|Brad Lambert's firing signals shift in Charlotte 49ers football|
|AD Mike Hill wants to move quickly for successor|
|Published Monday, November 19, 2018 10:00 pm|
|PHOTO | SAM ROBERTS|
|Brad Lambert, the first football coach in Charlotte 49ers history, was fired Sunday. He is 21-48 over a six-year stretch, which ends Nov. 24 at Florida Atlantic.|
Winning when it mattered eluded Brad Lambert.
Lambert, the inaugural football coach in Charlotte 49ers history, is also the first head coach fired under athletics director Mike Hill, who replaced Judy Rose in the spring. Lambert, whose final game is Nov. 24 at Florida Atlantic, is 21-48 overall; 4-7, 3-4 in C-USA this season. A 42-35 loss to Florida International on Nov. 17 eliminated the 49ers from bowl eligibility.
A 4-8 season in 2016 marked Charlotte’s best FBS campaign. Lambert’s teams never finished above .500, going 5-6 in 2013 and 2014 in FCS, without returning to that level in FBS, where the 49ers moved in 2015 when they joined Conference USA.
“I looked it up this morning, we announced his appointment on March 11, 2011,” Chancellor Philip Dubois said. “He spent seven and a half years helping us launch and build our program to this point.”
However, this is not the Charlotte of 2011. A team, budget to accommodate athletic scholarships and facilities with the ability to expand beyond its current capacity of 15,314 at Jerry Richardson Stadium exist. They also have an athletic director who has raised the expectation beyond mediocrity across the board.
“It’s built so that one day we can expand that stadium,” Hill said. “We are currently undergoing an athletics facilities master plan study that will be complete here in six-nine months, and we will also take a look at what could be done at football in phases, maybe down the road when we are ready to do that, when we are filling the stadium.”
While Hill described his conversation with Lambert as “gut-wrenching,” he continuously pointed to 49ers basketball coach Ron Sanchez as his model for hiring. Sanchez joined Charlotte in March, inheriting a program that has not finished above .500 since 2013-14. Rose fired coach Mark Price after a 3-6 start last year and the 49ers finished 6-23. Hiring a first-time head coach in Sanchez — a longtime top assistant under Virginia’s Tony Bennett — indicates Hill may be looking at coordinators, the same position Lambert rose from.
“This reminds me a lot of when we hired Ron Sanchez,” Hill said. “When I started here on March 15, the NCAA tournament was just beginning, and I told the chancellor, ‘we cannot afford to wait,’ and he agreed. We had to get in on it immediately. In this instance, we are competing for the best coaches in the country. There are other schools who have already made decisions to release their coaches. There were some over the weekend, in addition to us; some previous to us happened three and four weeks ago, who have hired new coaches. There will be another wave this weekend. We needed to get ahead of this, because, again, it is in the best interest of the program.”
Charlotte has already begun the search for Lambert’s replacement. Dec. 19 roughly reflects Hill’s timeline for a new hire, as new recruits can sign letters of intent to enroll for the spring semester.
“I am not a believer in operating in a way that is deceptive to an employee or a coach,” Lambert said. “I was not going to conduct a search behind Brad’s back this week. It’s not right.”
Lambert’s staff, which includes first-season offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery and co-defensive coordinators Glenn Spencer and Chip West, are eligible to apply for the position, according to Hill. He also suggested that future head coaches often retain the same personnel.
“There will be considerable interest,” Dubois said. “I got in the office at 7 a.m., and by 7:45 a.m. I had two emails and a phone call from people interested in the job, and what I told them was, ‘call [Hill].’”
Hill has spoken with or left messages for each football recruit. Dubois noted Charlotte’s adoption of the autonomy rule, which protects scholarships given under Lambert.
Hill’s preferred qualities in the next coach include:
• Recruiting ability. “We need to find somebody who is a proven recruiter, and a proven developer of talent,” he said. “I refer back to Ron Sanchez. That’s a model that works for football as well in terms of crucial characteristics that we have to have in a new head football coach.”
• Campus and program fit. “Being able to fit into the culture that we are building here, and someone who understands how important culture is,” Hill said. “Programs that have excellent culture are the programs that typically have the most success. The old saying, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ I’m a big believer in that.”
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