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Eastern Michigan University Football: Still Lousy After All These Years

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Eastern Michigan University Football: Still Lousy After All These Years
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Ypsilanti, Michigan is 45 minutes west of Detroit, a dreary drive from downtown along I-94, a stretch of freeway that is as hard on the eyes as Rush Limbaugh in a Speedo.

You’d think you’d get rewarded for traveling such an unpleasant interstate, but when you exit the freeway toward Ypsi, you actually consider getting right back onto 94.

Ypsilanti is the town you pass through on your way to Ann Arbor, similar to how a root canal is something you have to endure before your toothache goes away.

Ypsi is a burg with sniffles and pain in its joints. The faucets in town should release NyQuil, not water. You can spend a weekend there and keep the change.

Its culture is a cross between down south country and the red light of Times Square. If they charged a toll to leave town, the city would make a mint.

Michigan Avenue is the dividing line; north of it is 1985 and south of it is 1967.

No one settles in Ypsilanti; they give up there.

But despite all this, the city does contain Eastern Michigan University, my alma mater (class of 1985). The home of one of the best teaching colleges in the state and a football program that should lose accreditation.

If anyone cared about EMU football, you’d have a real story on your hands. For what has gone on in Ypsilanti over the decades when it comes to football makes the Lions’ situation seem like a 24-hour virus.

At EMU, the season records every year look like ranges of numbers, not won/loss marks.

1-11. 0-12. 2-10.

When I arrived at Eastern as a freshman in 1981, the football team was in the throes of a losing streak that had passed adolescence and had entered the teens.

By the end of my freshman year, the (then) Hurons had lost 19 games in a row. During that season, the president of the student body delivered a petition to school president John Porter calling for the firing of head coach Mike Stock.

Porter passed on the suggestion.

The Huron losing streak reached 27 before they finally won a game on November 6, 1982—a 9-7 decision at home over Kent State, who was in the middle of their own 21-game losing streak.

EMU and KSU had quite a thing going on in those days.

EMU broke its 27-game streak by beating Kent, which was the Golden Flashes’ 11th loss in a row at the time. Kent’s last win before the streak began was against EMU.

Kent would go on to lose 10 more games in a row after the 1982 game in Ypsilanti, the losing streak reaching the aforementioned 21 games. Their next win wouldn’t be until November 5, 1983—over Eastern.

If it hadn’t been for each other, the losing streaks of EMU and Kent State in those days would have been even more outrageous.

It got so bad in Ypsilanti that the Mid-American Conference (MAC) looked at EMU’s football program and threatened to boot Eastern out of the conference.

They called it the “MAC Attack.”

We had some clever folks at EMU, eh?

It’s surreal even now as I recall the state of football at EMU circa 1982-84, when the program turned to desperate acts of marketing just to get fannies into the seats, thus meeting the MAC’s quota for attendance so the school could stay in the conference.

They brought in B-list acts like comedian Skip Stephenson and singer Lynn Anderson and even the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders to perform at halftime of games.

I remember the male fans booing the poor cheerleaders because instead of wearing their famous fringed halter tops and go-go boots, the girls came out in spandex bodysuits to combat the chilly weather.

Lynn Anderson was a joke, as she resorted to lip-synching—quite poorly I might add—her big hit, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.” She, too, was booed.

Football games at EMU back then were about 25 percent football and 75 percent circus.

But it worked; the school met the MAC’s attendance requirements and was allowed to remain in the conference.

Aside from a brief rise to power that occurred between 1986 and 1989, EMU’s football program has been among the worst in the country. Despite being closer to Detroit than its fellow MAC schools in Michigan like Western and Central, Eastern routinely gets its ass kicked in recruiting the PSL high schools.

CMU and WMU’s campuses are no nicer than Eastern’s, and the enrollment is about the same. But both of those schools have enjoyed more football success—by far—than Eastern has, and as an alumnus, I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of seeing EMU’s losses reach double figures every year while CMU and WMU can seem to field competitive teams almost routinely.

After the 2008 season, Eastern went looking for another head football coach—think Joe Dumars and the Pistons when it comes to frequency in this area—and hired Ron English, who was minding his own business as the defensive coordinator at Louisville University when EMU came calling.

English was known to the higher ups at EMU because of his time spent down the road in Ann Arbor, coordinating defenses for Lloyd Carr at the University of Michigan.

English seemed like a good hire. I applauded it, for whatever that’s worth to you.

English’s inaugural season in 2009 didn’t go so good. The (now) Eagles went 0-12. English had done something that I thought was impossible—he took over EMU’s sorry football program and managed to make it worse.

This year’s squad played its final game of the season Friday, at home.

Northern Illinois beat them, 71-3.

I don’t have the school’s football media guide handy, but I’m pretty sure that’s among the worst losses in EMU history.

Eastern finished the season 2-10. As usual.

And as if the Eagles needed something else to make recruiting Detroit high schools hard on themselves, English opened his mouth a few months ago and inserted a big football cleat into it.

Speaking to a reporter, English basically said that he didn’t think a man could properly coach kids raised by a single mother. It was his sloppy way of trumpeting the virtues of kids who come from dual-parent homes.

Guess which city’s football-playing kids have a low percentage of dual parents?

English managed to offend not only single mothers but also the PSL coaches who coach those mothers’ boys.

Eastern Michigan University’s football program has had one winning season in the past 21 years. In just about every one of those 20 losing years, they haven’t come close to .500.

It’s a school plopped in a depressing town that has the amenities of a motel on Eight Mile Road and the culture of yogurt. The least they can have is a winning football team for the people sentenced to live and go to school there.

More than once every 21 years, that is.

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