Well, it’s been a busy week for the Bowling Green football team -- and a period filled with highs and lows. That period began with the “high” of a MAC championship Friday, claimed with a convincing with over nationally ranked Northern Illinois, then followed with another “high” in getting the bid to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Sunday.
But on Monday night there was a “low” for the team with the news that coach Dave Clawson would be leaving the BG program to become coach at Wake Forest University. Tuesday morning included a tearful team meeting to say goodbye, then the announcement that Adam Scheier would become interim coach before Clawson was introduced to the folks in Winston-Salem, N.C., Tuesday afternoon.
So now there are questions. Boy, there are a BUNCH of questions. Let’s start digging for answers, OK?
- Why did Clawson leave for the job at WakeForest?
Well, the cynics will say the money. I will grant the cynics this: Money is PART of the explanation, since the word I get from insiders at Wake (there is no official word, since Wake Forest is a private institution and does not need to release salary information) is that Clawson will make roughly $1.1 million per season, which certainly is a pay raise from the $400,000 base salary he received at BG. If someone offered to triple your salary, you’d consider it too, right?
But that’s only part of the reason. Another reason is the challenge: At Wake Forest Clawson now has a chance to compete for an Atlantic Coast Conference title. Don’t say it’s not possible to win an ACC title there, since the Demon Deacons won the ACC title in 2006. If you are a competitor, you want to compete for a title at the highest levels, and being part of an automatic qualifier conference and program gives him that opportunity.
Also, remember that Clawson comes from a “private school” background. Clawson graduated from a private school in the East (Williams College), and his experience at private schools such as Fordham and Richmond shows he understands the private school experience. And for those who don’t feel a private school with high academic standards can compete, consider this: How are private schools at the AQ level such as Stanford, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Duke doing these days?
Finally, Clawson said his entire family lives in the Charlotte area, which means he will live less than 90 minutes away from his parents and family.
In his introductory press conference at Wake Forest, Clawson looked to be near tears when talking about his time at BG. “This is not a matter of wanting to leave a place,” he said. “I am extremely excited about the opportunity to come here, but it was gut-wrenching and heart-breaking to leave a group of players that I fell in love with over the past five years.”
Several players confirmed that the meeting Tuesday morning was “emotional.”
“He was crying, and he was upset; he told us how hard of a decision it was,” senior captain Ronnie Goble said of Clawson. “He told us some personal things: How good the move with be for his family, how he is moving closer to his family. He also told us that he loves us, that he is with us [in spirit] and that he’s rooting for us. And he gave us some ‘next steps’ to keep this going for next year.”
Junior captain Gabe Martin agreed, adding, “A lot of guys were hurt, but at the end of the day you have to understand [why he did it]. It was a tough decision for him, but it was a good move for him professionally and personally, for his family. You can’t knock him for that.”
“I feel Adam is going to do a great job leading the team,” BG athletics director Chris Kingston said. “He will provide great continuity and leadership, and those are the things I was looking for in my decision.”
Scheier said he found out he would be named the interim coach on Monday and called it a “welcome surprise.” But he also indicated little would change as the team prepares to play in the bowl game.
“We had ironed out a tentative schedule shortly after the MAC championship game,” he said. “What is in the best interest of this team is sticking to that. I don’t think this is a time where they need drastic change. There is a routine we’ve established, there is a culture here, and I think it’s a routine that has been successful for 13 weeks. So we’re not going to deviate from that.”
Both Goble and Martin expressed satisfaction with the decision.
“He’s a great leader and a great man,” Goble said of Scheier. “He’s funny and charismatic. We all love him, so he’s a great fit as interim coach.”
How will this affect the Falcons in the bowl game? The hope is that it will bring them together, something BG saw in last season’s Military Bowl after San Jose State lost its coach. The Spartans played hard for a staff that was leaving, and that staff put together a solid game plan that helped SJSU beat the Falcons.
“People will tell you that adversity builds character, and we’ve learned that adversity reveals character,” Kingston said. “These young men have the character. We’ve dealt with injuries. We’ve dealt with games that haven’t gone our way.
“This is one more piece of adversity we’ll face. It’s like the 24-hour rule: We’ll spend 24 hours thinking about all the great things coach Clawson and his family brought to BG, and then we’ll focus on Pitt.”
Scheier also said he believes the Falcons won’t skip a beat in its preparation for the bowl.
“We have tremendous, tremendous leaders in this program who have been here four and five years,” Scheier said. “It is my job to keep this thing together, to be the leader, so to speak. But we have a tremendous group of seniors who will insure that it is a ‘business as usual’ approach. With that leadership in place, I am sure there is no reason we should skip a beat.”
- What will happen to the rest of the BG football staff?
The decision to elevate Scheier to the interim position is an indication of one of two things. One is that offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero and defensive coordinator Mike Elko both will receive opportunities to compete for the job, and Kingston wants to keep them on equal football by not elevating one to the head coach’s position. The other is that neither are candidates -- and judging by Clawson’s words at Wake, that is the more likely scenario.
“That involves recruiting, too, and I certainly hope [they come here],” Clawson said in the Wake Forest press conference. “I want them join us; I hope they choose to join us. They are good coaches that may have other opportunities. We’re trying to get them down here as soon as we can.”
Bowling Green officials indicated they expect strength and conditioning coach Brandon Hourigan to take a similar position with the Demon Deacons. It wouldn’t surprise me if other BG coaches joined Clawson in Winston-Salem -- AFTER the bowl game, of course. If Scheier is not a candidate for the job at BG, I would expect he will leave for Wake Forest as well.
When I asked Scheier if Clawson had spoken to either he or other coaches about joining him at Wake, Scheier declined comment.
- Who will be the next coach of the BG football team?
If that question was easy to answer, I promise I would have a story on Page 1 of The Blade answering it for you.
The good news is that Kingston said he isn’t worried about attracting good candidates to the position.
“We are a very ‘recruit-able’ program; my job is not very difficult in terms of finding people who want to be here,” Kingston said. “I am very confident in my abilities and in the staff, and in this program’s reputation, to find the right man to lead the program.”
When asked if there was a timetable to get the position filled, Kingston said, “You can never put a timetable on these things. As soon as we find the right person for the job [we will hire him]. It’s a process where no two are alike.”
As for candidates, as the interim coach, Scheier could be a candidate for the position full-time. “In time, that would be a conversation I would love to have,” Scheier admitted. “Right now is not the right time. What serves this program best is for me to take a leadership role, for us to keep plugging away, and for all of us to do everything we can to win a bowl game by beating a good ACC team up in Detroit.”
Other potential replacements for Clawson include D.J. Durkin, the defensive coordinator from Florida who is a former Falcon player and coach; Pat Narduzzi, the Michigan State defensive coordinator whose candidacy at schools such as UConn may indicate he may not consider the BG opening; Mick McCall, the Northwestern offensive coordinator who has coached at Bowling Green; and Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton, a Cleveland native who also has coached at BG.
Please remember that there could be a number of other candidates whose names pop up in the coming weeks.
When I asked Kingston for the qualities he would look for in a coach, he responded, "The best predictor of future success is past success. What I look for is someone who already is doing what you want them to do. I want a winner. I want someone who has proven themselves. I want someone who can interact with the university and community. And I want someone with the emotional intelligence to reach these players to get the best out of them.
I asked if "proven" meant someone with prior head coaching experience, and Kingston said, "There's something to be a said for [being a head coach]. Is that the end-all, be-all? No. But it's a a powerful characteristic if it's someone leading their organization in the right way. Finding a CEO who is a good fit carries a lot of weight."
Kingston also said Tuesday was his 148th day on the job, and despite that short tenure he has some ideas heading into the search.
- What other concerns face the BG football program?
One concern that is easy to overlook, yet critical to the continued success of the program, is recruiting. At the press conference at Wake Forest Clawson said he hoped players who already have verbally committed to BG will honor that commitment to the Falcons.
“I would never encourage a player to de-commit,” he said. “I really hope that’s a bridge we don’t have to cross. … I think it’s wrong to recruit guys who committed to your previous institution.”
Another question is whether the BG football program can bounce back from the loss of its coach. Falcon fans should be buoyed by these words from Clawson near the enter of his introductory press conference at Wake Forest: “The culture [at Bowling Green] this past year was as good as anywhere I have ever been. Those guys enjoyed playing football, and they enjoyed practicing football. They had fun, and I think that’s a reason why we won. If it’s drudgery, and it feels like work, it’s hard to win game.”
TO READ MORE: Click here to read the story from Blade columnist Dave Hackenberg on how Clawson has left the program in better condition than he found it. Click here to read my story from late Monday night about Clawson taking the job at Wake Forest. And click here to read my story in Wednesday's paper about events in BG and Wake Forest.
If I missed a question you would like to have answered, click on the "Post a comment" field below and ask it. Keep the questions and comments clean and civil, and I will respond as soon as I'm able.