Things didn't go as planned in New Orleans for the Blue Raiders.
In fact, the bowl game was the toughest beating MTSU's football team took all season long.
You read that right.
Appalachian State’s 45-13 pounding of Middle Tennessee worse than what then-No. 4 Georgia did to the Blue Raiders in September.
To read Twitter following MTSU's second loss in a row, you'd think that the sky was falling following a season in which the Blue Raiders won their division and nearly won the C-USA crown.
There's a small, but loud contingent of supporters calling for the ousting of Rick Stockstill, currently the sixth longest tenured head coach in the FBS.
They are calling for the firing of a man who has led the program to 87 wins, appeared in eight bowl games, developed six NFL draft picks, and won three conference coach of the year awards in 13 seasons.
And did I mention his most recent team's division title which led to MTSU hosting the C-USA Championship Game just two weeks ago?
Stockstill's teams have a .667 winning percentage at home. But you might not know that since the stadium is barely half-full for most of those games.
How about we institute a new rule for college football fans. If you can't fill your home stadium for a conference championship game, you can't call for your coach to be fired. Fair enough?
It's borderline ludicrous to hold Stockstill to an SEC standard of success while fanbase contribution to the program is barely at a MAC-level.
Rick Stockstill is not the problem. However, there are a few things that would not only improve the overall perception of the MTSU program but would also increase Stockstill’s already-strong win percentage.
Stop scheduling so many Power 5 opponents
I know it's a lucrative opportunity to schedule games versus big-time opponents. I also know it provides a measuring stick for your guys to compare themselves to the big boys. But it needs to stop Like now.
The Vandy series that was just completed made sense geographically. But games at Georgia and Kentucky was overkill in a division-winning season.
Seeing your team down 34-7 at halftime cannot possibly help perception even from the most optimistic of supporters. Not to mention the obvious hazards playing against bigger, stronger teams could pose to your own players.
Next year, MTSU drops the mini-SEC slate to open play at Michigan. It gets Duke at home and also plays Iowa on the road all before the month of October begins.
Two games against Power-Five opponents is plenty. Chalking up three losses before the season even begins just doesn’t make sense.
Work better with area schools
The Murfreesboro area is a high school football mecca. With Oakland and Blackman always among the top ten teams in the state, there's every reason to have MTSU representation at every home high school game.
Offer ticket discounts to folks presenting ticket stubs from the previous night's Blackman, Oakland, Riverdale, and Siegel games.
Involve elementary schools the same way the Ladies Basketball program fills the Murphy Center with kids from Murfreesboro City schools.
MTSU football needs to be featured more prominently in the various growing communities of our fine city. Our schools are the best place to start.
Ultimately, Murfreesboro has to buy-in
It's not easy being a Group-of-Five program in the middle of SEC Country, but it is possible to be successful.
Birmingham lost its Group-of-Five program after a successful 2014. When those in charge of the University of Alabama system made that fateful decision, the community rallied and raised $50 million to reinstate the program.
Now, UAB Football is experiencing tremendous momentum and is among the top teams in the C-USA not only in attendance but in on-field product.
I’m not proposing MTSU threaten to eliminate its football program, but what would the local reaction be if it did? Would this community rally behind its program, its head coach? Would we just shrug and go about our business?
Yes, the program has to do more in the city. The athletic department has to do more to get buy-in from the community. But the community has to respond to a winner.
The Blue Raiders were 5-0 at home during the regular season and still couldn’t get a sellout crowd for the conference championship game.
There are some problems facing the MTSU football program. However, all of those problems are fixable. And none of those fixes would require firing a successful head coach.