Should Jeff Bowers have been fired?

One of our readers is very upset with the powers at USM for their firing of football coach Jeff Bowers. She writes

 

I AM SO ANGRY AT THE FIRING OF JEFF BOWERS.  I THINK THE DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS FOR USM SHOULD BE FIRED AND USM SHOULD BEG JEFF TO COME BACK.  I THINK EVERY ALUMNI OF USM IS SO MAD RIGHT NOW AND WISH THEY COULD DO SOMETHING!!!!  JEFF BOWERS IS AN INSTITUTION IN HIMSELF!!  SEE THE EDITORIAL IN TODAYS SPORTS SECTION.

(The following is courtesy of the Vicksburg Post)

Like freshman algebra, Giannini fails miserably with Bower firing November 27, 2007 In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Southern Miss graduate, class of 1996. With the exception of freshman algebra, I never made a mistake at Southern Miss as big as the one the Golden Eagles’ athletic director made on Monday, parting ways with a ridiculously loyal coach who wins games and graduates players. Repeat after me. Jeff Bower wins games. He graduates athletes. He goes to bowl games. He rarely, if ever, attracts the attention of the NCAA, an organization that can find violations for just about everything. Now he is unemployed because, as athletic director Richard Giannini said, the fan base is divided. First off, what fan base? Most of Hattiesburg doesn’t care about the university’s football program. When Brett Favre quarterbacked the Golden Eagles, the stadium was rarely sold out. When the Eagles were ranked in the Top 25, the 33,000 seat M.M. Roberts Stadium had plenty of folks dressed as empty seats. The first game I ever saw in person in 1992 drew an exaggerated crowd total of 14,000. In the next 12 years, the school doubled its attendance per game and earned respect nationally for their willingness to play anyone anywhere. And how did Bower do it? With a shoe-string budget and an ability to attract the best possible athletes to a state that produces some fine talent, but a talent pie cut into too many pieces. Most of the best players this state produces head away, choosing Auburn or Tennessee or LSU. The second-tier, still good players would rather play for the two Southeastern Conference teams in this state. That leaves Southern Miss with the task of traveling the back roads of this state, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana looking for players who can win. And win they did. Every year since 1994 the Golden Eagles have fielded a winning team. Maybe not flashy, but consistent — a mirror of its head coach. So it boils down to this — seven or eight wins a year, every year, just couldn’t cut the mustard. That excuse would work at Alabama or LSU, but Southern Miss? Yes the Papajohns.com Bowl is as appetizing as the pizza company that sponsors it, but it is a postseason bowl, and there are a lot of schools that would love to go to a bowl game every year with a team full of players who can read and write. This will be the 10th bowl game in 11 years, by the way. But now, Giannini forced Bower from his post unceremoniously. The man gave his heart and soul to that team only to have it trampled on because of a fractured fan base that never existed in the first place. People in Hattiesburg care little about the school and as long as it is referred to, unofficially, as a commuter school, the students will be hit or miss as well. Giannini now says he will take on the search by himself, trying to find a Band-Aid big enough to rally a fan base that never existed. Meanwhile, a winning coach who stays out of trouble and takes teams to the postseason every year is looking for a job. I imagine there are plenty of athletic directors who will look at Bower’s resume, his salary requirements, his loyalty, his penchant for winning and attracting bonafide student-athletes to a school with no athletic budget and no chance at a national championship, with a quizzical look. They’ll ask, “now why were you fired?” They wouldn’t be the only ones. * 

Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post.

 

Your comments are invited.

 

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Published in: on November 28, 2007 at 9:32 pm  Comments (11)  

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  1. This news story needs a lot more clariety from the Atheltic Director played with the words firing and resigning in his speech. I watch the report on WLBT and I can tell you the football players are unhappy campers. Now the qestion I have is this: why is the fan base dissatisfied with the coach? That’s what I like to know. But honestly the AD needs to be more clear in his statements and the fact is I can tell you there are sum real unhappy alums over this move.

  2. I WISH WE HAD THE WHOLE STORY. I HAVE A FEELING IT WILL BE A PERSONALITY CLASH BETWEEN BOWERS AND GIANNINI. MAYBE JEFF DOESN’T SALUTE WHEN HE PASSES.

  3. The following was submitted to VS by former USM sportswriter Dale Crowson:

    The Untold Jeff Bower Story by former USM sportswriter Dale Crowson *1A Football News (AP SUBMISSION) Final draft (OP column/letter)

    MISSISSIPPI POLITICS REAL REASON BEHIND SOUTHERN MISS FOOTBALL FIRING

    The firing of Jeff Bower is a much longer and complicated story than anyone has yet had the courage to point out and can only be understood from a historical point of view. I interviewed USM coach Bobby Collins in the spring of 1981, for a Special to the USM Student Printz. Collins “has never felt better”, I quoted him as saying about his team.The year before had started 6-0 with wins over Mississippi State;(42-14) and Ole Miss;(28-22) on consecutive weekends, with a final record of 9-3. He had Reggie Collier; (the first quarterback in major college football history to both rush and pass for over 1000 yards in a season) and future Denver Bronco legend Sammy Winder returning. Freshman signee and future Houston Oiler Richard Byrd joined what he told me was “possibly his best class of incoming recruits ever.” Collins talked of his dream of national prominence and someday joining the SEC. Does anyone remember? USM remained undefeated after eight games, one of them a 13-13 tie at Alabama. Bear Bryant’s SEC champions went 7-0 that year. (The Golden Eagles returned the next year with a now legendary 38-29 victory, ending the then national record 57 game home unbeaten streak at Tuscaloosa) They also defeated Florida State 58-14 on national television. Ranked as high as No.3 at one point by ESPN, they ended the year just eight points short of an undefeated season and a legitimate claim to the national championship. Collins attributed much of his success to national publicity and signing big-time players like Collier. It all began in 1977, as the Eagles started a run of eight consecutive and 11 of 13 victories against Mississippi State through 1988, including, in 1981, the largest attendance in Mississippi sports history at that time.(over 62,000) Remember Jackson’s Memorial Stadium? Total 13 game score? 279-180. Ole Miss? Five-Two USM. (1977-1984) Total? 167-109. Some reporters called USM “The best SEC football team.” My point? Tired of losing, in a state loaded with Ole Miss and State grads on the College Board and in the Legislature, both schools were allowed to drop traditional rival USM, selfishly abandon Jackson and it’s fans, wasting it’s costly, recently expanded Memorial Stadium, hurting it’s economy and it’s growing SEC tradition, and seemingly in collusion, purposely devastating USM’s football program and indirectly, enrollment and academics. Where were it’s alumni then? USM’s national publicity had brought big money, big recruits, and was influential in it’s growing academic reknown, such as it’s world-famous Polymer science program and many others. It is well documented that there was pressure on the Mississippi Legislature and College Board to force resumption of the two great traditional rivalries, but USM alumni had little power or fortitude to stand up and be counted. They stood like ghosts, watching their own funeral processions. I personally went from once talking of national championships in Bobby Collins’ office to watching a sacrificial lamb, being slaughtered on my television, as the national sports community looked on in disbelief. But then came Jeff Bower, who resurrected hope, fought like a bloodied ROCKY, endured the tragic loss of his daughter, turned down millions to leave, and almost literally uncovering rocks, found lightly recruited raw young boys, and turned them into graduating men of integrity, while somehow defeating Nebraska, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. Imagine what he might have done with Collins’ or Jim Carmody’s huge talent level! So now no one wants to play us and big-time recruits want career publicity. My friends have lived in fear that a Notre Dame would steal our coach. Athletic Director Richard Giannini has proven that he can’t do his job and schedule big games that fans and recruits desperately want, and then he misplaces the blame on one of the best, classiest, and most loyal coaches in America. Having one of five Division 1-A schools with current 14-year win streaks and an 80 per cent graduation rate is not good enough? USM fans and alumni, you never knew what you had. Until Giannini himself resigns, I will be a little less proud to say, ” I am a USM alumnus.” As ESPN.com’s Pat Forde wrote; ” Who, precisely, does Southern Miss think it is?” If there is anyone in this state with the courage to print the truth, know this.” We love you, Jeff Bower. We’ll see you in the BCS.” (With your new team).

    Dale Crowson 410 Lake Forest Rd.# 3d. Brandon, Ms. 601-825-5046 Cell 601-398-7544 Cell 601- 559-5547 simbora@bellsouth.net (I have a copy of the Collins interview of ‘ 81 and a USM transcript showing an “A” in intermediate reporting, spring of ‘ 81)

  4. People never cease to amaze me. We had a coach that went to school there, loved by everyone in Hattiesburg, respected by his peers, winning season year after year, produced players like Bret, turned down more money time after time to stay in his town of Hattiesburg… and what do they in their infinite wisdom do.. . fire him. Well that just about does it for me. Up until now I was very proud of our school. Not anymore. There are some real dumb people running that university.

  5. I’d hit it.

  6. I WAS VERY SAD TO SEE COACH BOWER GO.I AN PROBABLY THE ONLY SO.MISS FAN IN CALIFORNIA.BUT A LOT OF A.D. ARE NOT THAT SMART.BUT THEY ARE GOOD POLITICIANS.HE IS MISSING THE WHOLE POINT,I BELIEVE HE IS STANDING TO CLOSE TO THE FOREST TO SEE THE TREES.
    COACH BOWERS WAS NOT ONLY SUCCESSFUL ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD,BUT MORE IMPORTANT TO PREPARE THESE YOUNG MEN TO GO OUT IN TO THE WORLD AND JUST BE GOOD HUMAN BEINGS.NOT EVERY COLLEGE PLAYER GOES ON TO PLAY IN THE NFL.AH THERE LIES THE ANSWER.
    I ALWAYS LOOKED FORWARD TO WATSHUNG A SO.MISS GAME.THANKS COACH BOWERS AS YOU ARE A GREAT HUMAN BEING AND TEACHER.
    BOB SOLANO FROM SALINAS,CA.

  7. Subject: Dr. Russell witch-hunt from a voice in the wilderness

    The recent Clarion-Ledger biased article on Dr. Stanley Russell, filled with hear-say, is a one-sided prosecution without defense. No one wants to hear the defense counsel before rendering a verdict. I have known him for 36 years and that was a witch-hunt. Care to hear the truth? For over 50 years he traveled Mississippi, providing the only mental health care to tens of thousands,working 5, 6 days weekly, even holidays. With passion, he has treated prisoners, low- income, severe and unwanted patients, as an expert in mental and physical illness. We house millions of mentally ill in jails and many less in mental facilities. The Hippocratic oath, “First do no harm”, includes ease of suffering. Mental and physical pain trigger each other. Families commonly interfere with mental care. Statements from parents of grown adults are questionable. Doctors may not breech confidentiality. Quotes from persons with no knowledge of health care and unsubstantiated “guesses” could be explained by many things; other doctors, suicide, etc. A doctor can treat, not follow patients home. One lies, abuses and 9 improve, many saved. Who will judge? Where’s the article on illicit drugs, associated crime, and the worst drug in America, Alcohol? A few alleged infractions mentioned, but what of thousands helped? Dr. Russell treats every patient based on his faith and skill. There are explanations for the things Russell was cited for. 1 in 4 Mississippians will be diagnosed with severe mental illness. Think hard before jumping on this bandwagon driving the Dr. Russells away; doctors unafraid to use years of skill easing human suffering. In 2007, after 20 years, he left his Jackson office because some of his patients had tatoos, and looked different, scaring off higher income well-insured patients. Remember; “They who are well need not a physician, but rather those who are sick.” What of 20-year patients dependant on him, insurance or not? Is it poss ible he met a few until he could find an office? Is charging a small fee to treat the poor in return for treatment and a receipt wrong. A question was asked; “… is the public sufficiently protected?” Region 8, the best mental health region in the state, feels safe, and so should you. Ask thousands he has helped; prisoners, low-income, unwanted and severe cases. Has he ever made a mistake? You who’ve dedicated long lives in loving service to your fellow man without a mistake… you toss that first rock. & nbsp; Dale Crowson 410 Forest Lake Rd. #3D Brandon, Ms . 39042 601-825-5046 Simbora@bellsouth.net

  8. Several years have past since Jeff Bowers was forced out of the Choching job at USM.
    Where is the constant Winning Football Team Like was there under Jeff?
    The school should be begging Him to coome back.

  9. This post it ridiculous now that you look back at it isnt it? Lets see.. c-usa is on the rise whether you like to see that or not. Fedora has actually gone out of state and got WINNERS to come to southern miss consistently. Last season we were 11 points away, maybe 12, from losing only ONE game. We made more than the right choice to move past Bower. We are becoming better, and moving on to a new era. Most people i know that were once pissed, are now more than happy.

  10. Larry Fedora won games with Jeff Bower recruits, had one big year then took the best available job. Larry Fedora did a very poor job recruiting his last 2 years and knew the talent would be gone. Jeff Bower was rock steady and now we only wish we had him at USM. The AD said attendance was only 28000 a game average and not good enough. My guess is it will only be 22000 a game average this year. What was Mr Gianutcase thinking when he let Jeff go!

  11. Jeff Bower was all anyone could want in a football coach. Not only was he good at actual on field coaching, but he also recruited where there was very little recruiting base. In my opinion, he should never have left Georgia. He was as loyal to his team and alma mater as you could get. How do you fire a coach like that and try and hold your head up?


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