Todd Berry and Louisiana-Monroe scared the dancing out of the Baylor Bears Friday night but akin to their game with the Auburn Tigers last week, the Warhawks were lauded in a loss. At this point, three non-conference performances against the Arkansas Razorbacks (landmark victory), Auburn (overtime defeat) and Baylor (47-42 shootout) provide an obvious conclusion: Berry’s not the coach he was at Army.
He’s probably the hottest name ever in coaching circles to sport a career 39-75 record. In the mid 1990’s, Berry earned his first chance at leading a program with Illinois State. He guided them to a 24-24 record at the FCS level in four seasons. The son of a former Canadian Football League coach parlayed that into the job at West Point. Listen, the general college football consensus recognizes the difficulty of the job at Army. You’re helming a team full of men with future goals and many of those on the battlefield, not the gridiron.
So two one-win seasons and a fourth year which started 0-6 before he was fired combined for a 5-35 mark tells a story with an asterisk. Berry struggled, he didn’t win, he didn’t get it done. While generating revenue, increasing ticket interest and keeping the NCAA out of the athletic department play significant roles for head coaches, the deal breaker is to avoid losing.
Berry left the Black Knights for to coordinate the offense at Louisiana-Monroe and he returned to the Warhawks in 2010 when they fired Charlie Weatherbie. In two years, Berry’s produced a 9-15 record. That’s hardly the stuff of legend but Monroe’s early 2012 run behind quarterback Kolton Browning is creating conversation. Much of that talking probably goes on in offices of athletic directors nationwide, some in the market for a new head football coach.
In September, Berry’s beloved. Now, he faces a stingier opponent than any SEC or Big 12 team. Complacency has the tendency to infiltrate media darlings and crush conference dreams from the inside. Louisiana-Monroe isn’t the presumptive favorite in the Sun Belt. Arkansas State, Western Kentucky and Florida International all have likely issues with amount of press the Warhawks currently receive. Following up a fantastic non-conference slate with a 5-7 finish offers zero aside from a few saved September clippings.
For years, Fresno State and Pat Hill spouted the mantra that they’d play anyone, anywhere, anytime. They frightened programs like the USC Trojans in 2005 before WAC upsets plagued them later in the fall. The stories are nice to retell about taking a major school to the wire but they’re still losses.
Though it might be this winter, Berry’s goal today isn’t an opportunity to coach at a name program. It’s combating the complacency of a sterling start to 2012 and making sure the Warhawks aren’t content with simply being impressive.