Yesterday, we voted on the C-USA coach who had the best season and it looks like George O'Leary at UCF is deservedly getting some love from Miner fans. Today, it's time to take a look at the other end of the spectrum and determine who did the least with the most. Amazingly, no C-USA coaches have been fired or resigned. There is still no official word from UTEP as to whether or not Mike Price will be back. Tulane and UAB have both decided to bring back Bob Toledo and Neil Callaway in 2011; though Callaway was forced to show his defensive coordinator the door. Without further ado, the nominees are....
1. Bob Toledo (Tulane)
Four years into the Toledo era and it hasn't been pretty.
Arguments For: The numbers frankly speak for themself. Toledo's record is a horrendous 13-25 at Tulane. In C-USA play he boasts a paltry 0.28% winning percentage (7-25). Toledo has not won more than four games in a single season. This season, Toledo's squad had a miraculous pattern of winning a game and then following it up by losing two in a row. Seriously. That pattern held true through the entire season with incredible consistency. Toledo's worst loss was probably against Marshall to close the season.
Arguments Against: Tulane didn't win a lot of games but they were (mostly) competitive and their losses were all to teams with superior talent (Ole Miss, Houston, Army, Tulsa, SMU, USM, UCF, Marshall). Toledo did have a nice win at Rutgers and beat Rice in a 54-49 shootout. Toledo was forced to play several freshman. Quarterback Ryan Griffin, who started as a freshman last season, showed improvement across the board in his second year running the offense. Toledo also found a certifiable stud in running back Orleans Darkwa. Darkwa rushed for more than 100 yards in 5 of the last 6 games of the season including a stunning 29 carry, 193 yard performance against SMU.
2. Larry Porter (Memphis)
Porters first season in Memphis was anything but memorable. The Tigers finished 0-8 in C-USA play and 1-11 overall. Their only win came against the Sun Belt's Middle Tennessee State.
Arguments For: Porter was the first Memphis coach to lose 11 games in a season. Generally, a first year coach will get a pass from an award like this but the reports out of Memphis forced me to put Porter up for this award. After the Tigers season ending loss, the Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins asked Memphis player Greg Ray if he "believed" in Larry Porter. The answer? "No comment."
The media has turned on Porter and quickly. Read this article to get a sense of why the Memphis community is not at all optimistic about the future of the football program under Larry Porter.
Arguments Against: Hey, it was his first season! Give him a two years at least, right? The only good I can find from Porter's first season was inspired play (at times) by Ryan Williams. Williams is a 6'5 true freshman QB who looks the part of a big time college quarterback. Williams had a few really nice moments as a Tiger. In the Tigers 16-13 loss at UTEP, I was impressed with Williams poise in the pocket and arm strength. He's going to be a good one if Porter can figure out how to use him.
3. David Bailiff (Rice)
10-3 and the Texas Bowl berth was a long time ago...
Arguments For: Bailiff suffered through a second straight losing season at Rice and his record now stands at 19-30 in four seasons in Houston (15-17 in C-USA). The Owls looked largely horrendous through the first six games of the season. They did manage to beat North Texas 32-31 but then they went on a four game losing streak before stunning a Case Keenumless Houston squad. Rice's defense was one of the worst in the nation and ranked 114th in scoring defense by allowing a staggering 38.5 points per game. Bailiff's been a mainstay on Pre-Snap Reads "Please Fire My Coach" rankings throughout the season.
Arguments Against: The Owls won their rivalry game against Houston and also won two straight to close the season including a stunning 62-38 blowout of East Carolina (the other win was against UAB). The Owls have found a good player in freshman running back Jeremy Eddington who complements Sam McGuffie. McGuffie had a good but not mesmerizing first season at Rice. Over he last 6 weeks of the season Rice finally started throwing the ball to their much hyped sophomore tight end Vance McDonald who caught 8 touchdowns including three in one game against Tulane. Rice was hampered by up and down QB play by Nick Fanuzzi. If Taylor McHargue or Taylor Cook can get it going and replace Fanuzzi the Owls have some reason for optimism next season.
4. Neil Callaway (UAB)
Four years into the Callaway era, his record now stands at 15-33 with the Blazers and 11-21 in C-USA play. Callaway had no problem raising expectations over the summer by constantly saying that the time to win was now at UAB. The winning never came but at least UAB was close.
Arguments For: The UAB administration has been more than patient with Callaway. He was allowed to keep his OC and DC from year one through this season but still couldn't seem to hit his stride. Callaway opened up the season intent on running QB David Isabelle on just about every down. It took an Isabelle injury for him to realize that he actually had running backs on the roster who weren't too bad (see Pat Shed) and that Bryan Ellis' superior passing ability could open up the field for UAB receivers. Also don't forget his inconsistency. Callaway would lose to 4-8 Florida Atlantic and then take a ranked Mississippi State squad to the wire on the road. This team would beat Southern Miss and lose to Marshall and Rice.
Arguments Against: Well, he did beat Southern Miss and Troy (albeit in controversial fashion). He also took Tennessee to double overtime and played MSU tough as I mentioned. Callaway is essentially getting another year in Birmingham because of what he almost did in 2010. To be fair, UAB was only really blown out by SMU (28-7) and UCF (42-7) who both played in the C-USA title game.
5. Mike Price (UTEP)
I hate to do it, but if with so many Miner fans divided on Coach Price's tenure at UTEP it's only fair to have him up for the vote.
Arguments For: 13-29. That is Mike Price's record in the final 6 games of each of his seven seasons at UTEP. UTEP raced to a 5-1 record this season before another Price team suffered another late season meltdown. In 2006 the Miners lost 5 of their last 6. In 2007, the Miners lost 6 straight to end the season. in 2008, the Miners lost 4 of their last 6., In 2009, the Miners lost 4 of their last 6. In 2010, the Miners lost 5 of their last 6. That's more than a random statistical anomaly my friends. The other statistic that Mike Price couldn't shake was his teams inability to win a C-USA game on the road. UTEP hasn't won a C-USA road game since October 4, 2008.
Price is also still guilty of letting winnable games slip past his grasp and often times coaching decisions directly lead to losses. I'm not just talking about the infamous Marshall meltdown. UTEP could have won the Tulane and UAB games as well.
Arguments Against: We're going bowling, dammit. The last time a UTEP coach took the Miners to three bowl games in his tenure was Mike Brumbelow in 1956. Price is now 40-44 through seven season at UTEP which is pretty good considering the guy he replaced won 6 games in the last three seasons he had in El Paso (combined).
I've downplayed the effect injuries had on the win/loss record but there's no denying that mounting injuries impacted this UTEP team moreso than others in the past. UTEP lost their best offensive player (Donald Buckram) and defensive player (Braxton Amy) for most of the season with knee injuries and Trevor Vittatoe was hampered by a nagging ankle injury for the last half of the season.
Also, note that Price rectified a prior blunder by firing Osia Lewis and finding a solid replacement in DC Andre Patterson. UTEP's defense was miles ahead of where it was last year.
1. Doc Holliday: When Marshall was sitting at 1-6 midway through the season, Holliday looked like a guy that maybe would never really be able to become a head coach, a career assistant in over his head. Then, after the UTEP slop fest the Herd woke up and won four of their last five games. Marshall played good football down the stretch and ended up one win away from bowl eligibility. Holliday ended the season the way he needed to, with Marshall getting better every week.