Few times in the football history of West Texas A&M University has an opening game had as much significance as the game that’s coming up Sept. 12 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
The Buffs will take the field against Chadron State. They will have to deal with the shadow of a man who’s no longer a part of the program. Former Coach Don Carthel got canned two weeks ago over an ethics violation.
The interim coach this year will be Mike Nesbitt, who I believe could be an early-season favorite for Division II national coach of the year if he holds his team together.
Carthel’s firing couldn’t have come at a worse time. The team was finishing its preparation for a season most observers believed — maybe they still do — would be full of glory for the Buffs. I’m still uncertain as to whether the violation rose to the level of punishment that WT’s athletic department levied against Carthel. The coach took players to a baseball game, received reimbursement from the athletes and then fibbed about the timing of the reimbursement.
Boom! Like that he was gone. What’s done is done.
Nesbitt has taken over. He’s saying all the right things to local media, about how his team is “focused” and is getting ready for the season — as if he’s going to say anything to the contrary. You never hear coaches talk of turmoil upsetting team chemistry or causing emotional heartache. The stated public view is always the same: We’re soldiering on.
So we’ll see in short order whether the Buffs are as focused and dedicated to the task at hand as their coaching staff is saying. Texas A&M-Commerce comes to Kimbrough Stadium on Sept. 21 to begin the Lone Star Conference season.
The WT brass still has some explaining to do regarding Carthel’s firing. I hope it comes clean. Meanwhile, the players and the coaches who remain deserve the support of a fan base that had returned to the Buffs’ side when Carthel’s teams began winning so many football games.