DETROIT — Lance Guidry didn’t coach the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl and he won’t be coaching them in 2013.
He doesn’t even know if he’ll have a job after he coaches Western Kentucky against Central Michigan in the Dec. 26 game at Ford Field.
The worst part? He’s done all of this before.
Guidry, the Hilltoppers’ defensive coordinator, was named Western Kentucky’s interim coach on Dec. 8 after Willie Taggert left the school to accept the job at South Florida. Just days later, the Hilltoppers made headlines when they hired nomadic Bobby Petrino to coach the team in 2013, leaving Guidry as a lame duck.
“My resume is out there, because I don’t know if we’ll be going to South Florida with Coach Taggert, and we’re in limbo here with Coach Petrino coming in,” he said at the bowl’s welcome luncheon on Thursday. “If all else fails, I still have my Louisiana teaching certificate, so I could go home to be a high-school coach again.”
The Little Caesar’s Bowl will be Guidry’s second game as a college head coach, and the first one came in almost identical circumstances. Guidry was the defensive-backs coach at Miami (Ohio) two years ago when Mike Haywood agreed to take the coaching job at Pittsburgh. Guidry was named the interim coach and led the RedHawks to a 35-21 win over Middle Tennessee State in the GoDaddy.Com Bowl.
He then planned to follow Haywood to Pittsburgh, but that fell apart when Haywood was arrested for domestic violence only two weeks after accepting the Panthers job and immediately fired. Guidry found himself out of work for a little over a month before signing on as Taggert’s defensive coordinator at Western Kentucky.
“I’ve been through this before, and the most important part isn’t about me,” Guidry said. “Whatever happens, I’ll be coaching somewhere. Right now, I have to make that sure that all of this isn’t a distraction to our players. Coach Taggert is gone, and the younger guys know they will be working with Coach Petrino next year, but I have to make sure they all remember that they are mine right now.”
Adding to all of the drama is the fact that Western Kentucky is playing in its first bowl game. Last season, their third in FBS, they finished 7-5 and were one of only two bowl-eligible teams staying home for the holidays. This year, they posted an identical record, but that was enough to give them the Sun Belt Conference’s fourth Pizza Bowl invitation.
“Last year was heartbreaking for these kids, because they had gone 2-22 in their first two seasons at this level, and then they were able to turn it around and get themselves bowl eligible,” Guidry said. “It wasn’t easy for them to turn around and have to do it again this year.”
They also had to do it without star running back Bobby Rainey, who had rushed for over 1,600 yards in both his junior and senior seasons. Rainey is now with the Baltimore Ravens, but his shoes were more than adequately filled by junior Antonio Andrews.
“We got to spring practice, and no one on our defense could tackle Antonio,” Guidry said. “I knew I had a good defense, so I knew he was going to be a special player.”
Andrews rushed for 1,609 yards, added another 411 receiving and returned punts and kickoffs. As a result, he needs 274 yards at Ford Field to break Barry Sanders’ record of 3,250 all-purpose yards, set at Oklahoma State in 1988. Sanders never played for the Lions at Ford Field, but Andrews is still thrilled to be going for the mark in the Hall of Famer’s home city.
“Obviously, my first goal is to win the game for the school and for all our seniors,” Andrews said Thursday. “But I also want to get the record, and it would be even better to get it in the city where Barry Sanders played. He was the best, and I want to get my name up there next to him.”