'We have to get this right': ULM AD Scott McDonald's plan to find new football coach
Scott McDonald won’t rush to fill Louisiana-Monroe’s latest football coaching vacancy, his first as athletic director at his alma mater.
“I take this very seriously and I understand we have to get this right,” McDonald told the Monroe News-Star. “The sense or urgency is high, but I can’t allow that to influence a decision that if we take another day or two, could create a clearer picture.”
ULM fired Matt Viator on Monday with one game left in his fifth season. His record was 19-39 overall and 15-24 in Sun Belt Conference play. The Warhawks fell to 0-10 following last week's 48-15 loss at Arkansas State.
McDonald is running the search and consulting ULM President Ron Berry throughout the process. ULM declined to hire a search firm nor will McDonald form a traditional search committee. He plans to seek input from a select group of locals and current football players.
“There are some procedural things and posting guidelines that we certainly want to observe, and I want to make sure we gather a pool from within our community,” McDonald said. “We’ve already begun that process and that’s how we plan to proceed.”
While he didn’t commit to a timetable, McDonald would like to have a new coach in place before Christmas. Proven success is important to McDonald, but experience as a head coach isn’t required.
“The interest and people who have reached out have been overwhelming. There’s a lot of very prominent football coaches who have reached out and volunteered that they think this is a great place for someone to have success and they have people they think can come in here and do the job.”
McDonald said he’d like to discuss candidates with Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson, a former ULM quarterback.
“Doug is a valued member of our alumni and obviously knows the game of football,” McDonald said. “I would add there are others that have been involved with this program that absolutely will be reached out to that have a lot of experience and passion toward this university.”
McDonald sees ULM as a great coaching opportunity despite its financial limitations and struggles in FBS. ULM has the smallest athletic budget of any FBS school and is the only Sun Belt Conference member that doesn’t offer cost of attendance to players. The Warhawks have finished with a winning record once since moving up from FCS in 1994.
Viator’s salary was among the bottom in FBS and below some assistant coaches. The athletic department faces a possible $4.3 million loss due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Viator is owed a $175,000 buyout. He signed a two-year extension in June.
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ULM is exploring options to offer cost of attendance and has discussed long-term facility projects like an indoor practice field and renovations to the Malone Stadium lobby area.
McDonald pointed to recent gains as selling points, including the new Warhawk Village on-campus housing, renovations to the offices and coach's locker room inside Malone Stadium, improvements in player nutrition and a partnership with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine to provide sports medicine to players.
“This is a great place and a program that can achieve great things,” McDonald said. “We want to and we will play for championships. If you think back to last season, we’re just a kick away from being bowl eligible. The season before that, we were just a kick away from a bowl game.
“It’s not like we’ve had a long string of bad seasons and we’re going to get this thing back to where we’re playing meaningful games in November.”
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