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December 15, 2013
Ellerson's fate has been sealed
PHILADELPHIA -- Army head coach Rich Ellerson, unlike a year ago, sounded like a man ready to accept his fate following the Black Knights'34-7 loss to Navy in the 114th Army-Navy Game before 65,612 Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
He understands what his 0-5 record means in college football's best rivalry game. And that the winless mark has been tacked onto a previous Navy winning streak in the series that has now reached the improbable number of a dozen wins in a row.
Last year Ellerson snapped at a question about his coaching future when Army lost a bitterly disappointing decision on a fumble in the final minute. This time he understood the question's place in the post-game session.
"It's hard, but it's not about me -- it's about those guys," said Ellerson, nodding figuratively to his team. "That's who I'm sick for right now. I love that football team. That's great team and a great senior class. You can't imagine the feeling they have for one another. I want desperately for them to have a better feeling than today. That's what killing me. I know the job description. It wasn't to get close. It was to get in the end zone."
From his words with his players, he also sounded like a man who wanted to avoid Texas coach Mack Brown's fate. Brown was upset word leaked he planned to resign before he had a chance to speak with his team at the year-end banquet. Ellerson, not knowing when a decision will be made, made sure he had a special word of thanks with his players in the locker room at the stadium they call The Linc in Philadelphia.
"I told them they had paid the price," Ellerson said. "They have invested so much in this team. They are committed to one another. They are bonded like you can't believe. When this terrible felling in our stomach diminishes, what will be left are these bonds they've forged with one another.
"I told them how proud I am to have been part of their journey, to be a part of what brought them together and to be part of what put their feet on the path they've chosen. I couldn't be prouder of these guys and what they've taken on."
A good coach doesn't necessarily feel the hurt of his players if he feels his X's and O's weren't executed, but a good man does. Ellerson was both following the game.
He came to Army with great promise in 2009. He seemed the perfect as the son of a career Army Colonel, the younger brother of a former Army football team captain and a successful coach as an assistant at Arizona and head coach at Cal Poly. He brought with him a triple-option offense that is nearly mandatory for service academy football to compete and a Dougle Eagle Flex defense that compensates for a lack of size and speed.
In his second year, the 2010 season, Army finished 7-6 with a win over SMU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. It was the Black Knights' first bowl game victory since 1985.
But it also remains Army's most recent bowl game. The Black Knights, plagued by injuries to key players for a third straight year, slipped to 2-10 in 2012 and 3-9 in 2013. His overall record at Army is 20-42.
The progress he's made with recruiting may not be enough to overcome those W-L numbers. His willingness to work with Army brass to fit Black Knights football into the West Point and military system and culture may not be enough.
College football has moved beyond the example of retired Colorado coach Bill McCartney from those seemingly ancient times of the 1980s. In McCartney's third season in Boulder, his 1984 team finished 1-10. The school resisted calls for his dismissal. By 1990 he led Colorado to a national title. He finished his coaching career at Colorado without a losing season in those final 10 years.
Army junior linebacker/safety Geoffery Bacon, a three-year starter, made a final case for Ellerson's return. He had been moved from safety to middle linebacker for the Navy game and the strategy that forced six Navy punts might have worked without Army's three turnovers, costly personal fouls and big Navy runs against missed gap assignments.
"A lot of the losses we took this year, including this game, were because of the players," he said. "It wasn't because of the coaches. We were prepared for the games and everything was set, but we just didn't execute. By no means do I blame this season on him. I know he's the head coach, so he has to take the blame, but it's not his fault. The coaches aren't perfect, but neither are we."
Of course there are many names like Greg Gregory and Ben Kotwica circulating the rumor mill around as the possible replacement to potential Army head coaching job. However, Gregory's has had too many personal issue that could make him an unlikely choice, while Kotwica may be considered to young as one of the leading candidates. That being said, his name has surfaced as a potential defensive coordinator for the Black Knights, which could also be part of the house cleaning surrounding this staff.
However, one name that appears to be atop the rumor list is Ed Warriner
Yes, there have been some preliminary bench marking of potential candidates for possible vacancy at Army. That focus would be on coaches with West Point experience. Presently there are three NFL coaches, 3 NCAA coaches and four others with academy experience.
Through our sources, look for an announcement this evening (12/15) at 7pm EST on Army's coaching situation.
In Ellerson's meeting with Superintendent, Lieutenant General Robert Caslen and AD, Boo Corrigan, the 5th mentor has been removed as Army Head Coach.
Needless to say, there are many assistance coaches, whose fate is still to be considered, as the United States Military Academy at West Point continues to move forward in their search engagement for a new head coach for the Army football program.
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