This item originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2003, issue of The Tech Talk.
By BRET H. MCCORMICK
Associate Sports Editor
Tech's 2003 football season began with great expectations, featuring the toughest schedule in the school's history.
After the Bulldogs upset Michigan State 20-19, optimism reached its peak as Tech stood 2-1 on the year heading into Western Athletic Conference play.
However, the season went downhill from there.
The Bulldogs closed the season losing three of their last four games, including blowout losses to LSU, Tulsa and Rice.
After the Tulsa and Rice games, speculation rose as to whether head coach Jack Bicknell would return after the Bulldogs 5-7 season, their third losing season in the past four years.
Bicknell met with Tech President Dr. Dan Reneau and Athletic Director Jim Oakes on Dec. 1 and 2 about the future of the football program and the necessary changes that needed to be made.
After the meetings, both Reneau and Oakes gave Bicknell a vote of confidence. Rumors had swirled of his firing, despite having three years left on his contract.
"I have complete and total confidence in Jack Bicknell and his ability to continue to lead our football program," Reneau said.
"Jack Bicknell is a man of high integrity, and I am impressed with his commitment to seeing the job through. He has voiced a willingness to make necessary changes in order to put the program in a position for future success."
Reneau may have confidence in Bicknell, but not all of Tech's fans do.
"I think we have a lot of raw talent," David Orges, a freshman civil engineering major, said.
"We have a lot of people that should be utilized in different ways -- a different style of football.
"I don't think Bicknell is driving the program in the right direction. Just by our record this year and in the past, he hasn't proved himself."
One of the changes made, however, was the firing of co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Rick Smith.
Smith, who had been at the head of the Bulldogs' defense the past two seasons, was let go after Tech finished last in the country in total defense, giving up over 500 yards a game.
"This is a time of tremendous change in college athletics, and the stability that Jack Bicknell brings to the program is very important," Oakes said.
"It's important that the Tech family unite behind our football program, and we move forward to ensure our future success."
Jonathan Ford, a sophomore computer information systems major, believes Tech's efforts to leave the WAC and get into Conference USA contributed to Bicknell staying.
"I think the reason he's still here is that we want to get into a better conference," Ford said.
During his five years at Tech, Bicknell's Bulldogs have posted a 27-32 record, including the 2001 WAC championship, a trip to the Humanitarian Bowl and wins over Alabama, Oklahoma State and Michigan State.
Tech has played against 19 BCS schools (in the six biggest conferences) under Bicknell and will travel to Miami and Auburn in 2004.
Bicknell still has three years and $450,000 remaining on his five-year contract.
The contract was extended after the 2001 conference championship season.