By John Irwin
Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that Central Michigan followed up on its shocking road upset over MAC powerhouse Northern Illinois with a resounding thud at home against struggling Ball State on Saturday.
After all, the last few seasons have provided plenty of examples of the Chippewas and head coach Dan Enos losing following a signature win.
In 2012, CMU was blown out at home by Northern Illinois 55-24 following a road upset win over Iowa, a Big 10 team.
In 2013, the Chippewas eked out a 26-23 win over perennial MAC power Ohio before following up with another clunker to the Huskies, 38-17.
And earlier this year, CMU dominated the Big 10’s Purdue on the road, 38-17, before coming back home to a blowout loss to Syracuse.
To be fair, none of the games following Enos’ signature wins as head coach were going to be easy victories. Northern Illinois was literally unbeatable in MAC play before this year, CMU was without running back Thomas Rawls or wide receiver Titus Davis for the Syracuse game, and Ball State is likely better than its record suggests.
Still, the losses exemplify what many CMU fans see as the main problem with the Enos era, and that’s inconsistency. If wins like the ones against NIU, Iowa and Purdue demonstrate how talented the team is, then losses like Saturday’s show how sloppily they have played over the last five years in some crucial games.
Bad penalties and numerous turnovers are a sign of poor coaching, critics say, and it should be time for Enos to go. Committing 10 penalties for 91 yards and turning the ball over four times, as happened Saturday, make it difficult to win games, and that seems to happen all too often.
Enos and his supporters counter by saying CMU has shown notable improvements each year, and time should be given to see how things bear out. Enos took a 3-9 team in 2010 to a bowl win by 2012, and the team is (barely) still in the Mid-American Conference hunt despite the Ball State loss.
It’s safe to say few things divide CMU fans like the prospect of firing Enos.
But how does he stack up against his competition in the MAC?
We took a look at the numbers and found that while Enos is by no means an elite head coach, he’s performed right around the average of his fellow MAC coaches.
And he’s getting paid less than almost all of them for it. Take a look at the table below:
Enos is guaranteed at least $360,000 in pay this year, the second-lowest figure in the MAC behind former Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn.
It’s notable that both Enos and Quinn began coaching at their respective schools in 2010. Enos has a slightly better winning percentage (.406), but Quinn brought a 2-10 team in 2010 to an 8-5 season by 2013, a final record Enos has yet to top.
Quinn, though, was fired two weeks ago after a 3-4 start this year, a record Enos’ team is only a half game better than this year.
Still, Enos has delivered a bit of bang for his buck, as the table below demonstrates.
Note: UMass is not included since it did not join the MAC until 2012.
Since 2010, CMU is 23-34, good for seventh in the MAC. That’s hardly a stellar record, but it means Enos has delivered wins at a cheaper rate, so to speak, than most other coaches in the conference.
Numbers like those above nicely sum up the Enos era at CMU. It’s tough to get a good read on where the program is now and where it is heading. Signature, upset wins can lead one to think the program is on the rise, while crushing, upset losses suggest the program isn’t where it needs to be.
The win-loss numbers, meanwhile, paint Enos as a middle-of-the-road MAC coach. Given how little the university pays him, that might be good enough for the athletics department, even if it’s not good enough for fans.
Five years into his tenure, Enos is still a tough coach to get a gauge on. Considering the team finishes its season against four arguably inferior opponents, perhaps fans will receive some clarity by the end of the year.
An 8-4 season would certainly guarantee a bowl appearance, and it would be tough not to feel somewhat optimistic about the team’s future.
But if Enos’ squad, say, drops two and finishes the regular season 6-6 for the third straight year? Well, the “Fire Enos” faction might have a legitimate case to make.
The Chippewas kick off their crucial set of games this Saturday on the road at Buffalo.
Note: This post was updated to reflect Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn’s firing last week.
John Irwin is the founder and editor of CMU Insider.