I buy a PowerBall ticket every week, using the same numbers each time.
It’s a system that has yet to pay off.
Once, I actually got three numbers right and it felt as though I was finally getting close to collecting the big jackpot. But several months have gone by since then and it still hasn’t happened.
So I’ve decided to go with a new set of numbers.
After doing the same thing over and over and over again with exactly the same results, there comes a time when you realize the status quo isn’t working and a change is needed.
When it comes to the East Carolina football program, that time is now.
It’s been three years since Scottie Montgomery was hired to coach the Pirates back to prominence on the gridiron.
Pending the results of one final game at N.C. State this Saturday, the outcomes have been disappointingly consistent — 3-9, 3-9, 3-8.
True, there have been signs of progress, including an improved pass rush courtesy of new defensive coordinator David Blackwell, an exciting young quarterback brimming with confidence and potential in Holton Ahlers, and a general deepening of the overall talent pool.
But other than a brief moment of Senior Night hope against an opponent even lower on the American Athletic Conference food chain than ECU, that progress has failed to yield tangible results in the form of wins.
Montgomery’s record is 9-26, 4-20 against conference competition. It’s a lack of success that can be at least somewhat attributed to his inexperience when he was hired by former athletic director Jeff Compher in December 2015.
To his credit, the young coach has shown progress during his tenure in Greenville, especially in the area of recruiting. His current class is the highest-rated group of prospects ECU has attracted since the Steve Logan coaching era of the 1990s into the early 2000s.
The problem is that it takes more than just good players to become a successful program. It also takes a coaching staff with the ability to develop that talent and put it into a system that gives it the best chance to succeed.
Accomplishing those goals becomes a lot more difficult and time consuming when, as in the Montgomery’s case, the coaches are as much in need of on-the-job training as their players.
There’s no telling how long it will take for Montgomery to grow completely into the job. If it does eventually happen, it’s likely to be at someplace other than ECU.
Saturday’s 56-6 blowout at the hands of Cincinnati, in which the Pirates trailed 42-6 at halftime, is a stark reminder of just how much ground the Pirates still have left to make up against the top teams in the AAC.
Three years is a big enough sample size to conclude that things under the current set of circumstances just aren’t working out and that it’s time to pick a new set of numbers. Or in this case a new leader, preferably one with head coaching experience and an established history of winning.
Up the road in Chapel Hill, it took North Carolina just two nine-loss seasons to pull the trigger and fire a coach that had five bowl trips and a divisional championship on his record. While it cost the Tar Heels $12 million to rid themselves of Larry Fedora on Sunday, it would take only a fraction of that to show Montgomery the door.
That doesn’t change the fact that ECU is in the midst of a serious financial crunch, a situation that would make any kind of buyout difficult for administrators to justify. Even so, the expense of paying off the remainder of Montgomery’s contract isn’t as prohibitive as it might seem.
The cost of a buyout figures to be more than offset by the increase in ticket sales and Pirate Club donations a coaching change would inevitably bring about from a fan base tired of watching their team continue to do the same thing over and over and over again with the same results.
Money, however, might not be the biggest deterrent to change.
Win or lose Saturday in Raleigh, there’s a realistic chance that Montgomery will be retained because of ECU’s lack of a full-time athletic director.
As much faith as chancellor Cecil Staton and the Pirate Nation have in special consultant Dave Hart’s ability to identify and hire a highly qualified candidate, it would be highly imprudent to bring in a new football coach before his future boss is hired.
The new AD, whoever that ends up being, deserves the opportunity to put his own man in charge of the school’s highest profile program.
There’s still time for that needed change to happen now.
But the clock is ticking.