Jim Boccher. Not exactly a name that inspires confidence, but whatever. To most, people, it's just a random name - some Joe Schmoe, maybe their neighbor, maybe their dentist, maybe their real estate agent, or maybe a former special teams coach at Michigan who kept trotting out a ridiculous punt formation despite disastrous results.
The year was 2003. I had been out of grad school for about one year and was busy slaving away for The Man in the Silicon Forest. Getting tired of seeing the hippies in their John Deere green, I decided it would be fun to take a trip down to Eugene to watch the Ducks receive a good, old-fashioned Big Ten ass whoopin' at the hands of the University of Michigan. Unfortunately work responsibilities intervened, and I was forced to catch the action from my couch. This was a good thing. Unbeknownst to me, in 2002 the Wolverines had hired a man to coach their special teams who had never been in charge of a special teams at any point in his coaching career. The mind, it boggles.
As you might expect, hilarity ensued. Michigan put the "special" in special teams on September 20, 2003, against Oregon at Autzen Stadium. The carnage: one blocked punt surrendered, one punt return touchdown allowed, one botched fake punt, and two missed field goals. Epic failure. It was, quite frankly, a miracle that the Wolverines only lost by four points. The following week Indiana blocked a kick in a loss to Michigan at the Big House. And (why go for two when you can go for three?) in a week six contest at Iowa City, the proverbial wheels came off Michigan's special teams short bus.
Another blocked punt and long Iowa punt return sent fans (even those who normally despise Michigan) off the deep end. The Wolverines lost the game by a 30-27 count, and the Big Blue faithful were out for blood. The easy (and correct, I might add) target was special teams coach Jim Boccher. The following week against Minnesota he was nowhere to be found. The offical word was that his absence was due to "personal reasons", which is coachspeak for "he sucked so bad at his job that we've kicked his ass to the curb so he could go into the real estate business." He has not been seen on the sidelines of a college football field since that fateful day in October 2003.
The galling and fingernails-on-a-chalkboard grating part of this fiasco was the Stupid Ass Punt Formation (henceforth known as the SAPF). It's the special teams version of the spread offense. Think about that for a minute. Spread the field, drop three guys back to block the defenders that inevitably meander their way through the porous formation at the line of scrimmage, and maybe - if you've got a wild March hare up your ass - roll out the punter to kick it rugby style. What. The. Fuck? My colorful description doesn't even begin to do it justice. Watch the video below to see for yourself. Note that this video was from a game (LSU @ Arizona State in September 2005) that took place a full two years after the Boccher debacle (Boccherbacle?). Apparently the sun fries coaches brains in Tempe.
Despite rather convincing video evidence that it is a ridiculous formation, more and more coaches decided to roll out the SAPF for the proverbial college try. High-profile coaches from around the country are incorporating the SAPF into their special teams arsenal - Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Rich Rodriguez, Phil Fulmer, Ron Zook, ... the list goes on. Hell, it sometimes works, which is not helping to push it back down into the hole from whence it sprang.
If your favorite team starts using the SAPF, be afraid. Be very afraid. Pray to the deity or idol of your choice that Frank Beamer is not on the opposing sideline. It's only a matter of time before disaster strikes. You've been warned.
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