Murray State's fortunes prove difficulty in building a winner

Monday, November 10, 2008

First, let me say that the Southeast football team -- particularly its offense -- had a pretty miserable performance Saturday during a 17-10 loss at Murray State.

But let me offer a little perspective for Southeast fans who might feel frustrated that the Redhawks haven't racked up more wins during Tony Samuel's two-plus seasons as coach.

Matt Griffin is also in his third season at Murray. His first two teams went 3-19, including 1-15 in the OVC.

Samuel's first two Southeast squads went 7-15, including 3-12 in the OVC.

The Racers are a bit better than the Redhawks so far this year record-wise, at 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the OVC compared to 3-7 and 1-5.

Still, the three-year totals of the coaches at their current schools are fairly similar.

Why do I bring this up?

Because while Southeast has a horrible Division I-AA tradition and its facilities are considered poor, Murray has had plenty of success over the years and its facilities are regarded as among the best in the OVC.

Southeast has two winning seasons since moving to Division I-AA in 1991, the most recent in 2002. Southeast has never won an OVC title or made the playoffs in any division.

Since 1995 alone, Murray has eight winning seasons, three OVC titles and three Division I-AA playoff berths.

But for whatever reasons, the Racers virtually hit rock bottom after their most recent winning season, 7-4 in 2004.

My point is if Murray, with a strong overall tradition and impressive facilities, can experience such a down period, imagine the obstacles a program like Southeast faces.

The bottom line is it's not easy to revive a football program that has struggled. If it were easy to win, everybody would be doing it.

Some thought Griffin was something of a miracle worker when he revived in just three years a Tennessee-Martin program that had ranked among the nation's worst.

I think Griffin is regarded as a coach who knows what he's doing, yet look at how tough he's found it so far trying to get Murray's program back on track.

Southeast has been more competitive against some of the OVC's better teams this year than for a while, which shows that at least some progress is being made.

Who knows if Samuel -- in the third year of a five-year contract -- will be able to build a consistent winner at Southeast, where nobody else has been able to turn the trick since the move to Division I-AA.

My point is, it's not an easy task.

Ready or not, Southeast Missouri State basketball is just about upon us as both teams tip off their seasons Friday.

Southeast's men enter a campaign with little expectations from those outside the program, while Southeast's women are expected to contend for another Ohio Valley Conference championship.

Both squads face tough nonconference schedules, with one big difference -- the men will spend plenty of time on the road early, while the women start out with a lot of home cooking.

The men play only one of their first five games at the Show Me Center, Nov. 21 against NAIA Culver-Stockton.

Before that, the Redhawks start out Friday at New Mexico, followed by a Sunday date at Kansas State as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.

After the Culver-Stockton contest, the Redhawks visit Iowa on Nov. 25 in another Las Vegas Invitational matchup, followed by two games in Las Vegas on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, against Longwood and an opponent to be determined.

Another of the Redhawks' notable nonleague games is at Bradley in December.

New Mexico, Kansas State, Iowa and Bradley, four squads from higher conferences -- that's quite a nonconference gauntlet for a program that has been racked by all kinds of turmoil and sports a thin roster.

Southeast's women also face their share of notable nonleague foes, topped by dates at Florida State later this month, and Missouri, Southern Mississippi and Providence next month.

The Redhawks at least get to open with three straight home games and seven of their first eight at the Show Me Center.

It begins Friday against Missouri State, followed by a Nov. 18 date with Central Arkansas and a Nov. 21 matchup with Arkansas-Little Rock.

A contest at Florida State on Nov. 25 breaks up that home party, but a Nov. 28 matchup with Indiana State starts another four-game run at the Show Me Center.

Both Southeast teams will try to use the early nonconference tests to prepare for the OVC schedule that begins with a two-game homestand Dec. 4 (Austin Peay) and Dec. 6 (Tennessee State).

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some hoops.

I've read several Internet comments centering around how the unstable coaching situation for Southeast men's basketball severely will hamper recruiting for the time being.

I don't think there's any question about that.

The Redhawks definitely won't sign anybody during the week-long early signing period that begins Wednesday.

Although acting coach Zac Roman told me he feels good about the way recruiting is going, I can't imagine a decent prospect committing to the Redhawks at any time in the future until the coaching situation is cleared up.

So while this season shapes up as challenging enough, the same figures to be true for next year no matter who ends up running the program.

Southeast women's basketball recruiting seems to be going well.

Although coach John Ishee is prohibited by NCAA regulations from commenting on specific recruits until they sign letters of intent, several are expected to make it official later this week.

I know of two players who have given Southeast verbal commitments and plan to sign during the early period -- Shelah Fields, a 5-foot-6 senior guard at Riverview Gardens High School in suburban St. Louis; and Erika Lane a 5-7 senior guard at West High School in Knoxville, Tenn.

Fields averaged 16.3 points, 3.9 assists and 2.8 steals the past two seasons, while Lane averaged 11 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.9 steals last year.

With seven seniors on this year's team, Ishee will have quite a few players to sign before next season.

Congratulations to former Southeast assistant football coach Don Brown, who recently was inducted into the Benedictine College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Brown, a Southeast assistant from 1997 through 1999 who now lives in St. Louis, was an NAIA All-American running back for Benedictine, which is located in Atchison, Kan.

Brown, who graduated from Benedictine in 1994, still holds the school's career records for rushing yards with 4,490 and scoring with 304 points. He also holds the single-season rushing record of 1,975 yards.

Marty Mishow is a sports reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: