Western Michigan Football finished with an overall record of 1-11 this season, but that didn't stop the Broncos from throwing around some extra cash for upgrades.
Since hiring P.J. Fleck, the university has spent $3,389,000 in remodeling the weight room, the locker room and new turf fields at Waldo Stadium and the Seelye Center. The turf ended up being the most expensive purchase by the Broncos with a cost of $1.35 million. A new locker room added $748,000 to the bill. According to Fleck, the renovations will have a $20 million look in appearance despite the actual cost is somewhere around a fifth of that estimate.
"We wanted to build the structure," Fleck said. "We had the skeleton. You walked around our building and it was very sleepy. These days, it's all towards young people. That's who it has to be delivered to. A lot of young people really want facilities. It's not the most important thing by any means, but it's important."
The most important thing is winning football games, and based off this past season, they'll have some work ahead. Clearly Fleck wants to put together something fresh and add a spark to a football program that needs something to smile about.
And he has--sort of. When Fleck interviewed with Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard, they talked about the future and Mid-American Championships. Fleck thought new facilities could help. In terms of recruiting, the Broncos are bringing in the strongest recruiting class in the conference with 28 verbal commits ranking the school 50th in the country for the class of 2014.
"Mark Whipple is not only the most obvious choice to coach UMass football, but the best one," wrote Ron Chimelis on Monday. Whipple has been out of the coaching sphere for a year and held the role as quarterback coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2011 and 2012, which may actually hurt his chances. But Minutemen fans know him well, as the man who held the title UMass' football coach from 1998-2003. Chances are, they'll also remember his bold statement that UMass could change from a 2-9 rag tag team into I-AA national champions. It happened.
Now as UMass' search for a new coach, the team sits in a situation Whipple would know all too well. While the school is actually paying a consulting firm to help in the search, the top target is someone who has already held the role in the past. Over the last two years, the team is just 2-22 and is at a crossroads. The Minutemen struggle to bring in recruits, have a "disenchanted fan base" and still don't have their own home field. If hired, it would be unrealistic for Whipple to predict a a championship of any kind. Then again, he's done it before. Reports say he will interview this week.
Former Western Michigan kicker John Potter is ready to kick for the NFL team he grew up loving: the Detroit Lions. Potter was signed to a futures contract Dec. 30, the same day Lions coach Jim Schwartz was fired. In terms of professional experience, he has been in the NFL for two seasons, with Buffalo in 2012 and Washington for three games in 2013. Technically Potter won't be added to the official roster until March, when all NFL rosters expand to 90 players instead of 53.
Potter was a seventh-round pick by the Bills in the 2012 NFL draft after a four-year career at Western Michigan. In 50 games as a Bronco, Potter went 47-65 for a 72.3 percent accuracy rating with a long of 45 yards. He never attempted a kick for the Bills during the 2012 season, but went 3-4 in three games for the Redskins in 2013.
Belt Loops is our daily look at news from around the world of the Mid-American Conference. If you have a story tip or interesting tidbit you'd like to share, be sure to let us know. You can tweet us @HustleBelt, or drop us a line at HustleBeltBlog AT gmail.com.
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