Chris Graham: The bungled JMU football coaching search
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A report Thursday in The Breeze, the student newspaper at JMU, has the school accepting applications from parties interested in the open football coach job through Dec. 11.
Inexplicably, James Madison fired a legend, Mickey Matthews, who won a national title in 2004 and raised the program’s profile to the level that the university has considered jumping up to FBS, and it did so without having a plan in place for who his replacement would be.
All you can say to that is, Wow.
Every day that we get closer to Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, is a day wasted in terms of National Signing Day, which is the biggest day outside of game day in any college football program. Recruits lining up their school options get less likely by the day to put or keep JMU in their plans. No doubt rival coaches are poaching the commits that Matthews had in the wings for the class of 2014.
The Breeze report has the school working on a timetable of “two to three weeks” past the Dec. 11 application deadline to have a new coach in place. So we’re talking the week of Christmas or as late as the week of Jan. 1.
The next coach, whoever it is, will already be behind the 8-ball when he gets into town. His first priority will be on trying to retain as much of the current undergrad roster as he can. That’s right – don’t assume that current players, uncertain of the future, aren’t already mulling over other options for continuing their careers. Then second, the new coach will have to do his best to keep as much of Matthews’ 2014 recruiting class intact as he can.
You can almost write off adding anything significant in terms of new recruits to the incoming class. Which won’t be as much a problem in the fall, because few true freshmen make an immediate impact on game days as true freshmen, but the lack of depth from this class will hurt in years down the line.
It’s hard to imagine that JMU could have bungled this any worse than it already has. Athletics director Jeff Bourne was already under fire from alums for getting rid of Matthews in the first place. Now the realization that Bourne sacked Matthews without having a coach-in-waiting has to make you wonder if the AD has the slightest clue as to what he’s doing.