Hartwell, Blakeney look to evaluate program, make tweaks where needed

Published 10:47 pm Monday, November 26, 2012

As Troy’s 2012 football campaign came to a close with another close, disappointing loss to Middle Tennessee State, Trojan football head coach Larry Blakeney and athletic director John Hartwell began sifting through the rubble of a season gone bad.

The team finished 5-7 and it was a year Troy had looked forward to since the final snap of the team’s 3-9 season in 2011. It marks the time Troy has suffered consecutive losing seasons since Blakeney took over the Trojans in 1991.

Would haves, could haves and should haves filled the 12 game slate, highlighted by six home games. Troy had never played six home games in a season since joining Division I in 2001. The Trojans went 2-4 on the turf named for the coach who has led them for the past 22 seasons. Questions now stir about the future of the program and the recovery time until Troy once again claims a Sun Belt Conference title.

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In 2010, Troy was celebrating its fifth consecutive conference championship. Heading in 2013, fans are wondering how long before they can once again clear their December schedules for a bowl trip. No one in the Troy family is more motivated to rebuild the Trojan empire than Blakeney.

“The season ended on a negative note. I’ve been evaluating all year trying to figure this things out,” Blakeney said. “There are some fixes that we can induce structurally to turn this thing around.”

Blakeney, a winner of 169 games as Troy’s head coach, and his staff met on Monday to discuss recruiting strategy. Several coaches hit the road afterwards just 48 hours removed from the team’s season-ending loss.

“I like this coaching staff,” Blakeney said. “I think we have to make some adjustments and recruit hard to get back to where we want to be and that’s at the top of the conference.”

John Hartwell, director of athletics, has met with Blakeney twice since Saturday to lend a hand in the rebuilding efforts.

“3-9 followed by 5-7 is not the expectation for the Troy football. The expectation of our program, football in particular, and our department as a whole is to be at the top of our league,” Hartwell said. “We obviously did not finish there and we will look to tweak some things. It will give us a chance to look at our program throughout to see what we need to do differently.”

One of the major challenges most programs face in today’s college landscape is the investment of money into the athletic programs and their facilities. Troy is no different. The north end zone project has risen to the top of Blakeney and Hartwell’s priority list.

Hartwell said he and the Troy staff have reevaluated the original plans in an effort to ensure the final product meets the needs of the university and the athletics program. Originally estimated at $15 million, Hartwell says the new ideas for the facility have increased the cost to between $20 and $25 million.

“Our stadium itself is in very good shape, we stack up favorably to everybody else. But, as it relates to the everyday facilities of our student-athletes, their locker room, their meeting room, the coach’s offices, those are not at the standard which we want,” Hartwell said. “That makes that project that much more of a priority. We want to get shovel in the ground as soon as possible, but we have to be prudent and figure out the financing sources for it as well.”

Blakeney has been calling for progress on the facility for some time now. Before the start of the 2012 season, Blakeney said recruiting other schools with newer and nicer facilities was becoming difficult.

“We need to paint a picture for kids coming in here as to what we have to present to them and we are falling behind on that,” he said in a May interview. “If we are going to do something, we need to do it right and show that we are serious about being Division I.”

Hartwell agrees and hopes to move from the planning phase to actual construction soon.

“My hope is, that sometime shortly after the first of the year, to have updated renderings and drawings on that facility,” Hartwell said. “It is going to be expanded from the original drawing with the intention of including a new weight room, a training room and new academic center.”

The thought is that the space in the current stadium tower used by the weight room and trainers could be used to expand academic programs like sports and fitness management.

The end zone project has morphed from being just a new building with offices and more seats to a fan-friendly destination inside the stadium.

“We’re still looking at a central tower in the end zone with two wings, a wing on each side to bowl in the stadium,” Hartwell said. “Really, on those wings, we’re looking at the possibility of having plaza areas up top so you can walk from the east side to the west side without ever loosing sight of the field.”

For those unhappy with the results on the field in 2012, progress appears to be on the horizon.

“Since I’ve started, I’ve had a heavy emphasis on the gameday experience and the experience of our fans,” Hartwell said. “Obviously, the product on the field or on the field is of utmost importance. At the end of the season, we’re 5-7. Larry isn’t happy with that, our players and staff aren’t happy with that and certainly our fans. Our expectations are greater than that.”