Tom Sorensen

Brad Lambert was right guy for Charlotte 49ers, but now he’s not. Here’s who is

Brad Lambert (right) was just the guy to launch a football program at Charlotte, but is he still the guy to lead the 49ers at the BCS level?
Brad Lambert (right) was just the guy to launch a football program at Charlotte, but is he still the guy to lead the 49ers at the BCS level? AP

I like Brad Lambert, who coaches football for the Charlotte 49ers. Everybody appears to like him. He was a good choice to introduce 49ers’ football to alumni, friends and fans of the school, and to Charlotte.

Lambert is not, however, the coach to take the team where it needs to go. The program is five years old now, and not only has it not improved, it has regressed. If I’m 49ers’ athletic director Judy Rose, I change my mind, thank Lambert for his time and let him go.

Like most schools, Charlotte has two major sports, football and mens basketball. Neither Lambert nor mens basketball coaches Alan Major and Mark Price had experience as a collegiate head coach when Rose hired them. Price is in only his third season. Alan Major, who preceded Price, was woefully overmatched.

Lambert was not going to win at Charlotte. Bill Belichick would not win at Charlotte. The 49ers played only two seasons in the Football Championship Subdivision. They had an opportunity to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, so they did.

The move made sense. There was no reason to wait. But it also ensured that the 49ers would lose. The difference between the FCS and FBS is more than a letter.

After going 5-6 in his first two seasons in FCS, Lambert has gone 2-10, 4-8 and this season 1-11 in FBS.

Almost nobody off campus believed that the 49ers should start a football program, and detractors loudly enjoyed sharing their pessimism. But why do outsiders get to define the 49ers? I believed that they could start a program, and that the program would succeed. I still believe that.

But the early excitement has been muted, and at Jerry Richardson Stadium plenty of tickets are available, always. The 49ers lost this season by an average of 19 points. To be fair, the margin was pushed up by a 48-point loss to Lambert’s alma mater, Kansas State.

Football simply doesn’t work. Lambert admitted as much when on Monday he announced that he’d demoted his offensive coordinator and fired his defensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and receivers coach.

Rose, however, said in a statement that she is “confident in” Lambert’s ability. Lambert said he was “the right guy for this place.”

He was the right guy. He’s not anymore.

There are many coaches out there without and with head coaching experience to which Rose could entrust the program. One of them is former Carolina Panther Mike Minter, who has lifted the Campbell Camels football program in five seasons there.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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