“Time heals all wounds”.
Whoever uttered that phrase obviously never watched their alma mater go from conference champions to the worst team in college football in the span of four years. The 2013 season was a culmination of failures between the administration and the coaching staff. Before we discuss that season in detail, let’s look at how the first dominoes to fall got us to this point.
In the winter of 2010, athletic director Brad Bates had a decision to make. Mike Haywood had just left the Miami football program after going from worst-to-first and taking the MAC Championship over Northern Illinois in what can only be described as one of the classic games of the MAC (Haywood promptly lost the Pittsburgh job following domestic violence charges). At the time, the hire of Don Treadwell seemed like it was the best hire Bates could possibly make; he was a four-year starter for Miami and nearly 25 years of coaching experience, including a 2-0 record as an interim coach at Michigan State.
Despite getting hired rather late in the recruiting process, Treadwell was able to put together a decent class for 2011 with 19 recruits (no three-stars), 12 of which that would contribute later in their careers. The two coordinator hires were curious choices as John Klacik was serving as the head coach at Division II Lock Haven when it had lost 32-straight games and Pete Rekstis would later become infamous for using marijuana and cocaine at FAU in 2013. However, the roster he had for 2011 was strong as well with QB Zac Dysert throwing to Nick Harwell, Andy Cruse, and Nick Givens, while the defense was manned by LBs Jerrell Wedge and Collin Boucher along with DB D.J. Brown.
The 2011 season ultimately proved to be a step back for the program as it stumbled to a 4-8 finish. Following an 0-4 start, the RedHawks picked up their first win of the Treadwell era in a 35-28 victory at home over Army and followed that up with a 9-3 win on the road at Kent State. After getting trounced 49-28 at Toledo, the ‘Hawks reeled of back-to-back wins over Buffalo and Akron prior to dropping three straight games by one possession. Despite the record, some players experienced success as guard Brandon Brooks, DL Austin Brown, and DB Dayonne Nunley were all named to the All-MAC First Team in 2011.
The next recruiting cycle, Miami took a step forward as it landed the #2 class in the MAC that included eight three-star prospects. There was some turnover in the coaching staff during the offseason as Jay Peterson took over calling the defense. Peterson is another Miami man as he was a RB from 1980-83, served as the LB coach in 2011, and served as the defensive coordinator at EMU for five seasons. As far as the 2012 roster is concerned, the presence of Dysert and Harwell could keep Miami in games while the coaches worked to improve the young running game and defense.
Following a 56-10 shellacking by Urban Meyer-led Ohio State in the opener, Miami won three of the next four games with the loss coming on the road at Boise State. After consecutive routs at the hands of Cincinnati and Bowling Green, Miami made the unlikely upset in a 23-20 victory over #23 Ohio (thanks in part to terrible game management by the Bobcats). However, the Red and White couldn’t sustain the momentum as they dropped the last four games of the season with two games (against Buffalo and Ball State) being decided by one possession. Harwell, Brown, and Nunley represented Miami on the 2012 All-MAC First Team.
The 2013 Season
There wasn’t any significant coaching turnover in the 2013 offseason, but there was some turmoil regarding the team’s best returning player. Harwell was dismissed from the school following his fifth arrest where he was charged with criminal damaging, theft, and unauthorized use of a vehicle/vehicle trespass on March 30 in an incident involving his girlfriend. Harwell transferred to Kansas, presenting the coaching staff with a dilemma following the departures of him, Dysert, and Brooks.
This is when Treadwell and company made the mind-boggling decision to go to a triple-option wishbone attack on offense, which had no choice but to fail for the following reasons: they didn’t have the personnel at RB or OL to run it at the Division I level because they were recruited to be in a spread offense, the passing game in this offense is limited which makes it hard to make a comeback if you get down early, and most veteran defensive coaches in college have encountered similar offenses so the wishbone wasn’t a revolutionary new idea in the MAC. What even more baffling was the rotating of QBs Austin Boucher and Austin Gearing, essentially declaring to defenses that they were going to run the ball more with Gearing (who would eventually become a defensive end for Miami).
Miami regressed on the recruiting trail in 2013 as they fell to sixth in the MAC with three three-star recruits in a class of 22. The lack of experience on offense compounded the asinine scheme, while the defense was talented but was exposed due to the impotence on the other side of the ball. Punter Zac Murphy was unironically the offense’s best player as he averaged 46.6 yards per punt, had 25 punts over 50 yards, downed 28 punts inside the 20-yard line, and was named an All-America honorable mention on SI.com.
The season of infamy began with an 0-4 record against non-conference opponents, highlighted(?) by a 14-0 loss to the Bearcats in what can be only be described as a game you had to see to believe. With the heat mounting, everything came to a head after the CMU game, where Miami fell 21-9 at home. Athletic director David Sayler, who was brought on in 2012 and had already fired the women’s basketball coach at Miami earlier in 2013, let go of Treadwell and Klacik (to the delight of Miami fans and to the dismay of Mark Dantonio) and named assistant coach and former Miami QB Mike Bath as the interim.
Bath, who would later go on to be an assistant coach at Wyoming, made the switch to a spread offense but at that point in the season, the fate of the RedHawks was already decided. The next week, Miami gave UMass its first MAC win in a 17-10 loss at Gillette Stadium and lost by one possession again at home against Akron. The last five games ended in routs, and the game against Buffalo on a Tuesday night was a microcosm of the Treadwell era. On that rainy night in November, there might have been 50 people in the stands to witness an unremarkable Bulls team (with the exception of some dude on defense named Khalil Mack) just overpower and outclass Miami in every way. It was hard to believe how the mighty have fallen.
The stats from 2013 speak for themselves. The ‘Hawks scored 9.8 points per game (tied for worst in the country) and allowed 35.7 points per game while allowing 223.3 rushing yards per game. On offense, QBs completed 45.8% of their passes as the offense gained 2.7 yards per rush. Miami had a few bright spots of defense as Nunley earned First Team All-MAC honors while ILB Kent Kern and DL Wes Williams gained Second Team distinctions.
There’s no doubt that Treadwell left the program in ruins, but we need not forget who put him in power. Bates left Miami for Boston College in 2012 and “resigned” in 2017 following a decline in the performance of the football and basketball teams that was similar to their performance under his watch at Miami. Treadwell, meanwhile, has stayed in coaching as he was the offensive coordinator at Kent State following Miami (who had to give him severance pay in 2014 on top of his contact with KSU) and made his triumphant return to Michigan State as a DBs coach and special teams coordinator. Klacik is now the OL coach at NAIA Ave Maria, Rekstis is the defensive coordinator at Rhode Island, and Peterson is the RBs coach at EMU.
Sayler made the decision to go with Chuck Martin as the head coach of the RedHawks in the December of 2013, a decision that has facilitated a rise to respectability for the program. In four years, Martin and his staff have sent a second-round pick to the NFL, earned a share of the MAC East title, made a bowl game appearance, and laid the foundation for competitive football in Oxford in a fairly short amount of time. Picking up the pieces wasn’t easy, but there can be positive takeaways from negative experiences. A “Miami Man” isn’t a lock to turn around a program, neither is a coordinator from a Power Five conference who has a plethora of resources at his disposal. In hiring coaches, MAC ADs need to due their due diligence in finding out everything they can about coaches and make reasonable judgements on their ability to lead a program.