Here are more notes and quotes from Thursday's announcement that Bowling Green has hired former Eastern Illinois coach Dino Babers as its new head football coach. ...
- Dino is his first name ... and his middle name is a mystery. Babers explained how he got his name: “My dad was watching the original Zorro -- it probably was in black-and-white,” he said. “There was a character in the movie that he really liked. But he didn’t take the character’s name, he waited for the credits to see what the actor’s real name was. And that actor’s name was Dino.”
When I asked about his middle name, Babers said, "I don't tell anyone my middle name. We have to break a lot more bread before I tell you my middle name."
At Eastern Illinois, Babers also had an assistant coach named Dino Kaklis. When asked if his was the only coaching staff that had two people named "Dino" on it, Babers said, “We had three on the team -- two coaches and a player, Dino Fanti. In high school there were three Dino's on my team; in college there were two Dino's on the team.
“It’s not as rare as you might think.”
- Babers is the 10th Football Bowl Subdivision head coach to be hired this season. He also is the third Football Championship Subdivision head coach to take an FBS job, joining Craig Bohl, who left North Dakota State for Wyoming and Chris Creighton, who departed Drake for Eastern Michigan.
Babers talked about the YouTube video that he sent out to his team at Eastern Illinois to tell them he was leaving. Babers said he was caught in a dilemma because EIU was not in school, so it wasn't possible to bring the team together. “I didn’t want to be one of those coaches where you went someplace else, and the players read about it on ESPN or you see it run across the ticker -- and everybody is shocked by what happened,” Babers said. “I sent out a YouTube message, and I hope everybody got it. To me, what we did there, what we accomplished, was very important. And I tried to leave them the right way.”
Click here to see the video Babers sent to the Eastern Illinois team to tell them he was leaving.
“The toughest thing was leaving ‘family,’ and those young men were like family to me,” Babers said. “The emotions that go when you have a break in a relationship like that, it’s difficult. But they are big men, and I think I raised them the right way. I think someone is going to walk into a golden opportunity with a championship caliber football team [at Eastern Illinois].”
Babers didn't talk X's and O's, but he did talk about how his philosophy would be adapted to the Bowling Green situation. “Defensively, we’ll take a good look at it, because they have played good defense here,” he said. “You have to be careful about any changes made on the defensive side.
“But I can tell you we are going to change on offense.” When asked if the offense would be similar to what he ran at EIU, Babers replied. “Why not?”
“I think, from an offensive standpoint, we’re going to get better,” Babers said. “I can’t be modest about the things we do on offense. I will be humble, but we know what we’re doing on offense, and we’re going to be good.”
- Babers was asked about the Eastern Michigan coaching job, a job that he reportedly interviewed for. “I had a lot of people talk to me,” Babers said. “To be honest with you, I let other opportunities go by because there was an opportunity I had my eye on -- and this is the opportunity I had my eye on.”
Babers said he watched the Falcons victory over Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game. “First, I saw a team that knocked off a very good team,” he said. “[Northern Illinois] was playing for a lot, and that quarterback [Jordan Lynch] is an exceptional player. But I saw a team with a fantastic individual get beat by a football team. As a coach, that was exciting. I saw the defense rally; I saw everybody fighting for a common goal. When you have that many people to fight that way for a common goal, you’re going to have great success.
“The first thing I told the team was, ‘I watched you play that game, and it was a pleasure to watch you play.’”
I asked BG athletics director Chris Kingston about the qualities that attracted him to Babers. “He’s clear and concise,” Kingston said. “He’s transparent, and he’s a man of integrity.
“One thing that stood out with me was [at Eastern Illinois] he inherited a team that was in last place in their conference, and in his first year he won the conference and was coach of the year. But then he did it again -- he won the conference and was coach of the year. That’s synonymous with what we need. We don’t need someone to rebuild a program or change a culture; I need someone to take what we have and make it better – right away.”
- Kingston's point was clear: While many people may have been impressed by Babers' quick turn-around at Eastern Illinois, Kingston was impressed that the team had even more success in his second year there. “In the army, you would fire some rounds down-range to ‘zero’ your weapon,” Kingston said. “Then you fire a round to validate. This past year he validated that Dino Babers is a legitimate head coach.”
Click here to read an overview of the announcement of Babers as head coach. Click here to read a column by The Blade's Dave Hackenberg about Babers taking a step back to move forward. And click here for a closer look at Babers resume.
- Freshman wide receiver Ronnie Moore talked about his impressions after the team met with Babers Thursday. "I was listening to him talk, and I had one question: 'What kind of offense do you run.' He looked at me and said, 'Do you know the Baylor offense? There's your offense.' And that's fine with me; I fit right into that offense. Bubble screens, throwing the ball a lot. I think I will fit into that."
When I mentioned to Moore that two Eastern Illinois receivers had close to 100 catches, and four wide receivers had at least eight touchdowns, Moore said, "That will be exciting. I think I had 24 catches (actually 26)? I hope I get to catch 80 balls next year."
When I asked him about the team's reaction to Babers, Moore said, "He had everyone in the meeting room laughing. He seemed to be pretty cool."
- Junior safety Ryland Ward called Babers an "energetic guy who seemed to be eager to find out what we're about. The feeling I got from him is that he likes what we have so far, and he can't wait to test us out."
Ward said the players asked Babers about his feelings about the defense. "I got a sense that he was going to work with what we have. He has his philosophy, and we'll see what works best."
Ward said he thought the team was adjusting well to the chances in the coaching staff. "If we were younger, I don't know if we would be able to handle this very well," Ward said. "But we have some good leaders on our team. I feel it will be a combined effort in terms of working to repeat as champions while trying to climb to a higher level."
- While a lot has been made about the wide-open passing attack, I asked sophomore running back Travis Greene if he was worried about a diminished running game. "We were a little worried because they threw the ball a lot and used a lot of four-wide and five-wide [formations]," Greene admitted. "But their running backs had a decent amount of yards, and he said we're going to pound the ball, too. I think it's going to work out."
Greene said he and his teammates are excited about the possibilities for next season. "With our defense and the offense he runs, we should be back in the MAC championship game next year," Greene said. "And that sounds exciting. We're looking forward to the off-season workouts, to get that grind on and get back to where we were this past year."