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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Johnson: Stockstill makes right choice in staying

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill will be roaming the Blue Raider sidelines again next season.
(T-G File Photo by Gary Johnson)
There have been a couple of tough decisions made by college football coaches over the past few days that were of interest to fans from the University of Tennessee and Middle Tennessee as well.

One decision was negative while another was positive.

Former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin jumped ship to USC after one season, thinking about nobody but himself, while Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill decided to turn down a bigger football program at East Carolina and a huge pay increase to stay at MTSU.

In this day and time of a me...me...me society it's great and humbling to see Stockstill turn down the money and complete what he started four years ago.

When Stockstill took over the MTSU football program it was in dismay, both on the field and in the classroom.

That's not the case now.

The Blue Raiders just completed a 10-win season, highlighted by a New Orleans Bowl victory.

On the flip side, grade point averages are increasing as well as graduation rates, not to mention no NCAA infractions.

If anyone has earned the right for a better opportunity it is Stockstill. There's no doubt in my mind he'll be coaching at a "big-time" university in years to come.

A number of reasons can be mentioned why he decided to stay at Middle Tennessee.

The timing was extremely bad with signing day approaching, East Carolina may have wanted to keep a number of current assistant coaches or Stockstill and his family really love being a part of the Middle Tennessee community.

"I am very humbled and appreciative of the interest East Carolina University has shown in me about their head coaching position. ECU is an outstanding University, community, and its football program has a great tradition and has been very successful throughout the years," Stockstill said in a statement Tuesday morning. "The timing is never good for a coach to change jobs. However, the timing of this opportunity came at a critical time in recruiting with both universities and to the fault of neither MTSU nor ECU.

"I have decided I will remove my name from consideration at ECU. I could not look in the eyes of these recruits and their families and tell them the things I believe in and what I want them to believe in and then leave Middle Tennessee with only two weeks left in the recruiting process. Also, I have so much respect and admiration for our current players that they were ultimately the reason I could not pursue this any further. We have invested a lot together during these four years which played a major role in this decision. Personally, I want to thank Dr. (Sidney) McPhee, Chris (Massaro), and Middle Tennessee for giving me the opportunity to be the coach of the Blue Raiders. They gave me a chance to be a head coach four years ago and I will always be grateful for that opportunity."

It's refreshing to see a sense of loyalty. What a true and classy person Stockstill is.

To say that I'm excited about covering MTSU football next year is a huge understatement.

Now that Stockstill has stepped up and "sold-out" to Middle Tennessee football, it's time for all fans across Middle Tennessee to do the same.

The Blue Raiders are an exciting team to watch and expectations will be high for next year.

The biggest thank you Middle Tennessee fans can give Stockstill is to fill the stands every home game next season.

-- Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer.

Gary Johnson
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