COLUMN: Silence doubters by winning football games

Head coach Jim McElwain takes questions from the media July 23 at Ford Field.

Fresh off the worst season in the program’s extensive history, the Central Michigan football team has some major work to do this year.

A 1-11 record in 2018 resulted in the firing of coach John Bonamego and the rest of the staff, and current coach Jim McElwain was brought in to resurrect a program that has the talent to appear in its sixth bowl game in eight years.

So how will the team go from winning a single game -- against an FCS team no less -- to becoming bowl-eligible?

Senior center Steve Eipper said that one of the biggest detriments to the 2018 Chippewas was the subtle divides found within the team. Sure, they worked together on the field, but in regard to common goals, it varied from group to group. Furthermore, there wasn’t much for a sense of unity in the setting of regular college life or hanging out after workouts.

According to Eipper, McElwain has fixed this issue.

“Last year we had kind of cliques go out and do their own thing, and this year, everybody is going toward the same purpose,” Eipper said. “Everybody wants the same thing and plays for each other this season, and I think that’s one of the special things Coach Mac has brought in.”

From what I’ve observed at interviews and the open spring practice in April, I’ve seen glimpses of a cohesive unit capable of winning games. 

However, there are many doubters.

Perhaps the most prominent group of people to convince is the fan base. After all, the Chippewas won exactly one game last year. One game. 

And it sure wasn’t fun to watch. Even as a person who generally refuses to leave games early and happily watches 12 hours of college football on Saturdays, I had a hard time making it through that Kansas game last year. For the games against Western Michigan and Buffalo, the combination of ugly weather and uglier play sent me trudging back to my dorm well before the final whistle. 

I don’t think I was alone in feeling that it was downright painful, even embarrassing to watch the 2018 squad. An offense that averages a measly 15.0 points per game and struggles to pass for 100 yards in a game isn’t going to keep fans in the stands.

The media was similarly unimpressed by CMU’s on-field performance last year: in a poll filled out by media members that cover the Mid-American Conference, the 2019 Chippewas were picked to finish dead last in the MAC West

Upon seeing the results of the poll, senior safety Da’Quaun Jamison was quick to point out that preseason picks mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. 

“I really couldn’t care less about it,” Jamison said. “Pickers pick, players play and coaches coach. Picks are just picks, they can’t win games for you.”

I couldn't agree more with Jamison. At the end of the day, the preseason prediction doesn’t guarantee any wins. Hiring McElwain and a new coaching staff doesn’t guarantee any wins. Bringing in senior graduate transfer Quinten Dormady (among other quarterbacks) and moving junior Tony Poljan to tight end doesn’t guarantee any wins. 

Rather, it’s up to the CMU football program to come together, go out on the field and win games. It’s as simple as that.

Win games, and the fans will come. Win games, and the respect will come. Win games, and the doubt will dissipate.

McElwain understands the situation perfectly well, and he’s ready to prove that the Chippewas have no plans of remaining on the bottom of the MAC for long. 

“It’s not a lot of fun to be picked last, but I guess you gotta start somewhere, right?”