Catching up on coaching and bowl news Print E-mail
Written by Dave Ruthenberg   
Thursday, December 04 2008
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Bulls head coach Turner Gill will likely garner a few BCS offers
So what happens? I accept a new job with a newspaper in Enid, OK - far away unfortunately from the MAC's home base -  and no sooner (get it?) do we arrive in town -- in what is known as "tornado alley" by the way -- than there is a veritable tsunami of coaching changes across the MAC.

Well, to be fair the changes started a couple of weeks earlier with the announcement that Toledo's Tom Amstutz would be stepping down at season's end.

Here is a rundown of the coaches who met their demise this season and the reasons behind their departures:


Toledo: Now Amstutz's departure was not really much of a surprise. Many issues surrounded the Toledo program and the biggest problem to be sure was the fact that the Rockets were on their way to a third-straight losing season. Winning can hide a lot of blemishes but when the program is struggling off the field (i.e. poor academics, a potential point-shaving scandal), those blemishes become significant abrasions.

The writing was on the wall for "Toledo Tom" and it was a time for change.

Amstutz was always affable and his fishing stories will be missed, but the football program at Toledo was teetering on the brink, competitively speaking, and the excuse of having a young team year in and year out was certainly wearing thin. The team was young because of consistent academic issues that were costing the team significant personnel not to mention the ongoing saga of players being booted or suspended. Amstutz clearly was not running a tight ship and the actions of the student-athletes, both on and off the field, reflected that.

Toledo AD Mike OBrien has already acted swiftly in finding a replacement and today (Dec 4) the Rockets will introduce Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman as their new head coach at a 1:00 pm press conference.

Eastern Michigan: Within literally hours of our arrival in Oklahoma we were greeted with the news that Eastern Michigan head coach Jeff Genyk had been relieved of his head coaching duties by EMU. Based solely on his record, 16-42, it would not seem to be a surprise move by Eagles' AD Derrick Gragg. But the EMU job has many unique variables and is possibly one of the toughest jobs in the MAC, if not the nation.

The program is underfunded, lacks state of the art facilities and has had one winning season in the last two decades. When Genyk arrived on campus, the EMU football team did not even have adequate headsets or knee braces for its linemen. Thanks to a generous donor, the headset issue was resolved and the players were able to get the proper equipment. Those were just some of the issues faced by Genyk, a first-year head coach at the time.

Genyk has also been a major component of a significant fundraising effort over the past couple of seasons for the football program that has raised several hundred thousand dollars.

While the wins did not come as quickly as many had hoped, Genyk succeeded in running a clean program that included an increase in the GPA, improved APR scores and no players making an appearance on the police blotter -- something that happened with far too much regularity under his predecessor.

With some programs you cannot judge solely on wins and losses and such is the case at Eastern Michigan. By every other measure Genyk's tenure was a success. Even though the team failed to record more than four wins in any single season under him, including going 3-9 this season, the squad was competitive. During his five-years on the job, no fewer than 26 games were decided on the last possession - unfortunately 16 of those games were losses. Genyk can also proudly point to a 4-1 record against Central Michigan during his tenure as well as claiming the Michigan MAC Trophy, one of the few pieces of hardware in Ypsilanti representing football success.

Bottom line on Genyk's dismissal? I honestly believe it is a bad move. Eastern Michigan AD Derrick Gragg told me back in October that an "athletic director makes his reputation based on the coaches he hires." Well, here's his chance. Gragg is a competent and more than capable AD but with three openings currently in the MAC (and possibly more) it is going to be difficult to lure a strong candidate to the EMU post unless the school delivers some major coin to the new head coach.

Some names being bandied about are current Detroit Lions assistant Scott Loeffler, Penn State assistant Ron Vanderlinden, Wayne State head coach Paul Winter, Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin, Michigan assistant Fred Jackson, Iowa assistant Erik Campbell, Notre Dame assistant Corwin Brown, Michigan State assistant Don Treadwell and Buffalo assistant Jimmy Williams.

Gragg has indicated he hopes to have a replacement named before Christmas.

Miami: Plummeting swiftly from an appearance in last seasons MAC Championship Game as co-champion of the MAC East division to the bottom of the MAC this season, the Shane Montgomery era came to a rather undistinguished conclusion at the end of this season.

Montgomery resigned following the RedHawks season finale, a 41-26 loss to Ohio, concluding the season with a MAC-worst mark of 1-7 in conference play and 2-10 overall. At the Cradle of Coaches those are not acceptable numbers for one season but over Montgomerys four-year tenure, the RedHawks finished with a losing record three times and he compiled a 17-31 record overall.

Montgomerys demise can probably be traced back to last season when his team tanked after going 6-5, then losing its last two contests, including a blow-out in the MAC Championship Game, which left the team with a 6-7 mark and thus, and rather embarrassingly, the MAC East champion was not even bowl eligible.

Despite the finish, the RedHawks were still expected to contend this season returning the vast majority of what was a dominant defense, including being the first team ever to have three candidates appear on the Butkus Award watch list. But the season quickly fell apart for the RedHawks and the defense, its strong suit, wilted under the pressure of an inefficient, turnover prone offense. As the season progressed, the team regressed, and the coach was given a permanent recess.

Some of the names that we have heard prominently mentioned include former Minnesota and Syracuse assistant Mitch Browning as well as Michigan States Don Treadwell, Buffalo assistant Danny Barrett and Cincinnati assistant Kerry Coombs.

Bowling Green: Of the four coaching vacancies that occurred this season the dismissal of Gregg Brandon as Bowling Greens head coach was probably the biggest surprise. But it wasnt out of the blue either.

Brandon was brash, outspoken and reportedly more than a bit difficult to work with at times. But he did guide the Falcons to three bowl appearances in six seasons but last years 63-7 loss to Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl, the worst ever defeat in the history of bowl competition, didnt help his cause.

This season the Falcons were tabbed as the favorites in the MAC East and while still finishing only one-game out of first and with a bowl-eligible mark of 6-6, the fate of Brandon seemed sealed by not just some on-field failings (notably losses to Eastern Michigan and Miami), but off the field matters apparently nailed the coffin shut.

Too many player dismissals due to legal issues, too many suspensions and what appeared to be a general lack of control at times were pivotal factors. The Falcons also lost nine scholarships due to APR score deficiencies, something that BG athletic director Greg Christopher made a significant point of when discussing the reasons behind Brandons dismissal.

There was also an apparent iciness between Brandon and Christopher and it appears the dismissal was less than affable. When asked Brandons reaction to the news of his dismissal, Christopher indicated that he would rather keep the conversation private.

Brandon finishes out his BG career with a 44-30 mark, including 31-17 in MAC play along with two bowl wins.

Its been relatively quiet on the rumor mill front but names we have heard include Purdue assistant Brock Spack, Central Michigan assistant Zach Azzanni (but sources tell us that Azzanni may be content to wait and see if the CMU job opens up if Butch Jones leaves even if that means staying on board for another season at his alma mater) and Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell, who was rumored to be a candidate for the Toledo job, is possibly in the mix.

More Departures on the Horizon?
Expect Buffalo head coach Turner Gill to be a hot commodity for a BCS opening after the impressive turnaround he has overseen as head coach of the Bulls. The Bulls were undeniably the worst team in all of 1A when they moved up and did not become competitive until Gills arrival.

Gill has shown the ability to not only build a program, but put together a very competent, cohesive coaching staff. Gill could be out the door in short order with so many BCS jobs opening up. But hopefully he sticks around long enough to coach the Bulls in the MAC Championship Game and their expected appearance in the International Bowl, unlike a certain former MAC coach who bolted from his team just before the postseason a couple of years back.

Likewise expect Ball State head coach Brady Hoke to get some feelers. Hoke has overseen the consistent, gradual improvement of the Cardinals and their undefeated season and currently national ranking of 12th in the BCS standings has turned more than a few heads. Hoke has extensive connections that could serve him well. Hoke is likely not actively seeking opportunities but will certainly not turn away potential suitors.

Last year Central Michigans Butch Jones was a hot commodity and he was closer to becoming the head coach at West Virginia than most people realize. He is still in the mix but his late season losses to Ball State and Eastern Michigan may have put a bit of a damper on Jones prospects for this year. Still, Jones has done an excellent job and in two seasons has led the Chips to a pair of bowl games (likely the GMAC Bowl this season). Now, if he can only put together a defense

Finally, Temples Al Golden continues to get looks and is not bashful about telling the world about it either. The Owls actually put out an official press release stating that Golden was contacted by Syracuse about their opening but declined to consider it, preferring to stay at Temple. Now, Golden is one of the up and coming coaches, but really, we have never seen so much clamoring over a coach who has yet to achieve a .500 mark. He is close though and if he gets Temple over the hump next season, and improves some of his head-scratching in-game decisions (remember Navy?), he will be on the short list of many schools.

Bowl Talk
Its that time of year when everybody speculates about who is going bowling and where but with a weekend of football left, things are still very much up in the air on several fronts.

First, we are going to go on record as being more than a little disgusted with the whole BCS process (well, whats new about that really).

If you had told us before the season began that Ball State would be ranked 12th (the magical number) in the BCS standings and own an undefeated record we would have assumed the Cardinals would be heading to a BCS bowl. Well, forget about it.

Utah and Boise State stand in their way with higher rankings while champions from the Big East and ACC, two conferences that have been more than mediocre this season, will get auto bids. So it goes.

The Cardinals wisely turned down an invitation to play Boise State on their home turf in the Humanitarian Bowl. No sense in taking a matchup on the blue turf. The game, played on a neutral site, would be entertaining. The downside? It would potentially knock one of the non-BCS teams from the ranks of the undefeated. And really what better way to stick a finger in the eye of the BCS bosses than to have as many undefeated non-BCS teams as possible to further expose their fraudulent little money-making operation?

With that, here is our speculation of who goes bowling from the MAC:

Motor City Bowl: Ball State (possible opponent: North Carolina State)
GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan (possible opponent: East Carolina)
International Bowl: Buffalo (likely opponent: Connecticut)
Independence/Hawaii/Texas Bowl: Western Michigan (the Broncos will be bowling but where is the big question right now)

A lot has to shake-out yet this weekend and the final bowl destinations for many teams may not be known until after the official release of the final BCS standings the night of December 7.

No matter the bowl bid outcomes, it has been a very successful season for the MAC in 2008 and with many returning top performers coming back in 2009, the conference will have an excellent shot at increasing its profile even more.

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