The Walkthrough: Breaking up with Brohm

Head coach Jeff Brohm reacts during the Red and White Spring Game Saturday, April 19, 2014, at Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Evan Heichelbech

In the wake of WKU redshirt junior linebacker T.J. McCollum’s recent decision to spend his final year of eligibility elsewhere and transfer from the program, former head coach Jeff Brohm is the one to blame.

At least that’s what some Hilltopper fans believe. 

Rumors of McCollum’s decision to transfer began circulating eight days ago, and he was officially granted his request to transfer from the school exactly one week ago. It didn’t take long for WKU fans on the Twittersphere to react to the news, and for those who voiced their opinions, they were less-than accepting of the news. 

In response to a  tweet by WBKO’s Chad Bishop that reported McCollum could be following former WKU head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue, one fan with the username “@pawzprint” went so far as to suggest that Bishop “#breakupwithBrohm”, suggesting that Bishop “do a report critical of Brohm”. But the irony in that so-called fan’s plea is that he, along with a seemingly substantial amount of Hilltopper fans appear to be breaking up with Brohm themselves. 

The key word in Bishop’s original report is “could”, because nothing is official yet as far as where the former Hilltopper will play in his final year of eligibility. The only hint that carries actual substance is a tweet from McCollum’s former Clay-Chalkville High assistant coach Sean Talsma congratulating him on his transfer to Purdue. That tweet has since been deleted. 

But some tweets that have not been deleted and seem to gain an increasing amount of pent-up anger as McCollum’s decision continues to loom, are tweets critical of the WKU program’s former conductor. 

Some of the tweets are mild and lack an overall sense of logic like the one from user “@tim_fruit” who criticized Brohm, a.k.a. “JB”, saying, “@MrChadBishop graduate transfers are not kids any more, it is not transfer as much as waiting till the last moment, shame JBtoo.”

Others are a bit more direct, like the one from “@WKUFan518” who claimed that “it’s not the kids fault, blame prior coaching staff, this is getting ridiculous …” 

Then there’s the burn-every-bridge approach like the one “@MHuffCUBS” took, responding to the reports with aspirations that Brohm “falls on his face” and that the “big10 fields are smeared with black and gold where #Purdue gets ran over.”

Regardless of whether or not the pushback is blunt criticism of Brohm or if it’s carried by an undertone of annoyance, none of it is warranted.

There is absolutely nothing for Hilltopper fans to be upset at Jeff Brohm about. He just led one of the most successful three-year spans in program history and re-established WKU football as an exciting brand on a national stage.

The New England Patriots literally ran one of WKU’s plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday. 

Also, this isn’t a Jeff Brohm issue. This is something that happens in college sports. Players follow the coaches that they trust. They follow the coaches that they committed to as high school recruits; the coaches that have helped develop them and mentor them during their formative years as student-athletes. 

Consider the situation from McCollum’s perspective. He started at Alabama-Birmingham in 2013. He played in 10 games in the 2014 season after redshirting his freshman season. Immediately after that season, the UAB football program was shut down. Who was one of the coaches that gave him a chance to continue his football career? Jeff Brohm. Now, Brohm is the head coach at a Power-5 school. To go from starting at a school that didn’t have enough funding to continue its football program after your second year to playing in a conference that includes the highest level of competition in the country is not a chance many players will ever get. And it’s certainly not a chance that many players will ever pass up. 

At this point, McCollum’s future playing destination is still solely speculation. The public does not definitively know where he’s going, why he’s going, when it will be known where he’s going, or if the idea to transfer was all one of his own. But what the public does know — or at least they should – is that no matter where McCollum ends up, it does not give fans the license to criticize anyone. 

Reporter Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 502-415-1817 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.