10 lessons from Disney World (and how they apply to college football)
This past week, I was pretty much AWOL as I took my family to Disney World. It was largely a great experience, and Cody loved it (so who cares what the adults think?). But, in looking around, I saw (or endured) a few lessons learned that could pretty easily be adapted to winning in college football. Here are a few of them.
1. Never be satisfied with what you have. Disney World is the globe's premiere theme park and would be for years if they just left it alone and focused on upkeep. Disney doesn't do that, though; they're constantly changing things, bringing in new rides (or entirely new areas) to mesh with their new products that are popular with younger audiences. They're looking for new ideas. Nick Saban could have kept winning with the I formation and strong defense at Alabama, but he's been willing to move into the spread. The Patriots just won the Super Bowl and they're one of the most active teams in free agency. If you've got something that works, you can't stand pat. You have to keep adapting.
2. Everyone wants Frozen. Have the guts to recognize when you have the Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you go around the Magic Kingdom, or Epcot, or even Hollywood Studios, you're going to see Frozen stuff. "Frozen", for those of you who don't know, was based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale and adapted to join the ranks of the "Princess" movies. It was a huge hit. The Hunchback was based on Victor Hugo's story and...well, it's not anywhere at Disney. You have to be willing to innovate and change things, but if it doesn't work, you have to have the courage to admit it. Coaches are, by nature, egomaniacs. It hurts their pride to be called out when things don't work. But they have to be willing to look in the mirror and admit it to themselves if they're going to succeed.
3. Preparing for the Magic Kingdom means more than packing comfortable shoes. If you're going to experience Disney World properly, you're going to walk. A lot. If the experience is going to be a good one, you've got to get out and get walking weeks in advance -- probably months in advance -- and go farther than you thought you'll walk there. That's what Texas A&M needs to be doing in its strength and conditioning program -- not walking to prepare for a stroll in the theme park, but pushing themselves for the grind of an SEC season and then work HARDER once it begins.
4. You want to build Norway? Hire Norwegians. At Epcot, they used to have a German section. I was looking forward to going there, sitting down and having a beer. It's gone now. It's now Arrendele, the home of Anna and Elsa from "Frozen" (yeah, them again). Basically, it's Norway, down to the Vikings walking around. In order to make it as legit as possible, everyone hired by Disney to work in that section is Norwegian. They have an objective and have recruited for that purpose. A&M should do the same (and probably does): set up the scheme they want on offense and defense and go out after those kinds of players accordingly.
5. Yeah, Cinderella may be hot, but the job may call for Chewbacca. Cody met both characters at Disney, and wow, Cinderella is smokin' hot these days. But you only need so many belles of the ball, and need a lot more tough guys. Getting to know the character of recruits well in advance is critical, and you may take slings and arrows from fans in the process if you don't recruit who they want. But it will probably work out better in the end -- as A&M likely found out with a certain 2015 quarterback.
6. Not all parks are the same, so plan accordingly. The Magic Kingdom isn't Epcot, and it sure ain't Hollywood Studios. Not every SEC team plays the same way, so if you're going to win, you've got to start scheming for them well in advance and YOU have to be willing (and able) to adjust to keep them off balance. Nobody, not even Alabama, just shows up and wins.
7. Sometimes you've got to drop a kid off with their folks and move on. My wife and I are blessed that our child is sweet and kind and gentle (if a little profane). Some of my in-laws? Not so much. Their kids were complete and unmitigated monsters at Disney World, to the point where we eventually had to cut bait with that group and do our own thing to enjoy it. Sometimes you're going to get jerks on your team. Have the depth, and the guts, to send them home to momma if they start polluting the locker room environment.
8. ALWAYS PROTECT YOUR REPUTATION. One thing that is largely overlooked at Disney World is the level of security. And that's how they want. Disney knows they're an obvious target for terrorist attacks, and they operate accordingly. They pay out a whole lot of money to get former intelligence and special forces operators from the U.S. and other nations to come to work there as a "retirement" gig. And, at least in part, you don't hear about anything going wrong there. Disney protects their investment. All programs should do the same -- and I don't mean how Baylor did it. If you've got bad acts, eliminate them. They will do you more harm than good in the long run. But it's better to avoid them to begin with.
9. Put the right gifts in the right gift shop. This plays in with some of the ones before. When we got off of the Winnie the Pooh ride, I was kind of confused at first at why there was Snow White stuff in the gift shop. Simple answer: the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was across the street. They knew who would be there and what they'd be looking for and planned accordingly. Be two steps ahead of the curve.
10. Be willing to replace the Monorail. The Monorail is really cool looking and has been at Disney for at least 40 years. The problem is, it's starting to break down and the system is enduring almost daily malfunctions. Disney, which normally thinks of everything, seems hesitant to attack the problem because the Monorail is important, connects things and -- well, it's always been there. Sometimes the way it's always been isn't good enough any more and you need to make fundamental changes to improve.
Brandon Harris seems to be looking elsewhere
A few weeks back, it looked like former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris was seriously looking at A&M. He may have had the interest, but it looks like he'll be probably heading elsewhere. His top three: UNC, Texas and Arizona, with UNC the heavy favorite now. The presence of Texas, in my opinion, is baffling. Shane Buechele didn't play badly last year, and your best recruit in the 2017 class was a quarterback. Why would you add a third? Fletch may have it right, when he said Tom Herman just likes shiny things every year, and he'll figure out if they fit together later.
Huh. Imagine that.
Former A&M QB Kyle Allen seems to think he'll be the next quarterback at Houston. If he plays the way he can, he should be. But we've heard former Manvel QB D'Eriq King has played more than decently this spring and several players have already told Major Applewhite they'll transfer if Allen starts over King.
A locker room QB controversy. Unheard of.