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Sunday, July 13, 2014: How not to rebuild your football program

   Dear readers,

   Your life is a mess.

   I don't have any cold, hard facts to back up that statement, but I'm pretty sure you don't make enough money to properly support your family, something that can be remedied through intensive summer training; your kids are underachieving thanks largely to your lack of expertise raising them, an issue our celebrity panel can guide you through at $10,000 a pop; your spouse isn't much to look at, though (s)he will look like a supermodel within a year by following our plan to instill self-esteem; and your neighbors routinely snicker at you, which can be fixed not long after you write me a check for $980,000.

   No, make that $500,000.

   Or $1.2 million.

   Oh, OK, I think we can still solve much of what ails you for the bargain price of $250,000 ... or maybe something in the range of one-fiftyish.

**     **     **     **

   If I had walked up to your front door and actually tried pitching that nonsense, you would have punted me to the end of the driveway and slammed the front door shut in one motion.

   When a former Section 5, NCAA and professional football standout made a mile-wide but inch-deep presentation to the mayor's office and the Rochester City School District this year, he was embraced with open arms.

   "With a combination of uninspired players, underdeveloped coaches, frustrated administration, inadequate facilities, disgruntled alumni and a disenchanted public, RCSDF (Rochester City School District football) has endured an alarming exodus of players leaving the district for competing schools," Roland Williams wrote in his report after being paid $34,000 by the school district to study the state of its high school football programs.

   Williams proposed a three-year strategy for fixing what ails those football programs. According to WROC-TV, his first pitch in January came with a price tag of $980,000, with $750,000 going to his company to handle many of the program elements. In April, he re-submitted a $500,000 plan to sync with what the Rochester City School District had budgeted.

   Believing he had buy-in on the lesser proposal, Williams submitted a plan seeking an additional $700,000 from the city, the TV station reported.

   But somewhere along the way, the school board lost its appetite for the project (perhaps by this point they actually scrutinized his paperwork; more on that shortly) and decided to put aside only $250,000 for a potential agreement. Meanwhile, first-year Mayor Lovely Warren, who's made several rookie mistakes thus far, offered Williams a $250,000 contract for a year-long mentoring program and youth football camp -- only to have the Rochester City Council hit the brakes on an approval because procedures for soliciting bids were not followed, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

   Now, Williams has submitted a $149,500 proposal to the city, and WROC reported late last week we can expect an announcement soon about a partnership between Williams and the RCSD, with the cost and details as yet undisclosed.

   If true, it will be the culmination of one of the greatest sales jobs since someone figured out you can charge the public $2 for a bottle of water.

   What brought me to such a harsh conclusion? Well, I browsed through nearly 80 pages of documents submitted by Williams' company and could not locate a single quantifiable fact defining/describing any of the ills Williams purports to be able to cure.

   Two instances of what I mean:

   (1) It took me less than 20 minutes to determine that the combined records of five city high school varsity football teams -- East, Edison, Franklin, Marshall and Wilson -- over the past 10 seasons is 164-266. If you back out the fact that they play each other during the Rochester City Athletic Conference regular season, their record vs. outside competition is about 64-166 for a winning percentage of .278. Take out the 57-29 record by East since 2004, and it's even more bleak.

   (2) I vividly recall a conversation I had about 25 years ago after Ron Jones, previously a successful football and basketball coach at Charlotte, had been hired as the football coach at Marshall. Jones recounted how he had just attended a practice of the nearby Tenth Ward Tigers youth program to see what kind of talent might eventually come through the pipeline. Shortly after arriving, Jones came to the horrible realization that the Tigers were running the offense used by Aquinas, the neighborhood's private high school.

   My point is that in the first example I cited relevant statistics and an observation that lent perspective to the depths to which city football in Rochester has fallen. And in the second, I both delivered an anecdote conveying a real stumbling block to success and attached the name of a credible source to it.

   Williams' pile of paperwork does none of that. Rather, the former East High, Syracuse University and NFL tight end generalizes at every turn and relies upon anonymous

  
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    quotes to make the most scathing criticisms of the city programs.

       His ambitious plans to mentor and tutor players to make them better prepared for college and life after school are laudable -- especially considering that Rochester's graduation rates are the worst among the state's big-city school districts and only about 6 percent of graduating seniors are deemed to be college ready. But then Williams begs for relaxed academic standards so that athletes who would otherwise be ineligible are instead just limited to a certain number of plays per game.

       He takes note of "disgruntled alumni and a disenchanted public" and then proposes to change all the school nicknames -- one of the few aspects that connects grads to their alma mater years or decades later.

       He promises to reduce the school district's costs significantly by landing sponsorships that, for example, would make a dent in $600,000 per year of proposed post-practice meals -- an accomplishment beyond the ability of even highly accomplished high school programs across the state.

       Williams proposes a state-of-the-art website to promote the accomplishments of players to prospective college suitors, yet his company's website lacks both style and substance.

       He promises to use his relationships to get college coaches, pro players and entertainment figures to discount speaking fees that often run in excess of $10,000 -- and then becomes indignant when pressed for names of celebrities who might participate.

       "Are you serious?" Williams responded to a written question from the RCSD. "For clarity, could you please explain the relevance to funding or program implementation?"

       Uh, Mr. Williams, I think they're wondering if they're going to get stuck with a $15,000 bill to bring in a relative no-name pro player who might be hard-pressed to string together three complete sentences. So, yeah, that's kind of relevant to funding.

       "All of his ideas are very, very ambitious," school board President Van White told the TV station. "I think the problem comes in when you match resources to ambition."

       Williams told WROC he lives a comfortable life in Los Angeles and he's not fishing for work.

       "I came because I was asked," he said. "I think that when you're called do to a service, you do it to the best of your ability. I'm paid pretty well with some of the things that I do. This had nothing to do with money."

       Why he was asked is the proverbial $980,000 question. You don't need a consultant to figure out that poorly equipped teams with too few coaches and non-existent or token modified and JV teams needs more resources.

       On top of everything else, a critical flaw (and this is more of an issue for the RCSD than Williams) in this whole idea is that it applies to one sport that is played by one sex. As bad as the quality of football is in Rochester, soccer, baseball and softball are all worse -- much worse in fact. And even though a city basketball team advances to the state boys or girls final four every few years, even that sport is considerably weaker than what we witnessed as recently as 15 years ago.

       Any multi-million dollar overhaul of football -- and that would certainly be the three-year price tag to implement even two-thirds of what Williams wants to do -- would trigger complaints of "What about us?" from those active in other sports, with a Title IX complaint almost certain to follow (and justifiably so).

       To think that the city and its school district could be willing to put so much money and responsibility in the hands of a company without a track record of working so extensively with a school district that underachieves in the classroom and on the field is alarming.

       And for the mayor to circumvent its request for proposals protocol -- Warren said Williams was uniquely qualified -- just makes it worse.

       I've been critical of the RCSD for a long time. This latest episode simply confirms my instincts on this subject are right.

    **     **     **     **

       Want to take a look at some of the paperwork yourself? Here are links to the PDFs:

        • $980,000 RCSD proposal
        • $1.2 million city/RCSD proposal
        • Williams' response to RCSD questions


      
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