College Football’s Worst Coach Fired

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.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. “Since they can’t afford to get the coach they want, most likely, they should get the coach that nobody else wants.”

    I think that would be Mike Locksley. As Lobo luck would have it, I think he’s available.

  2. Jesse Jackson argued black coaches had a better record than white ones on aggregate, back in the day when there’d only been a handful. [Speaking of the NFL here.] There have been a lot more since then.

    What if black coaches on aggregate have worse records, college or NFL? I don’t know if they do, but I think about Brother Jesse pimping that argument now and then and wonder about the followup.

    • TVD, I did some looking around to search for an answer. I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t even come up with all the black coaches who have been active in the NFL (didn’t look that hard, admittedly), much less in college, to manually look up their records.

      This, it seems to me, is a better victory than Brother Jesse could ever have hoped for. Whether a coach is black or white or other ought to be as unimportant as whether he is left-handed, and so it is. Lobo fans want to see good football, number one, number two, number three, and number four.

      I am not knowledgeable enough to opine if Mike Locksley is in fact the best available replacement here. I can say, though, that if Lobo fans are like fans of pretty much every other major college football program, they don’t give a pickled pear stem what race the coach is, if he can recruit good players and get the team to a championship and a respectable bowl game in December or January.

      • As for looking at records, at the college level it’s hard to draw too much from it. Why? Because you have to look at the jobs they take. Locksley deserves his ill-repute for taking a borderline team and making them a dreadful loser. But Walker (NMSU’s coach) took over a team that almost never wins. That was also the nature of Turner Gill’s first assignment, though he turned Buffalo around… only to falter at Kansas (a struggling program that did well under its previous coach). Western Kentucky and Kentucky are tough football programs to coach for (the former having just elevated to FBS and the latter primarily a basketball school) and Charlie Strong is taking over a Louisville program that struggled mightily under its previous coach (who had been successful at Tulsa). Kevin Sumlin took over a winning program and has continued to win (more or less)… because he is a great coach or because it’s easier to keep a ship going in the right direction than it is to right one going in the wrong direction?

        The point of all of this being that every job is different.

        Given the relative parity in the NFL, that might be a more fair comparison. But I don’t follow the NFL as closely and if someone said “No, it’s really not, because…” I wouldn’t be able to argue.

    • If you follow the second link (regarding what I previously said about Locksley) you will actually see an article that I wrote on the subject and black coaches in general.

      In summary, I think that there may be something to the notion that (particularly at the college level) there is some resistance among alumni and such to warm to a black coach. At the same time, the media’s focusing on the issue can actually compound whatever problem there is by making it difficult to fire a black coach even when they aren’t meeting expectations. When my alma mater was seriously interviewing a black coach, I know that was one of the thoughts I had about it.

      • At the same time, the media’s focusing on the issue can actually compound whatever problem there is by making it difficult to fire a black coach even when they aren’t meeting expectations.

        Yup. Now we have to fire Obama. Not pretty.

      • When Frank Robinson was hired to manage the Indians, many sportswriters who agreed that he was qualified were still were oh-so-concerned that it would be hard to fire him. The Indians had no such qualms, getting rid of him midway through his third year. And the Giants fired Dusty Baker for winning the pennant but losing the World Series. In neither case were there any cries of racism, so I’m not too worried about the whole thing.

  3. I bet they could get Mike Singletary, or Mike Nolan, or Tom Cable.

    • Singletary could be exactly what the Lobos need. He probably doesn’t need the money and therefore would be willing to work cheap to help establish himself.

      Or he could be compounding the error, as someone who (like Lockyer) is charismatic and accomplished but has yet to fully succeed as a head coach.

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