Sean Lynch: Casey set up to fail

November 17, 2010 

Sometime in the not-too- distant future, the powers that be at Merced College are going to sit down and decide the fate of Bob Casey and the future of the Merced College football program.

No time line has been set. No panels have been announced.

Still, you have to imagine whatever direction the college wishes to head in, it will do so quickly.

As MC learned just two years ago, a national search takes time. And once the new coach does get his feet under him, the entire first season feels like he's playing catch up.

Hopefully, none of that proves necessary.

The truth of the matter is that when Mark Kaanapu elected to jump ship after just one season, the right man for the Blue Devil head coaching job literally fell into the school's lap.

A 2-8 season may not be a strong indicator of that, but Casey was set up to fail in his first season.

A brutal nonconference schedule was going to make MC's first five games trying for any coach.

Fresno City College (8-2), San Joaquin Delta (7-3), Modesto Junior College (7-3) and College of the Sequoias (6-4) all finished the regular season ranked in the top 12 in Northern California and all will be going to a bowl game.

The Golden Gate Conference didn't prove much easier with champion De Anza (7-3), Diablo Valley College (8-2) and Chabot (6-4) all finishing the year ranked, and De Anza and DVC are also bowl bound.

With a stacked schedule, MC was likely in for a tumultuous season regardless, but then it lost its starting quarterback before the season ever got going.

Losing Ryan Victorino to grades just days before MC's opening game was devastating.

He was a redshirt sophomore that had been groomed for the job for more than a year.

Freshman Adam Ragsdale filled in admirably, but he played like a freshman.

He was constantly up and down as he found his collegiate legs.

Not too many teams are going to find success in that scenario while taking on some of the top teams in the state.

And quarterback wasn't the only area where Casey had personnel issues.

Kaanapu scoured the country to find big-time athletes that could help bring notoriety back to the MC football program.

Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of checks done to see if players' character matched their ability.

In a lot of cases, it didn't, and Casey was left to sort through the mess.

What started out as a 100-plus-man roster ended up smaller than some of the area high schools.

Part of that was the natural attrition that comes from any football season, but an even bigger part was Casey dismissing the troublemakers.

While that probably hurt the team's record, it vastly improved its discipline.

The Blue Devils were flagged 63 times for 549 yards.

MC was penalized for 689 yards in 2009 and 1,007 in 2008.

That's progress for a school that's been accused of being out of control in the past.

The biggest difference between MC and the other big-time programs in Northern California is continuity.

Three head coaches, along with three different offenses and defenses in three years is tough to elicit consistency from.

The school needs to choose where the program goes from here and Bob Casey is a good foundation from which to rebuild.

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

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