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The Island Paradise That Wasn’t: Modern-day Pitcairn Island and its Disturbing Secrets

West side of Pitcairn Island
Pitcairn Island, a lonely rock in the South Pacific roughly halfway between Peru and New Zealand. It is home to only 47 people, most of whom are descended from the legendary Bounty mutineers.

Note: I wrote previously about the historic mutiny on the Bounty, a true story from 1789 that has since been immortalized in many books and films and remains popular to this day. Consider this blog an extension of that.

Following the now-infamous 1789 mutiny against Captain William Bligh on the HMS Bounty, the ship’s acting captain, former first mate Fletcher Christian, chose to return to the pleasurable tropics of Tahiti to gain supplies and then go forth to find a suitable island for a new colony.

Many of Christian’s fellow mutineers elected to stay in Tahiti upon their arrival, while Christian and eight other men chose to journey onwards, accompanied by six Tahitian men and 12 women, the latter of which had grown enamored of the sailors when they had stopped in Tahiti prior to the mutiny.

Christian’s desired island paradise proved elusive. He and his men attempted to settle in nearby Tubuai, but encountered hostile natives and abandoned the settlement after only two weeks. The Bounty scoured the South Pacific for thousands of miles in search of a better spot.

Rummaging through Bligh’s ship library one day, Christian stumbled upon a name — Pitcairn Island. It was prohibitively isolated — roughly equidistant from Peru and New Zealand — moreover, it had initially been mischartered when the English had discovered it in 1767.

While tiny (a mere two square miles), Pitcairn’s terrain was very rugged, the island was unpopulated and inaccessible, and the land was thickly forested. Most importantly, the men had freshwater sources and suitable land for farming. By the time the mutineers arrived, they were sold. They burned the Bounty down to the waterline and left the remains in the tiny inlet that was the closest thing to a harbor.

Pitcairn Landing
A view of the South Pacific overlooking Bounty Bay, where the Bounty itself was burned to the waterline after the mutineers settled on Pitcairn. The large shed in the corner of the frame houses the Pitcairn longboats as well as quad bikes, the primary method of transportation on the island.

Part 1: Chaos

Despite the initial joy the men had at founding their own settlement with their Polynesian companions in tow, the situation on Pitcairn soon deteriorated. The Tahitian men who had considered the mutineers their brothers began to get the short end of the stick on Pitcairn. The mutineers divided Pitcairn’s arable land into nine plots for each of them, but the Tahitian men received nothing and were effectively made their servants. All of the Englishmen took Tahitian wives, but the six Tahitian men were made to share three women among them. Unsurprisingly, this created an awful atmosphere of sexual tension on the tiny island.

This culminated in a veritable free-for-all, resulting in violent skirmishes. All of the Tahitians and many of the mutineers eventually met grisly ends, including Christian himself, who was allegedly hacked to death and dismembered with an axe while tending his crops. His precise date of death remains unknown and his burial site was never found.

By 1798 — a full nine years after the mutiny — Pitcairn was relatively stable, with a number of mixed-race children having increased the population. However, mutineer William McCoy concocted a powerful brew of spirits from one of the island’s plants; subsequently, many of the islanders developed serious drinking problems. McCoy eventually committed suicide by jumping off a cliff while intoxicated, while Matthew Quintal threatened to kill the entire community while he was in a drunken stupor. Fearing for their families, the only two remaining mutineers, Ned Young and John Adams, murdered Quintal.

Adamstown, the only settlement in the islands
Overlooking Adamstown, the lone settlement (and capital) of the Pitcairn Islands. 

Part 2: Redemption & Rediscovery

Weary of the bloodshed, Young and Adams began to lay out their plans for Pitcairn’s future. A well-educated man, Young taught Adams how to read by using the Bounty‘s Bible, which affected Adams deeply. Adams converted to Christianity shortly before Young’s asthma-related death in 1800; suddenly, Adams was the only father figure to a tiny community of nine women and two dozen children.

Back in England, all of the mutineers had either been tried, hanged, or acquitted, Bligh was still languishing in the Royal Navy, and Britain was at war with France. The whereabouts of the notorious Fletcher Christian & Co. remained a total mystery until 1808, when American merchant Mayhew Folger stumbled upon Pitcairn.

Folger, commander of the whaling ship Topaz, was astonished to be greeted by three Polynesian-looking men who all spoke perfect English and were devout Christians. Upon meeting Adams, Folger informed British officials of his discovery, gushing about the Christian values of the Pitcairners.

Once the Napoleonic Wars subsided six years later, two naval officers descended on the island. Adams, by now very elderly, told them the story of the young colony and his conversion, eventually getting an amnesty deal out of it. By now, the legend of Pitcairn — an unspoiled, isolated territory of well-mannered, multiracial Christians — was in full swing and would never die. Despite the island’s mutinous beginning, the British chose to annex Pitcairn and make it a crown colony in 1838.

Part 3: Increasing Fame

Pitcairn Islanders, 1916
A 19th century photo of Pitcairn Islanders. While many share the dark skin and brown hair of Polynesians, many others are very fair-skinned.

It is impossible to overstate Pitcairn’s isolation. It’s nearest neighbor (Mangareva, French Polynesia) is over 300 miles away. The nearest developed countries are New Zealand (3,300 miles) and Chile (3,600 miles). Pitcairn has no harbor, no airstrip and has never been home to more than 200 people. The island has only one school and teaches from kindergarten up to age 15, upon which Pitcairners finish at a school of their choice in New Zealand. Nearly all of Pitcairn’s inhabitants are descended from at least one mutineer, and they remain fiercely protective of their legacy.

Pitcairn’s jurisdiction also includes the uninhabited islands of Henderson, Oeno and Ducie. Oeno and Ducie are coral atolls, while Henderson is an uplifted coral island, and they were annexed to the Pitcairn territory in 1902. Henderson is seven times larger than Pitcairn and has a thickly forested interior that could theoretically hold a small human population, but it has a lack of freshwater resources and has never been knowingly inhabited.

The only way on or off Pitcairn is ludicrously complicated: take a flight to Tahiti, wait for the weekly flight to Mangareva, then board a cargo supply ship on a 30-plus hour open boat journey to Pitcairn. Once you arrive, you will see that there’s no safe anchorage, so you must wait offshore as the islanders bring out an aluminum, diesel-powered longboat, which will then ferry you to shore. If the weather is bad or the waves too choppy, you might not be able to get on the island at all.

But I digress.

By the 1850s, the Pitcairners were outgrowing their island and had suffered a series of devastating droughts, so they appealed to Queen Victoria for help. She offered them Norfolk Island (roughly halfway between Australia’s east coast and New Zealand’s north island) and they left in 1856. A former penal colony, Norfolk Island, like Pitcairn, had lush vegetation and an isolated location, but after 18 months, a number of Pitcairners chose to return to their homeland. (Today, Norfolk Island is an external territory of Australia and has a population of roughly 1,700, around half of which are Bounty descendants.)

Formerly a devout Anglican community thanks to John Adams, the Pitcairners eventually converted to Seventh-day Adventism en masse in the 1890s, largely due to the work of American missionary John Tay. Among other distinctives, Adventists worship on Saturdays instead of Sundays and strictly adhere to teetotalism and vegetarianism. At one point, all alcohol, dancing and public displays of affection were outlawed on Pitcairn.

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A detailed map of Pitcairn with landmarks. Notice Bounty Bay, John Adams’s grave, the island radio station and Fletcher Christian’s cave.

Part 3: The Enduring Legend

The only reason the Bounty story — and, by extension, Pitcairn — is remembered today is due to the series of Bounty-related novels and films. American authors Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall wrote a trilogy of books recalling the historic events: Mutiny on the BountyMen Against the Sea and Pitcairn’s Island. These were followed by epic Hollywood blockbusters In the Wake of the Bounty (1933), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and The Bounty (1984), which cemented Fletcher Christian as the legendary rebel, flanked by his brave midshipmen and adoring, scantily-clad Polynesian women.

It doesn’t take a genius to see why the average joe would be enamored of the Bounty story. He could also fantasize about living like a modern-day Pitcairner, isolated from the whole world and taking pride in raw, blue-collar, relaxed living.

In the 20th century, Pitcairn began to enjoy more exposure to the outside world. Cruise ships would frequently make pitstops, allowing wealthy westerners access to the island. Pitcairners would hop aboard the cruise liners and work their charm, selling woodcarvings of the Bounty, authentic locally-sourced honey and fish, and breadfruit-based meals. Philately also became an unexpected source of revenue for Pitcairn due to the island’s rare assembly of stamps. In more modern times, Pitcairn began selling internet domain names with their “.pn” suffix.

Visitors were blown away by the islanders’ self-reliant lifestyle, as well as their kind spirit and warmth. Children were educated. Adults were hard-working, good-humored and well-behaved. By all accounts, Pitcairn was peaceful, orderly and well-grounded.

Pitcairn was also the pride and joy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the second-most widespread Christian denomination in the world. Islanders were ferried around the globe to attend church conferences, and the SDA church itself pumped large amounts of money into the island’s infrastructure. Ministers — usually from Australia or New Zealand — were told they had the easiest job in the world and that the islanders were the most pious, sincere group of believers around.

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A group photo of several islanders. Randy Christian, the goateed man in the back, was one of the Pitcairners eventually convicted of sexual assault.

Part 4: Trouble Begins

In 1997, a Pitcairner, 20-year-old Shawn Christian, was questioned by visiting British detectives for the alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl, the daughter of the local Seventh-day Adventist minister. The case was dropped due to lack of evidence, but Christian claimed the sex was consensual. He was let off with a warning.

In 1999, after a party at a local man’s house, an island visitor, Ricky Quinn, was investigated for a sexual assault on an underage girl. A New Zealander, Quinn had multiple marks on his record, including several drug offenses, but he had cousins on Pitcairn, so he was allowed on the island for several months.

By coincidence, a British police officer, Gail Cox, happened to be on Pitcairn at the time. Despite the island’s alleged crime-free nature, the UK had been concerned about the adequacy of Pitcairn policing for sometime, and had sent Cox to train the local officer, Meralda Warren.

By this time, Pitcairn had only about 50 permanent inhabitants and had been suffering a long-term population drain to New Zealand and Australia, mainly for education and work opportunities. Only four primary families remained on the island, and each had its own place in the Pitcairn hierarchy.

Once Cox began her initial investigation, she noticed a very troubling pattern among young girls on Pitcairn. Many were alarmingly precocious, showing knowledge about sex-related topics even as young as five or six years old. Cox heard rumors that the accepted age of consent in Pitcairn was only 12. The island’s schoolteacher, Sheils Carnahan, and the resident Adventist minister, Neville Tosen, mentioned inexplicable mood swings among island children, as well as inappropriate jokes about island girls among the Pitcairn men.

What was equally alarming was the openness of the adult women on Pitcairn. Many of them viewed sexual activity between young kids, or between young girls and adult men, with a collective shrug. That claimed that (among other things) Pitcairn had been historically neglected by the British and that it was in line with Polynesian customs to “break in” girls for sexual activity at a very young age. Many of the adult women bragged about losing their virginity before they hit puberty and staunchly defended the Pitcairn men as vital to the life of the community, attacking anyone who disagreed as racist or ignorant of Polynesian life.

Eventually, the truth came out: Pitcairn was a veritable haven of pedophilia. Nearly every able-bodied male on the island had raped or indecently assaulted scores of girls over the course of the past few decades. Several off-islanders who now lived in New Zealand were also accused. Nearly everyone was related, closely or distantly, to both an accuser and a defendant.

Wary of Pitcairn’s inaccessibility as well as the obvious logistical challenges, the British government pondered whether or not to prosecute. Eventually, they did, and seven island men were to go on trial for a combined 55 counts of child sexual assault and/or molestation. Among them was Steve Christian, the mayor of Pitcairn and a direct descendant of Fletcher; Randy Christian, Steve’s son and a very influential man in his own right; Jay Warren, the former island magistrate; Len Brown, the oldest man on the island at the time; Len’s son, Dave Brown; Terry Young, descendant of mutineer Ned; and Dennis Christian, the Pitcairn postman.

A combined herculean effort from both Britain and New Zealand helped arrange judges, prosecutors and lawyers for what became one of the most bizarre, disturbing and historic trials in UK history. A pool of six journalists were accredited for the trials, which lasted six weeks on Pitcairn in the spring of 2004. Providing for an impartial jury proved to be impossible due to the community’s tiny size.

After an extremely expensive and drawn-out legal battle, the sentences were handed down by the British judges. Jay Warren was the only man acquitted, while Dennis Christian — who had cooperated with investigators and formally apologized to his victim — received community service. Due to his advanced age and mental state, Len Brown was given a light sentence of home detention. Steve Christian, Randy Christian and Dave Brown were all sentenced to terms in the newly-built Pitcairn prison, which the men had built themselves.

Several other men, including Brian Young and Shawn Christian, were tried separately in New Zealand and sentenced there. Only one non-islander was ever named at the trials: Albert Reeves, a New Zealand schoolteacher who allegedly molested a student or two when he lived on Pitcairn from 1969-70. Suffering from dementia, Reeves was deemed unfit to stand trial and his accuser dropped the charges.

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A photo of Pitcairn’s longboat on the open ocean. Nearly one-half of the entire population can fit inside, and the longboat is the only way on or off the island.

Part 5: How It Happened

Lots of people were dumbfounded by the pattern of abuse and the code of silence surrounding it on Pitcairn. But the more I read about this strange and harrowing story, the more sense it made.

Pitcairn is formidably isolated and has an enticing history to it. The culture has always been raw, untamed, and male-dominated. You have to be self-reliant and the community has to cooperate on many things, whether they like it or not. Pitcairn was founded, effectively, by pirates and the early years were fueled by sexual jealousy, violence and alcohol abuse. Combine this history and these modern elements with a neglectful colonial power and you have a recipe for disaster. It also didn’t help that  megalomaniacs like Steve Christian used their ancestry and island status to intimidate people.

On the other hand, you can find widespread child abuse virtually anywhere in the world. Big cities, small towns, Native American reservations, religious cults, etc. While it’s tempting to view Pitcairn as a real-life Lord of the Flies scenario, the reality is more complex than that.

The main difference, in my opinion, is the mythological image of Pitcairn as a tropical island paradise. To many people, Pitcairn will always be a perfect place to live, regardless of the crimes committed there. To others, the island will always be a crowning achievement of Adventist missionary work, even if (as of recent reports) only three islanders attend church regularly. The romanticized past will largely obscure the ugly present, and the islanders see to it that the myth prevails above all else.

People from all over the world chomp at the bit to get a glimpse of Pitcairn and meet the mutineers’ descendants. Cruise ship passengers go out of their way to buy Pitcairn arts and crafts. They bicker in internet message boards about obscure details of the island and debate the merits of the various Hollywood films. They follow the Pitcairn online newspaper, the Miscellany, and fawn over images of the islanders’ children. Unfortunately, many self-described friends and fans of Pitcairn believed the islanders’ version of events and joined in the growing chorus of conspiracies. Speaking of which…

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The Adamstown Seventh-day Adventist Church. The entire population converted to Adventism in the 1890s and the religion plays a large part in the Pitcairn story. The church is the only house of worship on the island and dominates the town square. Only a handful of Pitcairners attend church regularly, but many still choose to observe Saturday as a day of rest out of respect for the more devout islanders.

Part 6: Conspiracy?

Let’s put on our tin-foil hats for a second.

Britain and New Zealand have made a shadowy pact with each other to get rid of Pitcairn as an overseas UK territory and forcibly relocate the population. Making up for years of neglect, the UK wants to rid itself of an expensive, headache-inducing burden in the middle of the South Pacific.

Therefore, alleged victims were bribed, evidence was planted, and the islanders’ reputation was dragged through the mud. Additionally, the Pitcairners, despite being a British territory, were completely unaware that their laws (including laws against rape) applied equally on Pitcairn itself.

Pitcairn couldn’t function without the longboats being crewed by the men, so the conspiracy was intended to rob Pitcairn of its able-bodied men, and by extension its livelihood. Every single girl who accused a Pitcairn man is either a liar, delusional, or both. Every single sexual encounter was, in fact, consensual, and having sex at a very young age is a time-honored Polynesian custom.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Not really. That argument was, in fact, used by the vast majority of the island women to defend the men who had abused children for decades. For many of them, underage sex was was as natural as watching the grass grow.

Was Tahiti a hotbed of child rape and sexual experimentation back in the day? While there is certainly abundant evidence that the Tahitians were very promiscuous by 18th century standards, there is not much to indicate that assault or abuse was widely practiced or tolerated. Investigators into the modern-day crimes on Pitcairn noted that, while abuse was tacitly accepted, it was never done publicly.

“In India, they have child brides. We might not agree with that, but at least it’s out in the open,” says Sheils Carnahan, the former island schoolteacher. “If this was really Pitcairn culture, then why keep it secret?”

Similarly, one of the accused men who lived in New Zealand was alarmed that he could be jailed for his offenses and made comments to his lawyer to that effect. He was clearly aware how child abusers were treated in most prisons.

“The irony is that we’ve got convictions for really serious offending and had them confirmed on appeal, and these people are locked up for really serious sexual crimes, and yet their supporters will still come out and say that it’s all cultural,” remarked Simon Moore, one of the case’s prosecutors. “Which, apart from being not true, is offensive, racist and patronizing.”

Part 7: Objectors & Naysayers

While I may have created the impression that Pitcairn was an echo-chamber of toxicity, there were a few outsiders in the community besides the resident teacher and pastor.

For example, Mike Lupton-Christian is a British expat who married Brenda Christian, Steve’s sister. Vaine Peu, a Polynesian man from the Cook Islands, married a Pitcairner, Charlene Warren. Both men were unfamiliar with Pitcairn before they settled there and staunchly supported the island women. Peu, in particular, repudiated the idea that Polynesians historically experimented with or “broke in” young girls. “Sex with a 12-year-old? That’s not normal,” he said shortly before the trials started. Lupton-Christian quipped that if something similar had happened to his own children in London, there would only be one trial — his own, for murdering the would-be rapist.

Other outsiders, such Kari Boye Young, wife of Brian Young, were more ambivalent. Kari, a Norwegian, relocated her kids from Pitcairn to Auckland when they were still relatively young. Like many outsiders, Kari knew that child abuse and molestation were rife on the island, but refused to believe Brian’s accusers and declared the trials a miscarriage of justice.

One of the few native islanders who defended the women was Pawl Warren. Known affectionately as “Pirate Pawl”, Warren’s daughter was good friends with the girl who was assaulted by Ricky Quinn after the house party in 1999. Warren has Pitcairn bloodlines and was born on the island, but spent most of his childhood and early adulthood in New Zealand. He returned to Pitcairn in the early 90s after seeing the Hollywood Bounty films and growing nostalgic.

Pirate Pawl is one of the few Pitcairners who has a firearms license. After the trials, most of the islanders had their guns confiscated due to fear of suicide. Breadfruit still grows on the island, and Pawl uses his shotgun to shoot the so-called “mutiny fruit” down from the trees — although by his own admission, there are a few other places (read: people) on the island he’d prefer to point his rifle toward.

Similarly, Tom and Betty Christian, one of the most respected couples on the island, took a courageous stand. Tom, who sadly passed away in 2013, was Pitcairn’s long-time ham radio operator. In addition, he traveled the world speaking about Pitcairn’s unique society, starred in several Pitcairn-based documentaries, and was an elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He and Betty appeared to have mixed feelings about the trial at first; Betty once commented that the Pitcairn men “were young and wild once, but now they know better.” Nevertheless, Tom and Betty eventually testified that Pitcairn was, in fact, a British possession and the islanders were feigning ignorance about not knowing the laws. This made them almost permanent outcasts in the community.

Tom and Betty’s eldest daughter, Jacqui, was one of the few victims who spoke up without using a pseudonym. Jacqui had been subject to repeated and relentless sexual assaults on Pitcairn before leaving at age 15 to go to an Adventist high school in New Zealand and later to pharmacy school in Australia.

Jacqui was living in London at the time of the trials, but amazingly, she chose to go back to Pitcairn and try to set a better example. Jacqui hopes that Pitcairn will slowly rebuild its reputation as the island faces an uncertain future.

Part 8: What Now?

The islanders all received very lenient sentences at the Pitcairn prison. Many were allowed out early on good behavior, much to the dismay of their victims. Randy Christian, whose crimes had been the most severe, still only got a three-year sentence and was out in two. Steve Christian, meanwhile, was forced out as mayor and replaced by his sister Brenda, causing deep division in the community. Brenda was eventually replaced by Mike Warren, who was later arrested and charged on child pornography charges in 2016. Shawn Christian, Steve’s son, was later elected mayor despite his record.

Jacqui Christian returned to the island to a frosty welcome; many islanders refused to speak to her at all. However, Steve Christian eventually volunteered to help her clear some land for a new house, and she was even named to Pitcairn’s influential internal committee.

Pawl Warren, meanwhile, rarely interacts with others in the community and frequently opens up his home to island visitors. He calls his house “Switzerland,” as only there are you allowed to speak openly.

There are signs that the wounds are healing. Irma Christian, Dennis’s mother, passed away in 2016, but before she died, she made a speech at the town hall stressing the need for Pitcairn to be more hospitable to outsiders.

Pitcairn is at a crossroads. With a permanent population of only 47, the island is in desperate need of new blood (both figuratively and literally). It should come as a surprise to no one that the vast majority of Pitcairn expats, particularly women, refuse to return.

From 1991 to 2012, a mere two children were born on Pitcairn, and there is currently only one child on the island — Cushana Warren-Peu, the 10-year-old daughter of Vaine Peu and Charlene Warren. Cushana has a list of safe adults to contact and is driven to school daily by Brenda Christian, now the island’s police officer. At no time is she left alone.

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Cushana Warren-Peu, age 10. The only child left on Pitcairn, Cushana is the daughter of Vaine Peu and Charlene Warren. All of Cushana’s five older siblings live in New Zealand, where they finished their education. 

Even prior to the trials, Pitcairn has never been known as a pleasant place for outsiders. The majority of immigration and tourist inquiries are rejected; as recently as 2013, nearly 700 inquiries are made each year, but not a single application has been formally lodged. A recent research study predicted that by 2045, if nothing were done, only three people of working age would be left on the island.

Pitcairn will actually pay migrants to live there and give them a plot for their own land, but they are prohibited from taking part in local work until their probationary period is complete and must have a minimum of NZD $30,000 in savings.

According to Pitcairn’s official immigration website, “No one will migrate to the Pitcairn Islands for economic reasons, as there are limited government jobs, a lack of private sector employment, as well as considerable competition for the tourism dollar.”

Immigrants are desperately needed to replenish the Pitcairn population and ensure the island’s future. Whether they come from the UK, New Zealand or elsewhere is inconsequential. Without this, the island will revert to nature and the community will die off.

The most important question that needs answering, obviously, is whether or not Pitcairn is safe.

“I believe in a strong future for Pitcairn, but you can’t have that if there’s any risk to children,” says Jacqui Christian. “If we can make it better for the little kids growing up now, and the generations after them, then it will all have been worthwhile.”

A trained pharmacist who has lived in the UK, New Zealand and Australia before returning to her homeland, Jacqui remains optimistic about Pitcairn’s future and has attempted to bring new industry to the island; she has even discussed opening up an acupuncture and massage retreat.

Others aren’t so convinced, including Peter George, one of the detectives who interviewed Shawn Christian on the sexual assault charge in 1997.

“If police and social workers were to go away, the sexual abuse would be back within five to ten years,” George claims.

Rhiannon Adam, an Irishwoman who now lives in London, visited Pitcairn in 2016 for three months to conduct a photojournalism project. Nearly all the islanders were hostile to her while she was there and proved despondent when forced to talk about the trials. While her experience wasn’t entirely negative, Adam remarked that the Pitcairners remain indifferent to outside opinion. “It’s their rock, and they’ll do what they like with it,” she said.

Former island commissioner Leslie Jaques feels similarly: “If mindsets don’t change, Pitcairn will die with these people. No one will come home, and if no one comes home, this will be the last generation. The old people will die, and the young people will leave. This is the last throw of the dice for Pitcairn.”

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My 10 favorite directors

I’m going to do something a little different today. As an aspiring filmmaker, there are obviously lots of influences that I can look up to, but I think one of the more important things to do as a director is to craft your own unique voice, while also recognizing and paying tribute to the artistically-minded people who helped you develop your craft.

So without further ado, in no particular order, here are 10 favorite directors who have, in some way or other, influenced me. Some I don’t like as much as others, but all have directly or indirectly inspired me, given me a fantastic film to add to my collection, etc.

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Quentin Tarantino

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: March 27, 1963 (age 55)
  • Bio: One of the most defining cinematic voices of the past two decades, Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and grew up in Torrance, California. A high school dropout who was a major cinefile as a teenager, Tarantino was largely self-taught and self-funded as an amateur filmmaker; he went through many setbacks before his first film, Reservoir Dogs, was an unexpected hit at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. Two years later, Pulp Fiction became a massive critical and commercial success, earning multiple Academy Award nominations, and propelling Tarantino to international stardom. Tarantino almost always writes his own films, and is known for frequent collaborations with actors and crew alike. He has been nominated for seven Oscars, winning two (both for Best Original Screenplay), and his films have grossed over $649 million worldwide.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Tarantino films are synonymous with graphic violence and black comedy, but they’re also always intriguing from a plot standpoint. Many of his films feature large ensemble casts (Jackie Brown), are based on historical fiction (Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds) or are told in non-linear fashion (Pulp Fiction). His use of music is always excellent. I personally love both Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds, which are eminently quotable movies. I also really loved Django Unchained, a hugely entertaining flick that features one of Jamie Foxx’s best performances.

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David Fincher

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: August 28, 1962 (age 56)
  • Bio: Fincher got his artistic influences from his father, a journalist/author, and began making Super8 films when he was still in elementary school. Born in Colorado, Fincher spent his pre-teen and teen years in northern California and later in Ashland, Oregon, where he graduated from high school. Originally working in visual effects, Fincher later transitioned into film, primarily working in commercials and music videos for prominent artists, such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, and the Rolling Stones. His big break was with Se7en, the 1995 psychological thriller starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. Following the financial and critical success of Se7en, Fincher directed several other notable films in the 90s and 2000s, including Fight ClubThe Social Network, Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Fincher’s wife, Céan Chaffin, serves as his co-producer on many of his films.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: It’s a three-way tie for me. Fight Club has all the elements of a psychological thriller, but it’s also a fun black comedy and a scathing social commentary. Se7en has one of the most memorable twist endings of all time and an intensely creepy villain who never actually commits his crimes onscreen. And The Social Network brilliantly encapsulated the struggle over a website that changed the world, while featuring breakout performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. All of Fincher’s films feature beautiful cinematography and distinctive production design, while also boasting sharp dialogue and outstanding performances. Some of Brad Pitt’s best movies have come in his collaborations with Fincher.

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Stanley Kubrick

  • Nationality: American (lived most of his adult life in England)
  • Born: July 26, 1928
  • Died: March 7, 1999 (age 70)
  • Bio: The Bronx native made some of the 20th century’s most defining films. Despite earning mediocre grades in school, the young Kubrick was a wunderkind as a photographer and eventually made a number of classic films as well. Known as both a perfectionist and a recluse, Kubrick’s films frequently feature both optimistic and melancholy tones, with characters that can be either violently emotional or not emotional at all. Despite being highly-acclaimed as a master of the cinema, Kubrick eschewed the spotlight and primarily lived and worked in England for the majority of his career. Nearly all of his films were adapted from novels or short stories.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Like Tarantino, Kubrick may be an obvious choice on this list, but I’ve always enjoyed his films. While 2001: A Space Odyssey is widely-regarded as Kubrick’s crowning achievement, I’ve always preferred A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket, as both are challenging films that speak much about the human condition (in addition to being extremely well-made in general). Controversial during his time, Kubrick nonetheless had many major critical successes, including The Shining, which received polarizing reviews at the time, but is now considered one of the first epic horror films. Kubrick even dabbled in domestic drama (Lolita, Barry Lyndon) and also made Dr. Strangelove, a brilliant political satire; it’s often said that the director “never made the same picture twice.” Kubrick’s films have exquisite cinematography and were also known for their evocative uses of music.

'Baby Driver' film premiere, Arrivals, New York, USA - 26 Jun 2017

Edgar Wright

  • Nationality: British
  • Born: April 18, 1974 (age 44)
  • Bio: Born in Dorset, England and raised in Somerset, Wright first made his mark in British TV, creating the comedy series Asylum and Spaced. Both became cult classics, while the latter began Wright’s extremely fruitful collaborations with actor/writer/comedian Simon Pegg. The two Brits teamed up again for 2004 horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead, which received a limited release, but was a big box office success that brought them both into the international spotlight. They followed it up with Hot Fuzz, a 2007 action-comedy, and The World’s End, a sci-fi parody, in 2013. Together, the three films are known as the Cornetto Trilogy, because all three films feature different types of Cornetto ice cream. In addition, Wright also directed 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, as well as the critically-acclaimed 2017 action-caper Baby Driver.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: I adore the Cornetto Trilogy. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are among my favorite comedies; they both blend graphic violence with hilarious jokes and gags, while also having an authentic feel to them. Hot Fuzz is a parody of over-the-top buddy-cop flicks, but still looks and feels like a real action film and has a fun plot with lots of twists and turns. Similarly, Shaun of the Dead looks and feels like a classic zombie movie, but is still uproariously funny and has great characters to boot. Baby Driver was an incredibly entertaining ride and featured some memorable performances as well as an extremely likable protagonist.

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Nicolas Winding Refn

  • Nationality: Danish
  • Born: September 29, 1970 (age 48)
  • Bio: Both of Refn’s parents were in the film industry, so he knew what to expect. He was born in Copenhagen and also spent some time in New York as a kid. A film school dropout, Refn made several indie films in his home country, attracting a notable cult following on the arthouse circuit. His 2008 film Bronson featured a non-linear storyline and a riveting performance from Tom Hardy, while Refn gained significant critical notice for Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013), both violent revenge movies which starred Ryan Gosling. In 2016, Refn made The Neon Demon, which received mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, but was praised for its acting and cinematography.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Drive will always be one of my favorite action movies, while I really enjoyed the cinematography and experimental nature of Only God Forgives. Bronson was not a perfect film by any stretch, but it was still a great, micro-budget character study that featured plenty of Tom Hardy charisma. The Neon Demon featured extreme violence and disturbing images, but still had some stunning visuals and solid performances. His films also have euphoric soundtracks, usually composed by frequent collaborator Cliff Martinez. Refn is unafraid of going against the grain, which can sometimes miss the mark, but I still have a lot of respect for his filmmaking methods.

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Clint Eastwood

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: May 31, 1930 (age 88)
  • Bio: Eastwood grew up all over the West Coast and first got into the film industry in the 1950s. He soon became an icon due to his portrayal of “Dirty” Harry Callahan, as well as his ubiquitous Westerns. Eastwood first got into directing while at the height of his fame in the 1970s, and has since made numerous acclaimed films, including Oscar gold such as American Sniper and Million Dollar Baby, as well as Invictus, Changeling, Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima and Gran Torino. As a director, Eastwood works at a rapid pace, rarely rehearsing and trying to complete most scenes in two or three takes. Many of Eastwood’s movies feature smooth cinematography and minimal lighting in order to convey a film noir feel.
  • Favorite films/Why I like their work: Letters from Iwo Jima is one of the best war films of the 21st century, and I also count Gran Torino (in which Eastwood also starred) as one of his best works. Mystic River is an underrated film that featured an excellent, Oscar-winning performance from Sean Penn, while Unforgiven stands out as a modern-day Western classic. Eastwood’s streamlined style of filmmaking frequently works to his advantage, and I’ve always thought his movies are undeniably entertaining and beautifully shot.

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Mel Gibson

  • Nationality: American/Irish (permanent resident of Australia)
  • Born: January 3, 1956 (age 62)
  • Bio: One of 11 children, Gibson was born in New York and moved to Sydney, Australia with his family at the age of 12. Straight out of drama school, he starred in the post-apocalyptic classic Mad Max, as well as several other major films in what was dubbed the “Australian New Wave” of cinema. The first Aussie actor to ever receive a million-dollar salary for a movie, Gibson pursued a mixture of drama and action roles throughout the 80s and 90s, most notably with the Lethal Weapon series. Later on, he got into directing, starting with 1993’s The Man Without a Face and culminating in the multiple Oscar-winning Braveheart two years later, in which he also starred. Gibson spent nearly a decade away from the director’s chair before making a huge return with the controversial Biblical drama The Passion of the Christ (2004), an unprecedented box office success. Shortly thereafter, he made another splash with Apocalypto, a foreign-language action film that focused on the decline of the ancient Mayan civilization. After another hiatus from directing (plus well-publicized personal problems) Gibson came back again in 2016, directing war film Hacksaw Ridge, which received several Oscar nominations.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: It’s safe to say that all of Gibson’s films are visceral experiences, featuring intense violence and breathtaking cinematography. Braveheart is undeniably a classic that helped rejuvenate the historical epic genre, while Apocalypto pushed many boundaries in terms of narrative storytelling. Gibson should be praised for using visuals to convey so much; many of his films feature sparse dialogue and — in the case of The Passion and Apocalypto — foreign languages. Much of Gibson’s filmmaking influences come from Aussie New Wave directors, particularly Mad Max creator George Miller, who famously quipped that his movies were like “silent films, but with sound.” Similarly, Gibson lets his films’ images do the talking the majority of the time, to frequently powerful effect, and his movies also have deceptively simple plots told in unique ways.

'Thor: Ragnarok' film premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 10 Oct 2017

Taika Waititi

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Born: August 16, 1975 (age 43)
  • Bio: Born to a Māori father and a Russian-Jewish mother, Waititi grew up in Wellington, New Zealand before attending film school at nearby Victoria University. There, he met future collaborator Jemaine Clement, and the duo performed in comedy ensembles together. Waititi directed an Oscar-nominated short film in 2004 called Two Cars, One Night and later followed it up with several indie box office successes in his home country, including Boy and Eagle vs Shark. He and Clement teamed up to direct horror-comedy What We Do in the Shadows, which got rave reviews at Sundance. In 2016, Waititi made the universally-acclaimed adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople before heading to the Marvel cinematic universe, directing Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: A perennial darling at Sundance, Waititi has an entertaining batch of films. My personal favorite is What We Do in the Shadows, a larger-than-life passion project that is destined to become a cult comedy classic. Boy succeeds as both an exploration of adolescence as well as the challenges of growing up in a difficult family situation. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is both entertaining and beautifully shot, using its fish-out-of-water premise as more than just a one-off joke. Waititi’s use of humor punctuates everything he does, even in larger-budget fare such as Thor: Ragnarok. The director’s endearing goofiness and down-to-earth personality serves him well in a film landscape that needs voices like his.

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Martin Scorsese

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: November 17, 1942 (age 76)
  • Bio: Scorsese is a living legend in the world of cinema. Born and raised in New York to Catholic parents, he suffered from asthma as a child and couldn’t play sports with his friends; therefore, he found a second home at the movies. After briefly considering entering the priesthood, Scorsese chose instead to attend NYU, earning both a Bachelor’s and Master’s before entering the world of cinema. Scorsese has always managed to make entertaining, brilliantly-written fare with indelible images. You never forget a Scorsese film when you’ve seen it, and there’s a reason he’s managed to stay relevant as long as he has. Many of his films focus on violence, crime, and Italian-American identity, but also feature somber, philosophical musings on life, faith, and family. Scorsese’s surprisingly diverse filmography also includes satire (The King of Comedy, The Wolf of Wall Street) and even a children’s movie (Hugo).
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Both Goodfellas and Taxi Driver rank among the all-time classics for a reason, and The Departed is another brilliant Scorsese power-punch. I also think that The Wolf of Wall Street is an outstanding black comedy that features a tour-de-force performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, while the low-key religious tearjerker Silence also deserves more credit.

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Denis Villenueve

  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Born: October 3, 1967 (age 51)
  • Bio: Villenueve, a Quebec native, began making films as a 30-something in local competitions before successfully directing his first feature in 1998. Villenueve dabbled in both English and French language productions before making his first major studio film, Prisoners, in 2013. The movie, a domestic thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, was a major success and marked Villenueve as a newcomer to watch. Since then, he’s made one film per year, most recently Arrival — which earned him a Best Director nomination at the 2017 Oscars — and Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited successor to the 1982 sci-fi hit starring Harrison Ford. He also directed the action-thriller film Sicario, which starred Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Villenueve knows how to mesmerize. All of his films have stunning cinematography and powerful performances. Prisoners is an intense story with some eerie images. Arrival is a philosophical sci-fi movie that grew on me — the more I thought about its deeper meaning as the credits rolled, the more I loved it. And Blade Runner 2049 was a fun, well-crafted adventure that did exactly what it should have done. I’m looking forward to seeing what else he does in the years to come.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

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Damien Chazelle

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: January 19, 1985 (age 33)
  • Bio: The son of two college professors, Bernard and Celia, Chazelle was born in Rhode Island and raised in New Jersey. Originally aspiring to be a jazz drummer, Chazelle began to take an interest in filmmaking while in high school. He graduated from Harvard in 2007 and made his first big impression with Whiplash, a multiple Oscar nominee in 2014. Chazelle followed it up with La La Land, a free-spirited musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The film takes a whimsical and sincere approach to life, love, and career choices in the Hollywood industry and ended up winning seven Oscars (infamously, Best Picture was not one of them). Earlier this year, Gosling and Chazelle reunited with First Man, the official biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: La La Land and Whiplash are two very different films, but both are beautifully shot and have outstanding performances. Chazelle’s innovative spirit and rapid-fire dialogue complement each other well. His musical background allows him to take special interest in film scoring — Chazelle’s frequent music collaborator, Justin Hurwitz, was his roommate at Harvard. From the manic intensity of Whiplash to the soaring musical numbers of La La Land, Chazelle is able to draw upon so many different emotions in his audience. And First Man was a realistic, harrowing look at the dangers and triumphs of the Apollo moon landing with another fantastic Gosling performance.

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Craig Gillespie

  • Nationality: Australian
  • Born: September 1, 1967 (age 51)
  • Bio: Born and raised in Sydney, Gillespie moved to the US to study advertising at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. He moved from advertising to directing commercials in the mid-90s and made his first feature film in 2007. His breakthrough was Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling as the dopey-but-good-natured title character who falls in love with a sex doll. Gillespie later helmed the 2011 horror remake of Fright Night, as well as baseball drama Million Dollar Arm. In 2017, he directed fellow Aussie Margot Robbie in I, Tonya, which explored controversial figure skater Tonya Harding and the infamous 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan that led to Harding’s ban from professional skating.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Lars and the Real Girl was my first exposure to Gillespie. Despite being a box office flop, the movie had a tone that was simultaneously humorous and sincere, and had a real heart in spite of its oddball premise. “Dramedys” are a famously hard genre to grasp as a director, and Gillespie nailed it. I also really enjoyed I, Tonya, which was both entertaining and funny despite featuring a plethora of unlikable characters.

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Peter Weir

  • Nationality: Australian
  • Born: August 21, 1944 (age 74)
  • Bio: Weir is another product of the Australian New Wave movement. The Sydneysider made Picnic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli in his early career; the latter film was a landmark picture focusing on the exploits of Aussie soldiers at the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. Weir later directed the political romance The Year of Living Dangerously, as well as Witness, a mystery-thriller starring Harrison Ford. However, Weir’s best known films might be the legendary Dead Poets Society starring the late Robin Williams, The Truman Show with Jim Carrey, and 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which starred Russell Crowe and received 10 Oscar nominations.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Obviously, Master and Commander, Witness, The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society are bound to get all the love if you’re familiar with Weir’s work (to be sure, all four are outstanding). But his earlier films are also a must-see. Gallipoli captures a watershed moment in WWI, when Australia and New Zealand came into their own as countries. The Year of Living Dangerously captures a wartime romance in 1960s Indonesia and features several stirring performances.

 

Rugby League vs. Rugby Union – a comparison and history

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Rugby is an exciting full-contact sport that was founded in England in 1823, when a schoolboy named William Webb-Ellis became bored with kicking a soccer ball and decided to pick up the ball and run with it. This event resulted in the formation of what was called rugby, because it was founded at Rugby School in Warwickshire. However, the sport was not formally organized in a national competition (the Rugby Football Union, or RFU) until 1871.

Rugby quickly took off in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and also developed a large following in the colonies of Australia and New Zealand. However, some important socioeconomic differences began to be revealed as the game spread.

Youngsters who played rugby in school were generally from upper-class families. They strictly played the game for fun, as players were not allowed to play professionally at the time.

However, rugby players in the northern parts of England – specifically Lancashire and Yorkshire – were the common people, mainly blue-collar workers. As such, they simply couldn’t afford to take significant time off work in order to play rugby, and their teams suffered because of it. Therefore, these northerners decided to devise a scheme to get paid professionally.

As rugby began to take off in northern England, the southern amateurs didn’t like that these would-be working-class professionals up north were trying to be compensated. In 1892, the RFU disciplined Bradford and Leeds – two northern rugby clubs – for paying players who had to miss work. However, the RFU was already paying southern players who had represented England abroad, such as the 1888 rugby team that toured Australia.

The furious northerners argued that the RFU had shown blatant favoritism towards the southern clubs, as well as stacking the deck against them in games and not giving them representation on any sport-related committees. In response, the RFU banned professional rugby teams nationwide.

However, all was not lost for the northerners, as they had created their own league in 1888, featuring a dozen teams. They called themselves the Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU). The two sports officially separated in 1895, with the south becoming rugby union and the northerners sticking to what is now known as rugby league.

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SIMILARITIES BETWEEN LEAGUE AND UNION

The two codes of rugby have the same basic ideas:

  • Players can run forward with the ball or kick the ball forwards, as long as it touches the ground first (a drop-kick).
  • Players cannot throw or deflect the ball forwards (a knock-on) and must throw the ball backwards or sideways.
  • Players can score in different ways:
    • try is when a player who has possession of the ball touches it down on his opponent’s in-goal area.
    • A conversion kick occurs after a try and is very similar to an extra point attempt in American football.
    • Players can also score by kicking the ball through the uprights (a penalty goal) or during gameplay (a drop goal). Again, the ball must be drop-kicked on the ground.
  • Both rugby league and rugby union fields are 100 meters long.
  • Both codes have the same tackling rules (anywhere below the shoulders) and similar penalties.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LEAGUE AND UNION

  • Rugby league features 13 players a side, while rugby union is 15-on-15.
  • In rugby union, a try is five points, but it is four points in rugby league. Likewise, a drop goal is worth three points in union, but only one point in league. Conversion kicks and penalty kicks are worth two points in both codes.
  • Rugby union places a large emphasis on winning possessions via mauls and scrums, when both teams fight for the ball against each other while holding their teammates tight.
  • In rugby union, a ruck is what happens when a player is tackled by an opposing player. The player who got tackled must let go of the ball, while his teammates push the opposing players away. However, in rugby league, the tackle is uncontested, and the player(s) who made the tackle must retreat ten meters.
  • In rugby union, a team has unlimited possessions and can therefore control the clock. However, in rugby league, a team has only six chances to score a try. On the sixth attempt, a player will usually kick the ball long to the other team, just like an American football punter would. This was designed by the original NRFU players in order to keep the scores close and make sure both teams had even possessions.

These rules may seem like minor differences, but the modern versions of both league and union are very different in practice. Rugby union matches are both brutal and methodical, requiring precise kicks and ball disposals, as it’s all about strategy and knowing what to do to get your team in position to score. Rugby league is much more simple and straightforward, and many American football fans who watch league on TV will be able to follow it very quickly. In order to play league, you must be quick and agile. Union is generally more physical, but also isn’t as fast-paced as league.

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Rugby union is the de facto code played in most schools around the world, and when fans and players talk about “rugby,” they’re generally referring to union. The game is played widely around the world, as it remains a major sport in the UK, as well as in Pacific islands such as New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. The US, South Africa, Japan, France, and Ireland are some other notable nations that compete on an international scale, either in rugby union or the abbreviated form known as rugby sevens (I played both union and sevens when I was an undergrad at New Mexico State University).

Rugby league is more of a localized niche sport, as only a handful of countries play it. The only country where league is more popular than union is Australia, and it has a particularly large following in the states of New South Wales and Queensland.

In addition, league is widely played in southern France, New Zealand, Wales, the Pacific islands, and the northern parts of England in which it originated. League is also the national sport of both Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.

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MAJOR RUGBY LEAGUE COMPETITIONS

  • Super League (England/France)
    • Castleford Tigers
    • Catalans Dragons (France)
    • Huddersfield Giants
    • Hull F.C.
    • Leeds Rhinos
    • Leigh Centurions
    • Salford Red Devils
    • St Helens F.C.
    • Wakefield Trinity
    • Warrington Wolves
    • Widnes Vikings
    • Wigan Warriors
  • National Rugby League (Australia/New Zealand)
    • Brisbane Broncos
    • Canberra Raiders
    • Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
    • Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
    • Gold Coast Titans
    • Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
    • Melbourne Storm
    • Newcastle Knights
    • New Zealand Warriors
    • North Queensland Cowboys
    • Parramatta Eels
    • Penrith Panthers
    • St George-Illawarra Dragons
    • South Sydney Rabbitohs
    • Sydney Roosters
    • Wests Tigers
  • National Rugby League (Tonga)
    • Capital Warriors
    • Fuekafa Rabbitohs
    • Ha’akame Broncos
    • Ha’ateiho Spartans
    • Halaloto Green Barbarians
    • Havelu Bulldogs
    • Kolomotu’a Eagles
    • Lapaha Knights
    • Mu’a Saints
    • Nakolo Raiders
    • Silapeluua Crusaders
    • Vaini Doves
  • Digicel Cup (Papua New Guinea)
    • Agmark Gurias
    • Bintangor-Goroka Lahanis
    • Enga Mioks
    • Gulf Isapea
    • Hela Wigmen
    • Lae Snax Tigers
    • Mendi Muruks
    • Mount Hagen Eagles
    • Port Moresby Vipers
    • TNA Lions
    • Waghi Tumbe
  • Vodafone Cup (Fiji)
    • City Stormers
    • Davuilevu Knights
    • Dees Cees Nadera Panthers
    • Lautoka Crushers
    • Makoi Bulldogs
    • Malawai Sea Eagles
    • Nabua Broncos
    • Nadi Eels
    • Namatakula Saints
    • Namotomoto Raiders
    • Naviago Sharks
    • Police Sharks
    • Sabeto Roosters
    • Saru Dragons
  • National Competition (New Zealand)
    • Akarana Falcons
    • Canterbury Bulls
    • Canterbury Development Team
    • Counties Manukau Stingrays
    • Southland Rams
    • Taranaki Sharks
    • Waikato
    • Wellington Orcas
  • Cook Islands Rugby League
    • Aitutaki Sharks
    • Arorangi Bears
    • Avatiu Eels
    • Ngatangiia-Matavera Sea Eagles
    • Takuvaine Warriors
    • Titikaveka Bulldogs
    • Tupapa Panthers

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MAJOR RUGBY UNION COMPETITIONS

  • Premiership Rugby (England)
    • Bath
    • Bristol
    • Exeter Chiefs
    • Gloucester
    • Harlequin
    • Leicester Tigers
    • Newcastle Falcons
    • Northampton Saints
    • Sale Sharks
    • Saracens
    • Wasps
    • Worcester Warriors
  • Super Rugby (Australia/New Zealand/South Africa/Argentina/Japan)
    • Blues (New Zealand)
    • Brumbies (Australia)
    • Bulls (South Africa)
    • Cheetahs (South Africa)
    • Chiefs (New Zealand)
    • Crusaders (New Zealand)
    • Force (Australia)
    • Highlanders (New Zealand)
    • Hurricanes (New Zealand)
    • Jaguares (Argentina)
    • Kings (South Africa)
    • Lions (South Africa)
    • Rebels (Australia)
    • Reds (Australia)
    • Stormers (South Africa)
    • Sunwolves (Japan)
    • Waratahs (Australia)
  • Top 14 (France)
    • Aviron Bayonnais
    • Union Bordeaux Bègles
    • CA Brive
    • Castres Olympique
    • ASM Clermont Auvergne
    • FC Grenoble
    • Lyon OU
    • Montpellier Hèrault
    • Section Paloise
    • Racing 92
    • Stade Rochelais
    • Stade Français Paris
    • RC Toulonnais
    • Stade Toulousain
  • Rugby Football Union (England)
    • Bedford Blues
    • Bristol
    • Cornish Pirates
    • Doncaster Knights
    • Ealing Trailfinders
    • Hartpury College
    • Jersey Reds
    • London Scottish
    • Nottingham
    • Richmond
    • Rotherham Titans
    • Yorkshire Carnegie
  • All-Ireland League
    • Ballynahinch
    • Ballymena
    • Banbridge
    • Buccaneers
    • Clontarf
    • Cork Constitution
    • Dolphin
    • Dublin University
    • Garryowen
    • Lansdowne
    • Naas
    • Old Belvedere
    • Old Wesley
    • Shannon
    • St Mary’s College
    • Terenure College
    • UCC
    • UCD
    • UL Bohemians
    • Young Munster
  • Currie Cup (South Africa)
    • Blue Bulls
    • Boland Cavaliers
    • Border Bulldogs
    • Eastern Province Kings
    • Falcons
    • Free State Cheetahs
    • Golden Lions
    • Griffons
    • Griquas
    • Leopards
    • Pumas
    • Sharks
    • SWD Eagles
    • Western Province
  • Pro12 (Italy/Scotland/Wales)
    • Aironi (Italy)
    • Border Reivers (Scotland)
    • Celtic Warriors (Wales)
    • Bridgend (Wales)
    • Caerphilly (Wales)
    • Cardiff (Wales)
    • Ebbw Vale (Wales)
    • Llanelli (Wales)
    • Neath (Wales)
    • Newport (Wales)
    • Pontypridd (Wales)
    • Swansea (Wales)
  • National Rugby Championship (Australia)
    • Brisbane City
    • Canberra Vikings
    • Country Eagles
    • Melbourne Rising
    • Perth Spirit
    • Queensland Country
    • Sydney Rays
    • Western Sydney Rams
  • Mitre 10 Cup (New Zealand)
    • Auckland
    • Bay of Plenty
    • Canterbury
    • Counties Manukau
    • Hawke’s Bay
    • Manawatu
    • North Harbour
    • Northland
    • Otago
    • Southland
    • Taranaki
    • Tasman
    • Waikato
    • Wellington
  • Digicel Cup (Fiji)
    • Lautoka
    • Macuata
    • Nadi
    • Nadroga
    • Naitasiri
    • Namosi
    • Navosa
    • Northland
    • Ovalau
    • Rewa
    • Suva
    • Tavua

Forgiving, but discerning

A new film is coming out called Hacksaw Ridge – a bloody WWII drama that premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month and drew a 10-minute standing ovation. The plot focuses on the remarkable true story of Desmond Doss, an Army medic at the Battle of Okinawa. Doss was a Seventh-Day Adventist who didn’t carry a weapon, but managed to save 70 men in his unit while under enemy fire. He ended up being the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.

Hacksaw Ridge has been met with critical praise already, even though it doesn’t arrive in American cinemas until November 4. It currently holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is being talked about as a sleeper pick at this year’s Academy Awards.

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Why is this relevant? Well, Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson – the Oscar-winning superstar who’s spent the majority of the last decade in hiding. As most of us remember, Gibson’s public disgrace was a punchline for years, following his infamous 2006 DUI incident in which he used anti-Semitic slurs, as well as a divorce from his wife and other related issues. Since then, public opinion of Gibson has been less-than-stellar, to put it mildly.

Gibson, now age 60, has tried to bounce back, but he’s largely viewed as box office poison even long after his problems faded from memory of the tabloids. Several films he has starred in have flopped, and he’s tried to lie low for awhile. Until Hacksaw Ridge premiered, Gibson hadn’t been behind the director’s chair since 2006’s Apocalypto.

In his personal life, Gibson was also accused of beating his then-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, in 2010 and leaving obscene voicemails on her answering machine. Gibson pleaded no contest and the two settled out of court. It was eventually revealed that some of the tapes were deliberately edited and there was evidence of extortion on Grigorieva’s part. Gibson’s ex-wife, Robyn Moore, defended him, saying that she had never experienced any abuse from Gibson in their 30 years of marriage.

Gibson has had long struggles with alcohol and found out several years ago that he was manic-depressive. In the aftermath of his DUI arrest, he called his remarks “despicable” and that they were “blurted out in a moment of insanity.” In a follow-up hearing six months after the arrest, a Los Angeles judge praised Gibson for going above and beyond what was required, which included counseling and community service. Gibson also met one-on-one with Jewish leaders and attempted to reach a measure of public forgiveness.

The point I’m trying to make here is this: should we, as consumers of media, be willing to forgive people? On one level, the obvious answer is yes. In order to be a happy person in life, you need to forgive people who have wronged you. On the other hand, these people are celebrities and, as such, could care less what the guy on the street thinks of them. Still, people like Gibson should be given credit for trying to rebuild their reputations and being willing to meet people halfway.

But as movie-watchers, should we be able to watch Gibson’s films without guilt? That’s not an easy answer, and I don’t expect that everyone will be lining up to watch Hacksaw Ridge (or any of Gibson’s other previous films).

However, in hindsight, other people in the entertainment industry have done terrible things too. Sean Penn was a domestic abuser. Charlie Sheen trashed hotel rooms and nearly had prostitutes overdose on his dollar. Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl. Many of these people were pariahs at first, but were eventually accepted back into the Hollywood fold (and some never left to begin with).

Then why has Gibson, a full decade after his most notorious episode, not been given an olive branch? Some people would say that he’s not truly sorry, given his other problems since the DUI. Others would say he’s been unfairly treated because he’s an outspoken, conservative Catholic. Whatever the explanation is, I think it’s time for a guy like Gibson to make his comeback. Disregarding Gibson’s personal demons (which aren’t unique to him), film is a richer place with him around.

If you want to look at a guy outside of Hollywood with a situation comparable to Gibson’s, look no further than Michael Vick. He served time for several years following his involvement in an illegal dogfighting ring, and it looked like his NFL career was all but finished. However, upon his release, Vick did everything he could to make amends and show remorse. To this day, he is still protested when he makes appearances, but if you’re being objective, I can’t imagine how he could have handled himself any better upon his return to public life, or what else he could do to show repentance.

As a society, we tend to put people on a pedestal and want to think the best of humanity. That’s why we’re shocked when a cop kills someone in cold blood. That’s why we get pissed off when middle school teachers turn out to be pedophiles. It’s not something that’s unique to celebrities – then again, with public figures, people tend to have longer-than-usual memories.

I think it’s natural to want to admire people. I think it’s silly when people admire someone with no evident talent or anything useful to say (looking at you, Kardashian family), but I’m not going to fault people for having role models, whether they’re celebrities or not.

I’m also not going to fault anyone for not watching movies from certain people. That’s their right, and as consumers of entertainment, we’re obligated to be free in what we choose to watch. My dad consistently refuses to watch Woody Allen movies due to his own distaste for Allen’s personal life. My mom doesn’t like Jack Nicholson’s movies, based on his playboy lifestyle.

So at the end of the day, we should be willing to be forgiving, but also discerning. That’s our right and our duty, both as free people and as moviegoers.

2015-2016 coaching carousel (pt. 2)

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#15 – Mike Norvell, Memphis

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Arizona State

PROS: Norvell is an Arkansas native who has had serious success under Todd Graham at Arizona State as their offensive coordinator. He’s a solid recruiter and has mentored players such as all-Pac 12 quarterback Taylor Kelly and running back/slot receiver D.J. Foster. Prior to ASU, Norvell coached with Graham at Pitt and Tulsa.

CONS: The 34-year-old Norvell has never been a head coach before, and while he’s great in terms of football IQ and enthusiasm, the expectations at Memphis are certainly different than when Justin Fuente took over a dreadful program in 2012.

BOTTOM LINE: Memphis’s rise from cellar-dweller to contender under Fuente was nothing short of meteoric. Norvell will be hard-pressed to recapture that magic, but he’s got a group of talented, overachieving athletes that are hungry as ever to stay at the top.

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#16 – Tracy Claeys, Minnesota

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Minnesota

PROS: Claeys is a well-respected coach who has support from the university community. Like former coach Jerry Kill, he brings a disciplined, blue-collar approach that is popular with fans and players alike.

CONS: He has only coached with Jerry Kill in his career and been exposed to only one system.

BOTTOM LINE: Minnesota has the benefit of continuity with Claeys. To some extent (given Kill’s health issues), they had time and hindsight to make a good decision, too. There’s turmoil elsewhere in university administration, so the Gophers made a good choice.

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#17 – Barry Odom, Missouri

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, Missouri

PROS: Odom is a familiar face who has built a reputation as a defensive mastermind, and he’s popular with fans and players, having been at Mizzou under former coach Gary Pinkel in two separate stints (2003-2011 and 2015-present).

CONS: While Odom is a natural fit, his defensive background might not be. The Tigers were solid defensively and atrocious offensively in 2015, compounding their issues on a team that was already lacking chemistry.

BOTTOM LINE: Odom has the resources and support, plus a team with a history of recent success. The Tigers have the talent to contend in a down SEC East, but they’ll need the offense to come around soon.

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#18 – Lovie Smith, Illinois

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PROS: Smith has legit NFL coaching experience—both with the Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears—and he’s been an assistant at several Big Ten programs before, including Ohio State and Wisconsin. He also grabbed his old friend, Garrick McGee, to run the offense.

CONS: Despite his impressive resumé, Smith’s star seems to have fallen in recent years. At Illinois, he inherits a program with so-so facilities and a roster that has lacked toughness. Is the 57-year-old Smith up to the task?

BOTTOM LINE: He may seem like an odd fit at first, but Smith brings stability to a program that has been treading water lately. The real question is can he win immediately? Smith is undoubtedly a great coach, but he faces an uphill battle trying to make the Illini relevant in the Big Ten again.

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#19 – Will Muschamp, South Carolina

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

PROS: Muschamp is a proven coach with a proven track record, and he’s a familiar face that fans can buy into after Steve Spurrier’s retirement. The Gamecocks have fallen far and fast, but better days are ahead.

CONS: Muschamp’s tenure at Florida will continue to be an sore spot unless he proves otherwise. His work as Auburn’s defensive coordinator last season wasn’t exactly inspiring.

BOTTOM LINE: Questions abound, but Muschamp has familiarity with the SEC, recruiting prowess, and a big chip on his shoulder. He could rebuild the Gamecocks into a contender in time, especially in a weak SEC East.

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#20 – Frank Wilson, UTSA

PREVIOUS JOB: Running Backs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, LSU

PROS: Wilson is considered to be one of the nation’s best recruiters. He dominated the talent-rich New Orleans area as a recruiter at LSU, while also playing a key role in the development of numerous NFL-bound running backs. He also has experience coaching at Ole Miss and Tennessee under big names like Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin.

CONS: Wilson lacks head-coaching experience and steps into a tough situation in terms of facilities and fan support. UTSA started off fast since becoming an FBS program in 2012, but they fell to 7-17 in the past two seasons in a mediocre Conference USA.

BOTTOM LINE: Wilson certainly has the enthusiasm for the job, and his recruiting prowess should serve him well in Texas, a state that certainly doesn’t lack for gridiron talent. The Roadrunners have taken a lot of recent lumps, but they should be much more competitive under Wilson.

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#21 – Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach, Colorado State

PROS: Summers is a Georgia native and an outstanding recruiter who developed future NFL players at mid-major schools likes UAB, UCF, and most recently, Colorado State. Former coach Willie Fritz electrified audiences with his pistol-option offense, but Summers brings a reputation as a defensive guru. Plus, he coached safeties at Georgia Southern in 2006.

CONS: Summers has only two seasons as a coordinator under his belt and is still very young (35). He inherits a program with sky-high expectations and a rich gridiron history. Can he put together the right pieces to be successful immediately?

BOTTOM LINE: In a conference full of parity, GSU must work hard to remain on the same level as their peers. Summers seems to have the moxie to pull it off, but any drop off will be felt acutely in the Sun Belt.

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#22 – Everett Withers, Texas State

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, James Madison

PROS: Withers has a proven track record as a defensive assistant, both at major colleges (North Carolina, Ohio State) and in the NFL. He also has a year of FBS coaching experience (as the interim coach at North Carolina in 2011), and his offenses at James Madison the past couple of years were explosive.

CONS: Withers hasn’t been a full-time coach before, and he doesn’t have much experience as a recruiter in Texas. It will be crucial for Texas State to be competitive in recruiting, not just against other in-state teams, but in the Sun Belt as well.

BOTTOM LINE: There’s plenty of reasons to believe in Withers; he has a solid track record of success, and he inherits a solid situation in terms of facilities and local talent. The Bobcats are still a young program, and they could get back to Sun Belt prominence soon if the ball bounces their way.

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#23 – Seth Littrell, North Texas

PREVIOUS JOB: Tight Ends Coach, North Carolina

PROS: Littrell has proven experience as a play-caller at several different Power Five programs, including Arizona, Indiana, and (most recently) North Carolina, where he also coached the tight ends. An Oklahoma native with great recruiting connections in the region, he could immediately boost the enthusiasm for Mean Green football.

CONS: He has never been a head coach.

BOTTOM LINE: Littrell has a lot of benefits at UNT, including a new stadium and a quality recruiting ground. The cupboard isn’t entirely bare, either—the Mean Green made a bowl game as recently as 2013. This is a good job for Littrell to take.

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#24 – Kalani Sitake, BYU

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Oregon State

PROS: The 40-year-old Sitake is an engaging personality, a noted recruiter, and an LDS church member—three immediate prerequisites for the BYU job. The Tonga native and BYU alum spent almost his entire career in the state of Utah before moving to Oregon State last year under coach Gary Andersen. He has worked wonders as an assistant coach, especially as a defensive coordinator.

CONS: He has never been a head coach at any level, and BYU is a tough job playing a tough independent schedule. Recruiting has always been a challenge in Provo. Sitake knows the program’s culture well, but can he translate that to immediate success?

BOTTOM LINE: Sitake is a rising star in the coaching business for a reason, but his lack of head coaching experience certainly works against him. Were it not for his LDS background, he probably wouldn’t be a serious contender for many other jobs—at least not yet.

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#25 – Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Nevada

PROS: Rolovich is a young assistant (36) with an excellent resumé. He coached at Hawaii from 2008-2011 and was offensive coordinator at Nevada for the past four seasons. A California native and a Hawaii alum, Rolovich takes over a stagnant Warrior program that has won only ten games in the past four seasons.

CONS: Rolovich has never been a head coach, and the UH athletic department has been under significant financial turmoil in recent years, so money for assistant coaches could be an ongoing issue. In addition, scholarship numbers are down, as former coach Norm Chow relied heavily on transfers, and Aloha Stadium needs to be renovated.

BOTTOM LINE: Rolovich is up against it in an ever-improving Mountain West, but as an alum and former assistant, he’s familiar with the program and its various challenges. Give him time and he’ll turn the Warriors around.

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#26 – Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

PREVIOUS JOB: Running Backs Coach, Texas Tech

PROS: Jinks has been an assistant coach for 20 years, including 16 years in the Texas high school ranks. He was part of Kliff Kingsbury’s original staff at Texas Tech in 2013, and did some great work as running backs coach at a school that isn’t traditionally known for its power running game.

CONS: While Jinks is a good recruiter and a nice face for Bowling Green’s program, he has never lived outside the state of Texas. In addition to his lack of head-coaching experience, Jinks only has six seasons of experience as a coordinator—and that was at the high school level.

BOTTOM LINE: Wait and see. Bowling Green had enjoyed euphoria under Dino Babers for two seasons, so the fans should be relatively satisfied during the upcoming transition. But Jinks still has much to prove as a first-time head coach.

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#27 – Matt Viator, Louisiana-Monroe

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, McNeese State

PROS: Before a decade-long tenure at McNeese State (his alma mater), Viator was a long-time high school coach. He has spent his entire 30-year coaching career in the state of Louisiana.

CONS: Viator has never even been an assistant at the FBS level, so he isn’t a proven commodity as a recruiter of top talent. ULM is a tough job, to be sure, and he’s bound to take a few lumps before getting his system and recruits in place.

BOTTOM LINE: Viator is a decent fit at the right time for a struggling program, but can he take ULM any further than Todd Berry did? The Warhawks are used to being underestimated, but Viator needs to prove early on that he’s not in over his head.

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#28 – Mike Neu, Ball State

PREVIOUS JOB: Quarterbacks Coach, New Orleans Saints

PROS: Neu is a Ball State alum with over a decade of professional coaching experience, mostly in the NFL and the Arena Football League.

CONS: His only job at the collegiate level was two years (2012-2013) as quarterbacks coach at Tulane.

BOTTOM LINE: This wasn’t a particularly inspiring hire. Despite his status as an alum and Indiana native, Neu doesn’t seem to possess the obvious chops as a play-caller or head coach.

2015-2016 coaching carousel (pt. 1)

It was a busy offseason for college football, with 28 head coaching vacancies being filled. Here is my ranking, from first to last:

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#1 – Mark Richt, Miami

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Georgia

PROS: Richt is one of the few proven commodities in the coaching circuit, and the Hurricanes are certainly lucky to have him. He won 145 games in 14 seasons at Georgia, and he brings a sterling reputation to his alma mater.

CONS: Miami will continue to wear the label of underachiever until Richt and his team prove otherwise.

BOTTOM LINE: The Canes are still dripping with talent, and Richt might be their best hire in years. If he can put all the pieces together, the U might finally get to that elusive ACC championship.

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#2 – Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, BYU

PROS: Mendenhall’s departure from BYU after 11 seasons was the shocker of the offseason, and it was even more shocking that he chose the vacant UVA job. Still, Mendenhall has never had a losing season as a head coach, taking the Cougars to 11 bowl games in 11 years.

CONS: BYU is a unique job with significant recruiting challenges, but Mendenhall has never proven himself as an elite recruiter—or at least in the traditional sense of the word. It’s a big move from going from Mormon homes across Utah to attempting to dominate the Tidewater region of Virginia (one of the biggest hotbeds of talent on the East Coast). Also, BYU teams were known for their penalties and disciplinary issues.

BOTTOM LINE: Mendenhall might be an out-of-left-field candidate, but there’s no questioning his coaching acumen, even with the odd geographical location. Can UVA stop being a perennial underachiever and take the next step to being an ACC contender?

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#3 – Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Memphis

PROS: Under Fuente’s leadership, the Memphis Tigers went from zeroes to heroes, becoming an elite program in the American Athletic Conference. He won only 26 games in four years, but keep in mind that the change from Year One to Year Two was dramatic—3-9 to 10-3—and Year Three was nearly as good. Fuente’s hiring has been well-received in Blacksburg, where they’re coming off 29 years of the legendary Frank Beamer.

CONS: Fuente hasn’t proven to be an elite recruiter, which is definitely needed, given the fact that VT’s traditional recruiting grounds have gotten bigger and hotter than ever.

BOTTOM LINE: Fuente has all the tools to succeed at Virginia Tech, a program that has enjoyed serious success in the ACC. The Hokies have an established recruiting footprint, excellent facilities, and a history of winning. Fuente could have gone to plenty of other programs, but he seems like an ideal candidate to replace Beamer.

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#4 – Kirby Smart, Georgia

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

PROS: Stingy, smash-mouth, hard-nosed—all of those are adjectives that describe Alabama’s defenses under Smart. Smart has been with Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa since day one, and developed a sterling reputation as a defensive mind. He is also a UGA alum who has one year of experience coaching at his alma mater; he was running backs coach at UGA in 2005.

CONS: Smart’s resumé borders on brilliant, and there’s plenty of reasons to believe in him, but Georgia fans aren’t exactly the patient type. Given the fact that Mark Richt was fired after winning 145 games in 14 seasons, it’s safe to say that expectations are through the roof.

BOTTOM LINE: A quality hire for Georgia. Smart had basically done all he could at Bama, and he’s happy to return to his alma mater, this time in the head coach’s chair. With their talent level, the Bulldogs should expect an SEC championship soon. How soon?

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#5 – Matt Campbell, Iowa State

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Toledo

PROS: Campbell provides the shot in the arm that the Cyclones need, and he has the enthusiasm required for what is one of the more difficult Big 12 jobs. Campbell is a coach’s son with an offensive background, and he won 35 games in four seasons at Toledo.

CONS: Iowa State hasn’t been able to enjoy consistent success in a long time, and it’s a challenge recruiting kids to come to Ames. Campbell’s biggest hurdle will be raising support on and off the field for a program that has been spinning its wheels in recent years.

BOTTOM LINE: Campbell is one of the bright young minds in college football, and he built quite the well-oiled machine at Toledo. Most of his assistants from Toledo are joining him, so it seems like a natural fit for all involved.

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#6 – Dino Babers, Syracuse

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Bowling Green

PROS: Babers is from the Art Briles coaching tree, so his offenses are bound to be exciting. After four mega successful years at Eastern Illinois (2012-2013) and Bowling Green (2014-2015), Babers was bound to move up in the world. He takes over a Syracuse program with a lot of challenges, but also some young talent.

CONS: Babers doesn’t have much experience working at a program with limited resources. While he played a big role in Baylor’s meteoric rise to the college football elite, both Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green were fixer-upper jobs. The point is that he hasn’t taken over a mediocre program and done a complete turnaround before.

BOTTOM LINE: Syracuse needed to make a splash, and they got it with the charismatic Babers, a great offensive mind who will begin turning the Orange into a dark-horse. They’ll spring a few upsets in 2016.

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#7 – Clay Helton, USC

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, USC

PROS: Helton is extremely popular with players and has proven himself as a play-caller at USC previously. He’s also been a successful running backs and wide receivers coach. He understands the Trojans’ rich gridiron history and the frequent media access to the program.

CONS: Helton is perfectly qualified to be promoted, but Trojan fans and boosters were undoubtedly expecting a bigger name than him. The fans have been grumbling for several years now. Are there more glory days ahead for USC?

BOTTOM LINE: Well, the ending to the Steve Sarkisian era sure was…weird. While Helton’s not the big name that the fan base craved, he provides stability for a program that desperately needs it.

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#8 – D.J. Durkin, Maryland

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, Michigan

PROS: Durkin is an Ohio native who has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most relentless recruiters. He has coordinated defenses at some of the nation’s elite programs, including Florida and Michigan. The Terrapins also have outstanding facilities and are surrounded by loads of high school talent.

CONS: Durkin will have a challenge trying to build the Terrapins into a hard-nosed, smash-mouth Big Ten team. The Terps have recruited well at the skill positions, but they need a lot more on both lines in order to succeed in the Big Ten.

BOTTOM LINE: Given his recruiting prowess and defensive acumen, Durkin seems to have what it takes to build the Terps into a Big Ten contender. The process may be slow, but to some extent, this isn’t a complete rebuilding project.

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#9 – Scott Frost, UCF

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Oregon

PROS: Frost brings his fast-tempo spread offense from the drizzly scenery of Eugene to the swamps of Orlando. In addition to his experience at one of the nation’s elite programs, Frost played in the NFL for six seasons and for the legendary Tom Osborne at Nebraska.

CONS: Frost has to reclaim a team that shot itself in the foot repeatedly with penalties and turnovers last season. You can’t turn that around overnight. Frost also doesn’t have any experience coaching in the South.

BOTTOM LINE: UCF was dreadful last season (0-12), but they’ve got plenty of high school talent surrounding them and some quality facilities. Frost won’t work miracles overnight, but he seemed to be ready to move on from Oregon and has most of the qualifications needed for the job.

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#10 – Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Duke

PROS: Montgomery is a North Carolina native who played wide receiver at Duke and in the NFL before embarking on a coaching career. Now, he gets his first head coaching gig at the age of 37. He has coached with the Pittsburgh Steelers and in two separate stints at Duke.

CONS: While Montgomery has proven himself as a recruiter and position coach, he has only two years of experience as a play-caller. Not that Duke was bad offensively—far from it—but Montgomery takes over a program that is known for spectacular offensive numbers. He’ll have to deliver quick results.

BOTTOM LINE: It was definitely a surprise when Ruffin McNeill got the axe after leading ECU to four bowl games in six years. Montgomery seems to be a good fit for a program that has lacked consistency since moving to the American in 2014. At the very least, the Pirates have been entertaining in recent years. But can Montgomery take that talent and do what McNeill couldn’t?

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#11 – Chris Ash, Rutgers

PREVIOUS JOB: Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach, Ohio State

PROS: Ash built the Ohio State defense into a juggernaut, and before that, he worked under Bret Bielema at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. He is an Iowa native who has a great reputation as a recruiter and a fundamentals coach.

CONS: Ash doesn’t have much in the way of proven offensive playmakers at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights need a shot in the arm in a lot of areas, and they especially need to upgrade their facilities and in-state recruiting. As for Ash himself, he’s unproven as a head coach and it was a bit of a surprise when Rutgers hired him.

BOTTOM LINE: Ash inherits an underachieving Rutgers program that has really struggled against elite competition since joining the Big Ten. The Knights don’t have enough successful pieces in place to contend right away, but they should be more consistent than they were under Kyle Flood.

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#12 – Willie Fritz, Tulane

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Georgia Southern

PROS: Fritz became a hot name and a proven commodity after leading Georgia Southern to the FBS ranks (17 wins in two years). Fritz is an offensive coach who prefers an exciting pistol-option scheme. His past two recruiting classes at Georgia Southern were ranked the best in the Sun Belt.

CONS: Fritz has a tougher schedule ahead, and also a tougher recruiting ground to dominate. There’s plenty of talent in Louisiana, but the Green Wave have often gotten stuck with the leftovers.

BOTTOM LINE: This program needed excitement, and they got it with Fritz. He’ll definitely be able to put fans in the stands and attract some quality recruits, but can he win immediately in an improving American Athletic Conference?

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#13 – Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Alcorn State

PROS: Hopson has coaching roots in Mississippi, having been an assistant at two previous stops in Hattiesburg (2001-2003, 2005-2007). He also did a nice turnaround job at Alcorn State, where he went 32-17 from 2012-2015.

CONS: Hopson isn’t known as an elite recruiter, and expectations are high at Southern Miss following a nine-win season. Can he assemble the right pieces to keep the momentum going?

BOTTOM LINE: Southern Miss seemed to find an excellent replacement for NFL-bound Todd Monken. With little time before National Signing Day, athletic director Bill McGillis made a nice hire in Hopson, who has familiarity with the program and a proven track record of winning at lower levels of football. In a pinch, this seems like a very solid hire.

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#14 – Jason Candle, Toledo

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Toledo

PROS: Like Matt Campbell before him, Candle is a young offensive coordinator who is getting his first chance to run a successful mid-major program. He’s got great facilities and a history of recent success to sell to recruits, and has been an assistant with the program since 2009.

CONS: Candle is still young, and he didn’t inherit many assistants from the previous staff.

BOTTOM LINE: The Rockets have been on a roll lately, but Northern Illinois and Western Michigan are breathing down their necks in the MAC West Division. Candle was offered to follow Campbell to Iowa State, but turned it down in order to stay at Toledo and become a head coach for the first time. Will he keep the magic going?

****TO BE CONTINUED****

Who to fire: the way-too-early edition

We’re a little less than a month into the college football season, but the first firing has already been made in the form of Tim Beckman, head coach at Illinois. Beckman was ousted after three seasons of mostly mediocre results, but the real story came forward when current and former players accused him of verbal abuse and willfully ignoring injuries.

While this was a unique and unfortunate case, you can expect plenty more of firings from now until December. I present my case for all of the head coaches who I believe should be ousted:

Al Golden, Miami

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Golden, who enjoyed a successful run at Temple from 2007-2010, has been far from the savior of one of the nation’s most historic and respected programs. Even after an ongoing NCAA scandal was unofficially concluded a few years back, Golden’s teams have been some of the most underachieving in the FBS. He has probably recruited more NFL talent than the rest of the ACC coaches combined. But the Hurricanes’ disgruntled fanbase has still yet to see a conference title in the ACC era (2004-present), and Golden’s overall record (28-22 in four years) leaves much to be desired.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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Fedora’s hiring seemed to be great at the time, as he had enjoyed great success at Southern Miss (34-19 in four years) and brought a reputation to Chapel Hill as a spread offense guru. Like Golden at Miami, Fedora and his staff have recruited well through a prolonged NCAA investigation, but the Tar Heels just haven’t been good enough to contend in a mostly-average ACC Coastal Division. With controversy still surrounding the program, it’s best that UNC takes things in a different direction.

Kyle Flood, Rutgers

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Flood was the offensive line coach under previous head man Greg Schiano, who led the Scarlet Knights from being perennial cellar-dwellers to consistent competitors in the former Big East Conference. Since taking over in 2012, Flood has improved facilities and managed the transition into the Big Ten last season.

But nothing has gone right for Rutgers this year, in the form of ugly play on the field and suspensions of six players off of it due to various allegations of theft, aggravated assault, and domestic violence. While Flood’s record isn’t awful (23-16 in three years), his teams have not been stellar, either, and the move to the Big Ten in 2014 exposed some major weaknesses on the Scarlet Knights’ roster. With the NCAA swarming around the program, Flood needs to leave as gracefully as he can.

Mike London, Virginia

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London is a tough-as-nails, blue-collar guy, and that was sorely needed when he arrived in Charlottesville in 2010. While London is an outstanding recruiter and has drawn kudos for creating a culture of discipline and accountability, the on-field results have been mediocre (24-40 overall). Yes, the Cavs have certainly been up against it in the schedule department, but London has never found a consistent performer at quarterback or helped produce a decent rushing attack. The most glaring statistic, though, is London’s 0-5 record against the kids from Blacksburg.

Darrell Hazell, Purdue

Darrell-Hazell

Like Tim Beckman at Illinois, Hazell was hired at Purdue due to his experience in the Midwest as a coach at Kent State, and also because he coached under the legendary Jim Tressel at Ohio State.

Hazell’s 11-win campaign at Kent State in 2012 was nothing short of amazing, and that was the springboard to his hiring at Purdue. But the honeymoon is long over for Hazell, who is 5-22 and counting, while staring up at an improving Big Ten. The Boilermakers’ sluggish offense has gone through five different starting QBs in two years, one of whom — former four-star recruit Danny Etling — is no longer with the program (transferred to LSU this summer).

Trent Miles, Georgia State

Georgia State v Alabama

When Miles was hired to replace the retiring Bill Curry in 2013, there was hope that he could transform the Panthers as they became full-fledge FBS members in the Sun Belt Conference. Miles had done an excellent job at the FCS level with Indiana State (his alma mater), so there was reason to believe that he could do the same in downtown Atlanta.

Two weeks ago, Miles registered his first FBS victory over an FBS team — a three-point road victory over Sun Belt opponent New Mexico State. The bad news is that it merely took Miles 20 tries to get such a win (overall record 2-25). Despite a quality staff of assistants and a fertile recruiting ground, the Panthers have been truly awful in the Miles era.

Norm Chow, Hawaii

norm-chow

It’s a real shame to put him on this list. The 69-year-old Chow has been an assistant at BYU, Utah, USC, UCLA, and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans; he is arguably the most respected assistant coach in college football in the past couple decades. In 2012, he took his first head coaching job back in his home state.

Chow’s teams have proved to repeatedly choke in big games, losing nine games by one possession or less in the last two seasons. There’s also been very little continuity from year to year, as evidenced by the fact that only one assistant coach remains from Chow’s debut season. This year could be his last stand, facing a record of 10-30, dwindling attendance numbers, precious little depth, and a buyout north of $200,000.

Paul Petrino, Idaho

Paul-Petrino

The remote location, the lack of tradition, the less-than-adequate facilities, and the lack of any real recruiting footprint have long been obstacles to Idaho football. But contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to win in Moscow; the Vandals have been to a bowl game as recently as 2009.

In 2013, facing a daunting Independent schedule after the WAC got smothered in conference re-alignment, athletic director Rob Spear brought in Petrino, the younger brother of current Louisville head man Bobby Petrino. Paul Petrino brought an excellent reputation as a coach, plus familiarity with the program, as his first NCAA coaching gig was at Idaho from 1992-1994. Following a predictably poor showing as an Independent, Petrino led the Vandals to the Sun Belt in 2014.

Last season, the Vandals weren’t even eligible for a bowl game after posting below-average Academic Progress Report (APR) scores. This August, an ugly incident occurred when Petrino swore at and nearly punched a sideline reporter and had to be restrained by an assistant coach. And there was also an unsettling incident where three Vandal players were caught shoplifting from the campus bookstore and Petrino refused to suspend them, leading to whispers that he had made the charges go away.

As of last week, Petrino, in his first head coaching gig, has an ugly record of 3-23.