The coaching cycle is apparently finished in the MAC this year, barring anything crazy at one of the schools. Bowling Green ended the Mike Jinks experiment in October, Central Michigan fired Head Coach Jon Bonamego after their last game, and Akron waited until after the make up against South Carolina to fire Terry Bowden. I guess they really didn’t want to play under an interim.
I wrote about what the cycle might look like this year and I wrote a case for keeping two of the coaches that were fired. So take my opinions with a grain of salt. I would still defend my opinions but there’s really no point. I’m not attached to the programs who made moves and my thoughts are pretty meaningless after the programs made the moves they did. Even so, lets make some sense out of what happened.
I knew Coach Bonamego was on thin ice at the time of firing. Their aren’t a ton of reasons why a coach would keep his job after a 1-11 record in his 4th season. Even if the senior class is a bad class and out of his control, the subsequent classes lack of a decent quarterback is still on him.
Moving on is a lot easier when they make the best hire of any of the MAC schools this cycle. Not only was it the best hire, it’s a good hire. It’s important to make that distinction. All three hires could’ve been Google search hires and terrible. Jim McElwain has had success at every stop on the way to Central Michigan even if Florida didn’t end well. Prior to taking the job at Colorado State, he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama for Nick Saban. The four offenses that were under his control were 7th, 1st, 4th, and 3rd in the nation per S&P+ rankings. That’s pretty good.
His time at Colorado State went really well as well. McElwain has not been a top of the conference recruiter at either of his head coach stops but still produced a 10-3 record season in his last in Fort Collins. That and the Saban Assistant pedigree got him a job at Florida. His Gator teams won the SEC East each of his first two seasons. His third season went sideways and some remarks about death threats were apparently enough for the University of Florida to move on from McElwain.
There is no doubt that the media pressure in Mount Pleasant will not be at all the same as Gainesville. That bodes well for McElwain. He has a roster to turn over and didn’t make any friends in his first meeting with his new team, stating “They need to learn how to sit up. They need to learn how to focus, they need to learn how to communicate non-verbally.” Based on his track record, he should be able to get the Chippewas headed in the right direction in the very mobile Mid American Conference. I doubt he will have high expectation placed on him in year one, but I still expect to see an improvement from the previous season.
Terry Bowden was relieved of his duties after losing to South Carolina in a make up game. Akron was in a weird situation in Nebraska where the game was cancelled after a storm rolled through and made that Saturday unplayable. Akron just went home rather than try to play on Sunday. The 4-8 record had more to do with his firing than either of the aforementioned situations. Apparently the administration thought that Bowden had enough time to right the ship after Rob Ianello went 2-22 in his only two seasons.
My thought was, Bowden had out performed Akron’s recent history and wasn’t showing any real red flags of decline. Last time I heard an argument similar to that was when Western Michigan fired Bill Cubit and hired PJ Fleck. Who does Western think they are? Can they really expect more than 51-47? I’m not saying that Tom Arth is PJ Fleck, but it’s okay to have high expectations.
Tom Arth doesn’t have a huge resume. He tried to hold on to the dream as long as he could. He was a four year starter at Division 3 John Carroll as a quarterback. In the NFL, he was a backup to Peyton Manning in Indianapolis when we wasn’t allocated to NFL Europe. He finished his career in the Arena Leagues after playing in Canada. When he decided to hang up the cleats, he started his coaching career at his Alma mater as an assistant. The head coach position became his in 2013. He coached there for four seasons and made the post season 3 times, each trip lasting longer than the last.
UT Chattanooga hired Arth for the 2017 season and went 3-8 and 6-5 in his two seasons there. There’s not much to say about his rise to the FBS level except that it was fast. He did put together a top ten FCS recruiting class in 2018 with most of the players coming Tennessee and Georgia.
Based on the good recruiting classes and his quick rise to the FBS level, I can assume he’s a pretty charismatic guy. Akron either hired a great coach who is still under the radar and about to make his mark on the MAC East or a fast talker who is in over his head. I tend to think it’s more likely to be the first one but bad hires happen everywhere. Overall, it’s hard to know exactly what the quality of this hire is but there are positive signs and not a lot to lose with a take a chance hire.
I’m not going to get into Mike Jinks time at BGSU. He’s a running backs coach in LA with Kliff Kingsbury again. Working with Kingsbury was a good fit for him at Texas Tech so I’m sure this will work out for him again.
Bowling Green and their AD Bob Moosbrugger used a search firm this time (smart), and landed on Scot Loeffler (uhh…). Any hire can work but it really seems like Bowling Green hired him on his resume volume and not the quality. Loeffler has worked as a quarterbacks coach at Central Michigan, Michigan, the Detroit Lions, and Florida. At that point he had worked himself into offensive coordinator positions and worked at Temple, Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.
Temple and Auburn were one year stops and Virginia Tech and Boston College were three years each. By S&P+, his best offense was in 2011 with Temple. It came in at 32nd in the nation. The offense at Auburn was 73rd overall in 2012. The 2013 team produced the 6th best offense after he left. That’s not a good look. The rest of his offenses are below.
The seasons get better as they go but not so much that it would suggest that he’s a tactical mastermind. At Boston College, he recruited the rust belt so he may know the high schools he’s going to lean on at Bowling Green. Loeffler was the first to finish his assistant hiring, and made some interesting decisions. The linebackers coach has been replaced and the new coach is Brian VanGorder. A lot of college football fans are familiar with BVG and not for his excellence.
Who knows, Loeffler could be a better head coach than a coordinator. Maybe this is the first time he’s truly in control and it works flawlessly. Maybe it’s a mess that peaks at 6 wins and is over in 5 seasons. It’s impossible to say for sure but this hire is far less exciting than the other two, and for the wrong reasons.