on November 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

The ‘dumbing down’ of Clemson football expectations

For years, one of the biggest complaints issued against our public education system is that educators are “dumbing down” standards in an effort to raise student graduation rates.

However, in recent years, state and federal governments have demanded increased accountability from school systems and its member schools — to set high standards and achieve them or face severe consequences. Therefore, the problem is not as prevalent as before because standardized test scores show whether those standards, fairly or unfairly, are being met.

Clemson football has also found its program “dumbed down” in recent years, either through the “glass half full” mentality that exists among some fans — even fellow Tiger fans and media outlets such as ESPN. While some may argue that expectations are too high in Tigertown, and that those high expectations are why Tommy Bowden is no longer the coach and why the football program is in disarray, I beg to differ.

For too long, many Clemson fans have been derided by rival fans — especially those in Columbia — and even by other Clemson fans for having the audacity to think the school could win another national championship. After all, they say Clemson has won ONLY one title since the Associated Press started recognizing national champions in 1936 and fans should be grateful for that — never mind the fact that Georgia, touted for top honors seemingly every year, has won the same number of titles as the Tigers.

Clemson has shown time and again throughout its history that it can compete with the Nebraskas, Oklahomas, Penn States, Florida States and Georgias of college football and there is no reason why, if they can get their disappointing program turned around, they can’t do it again.

But what really raised my ire of late are the way fans of other schools and even some Clemson fans, fueled by the know-nothings at ESPN, have lambasted the Tigers for their handling of the Bowden situation. They say that Bowden won 72 games in 10 seasons and led the school to eight bowl games and that his departure shows that fans of the program have unrealistic expectations.

While everyone can agree the breakup between the school and its coach in mid-season was unfortunate, at best, neither that four letter electronic propaganda outlet nor fans around the country — which agreed in a national poll that the school mishandled the situation — know enough about the situation to render an informed opinion.

How can a sports fan in New York City, Texas, California or even Tennessee that would be lucky to count on one hand the number of times they’ve watched Clemson play this season achieve enough knowledge on which to base their opinion? The same thing could be said about a Clemson fan professing to know everything that is wrong at Tennessee, Auburn or even South Carolina.

What I do know is that many Clemson football fans honestly believe this team has underachieved this season and are disgusted with the product they have witnessed and have every right to feel that way.

They cite the Tigers’ failure to compete with the big boys or those in the middle of the pack despite highly ranked recruiting classes, improvements to one of the largest and most hostile stadiums to play in and a winnable conference — arguments that are tough to dispute.

But there are some Clemson fans that simply feel that an eight or nine win season, topped off by a bowl appearance, should be good enough. Even the nine-win seasons in recent years came mostly against weak opponents and resulted in no ACC championship game appearances or Bowl Championship Series bid. For a program with the tradition, the talent, the facilities and the fan support that Clemson enjoys, that is simply unacceptable and athletics director Terry Don Phillips and President Jim Barker obviously feel the same way or the school would not be undergoing a national coaching search.

To prove my point, just look at the latest Top 25 BCS and AP rankings. Certainly, the view from the top is pretty much the same every year as Texas, Alabama, Penn State and Oklahoma occupy the top four spots with USC, ranked fifth in the BCS and seventh in the AP, and Florida, ranked fifth in the AP and eighth in the BCS, close. But look at some of the other non-traditional schools in those rankings.

While some argument can be made that those schools, with the exception of Oklahoma State, all play in weaker conferences, all of the so-called experts agreed going into the season that Clemson stood out as the favorite in a weak ACC conference.

But too many local talk radio callers, as well as Rece Davis and Lou Holtz of ESPN, would lead us to believe that Clemson has set the bar for success too high — thus making the crash landing of disappointment even more jarring. They would rather “dumb down” expectations by having fans be grateful for a winning product, an occasional nine-win season, a berth in a lower tier bowl game and a final ranking anywhere between 20-25. Never mind the fact that Wake Forest, with a student enrollment of 6,500, has already won an ACC title and appeared in a BCS game before Clemson.