While leisurely reading other blogs leading me to USA today articles on coaching changes, I came across this gem. I did not remember that USM actually sold a home game to raise the required funds to fire Ellis Johnson. That is just unbelievable.
I like USM and support them in most things they do. My original plan for college included USM because they had a major that MSU didn’t. I finally decided that I wouldn’t feel right not going to MSU and a degree from the College of Business was just going to have to do. One thing that SEC fans, regardless of school, take for granted is the unbelievable booster support they receive. If a seat gets hot we usually talk about the big buyouts like they are an issue but in reality they aren’t. When the big boosters want a change, they get change.
I was shocked at first by the lengths USM went to fire Johnson. I then wondered again why their fanbase doesn’t give back like others do. It’s an interesting situation that doesn’t make sense and probably never will. The link to the USA today article outlines many other costly firings in CFB.
For as short as Embree’s tenure was, Ellis Johnson got even less time at Southern Mississippi after going 0-12 in his first season. Faced with growing fan unrest, interim president Aubrey Lucas and Southern Miss’ administration confronted a dilemma: find a considerable sum to fire Johnson or potentially lose more money if he couldn’t turn the program around. In response to a fan’s request to terminate the first-year coach and his staff, Lucas wrote, “To do as you recommended, I will need to raise $3million. Can you help? This is not intended to be a ‘smarty’ reply, but a sincere request for assistance.” The fan offered $1,000 and vowed to reach out to his family for help. Many other fans wrote saying they were willing to give from $100 to $1,000. But in the week leading up to Johnson’s firing, Southern Miss sold a home game vs. Nebraska for more than $2.1 million, according to letters between the schools’ ADs obtained by Deadspin. A longtime assistant, Johnson took over in 2012 after Larry Fedora parlayed a 12-2 record into a job at North Carolina. But Southern Miss followed the best season in school history with its worst, ending a run of 18 consecutive winning seasons. Richard Johnston, president of the USM Athletic Foundation, wrote to say that he was part of the mistake as a member of the search committee that chose Johnson. “I thought we made a good hire, even though he was our second choice,” Johnston wrote. “We need to cut our losses and salvage our supporters by showing them we acknowledged making a mistake and will, with their help, begin to rebuild this historical successful program.” He pledged $50,000 to help with the buyout. One fan summed up Southern Miss’ situation — as well as that of the other schools that fired coaches — better than others. “Whatever the cost now, it will be so much more if he’s allowed to coach another season,” he wrote.