Even as losses piled up this season, Ardie McInelly continued to promise a brighter future for the Air Force women’s basketball program.
That future may come, but not with McInelly at the helm.
The academy has fired the coach, according to a statement released Monday, approximately three weeks after she completed her ninth season. McInelly’s teams went 57-201, including 12-124 in Mountain West Conference play.
“We felt that now was the right time to go in another direction in our women’s basketball program,” Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh said in a statement. “Our primary mission at the academy is to build leaders of character for our Air Force, and we will look to find an individual to help us continue that mission. We wish Ardie well and thank her for her nine years of service to the academy.”
McInelly had two years remaining on her contract, so the academy owes her $355,969.68.
The Falcons went 3-27 in the recently completed 2009-10 season, breaking the program record for losses they had set in 2008-09. They also went 0-16 in Mountain West Conference play in 2009-10. It was Air Force’s second winless league season in a row – a dubious distinction considering no other Division I team in the country failed to win a league game in that time.
The women’s basketball program has lost 37 consecutive games to MWC opponents – a streak that dates back to the 2007-08 season – and all but four were decided by double digits. The Falcons lost 23 of them by 20 or more points, including 14 by 30 or more points.
McInelly, who took over prior to the 2001-02 season, twice seemed to have the program going in the right direction. The Falcons went 13-15 overall, including 4-12 in MWC play, in 2005-06. But the following season, with four starters back, they went 6-23 and 1-15.
Air Force then went 10-19 and 4-12 in 2007-08. But the Falcons haven’t won a league game since.
McInelly is the second coach from one of the five revenue-generating sports to be let go during the current academic year. In late November the academy fired women’s volleyball coach Penny Lucas-White, who was 97-302 in 14 seasons as coach.
McInelly released the following statement through the academy:
“For the past nine years I and my staff have worked tirelessly and persistently to build a women’s basketball program at the Air Force Academy that is worthy of this great university. We have recruited young women who uphold the honor, integrity and tradition of the Air Force Academy, and I am proud of our efforts. Our athletes have enjoyed many triumphs in their pursuit of excellence and they have experienced their share of struggles. They have endured through it all to represent the best that this or any other university could ask for.
“I would like to thank the academy for the opportunity that I and my staff have been blessed with to head this program. Though we did not obtain every objective we set out to reach at the start of our journey, I am proud to say that we served with honor, integrity, and service to others above self in our daily pursuit of excellence. I am humbled and proud today at our finish because of the way we have run the race. We wish great future success to the Air Force Academy in their continued pursuit of excellence in the Falcon women’s basketball program.”