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Tim Lester Out at Western Michigan
WMU let go of former QB and head coach Tim Lester to be the first MAC opening on the market this year.
If it weren’t coaching carousel season already, it sure is now. Now that the regular season is just about wrapped up (reminder: we still have Akron-Buffalo this Friday), a lot of new changes were formally announced yesterday.
Things are already on the move this Monday morning as well. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester is the first MAC head coach to get the boot this season, says ESPN. Let’s update the list.
FBS Head Coaching Jobs Opened
Arizona State, fired Herm Edwards(Kenny Dillingham hired)
Auburn, fired Bryan Harsin
Charlotte, fired Will Healy(Biff Poggi hired)
Cincinnati, Luke Fickell left for Wisconsin
Colorado, fired Karl Dorrell
Florida Atlantic, fired Willie Taggart
Georgia Tech, fired Geoff Collins
Nebraska, fired Scott Frost(Matt Rhule hired)
South Florida, fired Jeff Scott
Stanford, David Shaw retired
Texas State, fired Jake Spavital
Tulsa, fired Phillip Montgomery
UAB, Bill Clark retired
Western Michigan, fired Tim Lester
Wisconsin, fired Paul Chryst(Luke Fickell hired)
This year’s 5-7 record by the Broncos was the first time Lester let his team suffer a losing record. He took over after P.J. Fleck built the program up from the later years of Bill Cubit leading the team and never made it back into the MAC title game.
Lester’s final record at WMU: 37-32 overall, 26-20 in MAC play, 1-2 in bowl games. In 2021, the team’s 8-5 record was the best mark in his six years as Western’s coach.
Lester’s first season at WMU led to a 4-4 MAC record, then fell short of the championship picture in 2018 by falling 42-41 in overtime to Ball State. In 2019, WMU fell a game shy of making it to the MAC title game again by losing to Toledo, EMU, and NIU all on the road. In 2020, WMU fell a game shy of making it again after it lost by three in the regular season finale to Ball State. And over the last two seasons, his teams went 4-4 in MAC play both times.
This year, WMU’s on-field talent level was not up to its normal standards. Its loss to EMU (45-23) was the worst in rivalry history and the losses to Bowling Green (13-9) and NIU (24-21) might’ve been enough for WMU have its mind made up about its future.
Before letting him go, Lester finished the season with wins over Central Michigan (12-10) and Toledo (20-14).
What mattered more in WMU’s decision to fire its former quarterback as the team’s head coach? Was it the 5-7 record, or was it because the talent wasn’t up to par?
WMU’s passing attack this season was by far the worst across the MAC. It was one of 11 offenses nationally to throw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (10), was 119th in yards per attempt (5.9), and 126th in completion percentage (49.9%).
The defense this year was pretty good, but wasn’t good enough to forgive an offense that averaged only 19 points a game.
The offenses haven’t always been this disastrous. Up until 2022, WMU’s had a top 3-or-4 offense in the MAC in just about every year under Lester.
Patience to work through it? For the head coach who didn’t shop for a quarterback through the transfer portal, and in the same season RB Chase Brown, who previously transferred from WMU to Illinois, told SI that WMU didn’t want to pony up the $60,000 for him to take aviation classes, the answer is that WMU can’t afford to wait any longer. A change for the better simply had to be made.
Lester’s buyout: $500,000.
Per 247sports, WMU’s recruiting class currently ranks second in the MAC, 67th nationally, with 17 commits. I’m sure WMU’s going to try to act as quickly as possible through this next coaching search to make sure it can send a good message on, and before, signing day.
WMU probably looked at this situation as the beginning of the plateau for its football program with Lester as the team’s head coach. Maybe the details of the job changed to the point where Lester’s talents are better suited in a position where he can focus more of his time on football and less time worrying about the upper-management aspects of the job. If that’s true, then this is a good chance for Lester to find out where that next OC job is for him. If he’s trying to be a head coach again, then where would he ideally want to end up? Is there an FBS-level school that would take him as a head coach?
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