Bobby Petrino was fired as Louisville’s football coach on Sunday.
While that bit of news doesn’t have a direct connection to East Carolina’s uncertain gridiron situation, it does open up a subject of particular interest to the Pirates as they decide on the direction they’ll go once their fourth straight losing season is officially in the books.
Specifically, the effect college football’s new early signing period has had on the way coaching changes are handled.
It is no longer prudent to wait until after the final game to hand the outgoing coach his pink slip, especially if your team has a makeup game scheduled for Dec. 1.
Under that timetable, there’s a realistic possibility that the Dec 19-21 signing window will have opened and closed by the time a search committee can be seated and all the logistics surrounding a hire are addressed.
By making the change now and getting a head start on the process, as Louisville has with Petrino and Kansas with David Beaty, schools stand a chance of having a new coach in place in time to salvage the year’s recruiting cycle.
Though prospective hires can’t officially be contacted until their seasons are over, interest can be assessed through back channels and, in some cases, deals can be be put in place so that they’re ready to go as soon as the time is right.
Recruiting is about relationships, after all, and it’s tough enough to build one over the course of months, let alone a couple of weeks. Or even days.
The sooner the new guy is introduced, the faster he can start getting to know prospects already committed to the program and convincing them to remain in the fold while at the same time attempting to make a late play for other uncommitted players.
This is not to advocate for Scottie Montgomery’s removal. That’s a decision that will ultimately be made by someone at ECU, presumably Special Advisor to the Chancellor Dave Hart, not the court of public opinion.
But if it is Hart’s decision to make, it would behoove him to do it sooner, rather than later.
After 33 games over 2½ seasons, with an 8-25 record (3-19 in the American Athletic Conference), Montgomery’s body of work is already broad enough to make a decision on his future with the Pirates. It’s unlikely that the results of the final three games will do anything to dramatically change his situation.
Though this year’s team is visibly improved over Montgomery’s first two as a head coach, the payoff still isn’t there. As was the case with its latest close-but-no cigar effort, Saturday’s 24-18 loss at Tulane, the Pirates’ ceiling appears to be playing just well enough to lose.
Still, progress has been made on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. And the talent pool on the roster is undeniably deeper than when Montgomery took over, especially at quarterback with the arrival of Holton Ahlers.
Hart has also stated publicly that he believes the current staff has been hamstrung by financial constraints and facilities that have not been up to AAC standards, handicaps that at least in the area of facilities are currently being addressed.
If that’s enough for him — or whoever’s call it might be — to determine that Montgomery deserves at least one more year to try and get the job done, then so be it. Come out and say so now so that Montgomery can get to work preparing for next season and continue recruiting with confidence.
Conversely, if a change is inevitable so that the new athletic director has the opportunity to bring in his own man to run the highest profile program on his watch, then waiting until Dec. 2 risks setting the task of rebuilding back at least another year.
After four straight seasons without a winning record or bowl appearance, that’s something no one associated with the Pirates wants to happen.
John Osborne says
A new AD must be hired before Dec 1st and a new coach must be hired before Dec 18th.
I have no reason to believe the Pirates will be improved next season if Montgomery is retained.
It should be clear to everyone that adding lacrosse at an annual cost of $800,000 + was a huge
mistake by Compher and the BOT. That money is desperately needed to prop up this football
program by hiring a proven winning coach with head coaching experience.
Irish Spectre says
It’s undeniable that effectively Coach is a lame duck from a recruiting standpoint as we speak; he cannot possibly have any credibility on the recruiting trail, based on his hot seat status. A lot of folks want him gone now, and they have a case. If it were me making the call, I’d wait ’til after the UConn game this Sat., which they sure as hell should win, even on the road. If they don’t, I’d suck it up and pull the plug by Mon., and name Blackwell as interim. If they do, I’d announce a vote of confidence for one more year, so he could at least be enabled to recruit. (…and I’d be telling him he sure as hell better be thinking about his OL, first and foremost.) They are getting better, but the OL continues to just kill them, and I know that a couple or three injuries have a lot to do with that, but that’s all part of this brutal game that you just have to learn to roll with.
Richard Scott says says
I say “Keep Coach Mo” and get an AD in place for 2019. There is too much talent in the pipeline to make a change too soon and risk draining the pipeline. Tulane should have been beaten and so should Memphis. Injury and inexperience have taken a toll on 2018. But 2019 is the make or break a .500 record will get you in a bowl and we need to get there in 2019. Let Kansas and Louisville panic. Mo deserves an opportunity with Compher gone. I’ll be there vs UCONN. Go Pirates!
Dan A. says
The decision is hard one but all the needed evidence is plain to see. In fact one aspect not many people realize is that the cupboard was not that bare when he got here. Benkert our QB who got hurt Ruff’s final year (if he hadn’t we would have had a winning record that year for sure) was to be the starting QB but transferred to UVA and had a stellar career there. He ended up being one of the best qb’s in the ACC and is on the Falcons practice squad right now. If Montgomery was as visionary and such a great offensive mind Benkert would have stayed but he didn’t. The next great example of not getting the most out of the talent you have and more importantly not developing QB’s is Minshew. Minshew transferred from ECU just this year. After a good but not great year with us in 2017. Guess what? He is now leading the country in about three passing statistics for Washington State and is considered a top prospect for the NFL. Once again if Montgomery or our OC were motivators good QB’s wouldn’t leave back to back. We can all agree that Ahlers is a special QB and deserves to have a great coach to develop him into the best version if himself he can be. Montgomery is not that guy. Actually all of the evidence suggests he is the opposite of that guy.
It’s like Ruff used to say about his players when they got in trouble. I love my players but I love ECU more. So I love my coach Montgomery but I love ECU more. He’s got to go.
Dan A., you can’t make any stronger points than the examples of Benkert and Minshew. those are two head scratchers for sure.
charles chambliss says
If mo returns I will cut my season tickets in half……..I cannot give tickets away these days………….sad:)
Ray Brown says
We need to give him another year and do it now. No football coach in my memory has had as much to overcome than he has with internal problems within the athletic department and administration and Stasavich was coach when I first went to a game.
Who has he had to lean on regarding what ECU wants other than wins? No one, and no coach in America can stand that long.
Another year will not make or break our program, but another good recruiting year and the ability to once again have strong junior and senior classes will help any coach year after next whether it is coach Mo or whomever.
Coaching does matter, but without the horses you can’t win the race and we have a truly good class ready to come in if we give them a positive signal.
don tyson says
Well said MR. Brown!!
Thomas Brame says
Even with a good win today. ECU football is no where near playing with the discipline and confidence they need to be a successful program. Scottie Mo got to Go!!