Brad Wright was 23-23 in four years as the head football coach at Texas State, which fired him Monday. Texas State sports information photo.
As it turned out, the Texas State football team needed at least a good finish in the last couple weeks of 2010 to save Brad Wright’s job.
Instead, the Bobcats lost their last three games and six of their last seven, turning in a losing 4-7 season and ending the possibility that Wright would be around when the Bobcats advance to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 2012.
Texas State let Wright go Monday, opening the position for a new coach to take the Bobcats to the bowl level of college football. Wright finished his four-year stint as the head coach with a 23-23 overall record.
Wright was fired with two years remaining on a three-year contract he signed after the 2009 season.
Texas State said it immediately began a nationwide search for a new football coach.
Up to the start of October, Wright’s career record was a respectable 22-17 and getting stronger. But Texas State’s slide at the end of this season eclipsed a gathering perception that the football program was on the uptick after back-to-back winning seasons in 2008 and 2009, which was the first time the Bobcats had two straight winning records in nearly 20 years.
“We appreciate the progress Brad has made with our program in the last four years,” Texas State athletic director Larry Teis said. “This decision was tough to make because he is a good man and a good family man. But, I felt it was necessary to make a change at this time.”
As of eight weeks ago, Wright looked secure in his job as Teis narrowed in on the invitation from the WAC. With a 42-28 win against Southern Utah on Sept. 27, the Bobcats had won 18 of their last 28 games since the start of the 2008 season, and they entered the Southland Conference looking like a player in the league race.
But the Bobcats faltered, immediately and consistently. They lost their first three games of the conference season, two of them at home. A remarkable, come-from-behind, 27-24 win at third-ranked Stephen F. Austin restored some of the confidence, but it quickly dissipated when the Bobcats returned to their home field and fell behind, 42-3, at halftime against Central Arkansas. The game ended with a 49-17 loss.
After the game, Wright said he didn’t have an explanation for the team’s first half collapse. But the final two games of the season provided sufficient explanation. The Bobcats simply weren’t equal to Southland Conference competition. They lost, 36-6, at McNeese State, then fell behind, 29-8, at Sam Houston State before falling in their final game of the season, 31-29.
On Nov. 11, Texas State received, and accepted, an invitation to join the WAC, a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference that put the university on a much higher level of athletic competition. Texas State and Texas-San Antonio joined the WAC along with the University of Denver. Those schools will join league holdovers San Jose State, Idaho, Utah State, New Mexico State, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech.
The WAC needed to find schools just to stay relevant after Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State all announced they would leave the WAC after 2011 to play in the Mountain West Conference.
WAC Commissioner Karl Benson said Monday that the league has contacted North Texas and California-Davis to see if they would be interested in joining the league. Benson also said the WAC has extended an offer to Hawaii to remain in the league for football only, if that university receives an invitation to join the Big West in all other sports.
Wright played defensive back at Texas State (then Southwest Texas State) in the late 1970s and capped his playing career as the Bobcats won the Lone Star Conference championship in 1980, their first outright league title in 17 years. Wright went to work immediately on the Texas State coaching staff as the Bobcats won Division II national titles in 1981 and 1982.
Wright then worked for two years on the staff at Louisiana-Lafayette before eventually starting a successful run as a high school football coach that advanced him to New Braunfels Canyon in 2000. At Canyon, Wright built the program to an 18-4 combined performance in 2002 and 2003. The 2003 team finished 11-2 and went to the state quarterfinals.
That was good enough to earn a call from David Bailiff, who hired Wright as assistant head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator at Texas State in 2004. In 2005, the Bobcats reached the Division I-AA national semifinals.
When Bailiff accepted the head coaching position at Rice after the 2006 season, Texas State hired Wright as the head football coach. The Bobcats struggled to a 4-7 record in 2007, but they were 8-5 with a playoff appearance and the Southland Conference championship in 2008. In 2009, the Bobcats were 7-4.
Following two straight winning seasons as a head coach, Wright guided the Bobcats to three wins in their first four games of 2010. But the wheels came off, and the Bobcats now are looking for a new coach.
“I wish Brad Wright well as we go down the road of identifying new leadership for our football program,” Texas State President Denise Trauth said.