Time always lends perspective and such will be the case on the dismissal of Middle Tennessee State football coach Rick Stockstill. Was it the right thing to do? Opinions vary, but let’s provide a little food for thought.
A quick glance at the veteran leader’s statistics tells us he finished with a 113-111 record with 10 post-season bowl appearances in 18 seasons. The bowl game record stands at 4-6 with the Blue Raiders winning their last two appearances (2021 Bahamas Bowl, 2022 Hawaii Bowl).
So, how do you analyze these statistics? At first glance, you may think ehhh, somewhat mediocre. Putting things in perspective, at least two to three games a season are those “money” games where MTSU plays sacrificial lamb for a payday. Yes, the Raiders have played well in some of those games and even put a beatdown on the Miami Hurricanes just a season ago. The reality of the scheduling, however, is to take the money and run to help support the athletic department.
Another question that has to be posed is regarding today’s climate in college football. Or, is it really football in college? You see, the emphasis on the scoreboard and the evils of the almighty dollar have created a serious case of global warming. Is winning always determined by the jumbotron? This game used to be a training ground for life that helps grow young men into good men. During the past 18 seasons, the Blue Raider team's Grade Point Average has been one the University could be proud of. Once upon a time, winning in the classroom was the goal of every college student. For the Stockstill staff, that didn’t change.
Recruiting is always a big part of any college program. It’s hard to make chicken salad without chicken. The last few years have produced even tougher times for the likes of MTSU. The transfer portal and now the pay-for-play NIL platform make things even more difficult. While some schools have millions to throw at teenagers, the Blue Raiders have little to nothing. Being real, Murfreesboro is not a glamorous destination and now a tough sell has gotten tougher.
It is completely understood that being the next Boise State and making a national splash is the goal as a “mid-major”. What price do you pay to get there, if you can? Every coach can be criticized for the play calling, game plan, or personnel play. One thing that cannot be questioned is the loyalty and character of Rick Stockstill. Did 18 dedicated seasons with a new indoor facility in sight deserve a bit more grace?
Could Coach Stock have been better over the past 18 seasons? The answer is obviously of course because we can all be better. As the Blue Raiders look for greener grass and their next football coach we close with a little more holiday food for thought. Instead of opting for the traditional meal this year, MTSU has chosen the mystery casserole. Will it be tasty and satisfying? The Blue Raider faithful hopes so because it’s what’s now on the table.