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COLUMN: What's next for CMU football after John Bonamego's firing?

Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego walks into Kelly/Shorts Stadium to play Maine on Sept. 22.

It was an ugly ending for Central Michigan football head coach John Bonamego. 

Coming off the worst loss of the worst season in CMU history, Bonamego avoided questions about his future with the program. 

Hours later, it was confirmed that John Bonamego was fired as head coach. 

"Making a leadership change is a difficult decision, especially when you know that coach has given his all to CMU,” Athletic Director Michael Alford said in an official statement. 

Bonamego’s head coaching career, which started with an entire community rallying around him during his fight against cancer, had come to a halt after four seasons as CMU’s leader. 

“I’ll never quit,” Bonamego said after his last game as CMU head coach. “There isn't a person on the planet that's more disappointed than I am."

On Nov. 21, Bonamego celebrated his three-year anniversary of being cancer free. He was fired two days later, following a 51-13 loss to Toledo in the final game of the 2018 season. 

His firing came only 339 days after Athletic Director Michael Alford signed Bonamego to a five-year extension through 2022. It raised his salary to more than $600,000. In 2018, he was guaranteed at least $655,900.

The buyout price was set at $1.125 million after the extension. However, it is unlikely that Bonamego will actually walk away with that much. Alford and Bonamego will agree on a lower amount. 

When CMU announced the firing as a “leadership change,” it also noted that Alford is partnering with DHR International to find a new coach. Alford reportedly has started the search. 

One popular name that has popped up on Twitter is Ferris State head coach Tony Annese, who may be looking for another challenge and a bigger paycheck. According to The Morning Sun, Annese interviewed for the head coaching job back in 2015 before Bonamego was hired. Annese, who earned a Master’s degree in educational administration at CMU, refuted the report days later by saying “I have not talked with Central Michigan at all nor have I interviewed.” 

We will see how in touch Alford is with the state of Michigan, if at all. He didn’t have any connection to CMU prior to being hired. 

In the past, CMU has had success with a clear coaching style. Hire someone who wants to build a program, who doesn’t want to be at CMU for the rest of their life. Someone that will bring the Chippewas to the top of the Mid-American Conference then split (see Brian Kelly and Butch Jones). 

Alford can’t expect to find someone with the same passion Bonamego had for his alma mater. He should try to find someone who is making a name for himself in college football, who could benefit from a head coaching job in Mount Pleasant. 

It is clear — CMU needs someone who is willing to accept a project. The team was 1-11 this year, and multiple recruits have already changed their commitment after Bonamego was fired.

The Chippewas need someone who wants to build a program. They need someone who can restore the winning ways, then move on to a bigger school. That is the only way MAC schools can consistently compete.