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Parrish won’t last for awful Ball State

Parrish

Here is what Ball State football coach Stan Parrish needs right now, the first more apparent than the others:

1. A win.

2. A parachute.

3. Instructions on how to use it.

No. 1, at this point, is clearly for connoisseurs of bedtime stories, in which the virtuous hero endures all manner of anguish before arriving at Happily Ever After, USA. A blowout homecoming loss and two straight here-take-’em defeats will turn any winning scenario into the stuff of fairy tales.

Nos. 2 and 3 are simply matters of prudence, now that Parrish’s athletic director has declared himself solidly behind his football coach.

“I think the direction (of the program) is good,” Tom Collins told the Muncie Star Press last week, prompting an overwhelming urge to buy the man a compass. “I’ve been around programs where I’ve seen teams quit. Our kids aren’t quitting. We have to let the season play out and see where it ends.”

And, yeah, OK, so perhaps there’s some merit to that, seeing as how the Cardinals didn’t quit in a 31-24 loss at Toledo, merely played again like a football team that has lost the directions to victory. The working title for this season remains Couldn’t Win For Losing, followed by an appropriate subtitle: Stuff Happens And Other Catastrophes.

And so, unlike Collins, I can see where this ends: with Parrish getting the gate after a second straight 2-10 season.

I watch the Cardinals give away W’s like Halloween candy, and I think, at some point, they simply surrender to this season’s bad juju. I hope I’m wrong about that. No one would be happier if I were, because I happen to like Parrish, and his football résumé commands respect.

But a 45-16 homecoming loss to Western Michigan, followed by a 41-38 come-from-ahead loss to barely functional Eastern Michigan, followed by a blown 17-0 lead in a 31-24 loss at Toledo, leaves you unavoidably wondering what gives. What gives with a 28-7 lead gone to hell, at home, against the worst football team on the planet? What gives with a Ball State team that ranks 96th or worse in the FBS on both offense and defense?

I don’t want to see 2-10 again, and I never want to see anyone pink-slipped, but how can you see anything else? How do you look four games into the future and see anything but Parrish saying he gave it all he had, but things just didn’t work out?

Because, listen, Collins can say he’s behind his coach until his vocal chords implode, but every athletic director says that. And the fact is, Collin’s seat’s a trifle warm, too, or ought to be.

You can get a whole lot wrong as a Division I athletic director, see, but one thing you can’t get wrong is a football hire. And Collins blew the football hire. He stepped up to the plate in the ninth, and he whiffed.

He took all of three days after Brady Hoke left before naming Parrish, when what he should have done is name Parrish the interim and then conduct a real job search. Yes, Parrish might have been the guy, anyway. And, yes, it would have therefore seemed like a huge waste of time, and put the Cardinals half-a-step behind to boot.

But can anyone say they aren’t at least half-a-step behind now? Truthfully?

“We were ready to play,” Parrish, now 4-17 as head coach, told the Star Press on Saturday night.

“We just didn’t make enough plays.”

Never have six words sounded more like an epitaph.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by e-mail at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648 or at the “Ben Smith” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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