Four years ago, hopes were high on the Hilltop. Rob Sgarlata had just been promoted to head coach from defensive coordinator of the Georgetown football program after former Head Coach Kevin Kelly resigned following a 2-9 season.
Sgarlata was a Georgetown football lifer who finished his playing career as one of Georgetown’s all-time leading rushers and served as team captain in 1993. Sgarlata moved onto the coaching ranks as an assistant coach in 1995. The young assistant was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2004, a position he held until he took over for Kelly.
Since Sgarlata took over four seasons ago, his tenure has not gone as planned.
The team has a record of 11-33 in Sgarlata’s four years at the helm of the program, and the future looks grim for Georgetown football after finishing 1-10 this season, including a winless 0-8 Patriot League record.
There is no question the wheels fell off for the Hoyas this season. Georgetown’s normally staunch defense, which Sgarlata has led for 13 years, took a major step back this season, allowing 27.2 points per game compared to last season’s 23.2, good for fifth out of seven teams in the Patriot League.
In previous seasons, the team relied on its defense to bail out a struggling offense, which has finished sixth or worse in scoring in the Patriot League in every season since 2011. With the combination of an abysmal offense and a struggling defense, the result was an on-field product that lost to teams by an average margin of 16 points per game.
Besides having on-field struggles, Sgarlata continues to make questionable decisions off the field that affect this program’s ability to compete on the field.
Sgarlata’s recruiting tactics have been lukewarm at best. Look at Georgetown football’s Instagram feed and you will see the hashtag “#DefendTheDistrict” in many posts. That refers to Georgetown’s ability to defend its home turf in games, as well as securing top recruits from around the talented DC-Maryland-Virginia area.
So far, the results have not been good at all. Of its roster of 98 players, only 14 players are from the DMV. Of those 14 players, only six were starters this season. For a coach who has placed an emphasis on establishing a pipeline to take advantage of the talent-rich DMV, the results through four years have been very discouraging.
The Hoyas’ talent deficit is clear, but there are solutions to bridge the gap between the Hoyas and their opponents, solutions that Georgetown continues to turn its back against.
In 2013, the Patriot League decided to allow its schools to offer football scholarships. All seven schools jumped at the opportunity and began offering scholarships to players — except Georgetown.
With other Patriot League schools offering scholarships, Georgetown is placing itself at a clear competitive disadvantage by not following suit. Although that decision may have been made above Sgarlata, it is not fair to expect Georgetown football fans to continue to support a team that is not exhausting all its options to improve.
Prior to Georgetown’s 41-2 thrashing at the hands of Harvard at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium this season, Sgarlata spoke about the importance of the game in relation to his goal of defending the District.
“Being able to go down to a stadium like RFK to make a statement about defending the District, it’s really special for us,” Sgarlata said. “Hopefully this is the first of many games we have down there.”
The Hoyas did make a statement — the wrong kind. Throughout Sgarlata’s tenure, the Hoyas have played two or three games per season against Ivy League opponents. In those games, Sgarlata’s team is 3-8. Against Harvard specifically, Georgetown has been regularly outclassed on the field, evidenced by a cumulative score between the two teams of 151-22 over the last four years.
It is important for a rebuilding team like Georgetown to schedule a couple of games against tough opponents to get a true measure of how much they are progressing as a team. However, playing a 14-time Ivy League champion, Harvard, annually, where the games are usually decided by the end of the first quarter, only contributes to a culture of losing.
Change in the program has already begun after this season’s dismal results, as offensive coordinator Michael Neuberger was fired this week. If the Hoyas want to resurrect this program and stop being the bottom-dwellers of the Patriot League, further changes must be made, or else Rob Sgarlata could be the next man out.
Aidan Curran is a senior in the McDonough School of Business.