Stan Parrish's final news conference as Ball State's head football coach was far from his most contentious in his two-year tenure. It appeared that Nov. 22 was just another day at the office for Parrish, filled with talk of recruiting and next season.
Later in the day, however, reports of his dismissal hit the Internet, and 24 hours later, Ball State announced it had fired Parrish. The decision came three days after Ball State lost 59-21 to Northern Illinois to finish the season 4-8.
"As we evaluated the on-field performance and the football program in its entirety, we decided it was time for a change in direction in the leadership of the program," athletics director Tom Collins said in a statement. "We have been impressed with the way our student-athletes have carried themselves this season. We have quality student-athletes, and they have continued to battle through a challenging season."
Parrish was halfway through a four-year contract he signed in December 2008 after then-coach Brady Hoke left for San Diego State. Parrish was 6-19 as the Cardinals' coach and will receive the $700,000 remaining on his contract.
As Ball State begins the search for its 16th head coach, offensive coordinator/running backs coach Eddie Faulkner will act as interim head coach. He has coached at Ball State since 2003, when he began as a graduate assistant under Hoke.
The rest of Ball State's assistant coaches will continue in their jobs until February, when their annual contracts end.
In Parrish's final meeting with reporters, he said it was unlikely he would make any changes to his coaching staff.
"You're never happy with anything in life," Parrish said. "The evaluation process includes your staff — ‘Is this guy the best to get the thing done?' Sometimes you go, ‘You'd like to replace guys, but who am I going to replace them with?'"
Ball State apparently felt differently about Parrish. His job appeared to be safe after winning back-to-back Mid-American Conference games in November, but Collins made the change anyway.
Before the firing was made official Tuesday, kicker Ian McGarvey tweeted, "It's really easy to throw one person under the bus when s--- does not go right. We the players are the reason for our season."
In the end, however, Parrish was held responsible for the Cardinals' back-to-back losing seasons after rising to No. 12 in the country in 2008. Parrish became the fifth Football Bowl Subdivision coach to be out of work when the firing announcement was made, a number that had already grown to eight Sunday night. Indiana coach Bill Lynch, a former Ball State head coach, was fired Sunday.
The search for Ball State's next coach is still in its early stages. Possible candidates include former quarterback and New Orleans Saints scout Mike Neu, former running back and Kansas City Chiefs tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee and former Ball State assistant coach and former Cincinnati head coach Rick Minter. Faulkner is the most likely internal candidate.
One of the reasons Parrish was promoted when Hoke left was to maintain the level of success the Cardinals had achieved in the 2007 and 2008 season. That proved to be too difficult, and Ball State lost the GMAC Bowl to Tulsa and went 2-10 in Parrish's first season.
Parrish was also known for his recruiting prowess, a strength he continued to demonstrate as head coach. He opened a pipeline to Glenville High School in Cleveland, one of the nation's premier programs. Ball State had secured 16 oral commitments for the 2011 recruiting class, the most in the MAC. It will be one of Faulkner's responsibilities to try and keep them committed to Ball State until National Signing Day on Feb. 2.
Parrish made it clear from the news conference announcing his promotion to head coach to Nov. 22 that he was most concerned with his players' well-being. Now that responsibility falls to Collins as he enters his second search for a head football coach in his five-year tenure at Ball State. Collins said he hopes to have a new coach in place by Christmas.