at Pittsburgh
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi
(CU) - One of the more interesting aspects to Smart TV is the access to other city's media. There are multiple apps which allow viewers to watch local news programming around the country with another community's perspectives. If you watched Pittsburgh's Saturday evening football review, their media dismissed the Govs football program from every direction. In short, they were comparing APSU to the local Top 10 high school rankings.
Give us a break with those ill informed and condescending comparisons. Seven of the Govs were recognized on the Preseason All-OVC teams released in July. Nickel back Kordell Jackson, the OVC’s 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, also was its preseason defensive pick. Wide receiver DeAngelo Wilson, who totaled an APSU record 1,564 receiving yards, was its Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. And there's the extra recognition of having four pre-season All-Americans on the roster. It's a talented collection of players by any scale.
The Pitt game was not expected to be highly competitive afternoon. Competitive in spots? Yes. In score? Probably not. As frustrated as fans may feel, this type of loss should be taken with a grain of salt. It's an oversimplification to place the loss on Coach Lovings and his staff. They were out manned, out resourced and severely out played on short notice. Pick up your pay check at the Heinz Field offices and head back to campus.
What cannot be excused is quitting - it's wrong to force accomplished individuals to quit without potentially finding a tweak that helps them work through a similar challenge in the future. The opportunity to play games at NFL stadiums in front of national audiences are reasons many of the players work as hard as they do. Across the field was embattled Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi. Ironically, one of the knocks on Narduzzi is a willingness to pump the brakes and not run-up second half scores. What did the 10 minute walkaway actually accomplish?
One of the many lessons learned from athletics is resiliency. Understanding there will be setbacks in life and dealing with each teaches student athletes about navigating future struggles. The extremely rare request to shorten a game, or the mercy rule, is something frowned on by programs and players for good reasons. It sends the wrong message to players, recruits, fans and advertising partners. If you pay attention and closely listen to the justifications, they tend to be very revealing. Bonus information: The last two times a program has asked to walk away from a game, without completing the official time, have both been under the leadership of AD Gerald Harrison – both times being Austin Peay teams. The concern now relates to this becoming a visible pattern. How many times will this happen before a pattern of behavior is accurately identified or dismissed? How would a future coaching candidate react to this information?
Next up on the schedule is the University of Cincinnati. As of today, the betting lines are deactivated with Oddshark predicting a Bearcats 41-0 win. As many people already know, Cincinnati has a giant radio station (700WLW) reaching upwards of 38 states – non streaming. One of their afternoon shows recently discussed how bets would be handled if the Govs quit this weekend at Cincinnati. It’s deflating to hear those comments, but reputations are built on actions taken not words discussed.
Coach Lovings has inherited an incredibly tough situation with this year’s team. How his season finishes and his future with the Govs have yet to be determined. The one to watch, for the long term, is the APSU Athletic Director. Harrison has not been asked to make an independent coaching hire for any of his major sports – and stop already, Hudspeth was on staff and fell into APSU’s lap. The Govs newly found national reputation is taking a beating each week and it's making the recruiting trail a little tougher. When Steelers beat writer Ron Cook suggests the Govs are the worst team in the country, it draws attention. Especially when people in the college sports industry understand the depth of talent the roster and coaching staff contains.
When fans look back, they will know AD Harrison was responsible for the football program’s continued improvement or its slide back to the doldrums of the national football scene. They say our best rewards are found in adversity. If so, Harrison is staring at a reward no other Austin Peay AD has experienced.