That’s why Jacksonville State made the wise, but difficult, move last Friday in firing longtime coach Jack Crowe. Pardon the rhyme, but Crowe had to go if the Gamecocks were going to challenge in the foreseeable future for another national championship.
Crowe spent 13 seasons in Jacksonville, some of which were unmitigated successes. Under Crowe’s leadership, the Gamecocks won three Ohio Valley Conference titles (the last coming in 2011), earned three NCAA playoff berths and were ranked No. 2 nationally for a brief time in 2010. Crowe’s teams recorded a historic 2010 victory over Ole Miss, and this year, in Crowe’s final game, JSU lost at Florida despite giving up only one offensive touchdown to the highly ranked Gators.
But that’s no longer good enough.
JSU plays in the Football Championship Series (formerly I-AA), which determines its champion through a playoff. In Crowe’s 13 seasons, JSU made the playoffs only three times and never won a playoff game. This year, his team finished 6-5 and wasn’t a true contender for a postseason berth.
The reality is harsh for a program that was an unquestioned Division II power and winner of the 1992 national title. It’s safe to say the win over Ole Miss and the positive aura that surrounded the school’s expansion of its football stadium may have clouded some people’s view of the Gamecocks’ postseason struggles.
With Crowe at the helm and with exceedingly high expectations from its fan base, JSU was not able to sustain the success of teams such as Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Youngstown State — perennial championship contenders in the FCS.
Thus, Crowe’s tenure ran its course at JSU, where officials rightly decided new leadership was necessary for the Gamecocks to reach their full potential.
Production, wins and losses, matter. Grace periods and exceptions are rare. Just look at Auburn University, which recently fired its coach, Gene Chizik, only two years after winning a national championship. The coach who could do no wrong was deemed a liability.
It’s unfair to label Crowe a liability; overall, he won a high percentage of his games and took the Gamecocks to three league titles. But if JSU is to again be a consistent national power in football, the school is correct to use postseason results in its evaluation of its coaches.
There’s no reason why each season JSU shouldn’t be one of the best FCS teams and a title contender. It’s a shame that it’s not.