Ellis Johnson

After one season, Ellis Johnson out at Southern Miss


In 2011, Southern Miss won 12 games, a Conference USA championship and bowl game.  That stellar résumé led head coach Larry Fedora to be gobbled up for the same position at North Carolina, replaced by Ellis Johnson.

Exactly 343 days later, and following a season in which the football team had as many losses as they did wins the previous year, the Golden Eagles will be moving on to their third coach in less than a year.

After abruptly canceling Johnson’s weekly Monday press conference, and following up on a day’s worth of rumors, Southern Miss announced they have dismissed the head coach and will commence a search for his successor immediately.  Johnson was informed of the decision Tuesday morning.

“Following a thorough assessment of our football program, I made the recommendation to our University President that we not retain Ellis Johnson as our head football coach,” athletic director Jeff Hammond’s statement read. “Dr. Lucas accepted my recommendation and earlier this morning I informed Ellis Johnson that he will not return in the future as our head football coach.”

Fair or not, Johnson will be one-and-done in Hattiesburg thanks to an inexplicable first season on the job.

Following up on that 12-win 2011 season, Southern Miss went 0-12.  They are the first team to go winless in a single season since both Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky accomplished that feat in 2009.  They are also believed to be the first FBS program to go from double-digit wins to winless in the span of one season.

The Golden Eagles had their streak of 18 consecutive winning seasons snapped in 2012, as was their streak of 10 straight bowl appearances.

Add it all up, and the athletic department was left with almost no choice but to can their coach.

“At Southern Miss we expect to compete hard and succeed both in the classroom and on the field,” said Hammond. “This is not the exception…This is in fact the standard, the norm, our identity and who we are.

“In this regard, we have already initiated a search for a new head coach.  We will move rapidly in this effort seeking a dynamic leader with the character to lead our program back to prominence.”

Johnson was hired by Southern Miss on Dec. 20 of last year, coming to the Golden Eagles after a three-year stint as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator/assistant head coach.  It was Johnson’s first head-coaching job at the FBS level.

It’s believed Johnson’s buyout will be $2.1 million, $700,000 for each of the three remaining years on his contract.

VIDEO: Western Michigan’s bowl reveal video was shark-infested

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Forget about all of the talk regarding 5-7 teams going to bowl games or not, because teams that have actually qualified and deserved a bowl trip are starting to line up their postseason plans. Western Michigan confirmed today it will head to the Bahamas Bowl, where the Broncos will face Middle Tennessee of Conference USA.

There were three potential bowl destinations for Western Michigan. The two in addition to the Bahamas Bowl were the Boca Raton Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl. There really wasn’t a bad destination here for Western Michigan, but a chance to go to the Bahamas seemed to be a crowd pleaser, and how could it not?

After the video revealed the bowl destination for the program, head coach P.J. Fleck went on to commend the Broncos for accomplishing a number of firsts for the program this season, including its first win over a top 25 team, a share of the division crown for the first time in over a decade, and the first time going to bowl game sin back-to-back seasons. Now, Fleck wants his program to put together an eight-win season, which would mark the first back-to-back eight-win seasons. Keep rowing that boat, Western Michigan.

ECU says it would decline bowl invite after 5-7 season, but that invite was unlikely to come

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The odds are pretty good East Carolina never would have received a bowl invitation as 5-7 teams wait in line for a rare bowl invitation to fill bowl vacancies. Either wayt, East Carolina is on the record now to say it would not accept any bowl invitation.

“While we understand there are still numerous programs with higher APR scores ahead of us who merit stronger consideration, we have already determined that we would decline an offer should one be extended,” East Carolina Director of Athletics Jeff Compher said in a released statement. “Our efforts should be centered on positioning the Pirates for future championships.”

With Nebraska and Illinois already reportedly ready to accept any bowl invitation they would receive, East Carolina was already going to eb locked out of the postseason as long as the Huskers and Illini stayed true to those reports. Missouri has publicly said it would turn down an ofer, but there are still other schools that would stand in the way of ECU, which is way down the order on the wait list.

5-7 Illinois is ready to go bowling

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Illinois will happily join in the postseason fun despite its 5-7 record. It just needs Georgia State and South Alabama to lose this weekend to make that a possibility.

Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reported today, via Twitter, the Illini would accept a bowl invitation should one fall into their laps. At 5-7, Illinois would receive a bowl invitation as bowls look to fill up bowl vacancies based on APR scores for the football program. Nebraska would be first in line among 5-7 schools hoping to wiggle into the postseason, and the Huskers have already reportedly confirmed they will accept the invitation to whatever bowl is left with the first vacancy to fill.

Missouri released a statement on Monday saying the school will not accept a bowl invitation following its 5-7 season, and instead will allow for coaches to pursue other opportunities while the school closes in on a coaching hire to replace the retired Gary Pinkel. Missouri would have received the second invitation. Kansas State is next in line, followed by Minnesota, San Jose State and Illinois.

Georgia State has a chance to become bowl eligible with a win this weekend, but it must defeat Georgia Southern on the road, which is not to be expected. Georgia Southern is a 21-point favorite in the game. South Alabama can also hit the six-win minimum to become bowl eligible with a home win against Appalachian State. This may be more likely to happen than Georgia State pulling off the road upset, but the Jaguars are an 18-point underdog at home against Appalachian State this weekend.

Greg Schiano and Will Muschamp rising coaching candidates?

Will Muschamp

While you just never know what will turn up when the coaching rumor mill starts turning, you should always expect some old names to pop up as possible candidates for jobs. Two coaching candidates reportedly gaining steam for possible jobs in this cycle are Will Muschamp and Greg Schiano.

Muschamp, after one season serving as Auburn’s defensive coordinator after being removed as head coach at Florida, is perhaps the more puzzling of the two. Muschamp has been reported to be a top contender for the opening at South Carolina, with Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and Mark Schlabach of ESPN each reporting word of Muschamp’s rising candidacy for the job left open by the retired Steve Spurrier. If South Carolina is truly close to considering Muschamp for the job, you should probably be asking questions about the information they are gathering that you cannot see for yourself. Muschamp had one good season at Florida before things turned south in a hurry, and his impact on Auburn’s defense was not nearly as successful this season as hyped. So what, exactly, is the selling point on Muschamp to South Carolina?

What about Schiano? That is a bit of a different tale.

Feldman once again dropped the word that Schiano was a rising candidate for the opening at Miami. This is a move that actually makes some sense. Schiano was a former defensive coordinator of the Hurricanes in 1999 and 2000, which led to him being named the head coach of Rutgers in 2011. He lasted 12 seasons in New Jersey and proved capable of building a reputable program at a traditional doormat of a program. You might even argue Schiano is the reason Rutgers is in the Big Ten today, although he had moved on to the NFL, and failed, by the time that transition was completed. Schiano has not coached since 2013, when he was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At Rutgers, Schiano was 68-67, a record that was bogged down by a 3-20 record in his first two seasons on the job. Rutgers had winning seasons in six of Schiano’s final seven years in New Jersey.

Both South Carolina and Miami should continue to explore all of their options, because it feels like neither would be making the best possible hire if the Gamecocks hire Muschamp and Miami resurrects Schiano’s coaching career.