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Happy Birthday, Coach Fleck!

An open letter from a Toledo fan about birthday wishes.

Toledo v Western Michigan Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

As you tuck yourself in tonight, there will be MAC championship wishes and Cotton Bowl dreams. They are both well deserved possibilities that you, and your team, have earned through hard work and dedication. Most importantly, a belief in yourselves and each other has driven this victory train, or boat, to success. It’s important to note that, I, too, have a belief in your abilities when I offer up this piece of advice.

Don’t climb up the next rung on the ladder. Certainly by this point in the season, your agent has fielded some phone calls gauging interest, and possibly even gotten some offers from “the big boys.” Either a more prestigious group of 5, or struggling power 5 school will certainly call, if they haven’t already.

I fully understand it’s logical to take that step. You wouldn’t be where you are at if you didn’t love the competition, and the competition at those places is undoubtedly higher. The money reflects this, and who doesn’t want more money? The question isn’t whether you can handle the pressure at a place like this, the question is do you want to?

As I was watching you destroy the Rockets, I got a chuckle out of you racing Corey Davis at the end of the quarter. It’s one of those moments that makes me love sports, and love the MAC. At the next level, or the one above that, because let’s face it, you are probably destined for a P5 destination job, those moments become extremely scarce. Do that at Ohio State, and you will be fielding questions for the next week on the potential injury issues with such a stunt.

Are there protocols in place if you pull a hammy while yucking it up?

Was Corey Davis a bit winded on the next drive because of your shenanigans?

Do you not take the game serious enough, and is that why you only beat a really good team by 20 with a potential Cotton Bowl bid on the line?

And it wont just be you under that intense media pressure.

I know this isn’t news to you, as you were a GA at Ohio State in 2006. You saw first hand the venom directed at Kirk Herbstreit because he dared picked Michigan over their beloved Buckeyes. You heard fans wonder aloud if Tressel was the right man for the job, because he lost in the championship after finishing in the top 5 the year before. The national title a few years prior were because of Coach Cooper’s players, they reasoned. A guy they ran out of town a few years before that. I am certain you have been preparing your family and yourself for these minor annoyances as you yearn for greater glory.

Success, like any drug, is a temptress. She manipulates the mind into believing what it wants. I was watching Tom Herman’s press conference as he took the Texas job the other day, and one line summed it up best. When asked how he would handle the pressure of the job, he replied, “Pressure is that uneasy feeling that you feel when you're unprepared.” Never mind that Charlie Strong won a couple national titles as an assistant under Urban Meyer, or finished 12-1 at Louisville. Strong failed because he was weak, and unprepared. Because weak and unprepared is how you win 2 national titles and go 12-1. Herman is going to be better than that. Just like every addict that shoots heroin believes he is certain he can “handle it”, and all the junkies are just weak. I am sure Strong, as he watched his mentor being hauled away in an ambulance after losing the 09 SEC title game thought, “that will never be me.”

What they all fail to acknowledge is at that level, failure and success rarely have anything to do with football knowledge. It’s about the politics that come with boosters. It’s about convincing kids that a sack full of money isn’t worth signing with a rival, or worse figuring out how to cover up that sack full of money that one of yours is handing out. It’s about handling a disgruntled player that thinks you are sitting him unfairly, so he talks about that sack of money to people like me. To get to the Power 5 destination job, it’s more about charging ahead, once there, it’s more about avoiding landmines.

I root for Ohio State. I get the draw of the bigger programs. However, there is a reason why I choose to write for a MAC blog. It’s just about sports here at Hustlebelt, or as close as you can get. We have covered two arrests this season. Little snippets that quickly get replaced by game recaps and stories that show our belief that the MAC deserves more respect. I don’t want to be outside your door at 3am because some 20 year old kid did what 20 year old kids do.

I don’t know you personally, and even if I did, I couldn’t possibly know what is in your heart and your head. If I were in your shoes, I couldn’t possibly know which route I would take. Stay in the comfort of Kalamazoo, or chase bigger dreams? One thing I can say I would do for certain is that I would reach out to Coach Solich this week. He knows what it’s like to be fired for winning 75% of his games, and playing for a national title. He has a unique perspective of going from the pressure cooker to the MAC, and he can answer questions with regards to quality of life. And that’s really all I ask, is that you consider that, as you consider your future. There are different levels of success, and different costs. There is no shame in staying in the MAC if that’s what would bring you the most happiness, and no shame in leaving if that’s what you need to be happy. It would certainly make life easier for the Rockets.