Ypsilanti – Eastern Michigan and Kent State’s football programs were on similar paths heading into the season … but now going in far different directions.
While Kent State has gone from mediocre to a national power, the Eagles are now one of the nation’s worst programs with three double-digit loss seasons in the last four years.
Still, EMU has made no decision on firing Ron English as head coach a week after the Eagles were handed a 49-7 loss to Northern Illinois, leaving him with a four-year record of 10-38, the worst stretch the program has had at the school in 30 years.
EMU was 6-6 (4-4 MAC) last season with the majority of its players back from an offense which had the nation’s No. 14 rushing attack.
Kent State was 5-7 (4-4) last season with the majority of its players back from a strong defense.
The Golden Flashes, picked to finish fourth in the MAC East by media members covering the conference, lived up to their billing at the defensive end, forcing 35 turnovers, a reason they were competing in the MAC championship game tonight at Ford Field against Northern Illinois with a possible BCS bowl bid on the line.
EMU’s offense struggled with four linemen, both tight ends, quarterback and two running backs all returning. English benched starting quarterback Alex Gillett by the fourth game of the season. The Eagles averaged just 21.3 points and 164 yards rushing. And, EMU’s defense was even worse, ranking last in the nation in stopping the run (266.6).
So while second-year head coach Darrell Hazell has guided Kent State to its first bowl appearance in 40 years – 1972 Tangerine Bowl –
EMU is miles away from its first bowl appearance since 1987.
And, while Kent State finally has its first winning season since 2001, EMU is still looking for its first since 1995. And, English is talking about how many young players he played this season instead of how his junior and senior classes stepped up and performed at a high level.
How far away is EMU from becoming a MAC champion or for that matter even a contender?
Well, Kent State dominated the Eagles 41-14 in Ypsilanti, embarrassing them on their homecoming. The Golden Flashes had a 321-107 rushing edge and basically played keep-away, holding the ball for 42 minutes in the 60-minute game. EMU had just seven first downs.
Then, in the season finale against Northern Illinois in Ypsilanti, the Huskies held a 242-94 rushing edge and limited the Eagles to one first quarter score in the 49-7 rout.
When EMU was 0-9 and on its way to an 0-12 season in English’s first year in 2009, the Eagles had allowed 38.8 points and 292.8 yards per game. He said at the time, “If at the end of Year 3 there are not noticeable changes, then there are problems. But, I will not fail!”
Well English has failed. If EMU’s athletic department feels he has earned the right to keep his job for the fifth and final year of his contract, it should seriously consider dropping its program.
EMU shouldn’t be thinking championships right now, just having a winning season would be an accomplishment and successful former head coaches are out there for the taking.
Athletic Director Derrick Gragg just has to look less than an hour east to Wayne State and find its head coach Paul Winters who guided the Warriors to the Division II national title game last year, then was offered the Akron job.
Winters took over a Wayne State program that had lost 40 of 53 games before his arrival in 2005. The Warriors are 40-19 the last five years, earning their first NCAA playoff appearance in 2011.
Or, Gragg just take a look a couple hours to the west where Bill Cubit is now looking for a job after getting fired at Western Michigan. He guided the Broncos to three bowl appearances, five wins over BCS opponents (Virginia, Iowa, Illinois, UConn twice) and a 31-13 home record. EMU has never had a win over a BCS team … ever.
Cubit took over a 1-10 (0-8) program and guided the Broncos to a 7-4 record (5-3 MAC) the next year (2005) and a 9-4 team three years later.
It’s time for a change. Kent State was the last MAC team, of course other than EMU, to earn a spot in the conference championship game since the turn of the century when WMU played Marshall.
Make the change or put EMU fans out of their misery and just fold the program.