Much earlier in the season, when Navy was sporting a winning record, I had the opportunity to sit down with the team’s offensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper to talk about a variety of topics. One subject I always bring up with Jasper is his future mainly because I’m continually amazed that he doesn’t garner much (if any) interest from schools looking to hire a new football coach.
When I asked Jasper point blank if he thought his being an African American plays a factor in why so many colleges have not inquired about his services, he said he honestly didn’t think that was the main reason his phone had not been ringing. Not that Jasper has ever been sitting by his phone waiting for a job offer. He is a happy camper in Annapolis and never hesitates to tell those (like me) who ask about his future that he has always been treated extremely well at Navy.
He did however eventually offer another explanation for why he believes he hasn’t been courted as much as peers of his who have enjoyed equal success. Jasper said that he thinks the main reason why he hasn’t really been interviewed for a head coaching position (with the exception of Army in 2008) is because of the offense he runs – and not the color of his skin. He said that the facts would support this claim and indeed they do. At the start of the 2011 season, there were four teams (Navy, Air Force, Army, and Georgia Tech) of 119 FCS teams running some form of the triple option. And out of the same 119 programs, 17 of them had head coaches who are African Americans. Ironically, three of them have already been fired. They are: Turner Gill (Kansas), Mike Locksley (New Mexico); and Larry Porter (Memphis). New Mexico has already hired former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN analyst Bob Davie to replace Locksley.
In addition to Memphis and Kansas, the other schools looking for a new head coach include Akron, Florida Atlantic, Illinois, Mississippi, Penn State, Tulane, and UAB. There will definitely be more to join that list, but for now, I’ll concentrate on why some of them (and their leadership) are idiots for not at least placing a call to inquire about the services of the best available triple option mind on the market.
I’ll start that list with the offensively challenged football program known as Akron. In the past two seasons, the Zips have averaged 14 and 15 points per game. Even the lowliest of triple option teams (Army) is scoring 25 points a game this season, which is pretty amazing when you consider they have turned the ball over almost as frequently (23 times) as Akron (24 times). Of course led by Jasper, Navy has averaged nearly twice as many points in the past two seasons as the Zips.
Next on the list of schools which should have Jasper on speed dial is Tulane. The Green Wave not only had a problem scoring, in the past two seasons they have been blown out by Army’s version of the triple option. In fact the only team to beat Tulane worse than a 3-8 Army team this season was unbeaten Houston. The last two times Tulane saw the triple option they gave up close to 800 yards and 86 points. Heck, maybe they should be calling upstate New York instead of Annapolis.
There is probably no chance that Kansas will call Jasper, but they are probably dumber than Tulane for fearing the exact triple option offense he would bring to the Jayhawks. The last time they saw it, Jasper’s mentor at Georgia Tech was rolling over them to the tune of 768 yards and 66 points.
Memphis has an excuse for not calling Jasper – they haven’t seen the triple option during the past two seasons. But they also haven’t seen the end zone much either – finishing 2010 dead last (119th)in scoring offense and only improving to 115th in the country this season in that department.
Pundits will look at the four teams running the triple option and just look at their overall records as proof that the triple option doesn’t equate to wins. Between them, Georgia Tech, Air Force, Army and Navy are a combined very mediocre (22-24) this season. However, all four of these teams have AWFUL defenses. Army and Navy would be joining Air Force and Georgia Tech in bowl games if their defenses (and special teams) could have stopped anyone. And the Falcons and Yellow Jackets would both probably be ranked if their defenses were as good as their offenses.
Sure the triple option isn’t going to guarantee wins to teams like Tulane, Memphis, and Akron. But with someone like Jasper at the helm, I guarantee you they will score a ton of points…and that will go a long ways to solving what ails those schools in particular.
If the athletic directors at those three schools still fear the triple option, they may want to check out the Alabama game film from November 19. Only one team has put up 21 points on the number-two ranked Crimson Tide…and it wasn’t LSU, Auburn, Florida, or Arkansas. The team that did it plays at the FCS level – but they run the triple option…the exact offense that Jasper runs at Navy.
The type of offense a coach would bring to a school is important, but of course it is only part of the equation any AD must consider when interviewing candidates to fill a vacancy. In addition to that coach’s ability to recruit, his character, leadership, and motivational skills are also at the top of the list of critical intangibles. I think any AD would be hard pressed to find someone who is more qualified in those regards than Jasper.
If schools could just get past their inexplicable hesitancy to run one of the most successful offenses at any level of college football, they would discover a hidden gem of a coach is available in Annapolis. And if given the chance to run his own program, he will make your fans…and scoreboard operator…extremely happy.
Until then, he will continue to be Navy’s best kept secret.