MURFREESBORO - Rick Stockstill stayed put after all. Middle Tennessee State's football coach turned down an offer to become East Carolina's new head coach on Tuesday.
Considering the better pay and higher profile job, some were shocked by Stockstill's decision to stay with the Blue Raiders. Stockstill said it was a matter of bad timing and good principles.
"The timing is never good for a coach to change jobs," Stockstill said. "However, the timing of this opportunity came at a critical time in recruiting with both universities and to the fault of neither MTSU nor East Carolina. "... I could not look in the eyes of these recruits and their families and tell them the things I believe in and what I want them to believe in and then leave Middle Tennessee with only two weeks left in the recruiting process."
National Signing Day is Feb. 3, and Stockstill is on the road recruiting for most of this week. On Tuesday morning, he notified East Carolina and also MTSU Athletics Director Chris Massaro of his decision to return to the Blue Raiders for the 2010 season.
Stockstill, a fourth-year head coach, led MTSU to a 10-3 record and New Orleans Bowl victory last season. It marked the most single-season wins ever by a Sun Belt Conference team. MTSU also received votes 12 points the final ESPN/USA Today poll and four in the Associated Press poll voting, each marking the best finish in program history.
If he had accepted the East Carolina offer, Stockstill would have become the first Sun Belt head football coach to ever accept a job at a perceived higher profile program. AD happy with decision Massaro said Stockstill's decision speaks volumes of the Sun Belt's progress, as well as the MTSU program.
"I would say this is a statement for the conference," Massaro said. "There's no reason why the Sun Belt Conference can't be considered equal to Conference USA. ... It says a lot that Coach Stockstill believes enough in the potential of what we can accomplish here at Middle Tennessee, that he would turn down those kinds of overtures."
tockstill also turned down a hefty bump in salary. He reportedly earned $281,655 in 2009, but it is believed his East Carolina salary would have exceeded $1 million per year. On Tuesday, Massaro said he was working to extend Stockstill's contract, as requested by the coach.
"The biggest concern he had was security, that he could stay here for a long time," Massaro said. "We have done that, and we are discussing some aspects of that. We will put some addendums in his contract. But it really was not about money. If it was about money, he would already be gone because there was no way we could've matched the kind of package that (ECU) has."
Stockstill has posted a 27-23 overall record and 20-9 Sun Belt mark in four seasons at MTSU.