Bobby Wilder stepped down. If he was ultimately forced out or helped out the door is not important. He was on a hot seat for about two seasons, even if that hot seat had a protective barrier made up of a decade of Monarch football success. He was and is the founder of the program and as he said, poured himself into the program.
After the 10-win season just a few years back, the good times would continue. It was going to be tough after losing his QB and with the knowledge that the wins came via a little good fortune (never apologize for winning). The next season his team underperformed and started Steven Williams at QB before pulling him and beginning a QB swap shop.
He will be revered for his time in Hampton Roads, and among beat writers for his candor and openness. This season he pulled out every stop he could think of: reconfiguring his staff, pulling in JUCO guys, trying out a few different QB options. None of it worked to the level of winning and ODU produced a horrendous offensive season amid a season full of losses. The only win came against Norfolk State as the program unveiled its new stadium. The nervy win was a sign of things to come: none of them good.
We can discuss how bad it actually was (beginning with a league worst 14.5 pig vs conference) or we can focus on the future. Winning at ODU will not be easy, but winning in this league is not easy in general. There are several candidates worth looking at for fun’s sake, but the search firm will do even more than that.
This year the league was very thin and there was a ton of parity. Next year that may not be the case but any coach can win in this league fairly quickly depending on a few factors:
- Can you adapt your scheme to the players
- Can you get culture buy-in?
- Can you get lucky?
ODU will be tough at first because of all the new JUCO guys on the roster. There may be some lean years to start — something like the Rice situation — but finding a coach with a clear idea of what he wants to do and how to get there is probably the quickest way. What other options are there?, you ask, as that suggestion is seemingly obvious. Well, there are a number of hires that go different ways. Hiring “a guy” or “a name” or even someone who can talk football really nicely is not it. Definitely not a “recruiter.”
Beyond that the changeover from Bobby Wilder will be a culture shock to the periphery — the donors who built a relationship with him to the media folks who enjoyed easy conversation and an open book.
This season was about as rough as it can come in this game, and there plenty of suffering in store for the program no matter who they hire. The budget will be small if we look at Wilder’s $600k+ salary, and such a budget hire means compromise. The athletic department has hit up the donor base for stadium money and they will be asking them to reach deeper in their pockets for the next hire.
The price of a good coach is going up, always. Even in CUSA.