Why in the world is Pete Mangurian still the head coach of Columbia football?
He has driven the already pitiful program to new lows. After his first season, he said that he should be judged on the second season. During the second season we were winless and nearly scoreless. And, in our first four games of his third season, we have not only been winless, but have scored an average of only 12 points per game while giving up an average of more than 47 points per game. This is embarrassing, demoralizing, and totally unacceptable.
Many alumni thought that Mangurian should have been fired at the end of last season—many other universities would have immediately done so. However, it seems that Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy—who brought in Mangurian, an associate from a previous job—is neither willing nor able to admit her mistake.
[Related article: Discontent with Athletics grows, as alumni spearhead efforts to make institutional reforms]
Murphy's "decision" to retire at the end of this year makes her a lame duck. For the last 25 years, a group of influential, generous, and well-meaning football alumni have been unsuccessful in their attempts to turn around the program. The net result is that no one is doing anything about our incompetent head coach.
If events are left to be done the Columbia way, here is what we should expect: A search committee will be appointed by an administration that has little, if any, interest in the football program. It will search for our fourth AD in 25 years. Mangurian will be fired at the end of the season. Nothing will be done about a new head coach till the new AD is installed, and the same group of alumni will maintain a primary influence in both selection processes.
Meanwhile, an entire recruiting season will either be completely lost, or Mangurian will be allowed to recruit the next class before his departure. Going by previous results, this means another two years without improvement, with small probability of any real change. Columbia will continue to perform poorly on the field.
Fortunately, there is an alternative course of action. Mangurian should be fired immediately and an interim coach appointed to finish the season. That interim could be former head coach Ray Tellier, who until recently was on the athletic department staff, or perhaps one of the assistant coaches. Murphy should be given her retirement dinner and sent on her way.
Following this, competent outside search organizations should be brought in to do simultaneous searches for a new AD and a new head coach. While the uncertainty surrounding the appointment of a new AD will not help the coach-hiring process, it should be possible to salvage this year's recruiting class. If needed, the new coach can report directly to the president, provost, or dean of Columbia College. In addition, the inevitable internal search committees should exclude everyone associated with the selection process in prior years. There are many other knowledgeable and qualified alumni who can competently staff those committees. A complete break with the past is necessary.
I have been waiting almost 60 years for a respectable and competitive football program. I have previously been listed as a "major donor" to the football program as well as to the University. I was a trustee emeritus of the University who still attended board meetings when Murphy was initially hired. After her inaugural presentation I introduced myself to her and pledged the first six-figure donation to her program. I continued to make substantial annual gifts to the program until last year. I personally conducted her first comprehensive tour of the Baker Field facility, and supported her in every possible way for many years.
However, as time has passed, I have become increasingly disenchanted with both her management style and the lack of improvement in the football program, even though the program is both the recipient of the largest portion of the department's budget expenditures and the highest-visibility program it's ever had.
I am not alone in desiring the changes that I have proposed. I call upon concerned members of the Columbia community to petition for real change. Without a broad outpouring of support, another unproductive cycle will begin. This cycle will give us a new AD, a new coach, and the same dire results. I implore you to write to Spectator, to the president, and to all of the administrative and academic officers that you think may care. Let's finally get Columbia Athletics moving the right way down the field.
The author is a 1956 graduate of Columbia College and 1958 graduate of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is a football alumnus and an emeritus trustee of the University.
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