Offer Too Tempting
Posted: February 23, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Hal Mumme was so close to becoming the James Madison football team’s new offensive coordinator that he asked Dukes coach Mickey Matthews this week for some wardrobe advice.
“He actually called me Tuesday afternoon to ask me what to wear, if I was expecting him to wear a tie,” Matthews said Friday afternoon in his Plecker Center office.
But that changed Wednesday when a still-unnamed BCS school in Texas offered the 60-year-old Mumme its offensive coordinator job and, according to Matthews, four times the money JMU was going to pay the former Kentucky coach.
Mumme, innovator of the pass-loving “Air Raid” offense now run by Washington State coach Mike Leach and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, would have made $100,000 at Madison.
A source Thursday described Mumme’s bolting as a “business” and a “family” decision.
Matthews — who has been a close friend of Mumme’s since they were on the staff together at West Texas State in the early 1980s — said he wasn’t surprised by Mumme reneging on JMU, which had a press conference planned for Friday afternoon to introduce its new offensive coordinator.
Matthews said Mumme — who resigned in January as the head coach at Division III McMurry University in Abilene, Texas — called him Wednesday morning to tell him he wasn’t coming to Harrisonburg.
“He called and he simply stated that he hated to do it,” Matthews said of Mumme’s decision not to take JMU’s OC job. “I knew when I heard the tone in his voice that it wasn’t good. He said a BCS school in Texas had offered him basically four times the money that we were going to pay him here, and I certainly understood that. I said that it was understandable. It came as a total surprise to him that they called him and, certainly, I told him I understood, and that’s the deal.”
Matthews said it was part of the business and that Mumme is “still a dear friend.”
“He had no idea he was going to get that phone call,” Matthews said. “…. I don’t think anyone would begrudge anyone for quadrupling their salary, and he was really upset that this had happened this way, and he was good.”
So what does JMU do now?
Madison posted an advertisement for the OC position on its jobs website Thursday. The ad expires March 8. That means it will be at least two weeks before the Dukes have an offensive coordinator. Because of the delay, Matthews said he might move back spring practice, which is currently scheduled to start in late March.
Matthews, who’s had a run-based offense for much of his 14-year tenure at JMU, said he’s still shopping for an offensive coordinator with a passing offense.
“We’re going to throw the ball more,” Matthews said. “With Hal, I laughed when I talked to him. Before the game, I was going to have to take a valium ’cause of how many times he was going to throw it.”
Despite the late date, Matthews said he still felt he could find a good offensive coordinator.
“We feel like we’ll do fine,” he said. “There’s a lot of good coaches out there. We’ll have no trouble hiring someone.”
Mumme would have replaced Jeff Durden, who was fired Dec. 7.
A potential candidate for the job now is Mumme’s son, Matt, who most recently was the offensive coordinator at Davidson before that staff was fired after this season. The younger Mumme, who has known Matthews for most of his life, also runs the Air Raid offense — and Matt Mumme has told the News-Record he would be interested in JMU.
The reason JMU is shifting its philosophy to a pass-oriented scheme is sophomore quarterback Michael Birdsong, a dropback passer whose strength is throwing. Matthews said Birdsong also was a draw for Mumme.
The JMU-Mumme courtship started in December, when Matthews said he called Mumme for advice on who to hire. Matthews said, after he explained what he was looking for and described his offensive personnel, Mumme became interested and said he wanted to be the Dukes’ offensive coordinator.
“Without knowing it, I was recruiting him as our conversation went along,” Matthews said with a laugh. “And finally, he called me in December and said, ‘Well, who have you decided to bring in to interview?’ And I said, ‘Well, I haven’t decided yet.’ [Mumme said:] ‘Well, just bring me in, hire me,’ and I nearly dropped the phone.”
Matthews wouldn’t say how many candidates he considered before selecting Mumme. Matthews also didn’t know if Mumme resigned as the head coach at McMurry specifically to take Madison’s OC job. But Matthews knew there would be interest in Mumme, and that’s why Matthews waited so long to hire him. The original job ad expired Feb. 1. It was posted for two weeks.
“I had waited, because I knew he was in discussions with some other programs, because he was so honest,” Matthews said. “And I wanted to make sure — let that run its course. I didn’t want him to come here for a week or two and then leave.”
Matthews said another delay was Mumme had a number of “speaking engagements” for high school coaches in Texas this week and last week, and Matthews wanted Mumme to finish those before bringing Mumme to Harrisonburg, although he had been in town before on numerous occasions. He had visited Matthews in the past, and Mumme also came, of course, on his interview, when he met several players.
Matthews said he told the players about Mumme’s decision Friday morning after a 6 a.m. run.
As for Matthews, he’s disappointed he doesn’t get to work with his friend but understands why.
“I was excited ’cause, on a personal level, he and I are such good friends,” Matthews said. “But it’s part of the business. I think the older you get, nothing surprises you.”