Elon Football has been the laughing stock of Elon’s sports programs for some time now as they hadn’t made the playoffs since 1981, but this changed in 2017. While the student attendance for games did not spike ridiculously, there was a noticeable increase as the team went from having the worst record in the CAA at 2-9 in 2016, to being the 3 seed and making the playoffs at 8-3 in 2017. Something to keep in mind is that Elon’s first game was against Toledo, an FBS school and a non-conference game. With that said, here are 5 reasons why the football team did so well in 2017:
1. Head Coach
This is the obvious answer, as Rich Skrosky decided to leave following the 2016 season. The new head coach was Curt Cignetti who was honored with the CAA Coach of the Year. Cignetti had been a head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a recruiting coach at Alabama during the 2009 Saban era. Along with a new head coach comes a new playbook, a new coaching staff, a new mentality, and a brand-new style of recruiting.
Having a new playbook is something the players had been asking for, for a couple of years now. The offensive line and running backs often referred to the lack of outside run plays making it easy for a defense to read. The simplicity of a playbook can work in certain circumstances, but it felt that with the lack of success something needed to be done. With an entirely new coaching staff came an entirely new playbook on both offense and defense which has clearly led to the Phoenix’s success.
3. New Coaching Staff
Along with the hiring of Coach Cignetti came the firing of almost the entire Elon coaching staff. There is still one remaining coach, but the offense and defensive coordinators are both newly installed as well as every coach outside of the offensive line coach. As previously mentioned, with a new coaching staff comes a new playbook, and the players are grateful for this. Along with a new coaching staff comes a breath of fresh air as the team sees an opportunity for change, and to get better, and this is something that carried on throughout the season.
4. Team Mentality
Building off the last three points, the players were more energized than ever to succeed. This isn’t to say the players didn’t ‘want it’ or play hard enough in past years, but rather had an extra incentive to push for success. This mentality carries over from the summer, to pre-season camp, to practices, to the locker room, and to the field on game day. This concept of a positive and energizing mentality cannot be counted out as a main contributor for their success, as you can ask anyone who plays sports, having something to play for increases your drive tenfold.
5. Close Games
Who doesn’t enjoy watching a close game. Well, usually the Phoenix haven’t in years past as in the 2015 and 2016 season many games were lost by within 1-5 points. In 2017, they turned this around and won 5 games that were within 1-3 points. Their additional 3 wins on top of those 5 were won by a one possession score. Elon’s losses outside of Toledo and JMU were 16-6 and in the playoffs 28-27. Talk about keeping it close… This made the season extremely enjoyable to watch and certainly added more fire to the players as a lot of young stars made a name for themselves.
The Phoenix had one of the best turn around seasons for a college football program, especially in the CAA, considered the top FCS conference. Led by a new head coach and freshman quarterback, the future is looking bright. This is only the beginning and you should certainly be looking forward to the 2018 season and plan on attending all of the home games and showing some school spirit for the football team, because god knows they deserve it.