Brett Montague recently wrote an opinion piece for the Hattiesburg American entitled Father Tommy Is Special To Us. This opinion piece does accomplish the task of giving an opinion, but fails in any way to do much more. I would have tried to address this on the comments of the online edition of the HA, but that isn’t practical. Here is my opinion of Mr. Montague’s opinion:
Upon hearing the news of Jeff Bower’s resignation as Southern Miss football coach, Brett Favre expressed sorrow and regret for USM football. As the competition in college football has risen greatly over the past decade, USM’s record has remained stagnant.
I don’t think there is anyone in the Southern Miss family that doesn’t feel some sorrow or regret regarding the end of Coach Bower’s Head Coaching career at Southern Miss. He was a wonderful coach and most of us respect him more than words can express. I’m not sure what Mr. Montague would expect Brett Favre to say regarding the situation but just that.
Stagnant is a very good description. But compared to where the program was at the end of the 1990’s we were clearly on a decline, not a plateau.
BTW, the University prefers that we use Southern Miss and not USM. No biggie…
At times, it was due to coaching and conservative play-calling; other times, it was due to complacent athletes.
No argument there. But consider why we would have or allow complacent athletes on a Southern Miss football team. Attitude comes from the top! It spills down and consumes the team. Those that don’t get with the program get swept aside. This was a coaching issue, period.
So I can understand the need for some change in the culture of USM football. However, a recent decision by Larry Fedora to remove Father Tommy Conway of St. Thomas Catholic Church as the team chaplain leads me to believe that some of his change is counter-productive. No doubt, it will cause him regret and sorrow for our football players.
Yes. I’m sure many of the players have developed personal relationships with Father Tommy. I don’t personally know him, but I’ve heard he’s a great guy and connects with people well. Have you considered that the players could attend mass on their own? I didn’t read that the players were forbidden to seek out Father Tommy on their own time. And given the required separation of church and state, that seems appropriate.
I remember as a child watching Favre, Michael Jackson and Tony Smith run around the field at M.M. Roberts Stadium. They made things happen and carried a contagious, winning energy that reeled in the fan base at Southern Miss. Just as these guys inspired the growth of our fan base, Father Tommy has inspired our football players to be great people.
Leaders tend to be the best inspiration there can be. As I noted above, if inspiration was an issue, the coach should have addressed that. To believe that the players can’t find a path for themselves absent one man is very shortsighted. For those players that need him, I’m sure he’ll be easy to find.
Since childhood, many of my friends and I have poured our souls into supporting Southern Miss athletics. Some of my childhood friends, like Cliff Russum, Jeff Cook, Matt Shepard and Collin Cargill, have worn Golden Eagle uniforms.
That is a good start. We need butts in seats. We need more Eagle Club donors (and higher level donors). It is good to know that Mr. Montague has a solid connection with Southern Miss and the players. It should be an indication that he will do what is necessary to help the program move forward. Even when the decisions made aren’t the ones he would have made.
Also, my family has traditionally invited Southern Miss athletes to dine in our house. Throughout the years, I have had dinner with guys like Favre, Chris Ryals, Michael Tobias, Leo Barnes and Michael Boley.
It has been mentioned in the comments on this article, but I’ll repeat it here. Mr. Montague should be very careful in this area. It could easily be construed as a violation of NCAA rules (especially when alumni/boosters cherry pick the players they spend money on (yes, providing a meal is considered a gift).
I must say, however, because of USM leadership, it is becoming more difficult for me to support a university that drowns itself in dirty politics.
I get lost on the “dirty politics” statement. Just as Coach Bower assigned a Team Chaplin, Coach Fedora has the right to remove and/or replace him. If as Mr. Montague states, he was there for inspiration, then he was functioning a lot like a coach. And I don’t think anyone would fault a Head Coach for replacing a coach when he felt it was needed.
And if Mr. Montague is as good a fan and supporter of Southern Miss, would he pull his support over the replacement of one person?
Just over three years ago, after I graduated from Southern Miss, we made a supposedly positive change away from a Napoleonic administration at Southern Miss. But, based upon Coach Fedora’s decision to fire a priest as our team chaplain, we evidently have not moved away from those dirty politics. Either that or Father Tommy was in charge of the play calling last year.
Dr. Saunders and Coach Fedora are the leaders we’ve sorely needed at Southern Miss. You can see it in their faces when they speak. Its called intensity. They were both hired to shake things up. To change Southern Miss for the better.
Coach Fedora has been around since December (completing his first Spring drills and scrimmages). He has had an opportunity to evaluate the talent on the field and elsewhere. If he feels it is time to remove/replace Father Tommy, that is his prerogative. No politics to it from my point of view. Just managing the program the way he sees fit.
Around five years ago, Bower recruited Father Tommy to be the team chaplain. Primarily, Bower brought in Father Tommy because he is a well-respected, beloved religious figure in our community. Also, he did it because Father Tommy brings a positive and energetic atmosphere to the locker room.
Yes, he did. And is the program better off for it? The players may be had another positive role model in their lives. An opportunity to seek a higher purpose. But it didn’t show on the field.
Three years ago, I invited former USM football stars Eric Scott, Michael Boley and Antoine Cash to have dinner with my family. Before dinner we talked about two subjects. One, their future dreams of playing in the NFL. Two, the contributions and the impact of Father Tommy on USM football.
Again, I must caution Mr. Montague to consider his actions in regards to gifts under the NCAA rules.
While it makes perfect sense to me that a conversation with any of these players would involve some discussion of their NFL aspirations, I’m not sure how Father Tommy would come up. Three years ago, Southern Miss was embarrassed by Utah in the Liberty Bowl and went on to have a terrible 2004 season. I could think of a hundred other things I’d have asked about at that time.
I remember Scott saying “between the players and Father Tommy, there is nothing but love.”
I could say the same thing, and I don’t even know the man.
And that sentiment includes the Pine Belt community. We all support Father Tommy.
Yes. As I understand it, he won’t be the Team Chaplin. But he still has a congregation and I assume he holds mass and is available for counsel as most priests are.
Coach Fedora has not even coached a real down of football at Southern Miss and he feels entitled to make such radical changes without the approval of the community or our players.
He was brought in to effect radical changes. Southern Miss needs radical changes. I am quite confident this was not a kneejerk decision as Mr. Montague implies. How Coach Fedora manages the football program does not require community or player approval. We want growth in our program. He is doing what he feels is necessary to make that happen.
College football is very competitive and getting more so each season. If Mr. Montague expects Coach Fedora to seek community and player approval for every decision he’s going to make, well, tough luck. I fully support Coach Fedora and I am looking forward to his first real down as a Southern Miss Head Coach.
Quite frankly, I don’t think he’ll need any help inspiring the players. I spoke to McGrath not long ago and he was stoked about the new program. The excitement and enthusiasm in his eyes told me all I needed to know. Saturday’s at the Rock are going to be special this year.
This demonstrates that Coach Fedora is about as cognizant of how our players love, respect and appreciate as he is of what kind of a relationship Father Tommy has with Brett Favre.
I’m not really sure what Mr. Montague means here. But Brett Favre isn’t playing for Southern Miss right now. I don’t know that I’ve heard any comments from Favre regarding Father Tommy. He seems to be implying that Favre might not support Southern Miss because Coach Fedora removed him at Team Chaplin. I seriously doubt that.
Brett Montague is a Hattiesburg resident.
Allan Misner is not a Hattiesburg resident. But that doesn’t mean he cares less or gives less.