THE PROBLEM WITH Brent Guy's plan to remain Utah State's football coach is that it's much like John McCain's plan to become president.

You can't move ahead when people associate you with the past.

Fair or not, McCain was viewed as an extension of George W. Bush's unpopular policies. The Democrats could have put a golden retriever on the ballot and still won.

As Utah State attempts to secure its future, it can't move forward without distancing itself from its past — which includes the last four seasons under Guy. It can't sell a program that includes the least-successful football coach in school history.

Heaven knows, winning at Utah State is tough. If the Aggies play one "money" game each year (last season was Oklahoma, the year before, Arkansas) that's an automatic loss. So are games against Utah and BYU, if they're both on the schedule. Then there are near-certain losses to Boise State, Fresno State and — on most years — Hawaii and Nevada.

That's six or seven defeats before they've even kicked off.

This predicament has contributed to Guy's 8-37 mark (.177), which is worse than predecessors Mick Dennehy (19-37, .339), Dave Arslaninan (7-15, .318), Chris Pella (9-24, .273) and any other Aggie coach.

If you're a booster being asked to donate, you don't want to hear about challenges, you want to hear about wins. It's a tough sell when your favorite team hasn't had a winning record in 12 years.

Things have been particularly gruesome under Guy, whose teams have never finished higher than sixth in their conference. Expecting USU to beat Boise State is unrealistic. But why can't it beat Idaho, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State every year?

Even if the Aggies win out this year, giving them a respectable 4-4 conference mark, it won't be enough to convince many boosters to contribute. With a 4-8 overall record, USU still wouldn't be bowl-eligible.

Considering there are 34 bowl games this year (68 teams) the bar isn't high.

Guy has a year remaining on his contract, worth approximately $250,000. Although the athletic department may not be able to afford a buyout, it really can't afford to keep him. It would likely cost more in lost donations than it would in salary.

Beyond that are attendance issues. Starting the 2006 season, USU was among a dozen schools that didn't meet the NCAA's minimum average attendance of 15,000 over a rolling two-year period. It followed up by averaging 11,360 in 2006 and 13,131 in 2007.

So maybe the NCAA isn't as hard-nosed as it sounds — no team to date has been downgraded due to attendance woes, so there's apparently some leeway.

The Aggies better hope so. This year's average is 15,700, with only a game against New Mexico State remaining. The Aggies' biggest draws were against Utah (19,061) and BYU (23,101). But in other home games they only average 12,112.

Which means USU could be endangered as a Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A) program. If it draws 12,112 fans to its Nov. 29 finale, it will exceed the minimum by an average of just 102 fans.

Some say USU should wait until the season is over to pass judgment on Guy. But other schools haven't been so patient. Tennessee, Washington, Clemson and Kansas State have already pink-slipped their coaches. That mid-season approach may not immediately result in wins, but it can't hurt.

No team that fires its coach is in a good place at the moment.

Terminating Guy sooner would allow USU to start putting out feelers early for a replacement. Reports say Clemson is already talking to coaching candidates.

At least in one sense, USU football is enjoying a resurgence. The new Laub Athletics Complex is a showcase. Sources say certain donors are willing to contribute more — but only if coaching changes are made.

Theoretically, Guy could turn things around in his final year. But boosters get tired of the same story. They don't want explanations. Like voters, all they really want is a fresh face and the buoyant promise of change.