Utah State Football: Timing wasn't on side of Dennehy

Two wins not enough: Winning was critical with move to WAC coming
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LOGAN - For Mick Dennehy, it was precisely the wrong time for an unsuccessful season.

Dennehy was fired as Utah State's head football coach Monday, effective after the final game against New Mexico State on Nov. 20.

His dismissal comes as the Aggies finish off a disappointing season and Utah State administrators work feverishly to find money for critical facility improvements prior to Western Athletic Conference membership next year.

For Dennehy, the combination of defeats vs. donations was his downfall.

"The bottom line, as much as anything, is the fact we're in a real delicate time here in terms of facilities," he said. "Not winning equates into not being able to raise money to build facilities."

Said Utah State athletic director Randy Spetman: "We can't wait. We have to move forward. . . . No one has remained status quo like we have."

Utah State is 2-7 heading into Thursday night's game at Arkansas State, so Dennehy's firing was not a surprise.

"We all knew going in that we had to win in order for this not to happen," he said. "Our coaches did a great job. They came to work every day and worked hard to get the job done. But we had a lot to overcome and weren't quite able to do it. So we wish the next guy the best of luck and hopes he gets it done."

Dennehy is skeptical, however.

Asked if a coach can win at present-day Utah State, Dennehy said, "Under the circumstances that our staff and some previous staffs have faced, I'd say, 'No.' Look at the records. The way it stands, it's not possible. But it will be possible if some facility and budget issues are addressed."

What if that doesn't happen?

"Then," Dennehy said, "the coaching jobs at Utah State University become a revolving door. . . . Just look at history."

Will joining the WAC help the Aggies be more competitive?

"There's no question about that," Dennehy said. "But until the money is raised, the ground is broken and the facilities get done, it's still going to be real difficult."

Spetman informed Dennehy that he was going to be fired on Sunday afternoon - two weeks before the end of the season.

"Randy is an upstanding guy," Dennehy said. "He approached it the best way he knew how. He just felt he needed to apprise us of the situation before he started contacting people while we were still working. I can appreciate that."

Word of the firing spread quickly among the Aggie players.

"They're fine," Dennehy said. "They're resilient. . . . It's like I told them at practice [on Monday]: 'This isn't a funeral. We're not dead. We're going to survive. I don't want to hear one more, 'I'm sorry.' It's not your fault. To a certain degree, it's not our fault, either. But the decision has been made, so let's move on.'"

Outside of trying to help his assistant coaches find new jobs, the 54-year-old Dennehy isn't certain what he will do after the Aggies' final game.

"In the very, very immediate future, I'm going to drop 20 pounds, get in shape and see if my wife still likes me," he said. "We've been married 34 years and I haven't been around very much."

Down the road, Dennehy wants to remain in coaching.

"I've never done anything else," he said. "I'm not sure what I'd do if I had to work for a living."

Dennehy will explore head coaching opportunities, but he won't be afraid to consider being an assistant again, either.

In fact, he might prefer it.

"On a personal level, sometimes being a head coach has not been my most favorite part of the job," he said. "I go back to my days of coaching a position - when you get down in the trenches with your guys.

"It's just a little different experience being the administrator and the program disciplinarian. Not that I don't enjoy this. But it's different than sitting in a position meeting with the players, joking with them. You just get to know the kids a lot better."

If a return to coaching isn't possible, there might be another option.

"We'll see what works out," said Dennehy, his voice cracking ever-so-slightly. "If I don't coach again, I've had a good time. I have an administrator's credential, and I've always thought it might be kind of fun being an elementary school principal. That might be something."