Ron English is 1-6 this season and 11-44 in five seasons as Eastern Michigan's coach. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)
Ypsilanti — Eastern Michigan athletic director Heather Lyke is going to have a big decision to make next month on the future of football coach Ron English.
Simply put, English hasn't gotten the job done of building a winning program in his five years at EMU. The Eagles are 11-44 under his guidance and have lost 18 of their last 21 games dating to the end of the 2011 season.
The Eagles are 1-6 this season and have lost their three Mid-American Conference games by an average of 29 points, including home games against Ball State (51-20) and Ohio (56-28).
How bad have things become? Well, in the past four games the Eagles...
■ Have given up an average of 50 points and 523 total yards.
■ Trailed 27-6 in the opening quarter against Ball State and 21-0 midway through the second quarter against Buffalo.
■ Gave up 513 rushing yards to a sub-.500 Army team
■ Allowed Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton to throw for a career-high 375 yards and four touchdowns.
It’s difficult to place the blame on anyone but English. These are his recruits, and he added the title of defensive coordinator to his job description this season.
EMU trustee James Stapleton said during the spring game in April he expected a better team than last year's 2-10 showing. He didn't say a winning season was needed for English to keep his job, but he fully expected the Eagles to be competitive in MAC play.
It hasn't happened, and now the Eagles face a tough stretch that includes a road game at No. 23 Northern Illinois on Saturday.
English also dealt with a situation no coach should ever face last week when he had to get the Eagles ready for Ohio a day after losing receiver Demarius Reed, the result of a homicide at Reed’s apartment off campus.
And English had his players competing at a high level, playing in Reed's honor. The Eagles pulled even at 21 midway through the third quarter, then had a first-and-goal at the seven minutes later, but Tyler Benz threw an interception in the end zone.
Tettleton went deep on the first play, throwing an 80-yard touchdown. It was Ohio's first of three touchdowns during a five-minute stretch to open up a 42-21 cushion.
"I thought our coaches did a good job of leading, our medical staff did a good job of supporting the players, and I thought they really came out wanting to do well for Demarius and his memory, and I thought they played hard, which is what I asked them to do," English said.
"Although it was a tough time, I think that the program did a nice job of handling it, and we're certainly going to miss one of the great young men I've been around in terms of turning his life around. Demarius really turned his life around from one year to the next in terms of attitude, in terms of leadership ability and terms of just being positive and consistent and certainly a very good football player."
Possible candidates to replace English as EMU coach include Mike Haywood, Wayne State head coach Paul Winters, Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, Scot Loeffler, the offensive coordinator of No. 16 Virginia Tech and Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.
Haywood turned a 1-11 program in 2009 into a MAC championship team in 2010 at Miami. Winters guided Wayne State to the Division II national title game in 2011. Martin led Grand Valley to a 74-7 record in six years as head coach and two Division II national titles (2005, '06), and Cubit guided Western Michigan to a 31-13 home record, three bowl appearances and five wins over BCS opponents.
Martin and Loeffler wanted the EMU job when English was eventually chosen in December, 2008.
Just like practice for bowl game
Central Michigan coach Dan Enos has more than enough time to get the Chippewas ready for their next game, a nationally televised battle Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Ball State (7-1, 4-0 West).
It's like getting ready for a bowl game with 2½ weeks between games. And, the outcome of the CMU-Ball State game could be the difference between the Chippewas (3-5, 2-2) earning a bowl bid or not for the second straight year. They won four of their final games last season to become bowl eligible, then defeated Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl.
CMU's 26-23 upset win at Ohio on Oct. 12 put the Chippewas in position to become bowl eligible once again. Even though they lost to Northern Illinois, 38-17 Saturday in Mount Pleasant, the Chips have a legitimate shot at postseason play with winnable games the final three weeks of the season: Nov. 16 at Western Michigan (0-8), then home games against Massachusetts (1-6) Nov. 23 and EMU (1-6) Nov. 29.
Still, there's a big difference between being bowl eligible at 6-6 and being 7-5 with wins against Ohio and Ball State, both very good programs.
"It's always nice to have a bye week, but a little different to have almost two or three weeks off and that's kind of unusual, but this whole schedule for us has been very unusual this year," said Enos whose Chippewas played five of their first seven games on the road. "We just play with the cards we're dealt."
Enos has a lot of work to do after letting Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch set an FBS rushing record (316 yards) by a quarterback, including 232 on 18 carries during the second half to break a 14-14 halftime tie.
Next up is trying to slow down Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning (2,625 yards, 18 TDs), who has thrown for more than 300 yards in all eight games this season.
Western Michigan has gone from having a solid, competitive program to the joke of college football.
P.J. Fleck, the youngest coach in the country, talks big and has that "Row the Boat theme" but has been blown out week after week, including 38-17 at home by Ball State Saturday in Kalamazoo to fall to 0-8.
Fleck consistently talks about having a young and inexperienced team, but the Broncos played a nine-win Ball State tough in Muncie last year before ultimately losing in overtime.