As purely a basketball decision, it is difficult to endorse Louis Orr’s continued employment as men’s head coach at Bowling Green.
Athletic director Greg Christopher verified Thursday that Orr would return for the 2013-14 season, the last on his contract.
Orr’s Falcons just concluded a 13-19 season, and if he was on the bubble it should have gone “pop” after a home loss to a bad Miami team in the first round of the MAC tournament.
It capped BG’s fourth losing season in Orr’s six years. One of the other two produced a 16-16 record during the 2011-12 season, when the Falcons had four players on the roster — two seniors and two juniors — who all would eventually finish their careers with 1,000-plus points. Think about that for a minute.
Christopher said he thought about a lot of things and determined, “The effort is there. But we do need to get better, and we will all be working to that end.
“As with any of our 18 sports, I step back and look at a number of factors, including these four — how does the program represent the university, how is the student-athlete experience, how are the players doing academically, and how are they doing athletically? It all gets rolled together.”
On top of the humdrum win-loss records, a level of apathy has set in among BG’s fan base. The Falcons averaged less than 2,000 paying customers per game in the second year of the 4,200-seat Stroh Center. While that may be fairly consistent with recent past seasons and isn’t a huge revenue issue, it does reflect an interest issue. It’s one thing for fans to be angry; it’s another for them not to care.
To reverse that trend, and because of the adverse affect it can have on recruiting, it is unusual for a struggling coach to see a lame-duck contract season. Either the administration makes a supportive statement by extending his agreement or it makes the ultimate statement by cutting bait and moving on.
The latter, however, costs money. And here is the crux of the matter: BG doesn’t have any.
The athletic department counts paper clips, and there are only so many deep-pocketed donors and only so many times you can reach into their wallets. The university announced a couple months ago that it will soon eliminate some 100 faculty positions on two campuses, a dreadful PR move in that the reported savings will be a mere $5.2 million. But that’s how tight the shoestring on which the school operates is.
So it would be a tough sell, under those circumstances, for the school to write a six-figure check to buy out Orr’s final season and pay off his assistant coaches, absorb the cost of a search, spend more than it is now on a new coach and staff, and to make the job attractive by increasing basketball operating expenses that rank well into the bottom half of MAC programs.
So you might say BG elected to proceed with Orr because it could not afford to proceed without him.
Orr, a quality individual, gets one make-or-break season. Maybe he can resurrect 2008-09 when his Falcons won 20 games, won a MAC regular-season championship, and he was the league’s coach of the year.
A repeat of the four seasons since won’t come close to cutting it, and BG can afford to proceed with what it probably should already have done.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.