Adding Up the Years
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 2/25/02
Recently, articles in the media and message board posts have questioned the validity of a flyer that the Virginia coaching staff distributed to recruits this past season, touting the pro football experience of the Virginia staff. But to this point, the flyer itself has not been produced, and a detailed analysis of what it says versus the facts has not been undertaken.
Until now. TechSideline.com has obtained a scan of the flyer, titled "56 Years Pro Experience on UVa Football Staff." This is by no means a secret document, nor is a copy hard to obtain. The Virginia coaching staff handed out the flyer to most or all of the high school players they recruited this past year, so when we put out feelers to our recruiting contacts, it was easy to obtain a copy.
The flyer represents one of the cornerstones of Virginia's recruiting strategy this year, namely, to tout their staff as having the experience and contacts in professional football that will help them prepare players who attend Virginia for the NFL, or "the league," as Virginia head coach Al Groh and others call it.
The strategy is a good one, and it was successful for Virginia, which this year landed a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 by most analysts. The top-level players that Virginia is pursuing have dreams of the NFL, and a staff that markets itself as being able to help a recruit achieve those dreams is going to look like an attractive option.
Preparation for "the league" wasn't Virginia's only recruiting strategy, mind you. Working hard on the recruiting trail and having an attractive university to sell, both in academics and facilities, also played major parts in the Virginia recruiting strategy. So did the opportunity for early playing time.
But the "Pro Experience" flyer was important, and as such, it bears scrutiny, particularly since questions of its accuracy have been raised publicly. Yes, this is a Virginia Tech web site, but the Hokies wage war year-round with Virginia for football recruits, so an examination of Virginia's tactics on the recruiting trail is pertinent to Hokie fans.
The question: exactly what does the flyer say, and how does that compare to the information available in the official coaching staff bios on Virginia's web site?
Let's take a look.
The flyer (click the image at right) is simple and clear in its design and the information it portrays. The Virginia coaches are listed, along with their relevant experience both playing and coaching professional football.
Note that the flyer does not tout NFL experience, but rather, "pro" experience. Pro experience, in this case, includes both NFL and Canadian Football League (CFL) experience.
The information for each coach is presented in the following fashion, using Bill Musgrave as an example:
No other information is given, so the implication is clear: Musgrave played for the listed teams in the years given, and he coached for the listed teams in the years given.
When you look at all the professional coaches, teams, and years listed on the flyer, it all adds up to 56 years of pro experience. Well, actually, it adds up to 59 years. Why there's a discrepancy between the title and the actual information is not clear.
But are the years listed on the flyer really "years," and what form did the coaching and playing experience take? It is on these grounds that the flyer has come under fire, so let's go into detail on each coach and see what we find out.
We'll take the coaches in alphabetical order by last name. One by one, we'll give the pro experience information contained on the flyer and then list the relevant coach's information from his bio on the official University of Virginia web site.
The current position of each coach (DL coach, LB coach, etc.) is taken from their listing on the UVa web site. Each coaches' name is a link to their bio on the UVa web site.
Comments: Corwin Brown's flyer information is legitimate and correct. He spent 8 years (1993-2000) as a player in the NFL.
Credited Years of Experience: 8
Comments: The bio on the Virginia web site is not clear in what capacity Golden spent a year with the Patriots. Was it on the active roster? Was it on the practice squad? A recent media guide for the "Super Bowl Champion Patriots" lists every player who spent at least one season with the Patriots, and Golden is not listed. The alumni section of the New England Patriots official web site lists over 920 Patriot alumni players, and Golden is not on their list.
Credited Years of Experience: 1
Comments: Groh's NFL coaching credentials, both as listed on the flyer and in his bio on the UVa web site, are above reproach. His experience in the NFL is extensive.
Credited Years of Experience: 13
Comments: being cut from a training camp does not qualify as a year of playing experience, by any stretch of the imagination.
Credited Years of Experience: 2
Comments: The flyer information implies that London has three years of experience as an NFL coach, with three different organizations, when in reality, he simply worked at mini-camps and training camps. His camp experiences cannot be counted as "years" of pro experience, particularly since he was working full-time for Boston College as a DL coach during that time.
Credited Years of Experience: 3
Comments: Certainly, Musgrave's playing career with San Francisco and Denver (1991-1996) is not in question, nor is his coaching time with the Eagles (1998) and Panthers (1999-2000).
But it's not clear how he can get credit for a year of playing experience with the Raiders and a year of coaching experience with the Raiders in the same year (1997). Likewise, he receives credit for playing a year with the Colts at the same time he receives credit for a year of coaching with the Eagles (1998).
The double counting of Musgrave as a player and a coach in the 1997 and 1998 seasons probably accounts for two of the three extra years between the flyer's title (56 years) and a manual count of the years listed (59 years).
Credited Years of Experience: 12
Comments: Price's credentials as a former CFL coach are unquestionable.
Credited Years of Experience: 6
Comments: It's hard to justify crediting Prince with four years worth of NFL coaching experience, when he was working full-time in the college ranks for James Madison and Cornell. Not to mention that serving as an NFL Minority Fellowship Intern for a team does not equate to a year of coaching.
Credited Years of Experience: 4
Comments: The year is listed incorrectly, but that is the only inequity in the flyer and bio info here.
Credited Years of Experience: 1
Comments: The flyer makes Ross look as if he coached in the NFL for nearly a decade (1992-2000), when in reality, he was in the Marine Corps from 88-94, was a cyclist from 95-97, and a college coach from 97-00. "Assisting" at minicamps and training camps doesn't even begin to equate to nine years of NFL coaching.
Credited Years of Experience: 9
When you total up the credited years of experience on the flyer Virginia distributed with the years of experience found in this analysis, the results are:
Credited Years of Experience: 59
Virginia head coach Al Groh was interviewed recently by Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times about the flyer and its accuracy. The article ran on Thursday, February 21st and was titled Groh defends accuracy of staff's resume. Obviously, the headline is poorly worded, because it wasn't Groh's staff's resumes that came into question, but the information on the flyer.
Groh made some interesting comments about the flyer in the Doughty article:
Yes, but training camp experience is not what's being touted. What's being touted is "years pro experience." It clearly says that on top of the flyer.
Perhaps. But in the case of Mike Groh, who was cut from training camp, he didn't even "play" in the NFL. Corwin Brown did, and to equate Mike Groh getting cut from camp with any of the full seasons turned in by Brown is greatly stretching the interpretation of what a year of playing in the NFL is.
Groh is correct here. His, Musgrave's, and Brown's professional credentials cannot be questioned (with the exception of the double-listing of 1997 and 1998 for Musgrave -- verbally, Groh correctly refers to Musgrave's pro experience as "10 years"), and they add up to 31 of the 59 years listed on the flyer.
As a matter of fact, Musgrave, Brown, and Groh account for 31 of the 40 (according to this analysis) years of professional experience. If you add Bob Price (6 years) to that, it accounts for 37 of the 40 years of experience.
Where the flyer starts to lose its consistency and accuracy is in its listing of Mike London, Kevin Ross, and Ron Prince as having "years" of coaching experience in the NFL. To equate mini-camp, training camp, and Minority Fellowship internships with the years logged by Groh and Price as coaches is simply misleading, whether intentional or not.
The flyer would have been better designed had it featured the coaching experience of Al Groh, Bill Musgrave, and Bob Price, and the playing experience of Corwin Brown, with references to the other coaches being associated with minicamps and training camps, both as players and as coaches.
You may shrug and say, "So what? Recruits can find out the same information that's listed on the UVa web site and figure things out themselves." While that's true, high school football players who are being recruited have classes, games, practices, homework, and recruiting calls (from both coaches and reporters) to deal with that keep them more than busy. The vast majority of recruits who receive a flyer like what was distributed by the UVa coaching staff will take one glance at it and treat it as gospel, without having the time or the inclination to research the data it contains.
In any event, in light of the analysis presented here, it's understandable why the flyer has been criticized as inaccurate and a false representation of the UVa coaching staff's credentials. Thanks to George O'Leary's resume falsification, incorrect written information regarding coaching credentials has come under closer scrutiny, and it's surprising the Virginia coaches weren't more careful with the written information they passed around.