The end of the season has come early, as NT is eliminated from the conference tournament — one with very forgiving entrance requirements — while losing big to a mediocre-at-best Southern Miss squad.
While there are two games left in the year, they are on the road and are a matter of playing out the string. The seniors went out on the lowest note possible, and Tony Benford solidified the performance case against him.
Vito quoted him saying
I don’t know if this will be my last game here. That is out of my control which is technically true. He had a good amount of control in the years and months leading up to this point. Simply put: If he won more in the last handful of years he would not be on the precipice of being without a head coaching job.
For his part, Benford acknowledged this fact. This particular situation has been tricky because of the timing. AD Wren Baker could not reasonably come in and fire Benford without appraising his approach in person. The problem was — and is — that we the fans had given all the benefit of the doubt and a tad bit more to him, already. As it was, Wren Baker could let Benford coach for a contract. Now that TB has officially failed, we can only hope that Baker has done his diligence in searching for a coach in the interim.
An out-and-out public search would be untoward and unseemly, but the preparation for such a search could and should have been done. Who is available? What kind of deal can NT reasonably offer? What kind of coach are we going to target?
A good manager always has an eye on the future, and a plan for replacing all his people. In this racket there is a lot of movement and we do not want the kind of program that is caught off guard.
It was an ugly season that was very difficult to get through (it still is not over, even though it is over) but a necessary. Was it good for the players? No, not on the surface. They will have lasting memories, but they will not be the good kind. Unlike the 2007 team that was honored recently, this group will not get to return to any fanfare 10 years on. So it goes.
The quirk about this sport is that there is so much player movement, that even though interesting freshman Ryan Woolridge and AJ Lawson were bright spots, there is a very real possibility they will not be part of the program under the new regime.