Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Siedlecki reassigned

When Jack Siedlecki spoke about changes coming to the Yale program following yet another offensive meltdown at the hands of Harvard on Saturday afternoon, he had no way of knowing he would be among those moving on.

On Tuesday night word got out that Siedlecki was not going to be back for his 13th season as Yale's coach. He will not be fired, that is not Yale's way. Instead he will be reassigned. He has been offered a position as an assistant athletic director and will be meeting with university officials on Wednesday to speak about his future at Yale.

As to be expected, not much was coming out of Yale - on the record - on Tuesday night. Siedlecki, perhaps the most media friendly coach I have dealt with during my 20 years at the paper, declined to come to the phone when I called his house on Tuesday night. An official announcement should be coming in the next few days.

I returned to the beat after a 10-year absence this year but heard the rumblings from the alumni. Even though Yale was 17-3 with an Ivy League title in the previous two years, Siedlecki was under scrutiny coming into this season. Obviously finishing with just 90 yards of offense against Harvard was the last straw. It was the second straight year Yale failed to score an offensive touchdown against Harvard and the third time in the last five years they failed to find the end zone on offense against their rivals. Yale lost seven of its last eight against Harvard, the worst run against the Crimson since a 1-8 mark from 1910-1922. The bottom line is that if you are the head coach at Yale, you have to beat Harvard. It is as simple as that. Outside of a three-year win streak against Harvard from 1998-2000, his only other win over the Crimson came in 2006 with a convincing 34-13 victory. Going 4-8 against Ohio State will get you fired at Michigan, going 4-8 against Oklahoma will get you fired at Texas. Going 4-8 against Harvard will get you reassigned at Yale.

The administration had better move quickly to find a replacement. Yale loses 34 seniors including 13 players who started in the Harvard game and this is a prime recruiting time. Rumors that the entire staff were being dismissed could not be confirmed. That would clearly be a mistake. With a little more offensive fluidity, the Bulldogs could have gone into the Harvard game at 9-0. Yale lost by three at Cornell and back-to-back two-point losses to Fordham and Penn. After leading all Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense in 2007 and 2008, Yale officials would be crazy to led defensive coordinator Rick Flanders walk. Having been at four junior varsity games this year, the offensive play calling was much more creative than what I saw during varsity games so letting Larry Ciotti, a Connecticut institution, go would definitely be an error. Defensive line coach Duane Brooks, who works with Ciotti coaching the JV team, and defensive backs coach Anthony Reno have also done yeoman's work putting together a terrific defensive team. You can't discount the job defensive ends coach John Walsh did especially when fiery leader Brady Hart was sidelined early in the season. Yale's special teams, the onsides kick against Harvard the rare exception, were also strong led by punter Tom Mante, return specialist Gio Christodoulou and gunner supreme Brian Stephenson and special teams coach Shawn Halloran deserves credit for that. There will be some tough decisions for the Yale hierarchy of what to do with the staff. I guess a lot depends on how much work they think need to be done and how much loyalty the current staff feels towards Siedlecki. I personally think Yale was extremely close to coming away with the Ivy League title in 2008. The freshman class dominated in both playing time and production with the JV squad so there is some hope in the future but dragging out the process could prove disasterous in securing a strong recruiting class, something the program just can not afford considering all the holes left to fill by the graduation of this special senior class.

Obviously there will be much more to come on this story.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A new head coach would seem to have final word on his assistants. If Yale is not letting the HC go, why not let his assistants at least have the option to remain and be interviewed by the new HC?

12:40 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given that I read your Portal 31 Blog quite often and you seem to have good scoop, I wanted to share some thoughts and questions on the changes in the football staff at Yale.

1) Is Coach Sidlecki the Ron Zook (formerly of Florida, now at Illinois) of the Ivy League-to be fired after going 15-5 over two seasons?

2) One assistant has already expressed his plans to move on.

3) As you have written in your blog, how does an AD fire a defensive staff that has performed so well over the last few years? Don Brown, a defensive guru now Head Coach at UMass, left Yale for Plymouth State of his own accord. How do you let Coach Flanders, Coach Brooks and Coach Reno go?

4) How long were the assistant coaches’ contracts? Are they multi-year like Coach Sid’s or, as with most schools, year to year? If multi-year, who is paying for their buyouts? I understand that because Yale is a private school and it lacks the financial transparency of a UConn, but it would be interesting to find out.

5) One person of great concern is Emil Johnson, the strength coach. The players love him. Usually a new coach brings in “his guy”for the weight room. If you watched the Yale Harvard JV game last week, Yale was very noticeably bigger and stronger than Harvard’s JVs, thanks to Emil. It would be a shame to lose Emil also. Did the AD think of this?

6) How clueless does the AD and the rich football alumni think that the players, their parents, the potential recruits, and the fans are to believe that Coach Sidlecki was not pressured to “retire.” When a coach really retires, he usually has a plan to help his former assistants, e.g., an assistant takes over. Certainly not the case at Yale.

7) I think the AD and the so-called influential football alumni did not take into account the intense personal loyalty among members of the staff. In fact, as you know, some of them live near each other.

8) Coach Sid was very upfront with his responsibility for the lack of offensive productivity. The one scenario on Coach Sid’s firing that is plausible is that he was given an ultimatum: either fire an offensive coach(es) and hire a coordinator or “give up” (fired or retired) the head coaching job. Perhaps Coach Sid refused to fire anyone?

9) Recruiting is another issue of concern.

a) Supposedly at least some of the lame duck assistants will be out on the road recruiting before the new staff is hired. Good luck!

b) It is my understanding that at least one half of each recruiting class of 30 players is offered early action (non-binding) admission. Many of Yale’s best recruits go early action. Given the change in the coaching staff, Yale may lose some of their best recruits. The athletic and academic pool is not that big, with all of the same schools competing for the same kids.

10) Coach Sid and his staff were men of integrity. Unlike other schools, they never lie during the recruiting process. His staff meant what they said and said what they meant. The Administration on the other hand, has been less than truthful to the football community about this entire dismissal process. What a poor example to its players and future recruits!

11) One of the key components to a successful football program is trust. The players trusted Coach Sid and his staff. I would think that the AD, for one, has lost that trust. I wonder what the football banquet will be like for the AD in January when he speaks? Or maybe he’ll be out of town? How much credibility will the AD have with the returning players?

It certainly up to the new coach to reestablish trust in the Yale football program. I hope it is someone with integrity.

10:07 PM 

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