D-III dynasty at Wisconsin-Whitewater in transition
WHITEWATER, Wis. (AP) Change is coming for a small-school dynasty.
The search for a new football coach at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater may not draw the kind of scrutiny that, say, Big Ten power Wisconsin received during its high-profile, rumor-filled pursuit of a new leader.
But the new coach at Whitewater will immediately inherit great expectations.
It’s not often that a job comes open at a school with the nation’s longest winning streak (32 games) and six national titles in the last eight seasons.
”We want to have the tradition that we have to keep going,” junior safety Bennett Young said. ”We want him to buy into what we’ve done because clearly it has been working the past decade.”
”However, we also want to bring in some new experience … add that on to what we already had here,” he added.
It sounds like a delicate balance for Lance Leipold’s replacement in the small southern Wisconsin town about 50 miles west of Milwaukee.
Leipold left to take the same position at Buffalo after beating Mount Union in the NCAA Division III title game last month. He finished a remarkable eight-year run with a 109-6 record before making the rare leap from a small school to Bowl Subdivision program.
Leipold also achieved a milestone in October with his 100th win in just 106 games. No one in NCAA history has reached the 100-win plateau in such a short time.
”We have a 32-game winning streak that’s better now than all the divisions combined. That’s a lot of stress coming in right away with the thought of continuing it on,” athletic director Amy Edmonds said this week.
She considers that pressure a given. Any legitimate candidate would know about Whitewater’s success going into the application process.
”But I am looking for someone that’s resourceful, that knows how to line themselves up with successful coaches,” Edmonds said. Having the next hire have a plan in place about who he wants to hire as assistants will be important for a quick transition.
Fundraising and being visible in the community will also be important at a school that doesn’t award athletic scholarships.
Edmonds expects to pick someone who is flexible but might have a similar philosophy.
”Certainly you’ve got to grease the wheel, as you will, to make things better as you move along,” she said. ”But certainly – what we’ve been doing has been pretty successful. The last thing I want is someone coming and changing everything the first week they’re here.”
The open forums on campus this past week for each of the five finalists might help Edmonds make her choice. Boosters, coaches, students and players like Young were all among the roughly 40 people who attended one of the forums on Monday.
Such forums for coaching searches aren’t uncommon at small institutions. But public searches can present a unique challenge for candidates at a time on the football calendar when coaches are busy recruiting.
On Monday, it was Dave Taynor’s turn to take questions at the forum. Dressed in a dark gray suit and a purple tie that matched Whitewater’s primary school color, Taynor opened with a 15-minute presentation that was part motivational talk and part sales pitch.
Taynor, currently the head coach at Division II Urbana, said he was calling recruits when he wasn’t in the middle of interviews this week at Whitewater. But he was perfectly comfortable in the open forum.
”You want to see how they’re able to handle tough questions that are on the spot, be able to deliver a message clearly and succinctly,” he said. ”This is a very good thing to do.”
The open forums wrapped up on Tuesday. Edmonds said she could make a decision as soon as Friday.