You don't see good turn to bad so quickly unless you read the Bible's book of Job or (for the agnostics out there) Ron Burgundy in Anchorman.
Within 10 days, coach J.D. Brookhart saw the biggest donor in the history of the program suffer a serious heart ailment at a relatively young age. He learned the buzz of a new stadium would not keep people's attention, even when a Big Ten team visits. He kicked his starting quarterback off the team. He suspended a second player, who allegedly slugged a man in the face until the man stopped moving. He became embroiled in a possible NCAA recruiting violation.
Brookhart was serious when he said it's been the hardest time in his career.
Since 5 p.m., almost half of the visitors to this blog have said this season is a lost cause. They have given up. To pour gasoline on the fire, on Saturday the team faces the steepest challenge in the conference: Central Michigan.
For the first time since I started covering the team, I think it's more likely than not that the head coach of one of the major teams will be fired. Brookhart cannot always directly control the shenanigans of his players and coaches or the apathy of the fans, but this sort of thing tends to reflect back on the man who runs the program. His seat is scalding.
In times like these, teams often flop. They come out of the locker room with an "us against the world" attitude, but that adrenaline wears off. The team becomes demoralized after the first mistake, and then the wheels come off. Penalties. Blown assignments. Careless mistakes. Blowout score. You see it a lot at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
If that happens on Saturday, Tom Wistrcill should tap Walt Harris to take over. Harris will have a bye week to become acclimated and reverse the team's momentum. There will still be an opportunity to compete for a MAC title.
But! Some teams are vulcanized by these tribulations. Sure, they have the usual adrenaline boost; however, they sustain it because the team was built on discipline and teamwork, not inconsistency and big egos. Severe turbulence will show what sort of athletes Brookhart recruited and what impact his coaching has made.
If that happens on Saturday, Brookhart has earned an opportunity to at least finish the season. The Zips don't have to win, but they must play with dignity. They must play football with unrelenting passion and discipline.
That will be the test. And I think the Zips and Brookhart will pass.
Count me as one of the fans who believes the season is NOT over.
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