Tough Choice Ahead On McMackin

Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin talks with a game official during a 35-31 loss to Utah State Nov. 5 at Aloha Stadium. AP photo /Eugene Tanner

Some months back in a conversation with UH athletics director Jim Donovan, I commented that he has a job I would love/hate to have. He continued the comedic routine by handing over a stack of folders as if getting ready to clean out his desk.

No matter how serious or silly the discussion was on that occasion, this is not a time I would want to be in charge. Donovan has a big decision to make.

The 2011 UH Football season began with high, if not misplaced, hopes of a second consecutive WAC championship. Needless to say, that isn’t going to happen. The goal now is to qualify for the Hawaii Bowl and find a way for head coach Greg McMackin to keep his job.

The latter may be more difficult than the former.

With every offensive starter but quarterback Bryant Moniz having finished up their eligibility, a return to prominence was going to be difficult. But with a deep and experienced defense and an offense designed to get even the most moderately quick receiver open, a return to the hometown bowl seemed a no-brainer. But it just never clicked. Outside of the seasonopening victory over Colorado, which in hindsight wasn’t much of an accomplishment, the Warriors have struggled to put together 60 minutes of quality football. The road win at Louisiana Tech was impressive, but beyond that feel-good moment, the reasons to cheer have been slim.

The defense, which was supposed to be a strength, has given up an average of 29 points per game and is 53rd in the country, allowing an average 373.1 yards per game against competition that is, let’s be honest, not exactly SEC caliber.

The offense has struggled at times, scoring just 20 points against UNLV, while fumbling away the ball four times, and a paltry 16 at Idaho, where they fumbled five times, losing two.

As for the special teams, well, the less said the better.

From that list the answer seems simple: It’s time for a new coach.

But it’s not that easy. If fired, McMackin would be owed the full amount of his $1.15 million yearly salary. And if you haven’t noticed, UH doesn’t exactly boast a Texas-sized endowment. That, however, isn’t the most problematic issue. The biggest concern with this year’s team hasn’t been the shaky offense or woeful special teams, but injuries that forced UH to go three deep in areas where it just doesn’t have the talent.

The only thing any of us can ask for is a fair chance to exhibit our abilities, and because of injuries, it’s hard to say the staff has gotten that fair chance this year. Now, this is not to say they are without guilt. Many times this season the team has seemed unprepared. Recruiting also has fallen off, and they can’t seem to escape the boom-andbust cycle of player eligibility that has hamstrung the team in recent years.

So what’s an AD to do? McMackin has one year left on his contract, and a lame duck season would be disastrous.

Perhaps there is a solution. Offer him a oneyear extension at, say, $500,000 with incentives that would allow him to earn upward of $800,000. If 2012 is a success, then it will be money wellspent. If not, the buyout becomes affordable, and you’ll have known whether McMackin is a 10-4 coach with bad luck or a defensive specialist who needs to stay in that role.