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The 2011 FCS Head Coaching Carousel, And What it Means to Lehigh

While Lehigh was making their run in the FCS playoffs this year, there were a host of interesting head coaching moves that directly involved three of Lehigh's opponents in 2011.

From the Mountain Hawk perspective, the most interesting such move was that of sort-of Patriot League member Fordham, who was relieved of his head coaching duties at the conclusion of a dismal 1-10 season where the Rams lost by double digits in their last eight games.

The Rams' hiring of head coach Joe Moorhead from the staff at UConn is but one of the interesting FCS offseason coaching moves.
The Ram, Fordham's student paper, has the best summary of Joe Moorhead's hiring, talking about his time as a star quarterback on the Rams and his continuing pride in the program:

"Just over 15 years ago, following our last-second 24-21 comeback win against Harvard in Cambridge, I was asked by a reporter from the Boston Globe about Fordham's football tradition and my response to him was, ‘Fordham football used to be an eastern powerhouse, and that our goal is to put Fordham football back on the map,'" Moorhead said. "That was my plan as a player, and that will now be my unrelenting mission as the leader of this program. This coaching staff will not rest until we put Fordham football back on the map." 
"I've been fortunate enough to be exposed to a bunch of different offensive schemes," Moorhead said. "When I was at Pitt under [Head] Coach [Walt] Harris, he was a true West Coach Offense guy. I kind of learned that, implemented that at Georgetown when I was coordinator there. Then moving to Akron, our first couple of years we were more of a pro-style offense. Then when I got named coordinator there we gravitated toward to no huddle and ran that at Akron for two years then our two years at UConn as coordinator. The big thing I want to do is evaluate the personnel and see what the strengths and weaknesses of our team is and then mold our scheme relative to what we have." 
With that said, Moorhead still plans on having an aggressive system in place. 
"I like an up-tempo offense," Moorhead said. "I like things that dictate the tempo and I like to get our speed in space and create explosive plays." 
Defense will be no different, as Moorhead stated his intentions to pressure opposing offenses and dictate games. "Defensively, we're going to play multiple fronts and coverages," Moorhead said. "We're going to be a pressure team. We're going to attack the line of scrimmage. We're going to work to shut down the run on first and second down and eliminate explosive plays. When third down comes along, we're going to get after the passer and make sure that we're disrupting route concepts and getting the quarterback on the ground."

Also notable in The Ram's analysis was an interesting fact: that "this is not a rebuilding program.  We expect to be successful this coming year." athletic director Frank McLaughlin said.

It's clear with football scholarships - the same type of scholarship money that is offered at schools like Delaware, which is not the same as the need-limited aid offered at other Patriot League schools - the expectations for Mr. Moorhead are sky-high.

But to go with the expectations seems to be a sense that Moorhead is a "Fordham guy" through and through, with a lot of talk in the official press release about his Fordham roots, and his continued interest in the program even during his time at UConn.  He even posed with president Father Joseph M. McShane in a series of photos of the press conference.

As a matter of fact, since the Huskies had actually opened with Fordham in the 2011 season, Moorhead had broken down the Ram offense and was quite aware of their personnel there - many of whom will be playing for him this coming year, like LB Jake Rodriquez and CB Ian Williams.


Lehigh dominated Fordham, 34-12, in their meeting in the Bronx this past season.


Time will tell how Moorehead works out for the Rams, but it's hard to see a more ideal candidate for the position - a guy with Patriot League experience, strong ties to Rose Hill, and a guy who has put in a lot of time as an assistant coach with a lot of different Division I programs.

My impression is that Moorehead has the potential to be a really good coach at Fordham - if he's given the time to do so.

*****

Of Lehigh's 2011 opponents, two head football coach vacancies opened up for very different reasons.

At Liberty, who was nationally ranked for much of the 2011 season and yet again fell short of the FCS playoffs, head coach Danny Rocco was hired away by Richmond, who finished the season 3-8 under interim head coach Wayne Lineburg.

Lehigh beat Liberty 27-24 in an exciting contest at Murray Goodman Stadium this season.

Lineburg took over after former head man Latrell Scott resigned just before the season started on a DUI charge, but his disappointing 3-8 record meant the Spiders would sign away Rocco, who, despite his many near-misses in the FCS playoff hunt, had a 47-20 record as head man of the Flames.

Liberty president Jerry Fallwell Jr. and Flames athletic director Jeff Barber wasted no time in landing a very big head coaching fish for their program: Kansas' Turner Gill, who was unceremoniously dumped by the Jayhawks after only two years on the job.

Gill's expectations will be very high as well, no doubt: after Rocco's many near-misses at the playoffs and Liberty's well-publicized study on a potential move to FBS, Mr. Gill will be fully expected to win right away.

(One of Gill's new head coaching opponents will be someone you'd never expect: former Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia, who will be taking over head coaching duties at fellow Big South school Coastal Carolina.  Moglia, who was an assistant coach at Dartmouth, a consultant for Bo Pellini at Nebraska, and a head coach for a UFL franchise, has one of the most interesting resumes ever for the position, where he'll take over for quotable head coach David Bennett.)

Lehigh will take on Turner Gill and Liberty in the 2012 season down in Lynchburg, Virginia.

*****

At Yale, head coach Tom Williams resigned after it came to light that certain claims that appeared on his biography were false or misleading.  He claimed that he was to be considered for a Rhodes scholarship when he was at Stanford, and that he spent time on the San Francisco 49ers practice squad.

“I wish to clear the record,” Williams said in a statement. “On the Rhodes Scholarship issue, I was encouraged to apply by the Stanford Fellowship office, which identified me ‘as the kind of student who demonstrates the intellect, energy and commitment that the Rhodes selection committees seek in their applicants.’ I considered the opportunity, sought advice and was encouraged to apply by faculty members and my coach Bill Walsh, but I did not apply.” 
He continued, “During the spring of my senior year, I was given an opportunity to attend a tryout camp with the San Francisco 49ers, and I participated in that three-day event. I did not sign a free agent contract with the 49ers or participate in their summer training camp for signed players.”
While the allegations did nothing to help his cause, an 0-3 record against Harvard probably helped him even less, as well as a lopsided 37-7 loss to Lehigh and a 28-19 loss to Lafayette.  He'll probably be remembered as much for his ill-fated fake punt in 2010 to pull out a 14-10 defeat from a strong chance at victory versus Harvard as any of the current misdemeanors.

Yale does not play Lehigh in 2012, but does play Lehigh opponents Georgetown, Lafayette, Colgate, Princeton, and Columbia.

Yale is now interviewing candidates for the head coaching position, of whom Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is a hotly rumored candidate.  Other possibilities include former NFL head coach Tony Sparano, just let go by the NFL's Miami Dolphins, or former Columbia head football coach Norries Wilson, who was let go by the Lions at the end of this season and replaced by former NFL assistant coach Pete Mangurian.  (With Mangurian, Lehigh will face off against no fewer than three first-time head football coaches in 2012.)

Another possibility for the Yale opening?  Perhaps Tom Masella, the coach who was just let go by the Rams.

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