Yesterday’s Michigan Daily proclaimed that Bobby Williams’ days as a head coach were numbered. As it turns out, that number was one.
One day was all that Michigan State could live with a coach that had no control of his program – on or off the field.
One day was all the time Athletic Director Ron Mason needed to realize that a change in leadership was the only way to stop the bleeding in East Lansing and restore credibility to Michigan State football.
One day was more than enough. Firing Bobby Williams was the right thing to do and yesterday was the time to do it.
But when Michigan State named offensive coordinator Morris Watts as interim head coach, the number of black head coaches in Division I-A college football dropped to three.
That’s sad news for all college football fans, regardless of color. Bobby Williams was by no means the worst coach in the game, and he should get another chance. Much of what happened at Michigan State was beyond his control.
But the fact remains that he lost two captains to off-the-field shenanigans in two weeks and his team under performed all season before finally quitting in its biggest game of the year. Those problems have undermined his respect inside and outside of the program and effectively prevented him from doing his job well.
Even if he had won Big Ten titles in each of his previous seasons, these scandals and poor results have sabotaged his career at Michigan State beyond repair.
Saturday, after his team suffered its worst defeat in 55 years – a 49-3 loss to Michigan at the Big House – Williams was asked if he had lost his team; he said: “I don’t know.”
Yesterday Mason responded, “To me, that was the most defining moment.”
The next defining moment in East Lansing won’t come anytime soon. Watts admitted yesterday that he doesn’t expect to be the head coach next year, and Mason gave no timetable for when a full-time replacement will be named.
As Mason and his advisors search for a replacement, they should take great care to evaluate every perspective head coach regardless of race, and find the best man for the job.
It is a terrible shame that some people will use Williams’ lack of success at Michigan State as ammunition against other qualified black candidates, but that is outside of the Spartans’ control. This was an unfortunate yet necessary action that Mason needed to take for the betterment of his program.
Steve Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.