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Matt Viator and ULM part ways

The Warhawks will be looking for a new head coach through the offseason.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 10 Louisiana Monroe at South Alabama Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Throw another team into the coaching carousel this pandemic offseason. News broke this morning that Louisiana Monroe will be looking for a new coach, pending official confirmation from the university. Matt Viator’s exit from Monroe was first reported by Aaron Dietrich of KNOE8.

Viator was selected to lead the ULM program after a decade-long run at McNeese State where Viator compiled a 78-33 record and accumulated five FCS playoff appearances. Thanks to Viator’s experience in winning with a limited budget at McNeese, Viator’s hire at ULM was mostly met with praise. Through his first four years in Monroe, Viator delivered on the promise.

The Warhawks went a modest 4-8 in both 2016 and 2017 before Viator led the team to a 6-6 record in 2018. With standouts like Caleb Evans, Marcus Green, and Josh Pederson excelling, all signs pointed to the Warhawks breaking through to a bowl game in the following years.

Unfortunately, the Warhawks dropped to 5-7 in 2019 after a one point loss to Louisiana in the final game of the season. This marked the beginning of the end for Viator, as ULM turned in a miserable 0-10 performance through their 2020 season.

While things escalated quickly for Viator, it is interesting to think about how his fate would have worked out had ULM managed two more points against their rival in 2019 and scrapped their way into a bowl game.

You can’t blame a program for parting ways with a winless coach, but securing a clear upgrade in coaching talent will be a challenge.

New Athletic Director Scott McDonald signed Viator to a contract extension this June, however Viator’s buyout stands at a meager $175,000.

ULM athletics reported expenses totaling $16,927,856 in 2019, the lowest budget among all FBS schools. The Warhawks operated without an athletic director leading the program for the majority of the 2019 calendar year, and ULM missed out on an estimated $3,000,000 in revenue this fiscal year due to Power 5 “buy” games being canceled due to the pandemic.

On top of other decreases in revenue such as ticket sales, increases in costs due to Covid-19 testing, etc., ULM’s budget crisis is clearly being kicking into overdrive. Unless a donor steps up with a resounding financial gift in the 7 digits, ULM will be working with a shoestring budget to make their next hire.

The list of coaches on Scott McDonald’s short list is unknown, however Viator’s salary of $390,000 won’t attract any rising stars.

We can set expectations by looking back to ULM’s coaching search in 2016. The list of applicants receiving interviews included ULM alumnus and current DC Defenders (XFL) Offensive Line coach Chris Scelfo, former Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson, TCU running backs coach Curtis Luper, and current WKU head coach Tyson Helton.

Given ULM’s grave budget concerns, Chris Scelfo would be an obvious candidate for the Warhawks if Scelfo is interested in returning to the college ranks. Scelfo was the head coach at Tulane from 1998 to 2006 where he went 37-57 and won two bowl games.

Stay tuned for Underdog Dynasty for more information on the direction this coaching search heads in, as ULM competes with Sun Belt foe South Alabama for coaching talent.