Posted by Adam Jacobi
When the MAC opens its football season in 2011, it'll do so without its current longest-serving head coach. According to a statement by Kent State last night, head coach Doug Martin will step down after the end of this season. Martin is 47 years old and has spent all of seven years at the helm of the Golden Flashes; in the MAC, that qualifies for longest-tenured. Next season, that title will belong to Frank Solich of Ohio and Bill Cubit at Western Michigan.
This serial instability is pretty much par for the course in the MAC, though; even if no other MAC coaches leave their post between now and the end of August -- always a dicey proposition -- there'll be only three coaches in the 12-team conference with more than three years atop their programs in 2011: Solich, Cubit, and Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill. That means that a substantial amount of players on MAC football teams have been at their schools longer than their coaches have. And it's not as if this is a new development; the last coaches at each school were only there for an average of 6.2 years, and nine either resigned, retired, or got fired. It's really, really hard to build a program in an environment that basically ensures such a high failure rate.
In a minor football conference, though, there's a fine line between stability and stagnation, and that's certainly the case in the MAC. It's hard to get fans (and boosters) excited if the team just went through a sub-.500 season and didn't make any wholesale changes, after all. But administrators routinely underestimate the destructive effects of a coaching change on a program, and that appears to be the case here again. Yes, Martin resigned, but it's hard to imagine he could have the Kent State job back if he had asked for it.
Kent State has announced that it is beginning a national search for Martin's successor immediately. And so the gears of abject mediocrity grind on, endlessly greased with the entrails of careers that barely stand a chance.