The athletics department at Lamar University is once again in the spotlight. After winning just five games in three seasons, Blane Morgan was relieved of his duties as head football coach on November 21.
In a statement released by LU, the university reported that “a nationwide search for Morgan’s replacement will begin immediately. Parker Executive Search will assist the university in finding their next head coach.”
Marco Born, long gone, made several wrong decisions during his brief tenure as LU’s sporting director. His first was the firing of head football coach Mike Schultz. Just a season away from leading the Cardinals to the program’s first-ever FCS playoff appearance, Schultz was fired after a 4-8 in his third year despite suffering three serious injuries at the starting quarterback position.
Schultz was brought in to help fix the program in 2017, and he did just that after one season.
It was 2018 when Schultz and the Cardinals won six straight games to finish 7-4 and earn a playoff berth against Northern Iowa.
How could it happen so quickly when others like Ray Woodard and Blane Morgan couldn’t burn success? First off, Schultz is a work-a-holic. No coach, except perhaps Nick Saban, has put in as many hours as he has. He also installed an intense offseason program that included rigorous weightlifting to make players much stronger. It obviously worked.
Schultz and his team of coaches also found the perfect formula for recruitment with JUCO transfers and high school players.
One star was defenseman Michael Lawson, a transfer from City College of San Francisco. Lawson was one of the best defensive secondaries in all of FCS. He quickly became one of the top stars of the Southland Conference. He led the team in tackles and interceptions and was one of the reasons for the team’s success in 2018.
Lawson dropped out of college after Schultz was fired and was posted to western Illinois, where he became an all-conference player in the Missouri Valley Conference. He was recently drafted by the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL.
Then there was Darrell Colbert Jr., a transfer quarterback from SMU. At Beaumont, Colbert was an all-conference player with 1,611 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air and also added 597 yards on the ground.
How can we forget offensive lineman Bless Harris, who now plays for Florida State?
Alongside players like these, Schultz was able to find stars like running back Myles Wanza and receiver Kirkland Banks at the high school level. Lamar football is fun again.
Schultz faced a major hurdle in 2019, in his third year. With a 2-2 record in the conference, he ended the season with not one, not two, but three injuries at the quarterback position, which is something FBS schools can’t overcome. The Cardinals dropped their final five games of the season, and Born quickly switched to Schultz in what ultimately turned out to be a disastrous move. The Cardinal football program has yet to recover. Many believe that if Schultz were still the coach, the program would have already won a conference title that is very rare to come by.
Born finally resigned earlier this year and President Dr. Jaime Taylor announced the hiring of Jeff O’Malley, who came to Beaumont from Marshall University.
O’Malley now has the big task of hiring a football coach. A few names have surfaced, including Art Briles (sigh) and Kevin Barbay. Briles needs no introduction. hard pass.
Barbay was once a young assistant to Ray Woodard at Lamar. After several stints, he is now offensive coordinator at Appalachian State, a team that is 6-5 this season but has a win against Texas A&M.
Can Briles or Barbay flip the Lamar program? Who really knows, but Schultz can. Why? Because he fixed it before. He knows what it takes to make Lamar Football a winner.
If I’m O’Malley, my first call would be Schultz, who has errands to do in Beaumont.