The long nightmare in New Mexico is over:
New Mexico coach Mike Locksley was fired Sunday, one day after yet another tough loss and another embarrassing off-the-field incident.
Athletic director Paul Krebs announced Locksley’s dismissal in a statement and said associate head coach and defensive coordinator George Barlow will serve as interim head coach for the rest of the season.
Krebs said he will hold a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the coaching change.
Locksley won two games in two-plus seasons, for a career record of 2-26. The Lobos dropped to 0-4 this season after losing to FCS Sam Houston State 48-45 on Saturday before an announced crowd of 16,313 at University Stadium in Albuquerque. It was the Lobos’ smallest home crowd in almost 19 years.
A couple years ago I wrote the following of Locksley:
New Mexico got some good press by hiring Mike Locksley. Since then, he has been the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit, he punched an assistant coach, and has gone 0-5 with the only one of those games within twenty points being the first loss to annual rival New Mexico State in six years (UNM has a 66-28 record with NMSU overall with only 14 losses since 1940). Do you fire a coach after one season? That’s always a tricky question. Made even trickier if they fire the first black coach they ever had after one season.
I think people would be hard-pressed to cry racism at this point. The depths of Locksley’s ineptitude are difficult to fully explain. Scandal after scandal, loss after loss. New Mexico is not a perennial cellar-dweller. Rocky Long, Locksley’s predecessor, had a sub-.500 winning percentage, but had more winning records than not. He was fired for a 4-8 season, but has rebounded and is now the head coach at San Diego State.
This complete and utter failure could not possibly have come at a worse time. If New Mexico were at the top of their game, they would be candidates for the Big 12. While the Big 12 is looking at a school that has hit the skids recently (Louisville), Locksley’s Lobos are just toxic. The buyout is supposed to cost $1.4m, but it’ll be worth it. Given Locksley’s off-the-field antics, however, they may be able to fire him with cause. One of Locksley’s predecessors, Dennis Franchione, had a substantially lower buyout than he was scheduled with less dirt than Locksley has.
On a tangent, up until last week, both New Mexico and Kentucky had the distinctions of having only black head coaches leading their programs. One of the success stories is that of New Mexico’s in-state rival, New Mexico State. DeWayne Walker has only gone 5-20, but he’s at least managed to beat the Lobos twice and managed to convert an convulsive seizure on the part of Minnesota’s head coach into an upset win. That’s more than it seemed Locksley was capable of doing.
The solution for UNM seems obvious to me (if the ascended assistant coach doesn’t work out): Since they can’t afford to get the coach they want, most likely, they should get the coach that nobody else wants. Someone willing to work anywhere and work cheap. UTEP did this with Mike Price and it had mixed results. UCF did this with George O’Leary and it has had great results. The name that comes to mind is… Terry Bowden. The guy has won everywhere he has coached. He’s thrown himself at nearly every vacancy, no matter how dire the situation (Marshall, Louisiana Tech, SMU), but is stuck in Division II hell. It wouldn’t take much to pay him more than he is being paid now and he would probably be willing to work cheap for the first couple of years to get the chance to prove himself. I would have mentioned hiring back Dennis Franchione, but he was already hired back by another former employer. Mike Leach would be another one, though I don’t know that he would be willing to work so cheaply. Even Todd Dodge might have better luck at New Mexico than he had at North Texas. But first call should be to Terry Bowden.