Posted on May 22, 2024
At our in-person meeting on May 22, CSU Head Football Coach Jay Norvell gave us a nuanced view of the current status and possibilities for the near future for football at CSU as well as across the entire population of American football programs given the ongoing flux in conference alignments and the developing impact of NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) on football programs large and small.  
Coach Norvell started by laying out the five most important words for the student athletes in his program.  Respect:  be respectful of others; be courteous – manners matter – he has cut a player who routinely used handicapped slots.  Accountability:  you are responsible for the choices that you make every day.  Hustle:  get the job done!  Grit:  a long-term dedication to the ultimate goal – do the hard things!  Imboutou:  an African word meaning “I can’t be my very best if you aren’t your very best.”  
In preparation for the coming season, Coach Norvell and his staff have to balance the requirements of recruiting players from high school, encouraging transfers through the transfer portal (at least in part to replace experienced players who transfer out), building individual skills and team coherence, and preparing the team for their first game against the University of Texas at Austin on August 31 (to be followed through the course of the season by seven home games, including one against the University of Colorado).  Although he acknowledged the problems associated with integrating experienced transfers into the team, he was obviously pleased with the size and skills of some of the transfers coming in.  As an important side issue for the summer, he holds a Women’s Clinic on August 10 as an important fund raiser that will provide a basis for both feeding his players (all those growing boys) and exercising the philanthropic arm of the team.  
Reflecting on last year’s results, he pointed out that they lost seven one-score games, the first time since Sonny Lubick retired.  They had four games decided on the last play of the game, of which they won only one.  
He spent some time reviewing the impacts of the various changes that are currently affecting college athletics.  The advent of NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) and the presence of two transfer portals has made it difficult to be sure of the makeup of your team as you try to create a functioning unit.  One of his star players was offered $600,000 to transfer to Kansas (he didn’t take it).  He worries about the potential for negative impact, academically, athletically, and in maturity on these young players with that sort of flux going on.  
He is obviously positive about the coming season but expects to be challenged by all of these changes that are happening simultaneously.  
With experienced players coming in through the transfer portal, how effectively do they learn the program?  Coach Norvell said that he prefers to recruit high-school players who can then grow up through the system and have an academic structure toward graduation.  However, with experienced players transferring out, they are hard to replace and are most easily and productively replaced by transfers.  Those transfers have no excuse not to get to know their new team mates as well as the mode of operation of the CSU system.  
Given the publicity about brain injuries, what changes have been effected?  Over the last ten years, there have been some really significant changes.  Practices are now limited to one a day (from the old practice of two or even three a day) and they are only allowed to tackle/hit on two of those practices each week.  It is no longer legal to use the head in tackles (no helmet to helmet contact); they now use their shoulders as in Rugby.  The technology in the helmets is much better now than it was in the past.  
Are there any changes with the new Athletic Director?  There has been a shift in focus.  President Parsons recognizes that athletics is important for marketing the school and attracting students and is not ashamed to talk about the benefits that would accrue by moving to the Big 12.  The NCAA has implemented a whole host of new rules, at least in part in reaction to a law suit brought by former college football players over past NIL possibilities that may result in a settlement of around $2.9 billion.  Coming down the road there may be a decrease in the allowed roster size, which might benefit smaller schools like CSU by freeing up some top-notch players.  
Given the number of close losses, how do you keep your players up for the future?  Basically, each week work as hard as you can, each game play as hard as you can, and learn from every game.  
Any impact from Coach Prime?  No impact.  Just because there is a circus in town doesn’t mean that you have to act like a clown.  
What impact is NIL having on big schools and on smaller schools like CSU?  The small schools want a fighting chance, working hard to identify good players who get overlooked.  Another of the many challenges is that there is a move afoot to move the national signing date to June so that the high-school players would be signing up before the start of their senior year.  
How do the military academies (West Point, Annapolis, Air Force) compete?  They have a consistent plan that involves having the same players for four years.  There are challenges but there is a focus on making a team, not individual players.  
What did you learn from your dad who was the Athletic Director at Michigan?  He was the first African-American Athletic Director in the country.  He was a mentor for coaches.  Coach Norvell has made it a point to hire at least one minority coach at CSU.  He commented that his father and mother were such school/team supporters that they were at some sort of function virtually every night.  
What impact may the conference re-alignment have?  There were two teams left out of the Pac-12 expansion, Oregon State and Washington State.  CSU will play Oregon State this coming season and, since the officials come from the conferences, the officiating at this particular game may be iffy with the possible impact on things like bowl eligibility.  Basically the schools and the conferences need to decide what to do.  
Given the ease of access to the transfer portal, what do you do with a player who wants to defy your approach/rules and threatens to go elsewhere?  He will simply cut any player who is not respectful; he won’t tolerate bad behavior.  The only thing that a player has to do to access the transfer portal is to talk with the compliance office at CSU; he doesn’t have to talk with anyone on the coaching staff.  In a way, the portal is a way for a player to avoid addressing challenges.