I didn't want to put this on the main page, because I've dealt with it a couple times already and it's not good to get too repetitive with homerism. Anyway, I thought the ignorant, knee-jerk responses to Jeff Bower's "resignation" at Southern Miss were passed.
But here's Mark May on GameDay final after Bower's last game Saturday, paraphrased:
"I think it's atrocious. Who does Southern Miss think it is? He's had 14 straight winning seasons! What else do you want? What do they think, they're going to win national championships? They're not even in a conference where they can compete for a national championship! Even if they go undefeated, they can't play for a national championship. I don't understand this decision at all."
Neurons firing in real time.
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Mark May doesn't understand because he knows not what he speaks (national championship?!), and this isn't about Mark May because the rest of the national media that deigns to take any interest in Southern Miss has expressed exactly the same shortsighted, un-researched opinion, and so has much of the local media in Mississippi.
Previously, I've taken on this attitude twice - Here, to combat the notion (as expressed by Ivan Maisel) that USM will not find "a coach who fits what it needs more than Bower does," I shallowly covered Bower's record in its historical perspective, which is very ordinary by Southern Miss standards, and went into greater depth on that record here.
I don't know where "national championships" comes into the picture, or even BCS bids. That's beyond ridiculous. How about simply winning Conference USA? USM hasn't won the conference it once dominated in four years, has taken the championship only one time in eight years, and has finished at least two games back of the league champion six of those seven unsuccessful seasons. And that is how Southern Miss partisans view it - anything short of the C-USA championship is unsuccessful. Not a failure, but not success. That's a standard Bower's team failed to reach seven of the last eight seasons, usually without coming very close. This is only about competing within Conference USA. And, based on the records kept at the endlessly useful database of preseason picks at Stassen.com, USM fans aren't the only ones who think the team is underachieving in its own conference:
|Predicted (C-USA)||Final (C-USA)||Difference||Losses as Favorite||Wins as Underdog||Total Losses|
|2000||1||4||-3||Two (L'ville, Cincy)||Two (Bama, TCU)||4|
|2001||3||5||-2||Two (Mem., TCU)||-||5|
|2002||2||3t||-1||Two (USF, Tulane)||-||6|
|2003||2||1||+ 1||-||One (Cincy)||4|
|2004||4||2t**||-||Two (Cincy, TCU)||One (Neb.)||5|
|2005||1 (E)||2t (E)||-1||Two (Tulsa, Mem.)||-||5|
|2006||2 (E)||1 (E)***||+ 1||One (E. Carolina)||-||5|
|2007||1 (E)*||4 (E)||-3||Three (Rice, UCF, Mem.)||-||6|
** Four-way tie for second place behind Louisville in 2004; USM lost to two of the teams it technically tied, Cincinnati and Memphis
*** USM lost the C-USA Championship Game to Houston and finished two games behind the Cougars in the final standings.
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Dark sections are unabashed underachievers based on preseason expectations and disappointing losses; 2004 teeters on the bring of underachievement, only because the preseason expectations (from the outside, anyway) were lower than in any other season. The 2003 team is the only overachiever; the 2006 team was par. The "Losses as a Favorite" column is the most disturbing, even more than all the seasons falling short of the championship and the preseason expectations, because a) those are ten lost wins, games USM was obviously good enough to win and didn't, and b) they are all conference games. In eight years, Southern Miss has won one (1) Conference USA game it wasn't expected to win by oddsmakers, and that was a fluky win (on a last second field goal, after a Cincinnati TD had been overturned on penalty) over a team that finished 2-6 in the conference. This is a very clear, consistent pattern of underachieving on the conference level, and the season past fell by far the furthest from the bar. How long can a team continue to lose multiple games every season it thinks it should win, and that oddsmakers think it should win? How long can it settle for seven wins and five losses when even outsiders apparently believe season after season it should be winning nine or ten? This is only about Southern Miss winning the games it's supposed to win.
I did not advocate for Jeff Bower's removal, and still have two minds about it now. His tenure as a whole, because of what he accomplished with conference titles in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2003, is an unquestioned positive. But that is the past, and in football terms, the fairly distant past. If the more recent history is any indication, there is only more mediocrity and disappointment in the future.