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QUESTION FOR OLDTIMERS - Mike Newell - Why was he forced out???


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Does anyone have any information or recollection why Mike Newell was forced out. He took over the basketball program in similar shape as it was when Tic Price took over the head coaching job. Lamar had just experienced two of its two worst years in program history (except for Pat Knight's last two years) under Tony Branch.


Newell did have a lot of potential and looked like a very good hire at the time. He left UALR to come to Lamar after taking the Trojans to five successive post season appearances (Three NCAA and two NIT). His first NCAA appearance was a Cinderella run similar to some of ours with the 14 seed Trojans seed defeating a 3 seed and 10th ranked Notre Dame team. It seems like his record 42-44 at Lamar was respectable considering the program was still in recovery mode after Tony Branch's period. (Prior to UALR, he had been a Billy Tubbs assistant at Oklahoma.)


We gave his successor, Grey Giovanine, six years with a worse record so it would appear poor record would not be the reason.


I found this in an article about Newell, but parts of it don't make sense.


He left UALR six years later to coach at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. At that point, he was still on his way up. Things fell apart at Lamar, and Newell is fairly vague about the reasons why. It’s not something he enjoys talking about. “I got caught up in a political struggle,” he says. “When Ann Richards was elected governor, the whole board of trustees changed, the president changed. Commitments that had been made by the prior administration were not kept — things like more money for the basketball program.” Also, he says, Lamar had given him a contract it couldn’t really afford. “And they were planning to go to a lower-level conference. That’s not why I went there.” Newell left Lamar, resigning under pressure, with a sour taste in his mouth about college athletics, and a three-year record of 42-44, well below his UALR standard.


1. Commitments not kept - ??? This one makes sense. We had dropped football in 1989, one year before Newell arrived. If I recall correctly, one of the things we alumni were told was that dropping football would allow us to concentrate and put more money into our big sport, basketball. Even with the drop in program quality following Pat Foster's departure, Lamar WAS a basketball school at the time.


2. Lamar had given him a contract it couldn't afford - ??? I have been unable to find any articles, but I recall some serious financial problems the University had as a result of the Savings and Loan crisis around that time. That could have been one of the causes. Also, the energy business was just starting to recover from a huge drop in profits. A lot of people associated with E&P found themselves without jobs. I assume that had impact on donor money and attendance but we averaged 5,437 with a single game high of 7,671 in Newell's first season so maybe a drop in attendance is not correct. It was lower his next two seasons, but the Cardinals were averaging just under 4,000 per game with a single game high of 8,033 his last year. The University had three presidents (Bill Franklin's last year and two one year interim presidents) during Newell's stay so the political situation makes a lot of sense to me. The fact that Lamar had three presidents in three years indicates a lot of instability.


2. - Going to a lower-level conference - ??? Newell was at Lamar the last year of the American South Conference and the first year in the Sun Belt Conference. If anything, I would have thought the Sun Belt to be equal or slightly higher in respect than the American South. I don't think he was thinking of the Southland Conference at the time because that move was five years after Newell was gone and notice of intent to move back to the Southland was given several years after Newell's departure.


Link to article referred to above: http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/the-fire-still-burns-for-mike-newell/Content?oid=862970

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