Mike Locksley, who was Ron Zook's first offensive coordinator at Illinois, was fired Sunday as New Mexico head coach. It wasn't a surprise, considering that Locksley went 2-26 in two-plus seasons with the Lobos.
In addition, it was a difficult tenure marked by numerous off-the-field embarrassments, including a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former administrative assistant and an altercation with an assistant coach that prompted UNM officials to give Locksley a 10-day suspension.
The last straw came on Saturday, when New Mexico lost 48-45 in overtime Saturday to Sam Houston State before an announced crowd of 16,313, the Lobos' smallest home crowd in almost 19 years.
It's a sad day. When Locksley was at Illinois, he was an exceptional recruiter who spearheaded the Illini's Washington, D.C., pipeline, which included future NFLers Vontae Davis and Arrelious Benn. As Illinois' offensive coordinator, he also did an excellent job of harnessing the skills of quarterback Juice Williams, who led the Illinois to the Rose Bowl in 2007.
When Locksley was an Illinois assistant, I thought he had a chance to be a very successful head coach. While in Champaign, he was personable, a fine recruiter and a coach who seemed to know his Xs and Os.
When he took the New Mexico job, though, that was a head-scratcher. He was ranging far from his East Coast roots to a program that had been struggling before he got there.
In hindsight, a move to a mid-major program replacing a successful coach who was moving up would have made more sense. Barring that option, going East would have given him a better chance.
None of that matters now, though. Locksley's dismissal is another reminder of what a tough business coaching is.