I just completed my 90th season in Gridiron Dynasty--all in Rockne world--and have decided not to re-up for any additional seasons. I've really enjoyed playing this game, but given the new game engine that is about to fundamentally change how the game is played, I think that it is time to move on. I have really enjoyed playing this game, and have derived a TON of entertainment value from playing, but all good things must come to an end.
I first heard about Gridiron Dynasty via a random marketing email, which promised that I'd be able to recruit prospects [!] and run a college team. Compelled, I clicked on the link and tried to join the Rockne world, but missed the cut off by one day. So I forgot about it until about a month later, when I got a reminder indicating that the world was now open for new coaches to apply. I'd missed season 1 in Rockne, which at the time was the "main" world in GD, but I eagerly signed up for season 2. Since I was from upstate New York, I selected Ithaca College--a DIII school not far away from where I grew up. I didn't have a clue what the heck I was doing from a coaching standpoint, but was eager to recruit. I got my clock cleaned that first year, not knowing what the heck I was doing or having a viable strategy for how to manage my recruiting budget, but it whet my appetite for more. I went 8-5 in my first season--mostly due to blind luck--and I was eager to get back to recruiting for my second season.
I didn't fare as well that next year, due primarily to the fact that my game settings were all out of whack. But a bunch of coaches in my conference were making the jump to DII, so I figured what the heck, I'd toss my hat into the ring on some jobs. Turns out, that was a bad short term move. The team I took over at the DII level--Minnesota State--was literally one of the worst in DII. Even worse, I was in a powerhouse conference with a bunch of ranked teams with coaches who played in multiple worlds and generally understood how to play the game. It is really, really tough to rebuild in a conference with a bunch of good teams. I think I went 1-12 my first year, and didn't do much better for several seasons. That's when I started to get really frustrated. That's also when I discovered the forums, and more importantly, the FAQ. I'm not suggesting that all of the techniques / tips in the FAQ [especially the version back then] were accurate or correct, but they imparted a LOT of good wisdom for how the game is played.
I devoured the information voraciously, and actually got Minnesota State off the canvas and up to a .500 caliber team--even though that took about 10 seasons and tacked a lot of losses onto my record. I decided that maybe a greener pasture would give me a better chance to experiment, so I applied for Livingstone State--another DII team--and got the job. Livingstone was my first real taste of success. The school had been a playoff team for several years, so the caliber of recruits I was able to "view" and pursue was much higher than what I saw at Minnesota State. I also started honing my recruiting philosophy--not just targeting guys with the right measurables in specific attributes for their positions, but also guys who had important secondary attributes that I weighted out.
I made the playoffs for the first time, had a couple of good seasons there, and then jumped to Long Island--another DII program. Long Island had a proud history of playoff success from my predecessors, and I was able to further hone my recruiting technique--which for me was by far the most enjoyable aspect of the game. I didn't have much playoff success, but I was starting to build good teams and understand what players to recruit.
After a couple of seasons, I decided to jump to D1AA. I only applied to one--a team that had just made the final four--and was surprised when I got the job. So I packed my bags for Rhode Island. The coach who'd been there before me only used two formations--Notre Dame Box and Wishbone, and I learned a lot from studying his game plans [back then, they used to remain even after you left]. It also was when I started emphasizing the run--which was a game "flaw" that good coaches used to exploit. I was recruiting like gangbusters, and literally built the DIAA program to a solid, just outside the top 25 caliber D1 type of program in terms of the talent. I made the playoffs every year, but with the exception of two or three deep runs to the final four, I got bounced in the first and second round a couple of times. I was starting to get frustrated again.
I had a ton of talent. A TON of talent--but couldn't quite seem to do much when I ascended deep into the playoffs. On a total whim, I reached out to another coach--a successful D1 coach who was kicking a$$ at Syracuse University--the great Richramirez. Rich didn't know me, but he agreed to give me a few pointers. I couldn't believe the first few tidbits he shared with me--his coaching philosophy was so different than the conventional game wisdom, or what was stated in the FAQ--and I devoured his tips voraciously. It didn't take long before he fully took me under his wing as my mentor.
That first season, I ran the table and won my first national championship in GD. I repeated the next season, again going undefeated and winning the title. I went undefeated for a third season, but ran into a buzzsaw of a great head coach, Scottso, and lost in the title game, preventing a three peat. But it started a "fun" rivalry with Scottso that continued for many years, even at the D1 level.
My goal was to coach at Syracuse University, my favorite team in real life, so I stayed at Rhode Island for a long time, winning several national championships but losing several others. When Rich finally moved on to USC, I applied for SU, but lost out to another coach, Bagwellbuff. More on him later. Embittered, I stayed for several more seasons at Rhode Island, hoping to replace Bagwellbuff when he floundered--which he did right away. I made it to a few more championships--clearly, under Rich's tuteledge, building a dynasty at that level--but when Bagwellbuff didn't move, I started to get restless.
When I won my last D1AA championship, I decided to make the jump and applied to an open Tennessee job. Now, I don't like Tennessee AT ALL in real life, so I swallowed my nose and applied, and was surprised when I got the job about 15 minutes later, when the next cycle happened. I immediately had buyer's remorse. Tennessee was in bad shape in terms of the talent, and was playing in a powerhouse SEC conference with very highly ranked teams like LSU, Alabama, and Florida. I went 7-6 in my first year at D1, but squeaked into the Tangerine Bowl, which I won to push my record to 8 wins.
Then, I started to do what I do best in this game--recruit, recruit, recruit. I went undefeated in the regular season my third year in the SEC, but lost in the conference championship game to Alabama--which knocked me out of the national championship picture. But I kept on plugging, and a few years later ended up finally getting there at the D1 level--where I played sportsfan's loaded Penn State team. Somehow, I managed to upset him and win the championship--and what a thrill it was to win at the D1 level--especially after my auspicious start!
But along the way, the developers had made some serious changes to the game engine. Each new version required me to figure out what the heck I was doing all over again, a frustrating process. And while each enhancement to the game was in general a decent upgrade, the game was beginning to fundamentally change.
Around this time, I got an unexpected note from another coach--Bagwellbuff--a coach who knew from the forums that I was a Syracuse University fan. He was in the middle of a hurricane, and concerned about a potential power outage, asked if I might be able to fill in for him from a recruiting standpoint, since he trusted that I wouldn't do anything to screw SU. I begrudgingly agreed to help, but it turns out he never lost power. Later that season, he reached out to me again, indicating that he was about to be fired from his job for non-performance, and asking if I'd be willing to offer him some pointers.
Now, I was miffed about having to wait for so many seasons, toiling at DIAA while I waited for him to depart Syracuse, but then I thought about all that Richramirez had taught me, and how it had enhanced my experience in the game, so I took him on as a protege. First of all, Bagwellbuff ended up being a GREAT guy! He also adapted the "Richramirez" system very easily, and quickly turned Syracuse back into the powerhouse program that it once had been.
I also got contacted by a former conference mate from the D1AA Atlantic 10--Bigdog3030. He'd been another good guy for conference banter--not somebody that I knew, but in general a solid guy. He was about to quit, and since I'd done so well at Rhode Island he asked me to give him some pointers on recruiting. Slowly at first, I started spoon feeding him tidbits of the system, and he was a great student. Before long, he'd built James Madison--which was also his alma mater--into one of the top teams in D1AA, winning several championships. Things continued like that for awhile--and it was very rewarding to see my proteges succeed on their own.
But after awhile, Rich ended up "retiring" from GD, indicating that the challenge was gone. I was very sad to see him go, but quite thankful that he'd been generous enough to take me under his wing. After the last game engine change, both Bagwellbuff and Bigdog3030 ended up deciding to hang 'em up, as well. After all those seasons of being part of "Team Rich," I was suddenly by myself in the game. I really missed the camaraderie of my crew, but I decided that I was still having fun with the game.
After a few seasons, a new coach took over SU, so I resigned myself to the fact that I'd never coach there. Holding my nose, I took over at Penn State--a school that I loathe even more than Tennessee in real life--and started a run there. I've coached there up until now--season 90--and had a pretty fair amount of success. I had to relearn the game after the last game engine, and I've won at a high level. I made one national championship game--which I unfortunately lost--and got gypped out of a few others where I was ranked #2 heading into the conference championship games, but inexplicably dropped to #3 afterwards. Oh well.
When the latest game engine change was announced, I decided to give it a chance. I signed up for the beta test, took a DIII school, and started to play around with the settings. I was initially a bit overwhelmed with the complexity--not that I couldn't figure things out, but it was very clear that managing the team would take quite a bit more time from a set up / game adjustment standpoint. I have no idea how a new coach would be able to wrap their arms around such complexity and figure out what they are doing. I played that entire season at DIII beta, but then decided that I'd had enough. I'm not saying that the beta was bad, but the appetite just wasn't there to re-learn what amounted to another entirely new game from scratch.
So for the past several seasons, I've been whittling down my remaining seasons, culminating with season 90 which just wrapped up in Rockne. I went 11-2 in the regular season, losing to hated conference rivals ND and OSU, and lost a bowl game that I forgot to game plan for. I'm not saying that to take anything away from the coach who beat me, but it was a sign of my waning interest; it was the first time I'd ever "missed" a postseason game that I played in. I didn't even realize that I'd played the game until two days later. So, while I flirted with the idea of adding another season, I decided that not paying attention to the bowl was a pretty good sign that it was time to hang 'em up once and for all. I really, really enjoyed playing this game.
Recruiting--my favorite part of the game, bar none--was an absolute blast, an exciting challenge at every level to compete for great prospects who fit my system. I endured several iterations of game engine changes, including all the warts of the various deployments, and generally enjoyed figuring things out so that I could continue to win at a high level. I wish I'd won a bit more at the D1 level, especially more than just one national championship, but oh well. My final record was 1040-303. And about 100 of those losses [no joke] came during my first few seasons, when I was completely overmatched at DII Minnesota State. All in all, not a bad run.
I really owe the majority of my success at Gridiron Dynasty to Richramirez, who was gracious enough to teach me everything he knew--continuing a fine tradition in this game of good coaches paying it forward to younger coaches who are eager to learn. Thank you, Rich--you're the man!
I also want to tip my hat to my two proteges--Bagwellbuff and Bigdog3030. You guys made this game more fun for me than you probably know, and it was tremendously gratifying to see you guys succeed at a high level. You've been missed these past few years. In fact, there is a really cool "culture" in this game of coaches who enjoy the competitive rivalry, but are really cool in the conference chat pages.
Keep it up, guys--this is a fun game, and in general, I've found that the sportsmanship almost always outweighs the gamesmanship that takes place before games. In fact, there is only one coach that I came to dislike in my 90 seasons of playing this game--a guy who repeatedly ran the score up on me in my first few years, when I was struggling at Minnesota State. I won't name the coach, but I'm pleased to announce that I beat his a$$ numerous times in the playoffs at the D1AA level, and also at the D1 level. Turnabout is fair play!
90 seasons...hard to believe. From that first email I got in 2006, to June 2013--that's quite a run.
I hope that you all enjoy playing this game as much as I have. It's bittersweet to know that my time in Gridiron Dynasty is coming to an end, but I'm convinced that the time is right. To whoever takes over Penn State in Rockne--I think that you'll find that the coffers are well stocked with talent. Keep it rolling!
Best of luck to all with the new game engine.
PS--sorry that this was so long--I ended up writing a lot more than I'd intended, but I had a lot to say about my time playing GD!