A sad commentary on MSU football

Hondo S. Carpenter

October 14, 2006

East Lansing, MI

Sacred Cathedral

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I have been around MSU athletics for 35 years. My earliest memories are at Jenison Field house and Spartan Stadium. My feeling, echoed by the throng of people that stopped me and emailed me is that I have never been more embarrassed for the fans. People lined the streets coming to the campus and even before the campus at the highways. Spartans lined the streets surrounded by the Buckeye faithful buying their tickets.

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When the game started not only were there thousands of empty seats or seats filled with scarlet, but it also included a large amount of the “donor” green back seats that had the opponents color or were vacant. You may ask “Uncle Hondo why is that important?” Because in my opinion when it comes to MSU football the administration has turned a deaf ear to the common fan and thinks only of the money and those people are significant donors. I however think of all the fans and this is what has become of a once proud program. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE MSU and I still believe that we can return to glory but the administration since DiBiaggio came to town has let it go backwards. In fairness to President Lou Anna Simon the jury is still out on her but I like her and soon we will be able to make a fair judgment. When I say soon I am not asking for the termination of JLS, I am saying that the program is floundering and she will get a chance to make a statement by her actions.

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The OSU first drive was stopped on a fumble but the parade of mistakes continued with a great Jehuu Caulcrick reception to the 1 that was called back for yet another stupid penalty, a perfectly thrown Stanton pass was dropped and a sack that took them out of field goal range was how it ended. Sadly they couldn’t even do the something great when they had a chance to down the punt inside the one but the MSU player decided to catch it in the end zone for a touch back. That however really was meaningless as the Bucks drove right down the field shredding the porous MSU in 12 plays over 80 yards for the quick 7-0 lead. Sadly the crowd thundered its approval as the Bucks scored here in Columbus….errr….East Lansing. This should not happen here and I am certainly don’t blame the fans they paid $70 dollars for this game and they should have tried to get their money back! Sadly an administration that promised them if they paid the PSL prices and high tickets when the new coaching staff took over that they would be competitive wasn’t giving refunds (a practice that should happen in capitalist America) so the fans sold their tickets.

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With 14 minutes left in the second quarter, MSU faced a fourth and two at the Bucks 36 but Stanton was unable to convert and the Bucks “home” crowd roared. The Bucks moved it right down the field for the field goal and the 10-0 lead with 12:09 left in the first half. On the Spartan’s ensuing drive they did move the ball but sadly it was backward and they gave the ball right back to the Bucks. At this point the game became a simple blowout. The Spartans were plagued by bad play calling on both sides of the ball, penalties and sloppy play. The team had clearly given up on the staff and the staff had clearly no idea what to do so I will move more to a commentary with updates as we go but in case you are wondering the first half ended with OSU ahead 24-0.

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Some will take this very honest but critical critique and think that I am anti-JLS. What I mean by that is some people at MSU. Sadly I cannot worry anymore what they think and that is not disrespect, but they are more worried about (it is now 31-0 with 10:43 to go in the third quarter in case you care) the media then what is happening. Players have given up on this staff. The program is experiencing more back biting then a sixth grade slumber party from people connected to MSU and things are in disarray. With a huge off field incident recently that will only get worse as the details get out, things are tanking and something has to happen. JLS is in a bad spot and I certainly feel for him. It isn’t his fault that he is coaching while the daggers are deep in his back from people that he should have been able to rely on for support. It is his fault that his staff is in need of a major overhaul and he let it get to this position.  There is some very talented coaches on this staff but there are also some that have no business at this level and that was his job to evaluate that. It is his fault that he has lost his team. There is however great character and the kids are playing for themselves now but thankfully it is as a team. It isn’t his fault that people around him didn’t do a better job of helping him succeed in this environment. The point is that MSU football is sinking and I can’t imagine the administration (President Simon and the board) letting it go on without direction. This place is empty of Spartan fans and it isn’t even the fourth quarter yet.

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We lost 38-7. It was worse then that. I just asked JLS a few moments ago after Dave Birkett of the Oakland Press asked him about all the scarlet in the stadium and he said he didn’t notice it: “was it am embarrassment to have all those empty seats.” He answered me with: “I didn’t notice.” That is the issue. We all know he did but he continually shrugs off the fans. I asked him last week if he had anything to say to the fans and he told me: “no and you can read anything in to that you want.”

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I am now writing from the press box at Ford Field. It is Sunday and I am still dumbstruck by what I saw yesterday. MSU football is in trouble. Sure we will probably beat NW but the problem is bigger then this season. It appears after making many calls last night and this morning talking to media but mostly very powerful MSU people that the decision is that if JLS is terminated that former Spartan Pat Shurmur will get the job. I am not saying that I am against it, but how can there already be such a power base that has decided to make that choice when what MSU needs to do is have a lengthy search for the right person. Sadly, the discussion should not be at that level yet. The fans are disgusted and it is time to fix it but unless there is another Duffy waiting MSU needs to move deliberately and with a sense of direction.Â

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I know that MSU leadership reads this, I get the comments when they disagree and let me advise something: you cannot afford another bad decision process. Whoever is chosen the MSU family has to rally so that the next guy does not come on behind the 8 ball as sadly Smith was. There was a large group that has wanted him to fail from the start and he certainly has done nothing to help himself. I really like JLS but you have to be practical now. I am very confident that if a knee jerk hire is made (I don’t care which political power broker picks) there will be an angry large group of people who don’t care about politics, they want to win and they will be further disgusted. Memo to the administration those people are the ones who buy the tickets.  Shurmur may be the guy, but declaring it now, as some are is foolish and only hurts him IF he was the guy.

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I know you’re tired of hearing it but over 400 of you have emailed or called and well OVER 90% of you say that it is time to make a change. I certainly don’t advocate a change in the middle of the season other then for cheating or the program being out of control. I think neither of those is happening. You can’t however ignore the elephant in the room and things are not pretty.

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MSU football is hurting and it needs to be fixed. A problem much bigger then JLS but he certainly is the face of it. For those of you that think just getting rid of JLS will fix it your wrong. MSU football is in need of an overhaul. I hope for the sake of the program that it gets done.

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Sure most of the MSU brass doesn’t want to make a change, how can you blame them. JLS is owed reportedly over $4 million if that happens. I certainly think if he is let go he should get every dime, he has earned it. I for one want this to work also but it has slipped so far you have to ask if it can be saved. I hope so but don’t see it. I will have more to say later in the week about MSU football but for now, yesterday was just plain sad.

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