Saving EMU football: what and why
When we talk about saving EMU football, let’s start off by being clear about what we mean.
EMU football is not operating in a sustainable manner. It’s just not realistic for a program to go on and on, perpetually rated among the worst teams in the country.
Other epically bad teams have still managed a good season here or there. After years of futility at the bottom of the SEC — a brutal place to be — Bobby Johnson finally managed to steer Vanderbilt to a bowl berth. Even Northwestern, owner of the NCAA all-time record losing streak (which upon its conclusion, left EMU with the longest active streak, resulting in the firing of Mike Stock and the eventual hiring of Jim Harkema) has gone to 7 bowl games in the last 15 years, even managing to win a Big (11) Ten title and get to Pasadena. In the meantime, EMU has not managed a winning season since 1995, and is consistently irrelevant not just nationally, not just in the Mid-American Conference, but in the MAC West division.
This culture of losing — not just losing, but irrelevance — has fostered indifference at best on campus and in the EMU community. (Of course, it hasn’t helped matters any that the university alienated many pre-1991 alumni by dumping the Huron nickname for the super-generic Eagle, but that’s another issue for another day.)
So, unlike many other programs, EMU football does little to boost donations to the school. Revenue from football is very low, comes almost entirely from “payday games” at power schools like Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State, that can afford to buy wins, and almost certainly does not cover the costs of the program. To remain in the top tier of college football, Football Bowl Subdivision, and hence in the MAC, EMU athletics regularly has to play games with home attendance figures.
This is not a sustainable situation. This is a death spiral.
So when I write about “saving EMU football”, I’m not talking about getting EMU to where Boise State is, contending for a national championship. I’m not even talking about getting EMU to where Central Michigan is, a perennial contender for the MAC Championship. I’m talking about finding a way for the program to become sustainable, finding a way to move the program out of total irrelevance.
I’m talking about ending the death spiral. No more and no less.