Gallick: Keep Martin despite his guarantee gaffe

Tom Gallick

We don’t have our starting quarterback. We don’t have our starting running back. I don’t care. I will guarantee every Kent State fan right now this is going to be a winning football team, and this football team is going to be in a bowl game.

– Kent State football coach Doug Martin, Sept. 14, 2009.

I can’t lie. I thought the Kent State football team would have a hard time finishing this football season with four wins.

Though the Flashes finished the season with three consecutive defeats, including Friday’s embarrassing 9-6 loss to Buffalo that showed just how much freshman quarterback Spencer Keith means to the future of this squad, I think the year was a mild success. The team convincingly beat good football teams in Ohio and Western Michigan and stayed in the Mid-American Conference championship hunt much longer than predicted by any pundits, including the staff at the Daily Kent Stater.

The Flashes lost their best player, senior running back Eugene Jarvis, and had to rip Keith’s redshirt for an emergency start at quarterback before conference play even began.

I expected a complete meltdown, … la Kent State’s 3-9 record when they lost quarterback Julian Edelman early in the 2007 season. But I was pleasantly surprised with just a minor snafu of a season.

That’s why Doug Martin’s quote from mid-September irks me so much. The Flashes finished the year with a 5-7 record, and the fans will still have to point to 1972 as the last season the team made a bowl game.

Martin would have my ringing endorsement if he didn’t go all Charlie Weis by making a promise he couldn’t keep.

While I think Martin guided a young team to a decent season, embarrassing losses to Akron and Bowling Green – and that goofy, emotional guarantee – gave his critics all the ammunition they needed to call for a new head coach.

So now it doesn’t matter if I point out Martin’s excellent recent recruiting classes (Keith, Jaquise “Speedy” Terry and Tyshon Goode all have at least two years of eligibility left), his three five-or-more win seasons in six years or his good relationship with his players who are getting into less trouble and graduating at a better clip.

The Martin haters will preach about how he guaranteed a winning season and didn’t deliver.

And it’s hard to argue that fact.

Attempting to blame the proclamation on his obviously emotional state at the press conference to announce the season-ending injury Jarvis doesn’t work either. Martin’s the leader of this team, and it’s in his job description to keep his emotions in check in front of the media as well as on the sidelines.

Martin promised a bowl game in 2009 to a fan base that hasn’t seen postseason play in 37 years. He said the team would have its first winning record since 2001.

The 5-7 Flashes are staying home this season.

That’s why I don’t have the conviction to argue with those calling to take the football program in a new direction, even if I don’t agree completely.

Contact sports editor Tom Gallick at [email protected][email protected]