No easy fixes at Southern Miss…
I watched Southern Miss play FIU Saturday and lose its 17th straight game. During and afterward, people kept asking: What is wrong? How can this have happened to such a proud program?
So, what’s wrong?
Just about everything. In general, there is a lack of team speed. Some of the best players are hurt, and there are not enough quality players, not nearly enough playmakers. FIU, supposedly the worst team in the nation, won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. And still USM had a chance to win the game with a last play field goal, which was (a) kicked low and (b) blocked.
This will not be an easy fix. You don’t fix this many problems overnight. Right now, USM would be an underdog against every team on its schedule. The Golden Eagles open next season at Starkville. Currently, that’s a total mismatch.
Todd Monken and his staff face an extremely difficult task, one that starts with getting better players and with re-installing the toughness and grit Southern Miss has played with for as long I can remember, dating back to the days of Pie Vann. I don’t see that trademark toughness now.
Even during USM’s best years, fan support has been a concern. That becomes a bigger issue now.
Not quite six years ago, Southern Miss told veteran football coach and Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Jeff Bower his services would no longer be needed.
Interestingly, fan apathy and a divided fan base were cited as reasons for Bower’s forced resignation. In essence: You can’t fire the fans, so they fired the coach.
Under Bower, a USM grad and former star quarterback, the Golden Eagles had experienced 14 straight winning seasons and had gone to a bowl game in nine of the last 10. His players graduated at one of the highest rates in the country. There had been not even a hint of any NCAA improprieties.
At least one sports columnist was hopping mad at the time. My blog, written moments after learning of Bower’s fate, follows:
Southern Miss athletics is about to undergo the worst P.R. nightmare in history of P.R. nightmares, both nationally and locally.
They earned it.
I don’t know whether they’re going to say Jeff Bower resigned or whether he was fired — but I know for a fact that he wanted to continue at his alma mater.
Unbelievable: Fourteen consecutive winning seasons, bowls in nine of 10 years, one of the nation’s highest graduation rates, virtually a lifetime of service . . . I could go on and on.
I’ll be the first to say that USM underachieved this season, BUT after all these years, all that distinguished service, all those victories, you would think they’d give the guy one mulligan, one do-over.
I am appalled, simply appalled.
I still am. For most of Bower’s tenure, he played at least two “money” games a year, games that helped keep the program financially afloat. Still, he kept winning. He even won some of the money games. USM had to start playing those “human sacrifice” games again this year. The results have not even been close.