Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Around The Northwest Conference
Willamette: Speckman out, Fowles in
Let’s start by knocking out the most recent news at Willamette. (Because like our Wildcats, knocking out the Bearcats early is always enjoyable.) Unless you’re living under a rock you know by now that the Bearcats longtime head coach, Mark Speckman, has stepped down from his 14 year tenure as head Bearcat to take the head coaching job at his former Alma Mater, Menlo College (Speckman graduated from Menlo when it was still a J.C.). I have to say that I’m not surprised that Speckman left Willamette. Rumors of him flirting with other jobs seem to have come up every couple of years, but what I am surprised about is his leaving Willamette to take over Menlo. I get that he’s going back to where he’s from and “giving back” to Menlo but that is still a rather interesting move.
Menlo is currently an NAIA independent but the word has been the stop in the NAIA is just a bridge to their bigger goal of working at a move towards Division II. At first that doesn’t seem possible, but there is a Western Division II conference comprised of mostly private institutions, the Pacific West Conference. Menlo might be wanting to join the PWC in all sports but football and reaching out to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference as a football-only member. Maybe that was the pitch to Speckman that made him jump? That’s just me speculating but being the only NAIA Independent in the western United States just doesn’t seem too appealing.
So Speckman is gone (along with his 3-11 record vs Linfield) and the Bearcats stayed in-house and tapped long time assistant coach Glen Fowles as the newest Willamette Head Coach. Fowles is a former Willamette player and has been on their staff for 16 seasons and spent the past 14 as their offensive coordinator. The first question that came up is of course “Are you going to keep the Fly?” Being the O.C. for the past 14 season Fowles knows the offense just as well as Speckman, but during his press conference he played it close to the vest about if the Fly will remain as the Willamette base offense. He did state that he did want to put his “mark” on Willamette football so I guess we’re going to have to wait and see what Willamette does with their offense in 2012.
Fox hires their Head Coach
Now let’s move along to George Fox University. As we’ve known for awhile now that a storm is a Bruin on the Newberg campus with the 2013 return of George Fox football. Wait, that’s now a 2014 return for George Fox Football? When did that happen? Just a week or two ago? Uh-oh.
Just today George Fox has announced that Aloha High School Head Coach, Chris Casey, will be reviving the program starting in 2014. Casey is no stranger to the Northwest Conference as the Linfield graduate spent a considerable amount of time on the ‘Cats staff (1985-1993) before spending 10 years at Whitworth (1994-2003). Coach Casey is from Newberg, has a great reputation, and is a very good hire for George Fox. He should usher in a solid foundation for Fox to build a program upon for years to come. Good for them.
However, George Fox’s decision to push their opening to from 2013 to 2014 is a tough move for the rest of the NWC schools. Why? Scheduling.
George Fox’s 2013 NWC schedule has been on the NWC future schedule page for over a year now and the other 7 football playing members have been putting together their 2013 non-conference schedules accordingly.
Scheduling football for Northwest Conference teams is no cake walk, as finding opponents is a highly difficult task that usually involves costly flights to Southern California, Texas, or the Midwest. These deals are typically two year home-and-home agreements that can be made years in advance. So in pulling out of the 2013 season Fox has put some of the NWC members in a position where they probably have to scramble to find a one-year deal to hold that place in the schedule until Fox starts in 2014.
So instead of having a short 30-60 minute bus ride some of NWC members might be looking at coughing up an additional $30,000 -$40,000 to fly to another part of the country to play that 2013 game now voided by Fox. I understand George Fox wanting some additional time to raise capital and meet Casey’s wishes to coach one more season at Aloha (Casey said he lobbied hard to push back to 2014), but that decision will be a costly one for multiple NWC members.
College of Idaho votes on return to football?
However, the biggest news of the day isn’t the hiring of Chris Casey but what’s happening out in Idaho. There have been mummers of College of Idaho trying to bring back football for years now but it looks like the movement is more than just whispers. The Idaho Statesmen is reporting that the CofI board is actually going to vote for a possible return to football by the 2014 season. WOW! CofI is currently an NAIA athletic program but has made it no secret they want to be a Division III member and rejoin the Northwest Conference. I don’t have all the background on this but the small bits I have is there might be some hesitation from the other NWC members because of College of Idaho’s location.
For football, having C of I back wouldn’t be that big of deal in terms of travel but for all other sports it would cause some logistical issues as Caldwell, Idaho is on a major island in SW Idaho compared to the other NWC schools. College of Idaho might be a perfect fit in terms of their academic profile and size but location could be an NWC roadblock. These are both big “IF’s” but IF College of Idaho brought back football and IF the NWC agreed to their membership bid we could be looking at 9 Northwest Conference football members. Incredible, that back in 2005 we almost were down to 5 members, but now, could possibly have 9 by the 2014 kickoff. That is if George Fox keeps their kickoff at 2014 and doesn't push it back to 2015.