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Where do we go from here?

September 30, 2013

Bye weeks make a good time for reflection. Unfortunately, here in Ypsi, that reflection can sometimes be uncomfortable.

With Heather Lyke in her first year as an athletic director, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen, but here are my thoughts.

Step 1: Fire Ron English.

Before the season, I predicted that Ron English would need at least six wins to earn a contract extension. If I had to guess, I’d say he’ll be fired about the time the team reaches 7 losses, which will probably happen between 10/26 and 11/9. The timing of such a firing is tricky. On the one hand, you have the Foley dictum: what must be done eventually should be done immediately.1 This argues for an early announcement — perhaps if the Eagles fail to pick up a win in New York. The advantage of this is that EMU could get a head start on the coaching search, giving them a chance to go after their top target(s) before most other schools are officially in the market.2

On the other hand, the arguments for waiting are much the same as the arguments ten months ago for English to come back for a fifth year. Let’s face it, coaching EMU football is not exactly a plum job. To have a chance at attracting a halfway competent coach in the future, the administration has to make it clear that they’ll give the head coach every opportunity to succeed.  Also: money. EMU will be paying English through the end of the year one way or anther; if you believe the season is lost, they might as well make him work for the pay.

Step 2: Finish the season.

Assuming that Ron English’s firing is announced before the end of the season — and I think it will be — the next question is who serves as head coach through the end of the season. I see two viable possibilities for EMU here.

One option would be to announce his firing mid-season, but make it effective at the end of the season. One argument for this is the aforementioned cost; EMU will be paying English through the end of the year either way, and one line of reasoning holds that the school might as well make him work for the money. It does seem to me that this would be awkward, but schools make it work more often than you might think, and it’s what EMU did on the last go-round.

The other option schools usually employ in a case like this is to have one of the coordinators serve as interim head coach through the end of the season. Should Lyke decide to go this route, she’s got an easy pick in Stan Parrish. Not that Parrish particularly excelled as either interim coach or subsequently as head coach at Ball State, but I suspect that he knows what needs to be done well enough to keep things from falling apart…any worse than they already are.

Step 3: Hire a new head coach.

I’m sure there are some people who will take this opportunity to suggest that EMU should drop the football program to a lower level (FCS, Division II, or Division III), or cut the sport entirely. I’m reasonably confident that’s not going to happen right now for several reasons. Aside from a few schools that the NCAA has grandfathered in, schools are limited to one Division, so dropping football to Division II or III would require dropping all EMU’s other varsity sports to the same lower division. That’s a decision that would almost certainly need to come from the Board of Regents, and it’s not a decision that would happen quickly. Going to FCS is a little simpler, except that it would still mean finding a new conference — for all sports, based on current MAC rules. Just over a week ago, Heather Lyke expressed a commitment to fielding teams that will “compete at the highest level possible in the Mid-American Conference.” Staying in the MAC means keeping football at the FBS level.

So assuming, then, that the program continues, and continues in the Football Bowl Subdivision, in the MAC, the question then becomes what the criteria should be for the next head coach. And that’s where we’ll pick up when we continue…

  1. This quote is attributed to Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, regarding his decision to fire Ron Zook seven games into Zook’s third season. []
  2. In 2004, Florida and Notre Dame were both interested in Urban Meyer. By canning Zook, the Gators got a month-and-a-half head start on wooing Meyer. Result: Florida won two national championships, while the Fighting Irish wound up with Charlie Weiss, fired five seasons later with one of the worst records of any Notre Dame coach in history. []
9 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken permalink
    September 30, 2013 10:51 am

    As much as I would like to see EMU drop down to 1AA in order to be competitive in Football, I do not see it happening as they are competitive in the other sports. I would hate to see them lose the rivalry to CMU and WMU and that would certainly happen if they leave the MAC.

    that being said, it would be nice if they could get more competitive in football (at least within the MAC). A couple years ago showed that they have promise. And the few bright spots in the offense show that they have some talent. I think they could be competitive with the right coach. Problem with that is that if said coach does get competitive, he’s ripe for the picking from a higher visibility program. So I honestly don’t know what the solution is. All I know is that they need to get better….:)

  2. Block E permalink
    September 30, 2013 4:31 pm

    Kiffin!

    And the fact that nobody can tell me that it’s outside the range of possibilities tells me . . .

    • cmadler permalink*
      September 30, 2013 7:08 pm

      No.

      Just…NO.

    • Ken permalink
      September 30, 2013 9:35 pm

      I want EMU to have a good program but not that way….

  3. Chief Huron permalink
    October 1, 2013 10:14 am

    Cubit would be a great pick, good Michigan and Florida recruiting connections, over .500 coaching record at the Div I, yes I know he makes more at Illinois, but laden the contract with bonuses based on performance. He and his wife were involved in the community which is what EMU needs.

  4. Ralph Pasola permalink
    October 1, 2013 9:09 pm

    Know one has ever provided a cost/benefit analysis of dropping down a division. I’m betting it would be just as expensive. Eastern should concentrate on re-organizing the Athletic Dept. and it’s resources, putting more into the football program. Having the smallest budget with 21 sports is just plain stupid.

    • October 2, 2013 11:00 am

      There would be some savings in fewer football scholarships and lower coaching salaries, but that would be (at least partially) offset by reduced revenues, particularly from the big payday games. Depending on what conference EMU ended up in, travel costs could stay about the same or even increase — one of the advantages of the MAC is that it’s geographically compact, and although there are comparably compact options at D-II, any FCS conference EMU might join would probably mean increased travel costs (multiplied across all 21 sports). It’s possible that moving down might result in cost savings, but should certainly not be treated as a foregone conclusion.

  5. Kenneth Barna permalink
    October 2, 2013 11:00 am

    Dear Ralph Pasola,
    I would agree with you. There have been studies that show lower divisions do not necessarily provide a cost benefit.
    To disagree with Ken, Eastern’s recent history of playing against lower division opponents has not been exemplary, i.e. Illinois State a loss, Alabama State, a tough win.

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