Bicknell deserved much better
December 5, 2006
When it comes to classy football coaches, there is nobody classier than former Louisiana Tech football coach Jack Bicknell, who was let go on Monday after his team went 3-8 this season.
Bicknell’s firing is what’s wrong with college athletics today. Bicknell never had a chance to succeed in the long run. The college administration set him up for failure year after year.
How you might say? What does that mean?
Louisiana Tech is in a tiny town without much fiscal support for its athletic program, which forces Tech to take usually two, three or sometimes four big-money football games against nationally ranked teams. That went against suggested Western Athletic guidelines which urge WAC teams to take only one big-money game per season.
In 2004, Tech played Aurburn, Miami and Tennessee. This year, Tech played Clemson, Texas A &M and Nebraska. In 2005, it was Florida and Kansas. With that kind of schedule, Tech couldn’t afford to lose more than two conference games and still qualify for a bowl. Let’s face it, the WAC is becoming more competitive each year, and that spelled trouble for the Bulldogs.
Bicknell never made excuses, and for that I was grateful. He accepted the hand he was dealt, and tried to make the best of a bad situation. Bicknell had a ton of injuries, but only once or twice did I ever hear him make a big deal about it.
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The WAC has weekly conference calls with coaches, and Bicknell never shirked that responsibility like some of his peers in the WAC. He could come off the worst loss the previous Saturday, and be positive and upbeat the following Monday. He never took individual players to task on the conference calls, and he easily could have.
Bicknell represented the university well; with class and dignity. And, all he ends up getting shown is the door. He does get two years of salary since he had a buyout clause. Knowing Bicknell, I’m sure he’d rather have the opportunity to try and get the program turned around than take the money. It’s my hope he won’t be on the unemployment line long.
I doubt it will ever get turned around. Where Tech is located, Bicknell has had to compete with SEC schools and Big 12 schools for athletes. Tech isn’t going to win many recruiting wars. The good Louisiana players are probably going to go to LSU over Tech, and if the school can’t attract more quality players than it will continue to get its brains beat out by the national powers.
By scheduling these big games, the school isn’t giving the players and coaching staff a fair shot at getting bowl eligible. If you go 0-3 in money games, it makes it tough to get to six wins. In 2007, Ole Miss and Cal are on the schedule, and no doubt both are on the road.
Maybe the people that run the programs at Tech, i.e. the president and athletic director, need to be replaced. Throwing coaches to the wolves isn’t a good way to do business. Maybe they need to get off their butts and fund-raise instead of throwing their football team into the lion’s den several times a year to help fund the rest of the athletic program.
Louisiana Tech probably should go back to the Sun Belt. Several of the schools are right in their backyard – Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Troy and North Texas. Those schools are a short drive or flight away. It would make more sense geography wise and financially.
Right now, the only sport that can compete on a national level is the women’s basketball team. The men’s basketball team has had some success in the WAC, but is still only a middle-of-the-pack squad.