FNF Coaches Talk — Orgeron Open to Change at LSU, Football Playoffs a Community Happening, Home Team Marketing Fallout

Welcome back, Coaches. Best of luck in your games this weekend. We’ve got three stories to take you into Game Day.

1. How a progressive-thinking Ed Orgeron has overhauled his approach, his team and his narrative at LSU (The Athletic)

This is an interesting story for coaches, in that it shows that we don’t have to get stuck in habits or patterns just because it’s what we’ve always done. Are you an old-school coach who turns your nose up at new technology? You don’t have to be.

Ed Orgeron had an unsuccessful stint as the coach at Oregon before getting a second chance at LSU in 2016. What did he do with his second chance? Become a different coach.

Here’s what surprises people most. Marucci has worked for Nick Saban, Les Miles and Bobby Bowden. Longtime strength coach Tommy Moffitt has been under Saban, Miles, Butch Davis and Phil Fulmer. None, they say, is as progressive as Orgeron.
“He’s the most innovative, and he’s been head and shoulders above other people, because if it makes sense he will change it,” said Marucci, an innovator himself. “He’s not set in his ways.”

Some of the things Orgeron has embraced aren’t applicable to high school coaches. For instance, he bought his team a $38,000 Monarch Seeker — which is effectively a JUGS machine — because his receivers were dropping too many passes. We understand we don’t all have that budget.

However he did make an effort to become more organized, and that impressed his new staff.

The changes weren’t drastic. But he came in with a few core things for what his program was going to be. For starters, it was going to be organized. Every Monday, his staff receives a schedule labeled “Staff Weekly Itinerary” at the top. “I had worked here 15 years and never gotten a schedule on a Monday,” Moffitt said.

Another thing? LSU was going to change the way it practiced.

Marucci, Moffitt and the LSU Sports Science Research team had been proponents of this, but nobody listened. Many schools and teams around the country go through long, grueling practices. It makes sense at first. It’s more time to get something done, more time to check boxes. But what LSU explored was the science behind practice. A long practice in which players are eventually lumbering around in a non-explosive way trains the body to operate that way. Your body adapts to whatever stimuli are supplied to it.
So if LSU practiced for shorter lengths but did so in a way that actually represents how it wants to play on Saturdays, the body would adapt to that speed. Plus, it’s better for wear and tear. “We’re gonna practice hard within this time frame, and we’re gonna practice fast,” Orgeron told the team. They reduced the practice time roughly two and a half hours across a week.
The results showed. LSU can measure the overall speed of players in action and combine it to calculate a teamwide average to study. In the context of an entire team, half of a mile per hour is a big deal. LSU has seen improvement as high as 2 mph.

In what ways have you changed as a coach since your first season?

2. Football playoffs a community happening (The Westerly Sun)

This is a great tribute column to high school football from Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and Tom Mezzanotte, executive director of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.

It makes the case that there is nothing quite like high school football.

And as the calendar turns to November, there is nothing like the excitement of high school football playoffs in cities and towns across Rhode Island and throughout the nation every Friday night.
While each team will be trying to advance to the state championship, the outcome of the games is only a part of the experience for those individuals in attendance.
Why? Because the people in the stands at high school football playoffs are moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, neighbors down the street, fellow students, and longtime residents of the community. People in the stands know the players on the field. Win or lose, their support and love is always there.

Although there are more options for entertainment on a Friday night than ever before, there is still nothing to match high school football playoffs in the fall. With all the people attending games of the 14,247 high schools that play football, expect more than 10 million fans each Friday night — easily the No. 1 fan base in the country.

There is no tradition in sports with the history of high school football. There are 30 rivalry games (60 high schools) that started before 1900 and continue today, the longest of which is Connecticut’s New London High School and Norwich Free Academy, which have been playing annually since 1875.
In Michigan, Battle Creek Central and Kalamazoo Central have been playing since 1896. In Massachusetts, the Wellesley-Needham Heights rivalry dates to 1882. And in Colorado, Pueblo Central and Pueblo Centennial have been matched since 1892.

What is the atmosphere like when your team hosts a Friday night playoff game?

3. Fallout from Home Team Marketing closing runs deep (Crain’s Cleveland Business)

This situation impacted a lot of football teams and schools. Rumor has it that as much as $20 million that has not been paid out to schools and organizations.

Schools not getting what they were owed was a common one at Home Team Marketing. At its peak, Home Team Marketing — which connected brands with thousands of schools across the country (many in Northeast Ohio) and, via a partnership with Eventbrite, had a digital ticketing platform called TicketRoar — had more than 40 of its 50 employees based in Cleveland.

The Fitzpatrick-led group’s one-third share of HTM had been diluted over the past few years, and the Cleveland group, frustrated by the company’s actions, relinquished its seat on the board in 2018.

“I find it deplorable, and hope those schools can somehow recoup any dollars owed to them,” Peter Fitzpatrick said. “Further, if there was any wrongdoing at HTM, I hope that those responsible are held accountable.”

An athletic director at an out-of-state high school told Crain’s that missing ticket revenue “is a hard thing to explain to a public entity. It’s a bad situation. Someone always has to take the blame for it, and they’re not.”

Rusty Dowling, the executive director of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association, told Crain’s that the Cleveland-launched HTM once had a significant presence in football-mad Texas. But once the new ownership group assumed control, that dissipated, Dowling said.

HTM’s Dallas office closed, the company’s partnerships with Texas high schools dwindled, and Dowling has heard that several school districts in the state are owed a considerable amount of money from their TicketRoar deals.

Did your football program get hurt by the Home Team Marketing closure? Let us know. We are tracking this story for our next issue.

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk