Three days from now the 2014 MAC football season officially begins, and while we're just two sunsets away from the first kickoff, four MAC programs still don't have a starting quarterback. One of those teams, NIU, plays Thursday night. Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Toledo all play Saturday, giving them a few more days to make up their mind, but they're still pushing it to the last possible minute. And honestly, it's starting to piss me off a bit.
I'll give EMU a pass, because Rob Bolden, who is battling for the starting job, arrived in Ypsilanti just a few weeks ago, thus delaying a decision. But for the other three teams, these battles are going on nine months, and still no winner. Something's got to give.
Trust me, I empathise with these three head coaches: NIU's Rod Carey, Ohio's Frank Solich and Toledo's Matt Campbell. This is a tough predicament that they find themselves in. All three are in transition years, replacing some of the best signal callers their squads have ever seen. NIU has the insanely daunting task of replacing a two-time Heisman trophy finalist.
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Together the three starters they're replacing combined for 256 touchdowns and 88 wins over the span of their careers. Jordan Lynch only started two seasons for NIU, but led the Huskies to 24 wins, a BCS bowl beth and shattered numerous NCAA records. In three years as the starter Tyler Tettleton led Ohio to three of their best seasons ever, broke nearly every Ohio passing record, and gave the Bobcats their first two bowl wins, ever. Terrance Owens split time in his first two seasons, but still managed to put up 73 scores for the Rockets in his four seasons, and 33 wins, including a bowl win.
Figuring out who to pass the torch two after these MAC legends is not a decision that should be taken lightly, and there have been great competitions at all three schools through the spring and summer camps, but at a certain point, being thorough and careful turns into being trigger shy and fearful of messing up. I'm afraid we may be nearing that point with these three head coaches.
Yes, there's some strategy at play here—most likely—in that fans aren't the only ones left guessing about who will start under center for these three squads this week: their opponents are guessing too. But only one of these teams (Ohio) is facing an FBS program this week (Kent State), so with all due respect to Carey (NIU) and Campbell (Toledo) but if your indecisiveness is part of your game plan to beat your FCS opponents this week, you may have some serious issues elsewhere that you're overcompensating for.
Let's keep in mind that Ball State was in the same situation: replacing Keith Wenning after four years under center, and numerous Cardinals' records. But guess what? Pete Lembo had a winner come the end of camp. Ozzie Mann is his man, because at a certain point, you've got to make a decision and go from there. It's not like Lembo is forced to stick with Mann for the next two years. If Mann stinks it up against Colgate, he's perfectly within his rights to change his mind before Week 2. But he made a choice, because that's what life is about: making choices.
At a certain point, considering the options these guys have available to them at quarterback, this indecisiveness starts making fans feel uneasy, as it begins to be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the options available. If Phillip Ely is truly an elite level quarterback, than why not name him the starter already and let him get on with the job? If Derrius Vick has been groomed for the past two years to take the reins, than what are we supposed to read from the fact that he's still competing with a former walk-on for this job? And then NIU: have Matt McIntosh or Drew Hare underperformed so much that there's no separation between the two nearly nine months after the competition began?
I'm not ripping the quarterbacks here. I really do think Ely will be a stud for Toledo (if he gets the job), and Vick should provide a spark to the 'Cats offense we haven't seen since the SI curse set in on this team midway through 2012 (also if he gets the job), but damn, make a decision already.
I'm begging you coaches. This is getting out of hand.