New Union football coach Behrman deserves patience

No doubt, Jeff Behrman made a good first impression as he got introduced Friday as the new head foot
Jeff Behrman, who was named Union College's head football coach on Friday, addresses the Stony Brook University offense in this undated photo. He served as offensive coordinator at Stony Brook from 2006-15.
Jeff Behrman, who was named Union College's head football coach on Friday, addresses the Stony Brook University offense in this undated photo. He served as offensive coordinator at Stony Brook from 2006-15.

No doubt, Jeff Behrman made a good first impression as he got introduced Friday as the new head football coach at Union College.

The short take: Prepared. Right experience. Smooth, not slick.

Slick doesn’t work here, regardless of what Pat Riley does with his hair.

But it will not be smooth for Behrman, and he has to know that, or will soon find out. The 42-year-old former Stony Brook offensive coordinator is taking over for a legend . . . and assuming a hot mess.

He deserves the time to see if he can make Dutchmen football good if not great again.

After his introductory press conference, Behrman said his wife Karen screamed and cried on the phone when given the news he got the job. Let’s see if coach is doing the same this fall. Behrman takes over an 0-10 team that lacked playmakers, speed and size. Other than that, good to go.

The Dutchmen won’t win, at least significantly, in Behrman’s first season, and likely not his second or maybe third. If anybody judges this first-time head coach’s record harshly before he can bring in a majority of his own players, they were never going to give Behrman a fair shot. Ever.

And make no mistake: There’s understandable bitterness in some circles over the way the departure of longtime coach John Audino was handled. That should not be transferred to the way Behrman is rated.

Still, you can’t minimize the fact Behrman is taking over for a beloved coach, the winningest coach in the history of the program. Audino was here for 24 years for a lot of reasons. Among them: He won a lot.

But the program fell on hard times in recent years, winning just 19 games in the past six seasons. The Dutchmen suffered losing seasons in four of the last six; a winless 2015 year was capped with a 23-10 loss to RPI in the annual Dutchman Shoes game. This is the reality the new coach inherits, in addition to the winning tradition that is further removed each season.

Behrman largely came too late in the recruiting process to have much of an impact, except to seal the deal on players already in the pipeline and identified by holdover Audino assistants — and those staffers may be long gone before the season starts. (They remain on board for now.)

That all said, first impressions and Behrman’s background indicate there is promise here that Union, now a hockey school, can return to at least respectability on the football field.

Behrman has the right pedigree: A mix of D-III and FCS experience that brings upper-level sophistication to the position. He apparently holds a deep appreciation for the student-athlete balance that is paramount at the Division III level. (He played quarterback at John Carroll, where he was a captain.)

In two years at Hofstra, he helped groom a trio of future NFL wide receivers, including Marques Colston of the New Orleans Saints. While at Stony Brook, his offenses have consistently been high-scoring.

But he’s smart enough to realize he is not going to come in and commit to a wide-open attack, instead saying he would tailor his offense and defense to his personnel. You want a coach who has a vision, a plan, a way they want to attack on both sides of the ball. But you also need that coach not weighed down by their own hubris to the point of believing that their system is more important than finding the best way to win with the players they have.

Give him a few years to fit his philosophies to his talent, then you can judge him on his schemes. Until then, Union fans and others can only asses Behrman on his motivation and improvisational skills and in-game management.

One more thing that should have Dutchmen fans hopeful for down the road: Behrman wants to be here in Schenectady. He knows the history of the program first-hand from his mentor Chuck Priore, a former Union assistant under Al Bagnoli. He knows the longevity of coaches here; there have only been two before him since Ronald Reagan’s first term as president. Behrman wants to establish roots, which means building a program that has a strong foundation, rather than erecting a quick-fix and bolting for a better gig.

“That attracted me . . . knowing that you can have a long tenure here,” he said Friday. “I did not get into coaching to move every three or four years.”

There are pictures of Behr-man coaching at Stony Brook, sporting a buzz cut, doing the maniacal assistant coach screaming thing. On Friday he was in a suit, with a tie in Union colors he just happened to have. His hair is fuller. He was smooth. He looked the part of a head coach.

Give him time to see if can grow into a good one.


Spin the sports scandal wheel: Where will it land?

Now up . . . Tennis.

With the Australian Open just getting under way comes reports in Buzzfeed News and the BBC of match-fixing in tennis. No names were named in the reports, but of the 16 players implicated from the height of the alleged fixing eight years ago, some are still on the circuit.

So we’ve had recent scandals in football, soccer, track and field, and cricket (not that big here). Anyone want to take a bet on an international sport that won’t be rocked by controversy?

I’m going curling. That would just be silly. I mean . . .

“The Canadian Press — Frankenbrooms’ outlawed at all World Curling Federation events: The World Curling Federation has extended a ban on controversial broom heads to all events for the 2015-16 season . . . saying their teams will not sweep with broom heads that have ‘directional fabric.’ ”

Never mind.



An Internet goof had real-life consequences for a journeyman NHL player. And it makes the Internet denizens look sorta bad — and the National Hockey League look horrific.

John Scott is an enforcer — a goon, in parlance — who had one assist in 11 games for the Arizona Coyotes this season. Yet fans voted him captain to the NHL All-Star Game. Of course, it was a joke — hey, check out the fighter against the most skilled players in the world in a three-on-three exhibition — but Scott sort of endorsed the whole deal. Plus, he could use the money with twins on the way.

The NHL and Coyotes were not amused. They asked Scott to decline the invite. He declined to decline. So in a move that appears to every sentient being to be linked, the Coyotes shipped him to the Montreal Canadiens, who promptly demoted him to the minors — apparently making him ineligible for the Jan. 31 game in Nashville.

Scott is a 33-year-old defenseman, a fringe NHLer who may not ever get back to the top, thanks to a prank that fans thought would be funny. Internet trolling has real-life consequences.

But the real blame here is not with the fans. All-Star Games are exhibitions. If the fans vote for the backup goalie for the Canucks, so be it. (And, honestly, who is not a huge Jacob Markstrom fan?)

No, the real villain — unless/until they reverse course — is the NHL. Yes, John Scott is not an all-star player. But why not use the opportunity to celebrate the grinder, the everyday player, who populates the league, while acquiescing to the wishes of fans, even if they were messing around?

Instead, they chose to tick off fans, and kneecap a guy’s career. Well played, suits. Again.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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