Eastern Michigan vs. Army Preview, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Coaching Situation
This week, an embattled, downtrodden, demoralized, haggard group of Eagles march into West Point to battle Army. (No more military metaphors allowed). Ron English is still the coach, Tyler Benz is still the quarterback, the same personnel will be lining up on both sides of the football. Does anyone expect a different result from what we have seen so far this season?
Army is a difficult opponent to peg. They were unimpressive against a FCS team to open the season (sound familiar?), got blown out by Ball State (sound familiar?), and played fifth-ranked Stanford tough for three quarters. That is decidedly unfamiliar. Army has dominated this series, even though Eastern won last year at Rynearson. Pretty much every other recent meeting has been preceded by talk of how Army was a winnable game, followed up with a defeat at the hands of the Black Knights.
(Side note: Black Knights is a pretty cool nickname, for me, it conjures up the image of the Black Knight guarding the bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
Whether or not Army will (figuratively) bite the legs off the Eagles will be determined Saturday. This is an obvious test of character and personal pride for this team. Apropos that it should be against Army.
My prediction : Army 31, Eastern Michigan 14.
So far I am 5-0 this season on predictions. At least someone has a winning record around here.
Of course, the 900 ton elephant in the room is the fact that despite the entreaties of the fans, alumni, students, staff, faculty, non-union temporary workers, innocent bystanders, and the Ghost of Demetrios Ypsilanti, Ron English is still the coach of this team.
Contrast this with our friendly rivals down in Oxford, Ohio. Three years ago, Miami of Ohio hired a well-respected Assistant Coach from a Big Ten School in Michigan. Don Treadwell was considered a quality hire due to his track record as Offensive Coordinator at MSU, and his professional, at times intense personal demeanor. Five games into this season, Miami, 0-5 and losing in convincing fashion, fired a coach with a sub-par 8-21 record.
Now, consider Eastern Michigan. 1-4, losing in convincing fashion, a sub-sub-sub-par record of 11-42. Coach still here, running the program.
Why? What is the difference? The answer is that Miami of Ohio knows what a winning program looks like. Why stick with a mistake for one second longer than is necessary? Get busy living, or get busy dying…
When a Detroit journalist like Terry Foster openly wonders on twitter why EMU even has a football team, it is extremely hurtful to the program.
@EasternEchoGeno I like you had strong opinions. But I wonder if EMU should disband football period. Look at the records of other coaches
— Terry Foster (@TerryFoster971) October 6, 2013
Eastern needs to be moving forward, not stagnating or moving backward. Keeping a failed coach at a program that can’t even meet minimum FBS attendance requirements makes it look like the program is rudderless. When I pointed out to others what Foster had said about EMU football, the reaction wasn’t surprise at the content of the tweet, it was surprise at the fact that Foster had commented on Eastern’s program at all. Everyone knows the Detroit media doesn’t give a shit about Eastern football, perennial losing has this effect.
For these reasons among others, this is not an easy position to fill. Head Coach at Eastern Michigan is one of the greater challenges in FBS football. Whoever is hired needs to be fully committed to the success of the program, and a few weeks more of a lost season may have to be tolerated to get the hire right.
The wait does ratchet up the pressure on Athletic Director Heather Lyke. If the reason we are stuck with English for now is that she is taking her time to get the move right, then it better be a good one.
Or, maybe Stan Parrish doesn’t want to be interim coach. Maybe Ron English was promised his contract would be extended if he had a winning season, and Lyke is waiting until the math eliminates that possibility to make a move. Maybe Bill Cubit is already on board but wants to finish his season in Champaign before taking over.
Whatever the reason, one can only hope that it exists. If there are actually people in the Athletic Department who still think this could work out with English, then they are hopelessly naïve. It is commendable to exercise due diligence, and a well-thought out, properly vetted hire will be worth the wait.
Living in a state of denial is not commendable. I have to believe that the powers that be in the Athletic Department are living in the same universe as the rest of us, and can see what is happening with their own eyes. So for now, I chose to believe they are exercising due diligence.
Wherever the program stands, we can hope the team stays focused on Army and plays a respectable, competitive game. Like I said, we wouldn’t want to be living in a state of denial, would we?