By Fred Guzman
University officials attempted to cushion the news by describing it as a retirement. We know better. You don’t pay someone $600,000 to buy out the remaining year of a retiring coach’s $1.1 million contract.
In real English, and in real life, Greg McMackin was effectively fired Monday after four seasons as head coach at the University of Hawaii and just two days after his football team failed to become bowl-eligible following an ugly 41-20 home loss to BYU that dropped its record to 6-7.
McMackin took over after June Jones left for SMU, compiling an overall 29-25 record and took two teams to bowl games during his tenure at Manoa.
The news didn’t come as a surprise. UH came into the campagin with high expectations, the pre-season favorite to win the title in its final year in the WAC after winning 10 games and a share of the conference title in 2010.
But Hawaii was beset by inconsistency and injuries, most notably a season-ending broken leg suffered by star quarterback Bryant Moniz. The offensive line and receiving corps were both inexperienced and terribly depleted by injuries. The special teams were simply awful.
And there were the bad losses to bad teams, including setbacks to UNLV, San Jose State and a struggling Fresno State.
Perhaps even more alarming for university officials than the team’s record was a disturbing decline in attendance. Less than 31,000 attended Saturday’s finale at Aloha Stadium against long-time rival BYU.
The loss assured Hawaii of a losing record, rendering it ineligible to play in a bowl game. And with that, the 62-year-old Greg McMackin was history as coach at Manoa.
Associate coach Rich Miano will serve as interim coach until a replacement is selected. A search committee will be formed to launch a nationwide search for a new coach. All nine assistant coaches are on one-year deals that expire March 31.
Given the absence of UH, the Hawaii Bowl lucked out, in a sense. Nevada took Hawaii’s spot as the WAC representative. But the local bowl hit the jackpot when it landed 21st-ranked Conference-USA champion Southern Mississippi.
The Golden Eagles would have preferred — and feel they deserved to be — playing in a more prestigious bowl game after knocking previously unbeaten Houston out of the BCS contention, costing the conference about $10 million in the process.
But given other options – some including higher payouts – were rejected in favor of a trip to Paradise. Smart, those folks from Southern Mississippi.