Don't Panic Akron Fans!
Recently Akron Head coach Terry Bowden received a contract extension despite his overall 5-18 record at Akron. This season's 4-7 mark hardly seems praise worthy so some fans in Zips nation might be asking themselves "is this a good thing".
After all it's not like his contract was up this season and surely nobody is going to swoop in when this season is over to take Bowden away. Sure he has a name and previous success in the SEC, but the way he left Auburn and his current stint at Akron won't put him on any Major program's list just quite yet.
If you're an Akron fan and you feel this way we can totally understand. When Jeff Quinn was offered an extension last season by UB Athletic Director Danny White the fan base was apprehensive about the extension of a contract for a losing coach. When the contract was finally inked this summer, and then publicly released after a 70-13 curb stomping at the hands of Baylor the Buffalo fan base just about lost it.
Since that Baylor game however Buffalo is 8-1 and playing for the MAC East title in front of a home crowd the day after Thanksgiving. It's been a change of fortune which has Director White smelling like roses and the naysayers like me happily eating Crow.
There is no guarantee that such a turnaround is in your future but here are some lessons we learned through four years of Jeff Quinn.
1 - Past performance is not proof of future returns.
In 2007 Buffalo tied for the MAC East title, in 2008 we won the conference, and then in 2009 we lost a few close games but still finished a respectable 5-7. Then Kansas came and grabbed Turner Gill. As Gill departed Buffalo had finally left the cellar of the MAC and was not going to look back. Then we bring in this big name offensive coordinator who had experience in the MAC and the Big East.
Buffalo proceeded to win just 2, 3, and 4 games over the next four seasons. In each of those seasons one of those wins came against an FCS team.
Well while Buffalo fans were clamoring at the skill recruits coming in under Gill few noticed that the lines, particularly the offensive line, had not really been developed well. UB has a core of great linemen but there was no depth.
Buffalo looked semi respectable early in the season and then lost Matt Ostrowski against UCF in week three. From then on UB was just not the same team.
Turner Gill for all he did right was unable to build a deep pool of linemen.
If a team that went 14-10 in MAC play over three years had these deficiencies built in imagine what Bowden found when he took over for "i-Coach".
2 - You can't make eggs without breaking a few omelets
Every coaching change comes with some turmoil. Most people expect strife only when scandal or loss drives a change but in the world of college athletes a coaching change almost always goes hand in hand with players leaving.
When Turner Gill left Buffalo UB could have went with Danny Barrett. The offensive coordinator knew the team and the players loved him. Warde Manuel decided to go in a different direction and as a result Zach Maynard, Buffalo's best Quarterback, took off for Cal.
Then other players, unable to survive in Jeff Quinn's world, also left. Darius Willis, Nick Sizemore, and others left the program.
The departures looked bad and really hurt UB on the field but it's a part of every move.
Akron lost Brian Wagner before the Bowden regime started. That all MAC stud would have made a difference in 2012. No Akron would not have been a world beater but there are more than one or two games where a play making linebacker could have been the difference **COUGH** UMASS **COUGH**
3 - There is no experience like being there
Jeff Quinn had coached at every level of football but never as a head coach.
He rode the Brian Kelly train from a wrestling and football coach at Grand Valley State all the way to a BCS bowl game with Cincinnati. What Quinn had never done was run his own team. So Quinn, despite his experience made a lot of rookie mistakes.
The first was trying to run the Buffalo program like it was Cincinnati. Quinn brought a Bearcats playbook with him and he was going to turn UB into that team. But Buffalo had different players and was in a different situation.
In 2011 and more so in 2012 Quinn's offenses began to look heavier. He brought full backs into the mix and greatly expended the role of the tight ends. This UB team's scheme look nothing like the 2009 BearCats and the Bulls are better off for it.
Bowden, for all his experience, has never coached at a Mid Major FBS college. The closest he came was Samford.
So it's the first time for the former Auburn coach to run a team with the financial constraints of Akron while competing in the same subdivision as Alabama.
4 - Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.
What Buffalo fans like me did not see in 2011 and 2012 was the little things that pointed at this team getting better. Despite winning just three games in 2011 Branden Oliver set school records.
To me "school records" in dumpster fire seasons are great for the kid but devoid of nearly any greater meaning program. But being so focused on how many losses were piling up made me miss the fact we were building a stout offensive line.
That Branden Oliver was not a popular starting running back in 2010. Fans were clamoring for the senior Ike Nduka but Quinn kept with Oliver. That was a short term pain for a long term gain.
Last year when Oliver went down Buffalo's backs put together a solid season behind an offensive line which was being built by Quinn. This season the line lost Jasen Carlson in much the same way that Ostrowski was lost in 2010. This year however there was enough depth to keep the Carlson from being a season breaker.
So take heart Akron Fans!
This season you played Michigan tough in the Big House. A game that you should have won still looks like a loss but there is no way the Akron if i-Coach plays that game. The next week you took Louisiana Lafayette to the wire.
You gave NIU all they could handle which is more than Toledo or Ball State managed. Now you're on a two game win streak with one of those wins being over your hated rival Kent.
From the perspective of this Buffalo fan Akron is close to breaking out of the basement. This post is not pity or swagger. It's just someone who has been there, and may end up there again, telling you what you should already know.