Football could experience worst record since joining Division I
The Chippewas' losing season has reached historic proportions in the fourth season under coach John Bonamego.
Central Michigan's most recent disappointment was a 35-10 drubbing from rival Western Michigan in Mount Pleasant on Oct. 20, 2018. The Chippewas weren’t close, going down 21-0 at halftime. The fans were scarce, and the electricity in the stadium was non-apparent.
At 1-7 overall, CMU is on pace for its worst overall record since joining Division I in 1975 and the lowest winning percentage since the 1904 season, coached by Charles Tambling. The 1904 team finished 0-1 as football was discontinued due to budgetary constraints.
Since joining Division I, the football team has recorded just two wins in a season twice — 1997 and 2000. Four games remain for the Chippewas – at Akron, at Eastern Michigan, against Bowling Green and at Toledo. If all are lost, CMU will finish 1-11 for a 0.08 winning percentage.
The Chippewas entered the 2018 season fresh off Bonamego’s best season in Mount Pleasant in 2017. He commanded the team to an 8-5 record, the defeat of rivals Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan and a trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against quarterback Josh Allen, who went No. 7 overall in the NFL Draft.
Instead of building off momentum from a year ago, CMU is off to a 1-7 start. CMU has lost the Michigan MAC Trophy, Victory Cannon Trophy and a bowl game opportunity.
“I'll never lower our standards,” Bonamego said after losing to WMU. “Sometimes you're a lot closer than the outside world sees.”
The team’s only win this season was a 17-5 victory against the University of Maine, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) program. The Chippewas have not defeated a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school since Nov. 24, 2017 – 333 days ago.
CMU gave Kansas its first win away from Memorial Stadium in 49 games, dating back to Sept. 12, 2009. The result was a 31-7 loss at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Sept. 8.
In Week 3, CMU made a quarterback change from redshirt sophomore Tony Poljan to junior Tommy Lazzaro. Since taking the field and providing near comeback in his first appearance, Lazzaro is 55-of-119 passing for 583 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"We're really close but close doesn't mean shit,” Lazzaro said. “Frankly, that's the truth."
Junior running back Jonathan Ward went for 1,494 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in 2017. Through eight games this season, he has 72 carries for 199 yards and has yet to find the end zone.
He went from being one of the most talented offensive players to declining media requests following the first game of the season on Sept. 1, a 35-20 loss against Kentucky. Ward has not spoken with the media since the preseason, turning down six opportunities.
Bonamego was inspired to walk on to the football team in the mid-1980s because of the success of Roy Kramer and Herb Deromedi — both legendary CMU head coaches.
Referred to as “The Glory Years,” the Chippewas never had a losing record from 1975 to 1991 under Kramer and Deromedi.
History shows this could be the beginning of a losing era for Central Michigan’s football team. But Bonamego and Lazzaro claim the team is close to success.
Since joining the NCAA Division I in 1975, the Chippewas have never lost more than nine games. Earning a nine in the loss column only occurred in 1997, 2000, 2003, 2010 and 2011, but never in a year led by Bonamego.
Looking back at CMU’s history, it is clear – losing comes in bunches, as does winning.