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What's gone wrong with Tiger football

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By Bobby Brockman

The talk around the water fountain, at local sporting events and in the local eating establishments is what had gone wrong with Campbellsville University Fighting Tiger football?

What has happened to a program that once competed for Mid-South Conference titles and had Courier-Journal sports columnist Rick Bozich cover a snowy home game with Georgetown?

How does a program that chalked up eight seven-or-more victory campaigns, only win six games in its last three years?

Here are some of the facts and speculation and hopefully a solution or two:

- Just like the release says of Jim Deaton's resignation, you could not meet a more loyal and nicer guy than the former Carson-Newman defensive coordinator.

Like a former Tiger player told me recently, "Deaton sure passed the pedigree test."

But, that didn't equate into recruiting triumphs or wins on the gridiron. Maybe it was because he didn't have many connections with Kentucky high school coaches?

- The gap between the current program and former Tiger players seems to have widened during the last decade.

Ron Finley's forced resignation and the short, abrupt stay of Mark Peach, a former CU player, still has some of the alumni bitter.

- Finley deserves even more credit today than he did when he was guiding the Tigers. He and his staff were so organized, especially with Kentucky prep players, that they could compete annually with almost every team on the schedule.

- But, let's also be honest, the Mid-South Conference has become a much tougher conference. Every team is competitive and with a 12- or 13-team conference, each year is going to be a dogfight.

- Also, everyone knows it gets harder each year to field a competent staff with men who don't make a whole lot of money for the hours they put in and who live close enough to make commuting a non-issue. Finley was a genius in getting assistants like Mike Thomas, Sam Wickliffe and Lynn Taylor who lived close by and worked for peanuts.

- By the way, Thomas' contributions are also missed greatly by Tiger football. When the former defensive coordinator started helping the CU program, he was also still officiating high school football games.

So, while he was out every Friday night, he got a good look at prospects while wearing the white cap. Even after he stopped officiating, he was a good judge of talent and still had a lot of connections.

u Advice. Hire someone that it won't take a year or two for everyone in the commonwealth to recognize. Folks need to realize who the football coach at Campbellsville University is.

- Good luck to the search committee, athletics director Rusty Hollingsworth and CU president Dr. Michael Carter!

You have your work cut out for you to hire the right man to resurrect Tiger football and no one expects that to be an easy task.

Take input from different facets of the CU community, especially former players, but don't try to please everyone. That's impossible.

- Suggestion. Consider someone with coaching ties to Kentucky. Names? What about Chuck Smith, Perry Thomas, Mark Brown or Sam Harp?

None of those coaches might be interested. But, test the waters.

You've got a great campus to sell, much different than it was when football started in 1987, and still a tremendous product to offer.

- Last comment. The support for Campbellsville University football remains. Despite an 0-10 season, the crowds were still there on Houchens Insurance Group Field at Ron Finley Stadium.

You're not raising the Titanic. You're just rebuilding a solid 20-year-old football program.

Be thorough, be quick, but don't rush.