|Connelly’s Top Ten: Comebacks, Championships and Doobie Brothers||Patriots 2014-2015 Position Review: Quarterbacks||Cubs Hire Manny, Youkilis to Try to Become ’04 Red Sox…Literally||Red Sox 2015 Preview: Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Masterson, Kelly|
The University of Massachusetts Amherst fired head coach Charley Molnar last Thursday following the program’s second straight 1-11 season. The 2013 season was also the Minutemen’s second at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, after their move from the FCS. In a statement, director of athletics John McCutcheon said that “it has become clear … that we must improve our performance in several areas and move in a new direction to ensure success in the FBS.”
Molnar was signed to a five-year contract when UMass moved to the FBS and the Mid-American Conference after the 2011 season, taking over from Kevin Morris. Although the transition to the top flight was expected to be rough, Molnar’s situation started to turn south in September, when the Daily Hampshire Gazette revealed a 2012 video that showed players boxing and wrestling each other, a practice that has since been banned by the NCAA. A group of former Minutemen football players called for the end of such practices, which Molnar defended in the interest of building “mental toughness and accountability.”
This year, UMass once again compiled a 1-11 record, 1-7 in the MAC, with its only win coming on October 12 over Miami (OH). The Minutemen finished 12th out of 13 MAC teams in total offense and 11th in defense, 122nd and 93rd nationally. They were shut down altogether twice, and gave up more than 50 points on another two occasions.
Molnar’s game management came under fire for his decision, during an October 26 game against Western Michigan, to try for a two-point conversion with his team down 31-30 and 31 seconds on the clock. The offense failed to score and UMass lost the game, with Molnar explaining that the call was due to his lack of confidence in kicker Blake Lucas‘s ability to win it in overtime.
The university itself has also been criticized for moving up to the FBS, after a report revealed that the move cost $1 million more than expected, while Gillette Stadium seats have remained largely empty for Minutemen games. Starting next season, UMass will split its home games between the Patriots’ facility and the newly renovated Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium.