The Morgan State Bears football team will begin next season with a number of new faces. The most important change came on Monday when head coach Fred T. Farrier was released from his contract. He was (4-18) in two seasons here at Morgan and finished the past season with only one win and in last place in the MEAC. Here are four reasons that led to the end of Farrier’s time at Morgan.
1. Performance on the field. When Farrier took over in 2016 the team was coming off 500 season in the MEAC, but was only two years removed from a conference winning team. The team under him seemed to regress in performance, which is seen in their record. In 2014 they were (7-6), in 2015 they were (4-6). Coach Farrier took over in 2016 and would go (3-8), only to follow that up with this abismall year.
Sloppy and undisciplined were common characteristics that would describe the Bears play this season. They would often commit turnovers and penalties that would take away scoring opportunities. They averaged eight penalties a game that would cost them over 75 yards of field position per game. The Bears outgained multiple opponents in yards this season, and would still lose the game by double digits.
“Going (1-10) in football, especially after the Towson game, which was such a competitive game,” said athletic director Edward Scott, “I had hopes that football was going to be a little better than it was, so I would say that was my biggest disappointment.”
2. Performance off the field. The football team’s issues didn’t just show up on the field, they also were affected by off the field issues. Early on in the season the offensive line could not build any cohesion as a unit because of players being in and out of the starting lineup. Later in the season the defense, the one strength of the team, became a liability. This was due to players missing games due to “violation of team rules”. Whatever the reasons behind these infractions, it showed a pattern that hurt the team’s performance.
3. The Quarterback situation. Going into the season the hype machine was in overdrive over transfer quarterback Elijah Staley. He was seen as the savior to a program, having been a highly recruited high school player, and a backup quarterback for Mississippi State. The Baltimore Sun even did a pre-season profile on him the week of the Battle of Baltimore game versus Towson.
Needless to say he did not live up to the hype. He led the team to an (0-3) start this season in which they failed to score a single point. His play could be described as inconsistent at best. In seven starts Staley had 11 interceptions and only four touchdowns which is good for a 89.9 quarterback rating. His performance wouldn’t have been a big issue if it weren’t for the backup quarterback, DeAndre Harris. He outperformed Staley ever since he replaced him in the middle of the Florida A&M game.
In three starts he ended up with ten touchdowns and only eight interceptions, good for a 136.4 quarterback rating. Not only did he look like a better thrower, but he made plays on the ground that helped open up the running game. Farrier’s decision to stick with a less talented quarterback definitely cost him some potential wins, a may have ultimately cost him his job.
“I think whoever made the change thought it was a good idea for the football team,” said Harris, ”Coach Farrier was a good coach and he taught us a lot, but college football is kind of like a business and I think the head man thought that they made a good decision.”
4. It’s a business decision. For most colleges and universities, the football program is the primary money making program that often supports the smaller non-revenue generating sports. This is the case for Morgan, so when the final three home games of the season are relatively empty, that is a problem. One of Scott’s goals before the season was “getting butts in seats,” and he started promotions and giveaways to accomplish just that.
Frustrations started to mount this season especially among the fanbase, who as the season went on participated less and less. After homecoming, the stands were empty for the last two home games. If it weren’t for the senior’s families, the final home game would have been empty. These factors are most important to the older alumni base, who have high expectations for a historically dominant program. For Athletic Director Scott this put the pressure on him to make a decision.
“I’m going to make the decisions that I feel are in the best interest of Morgan State University, the state of Maryland, and my constituents, which are my coaches, staff, and student athletes,” said Scott.
Going forward. The Bears are moving forward with interim head coach Ernest Jones who was the defensive coordinator last season. A national search will be held for a permanent replacement after the 2018 season. Coach Jones was finalist for the American Football Coaches Association FCS assistant coach of the year. His work with the defense really showed early in the season when they were one of the top defenses versus the pass in the FCS.