DETROIT (AP) — When Bowling Green coach Adam Scheier came to Detroit on Friday for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl news conference, he was following what has become a tradition for the Mid-American Conference champs — on-the-job training.
A week earlier, Scheier was the special teams coordinator when the Falcons upset No. 14 Northern Illinois at Ford Field, but he’s now about to face his first game as a head coach at any level.
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He took over the Falcons on an interim basis after Dave Clawson left to become head coach at Wake Forest earlier this week. It is the fifth time in the last seven seasons the winning coach in the MAC title game had moved before his team played in its bowl game.
“In this conference, success generally leads to opportunity,” Scheier said. “I can’t even describe what the last week has been like, because I’ve never done anything like it. You go from winning a championship one day as a position coach to suddenly being in front of the whole team the next day as the head coach, getting them ready for a bowl game.”
The MAC has always been a stepping stone for coaching careers, most famously the “Cradle of Coaches” at Miami, but things have picked up in the past few years. Last season, Dave Doeren coached Northern Illinois to a double-overtime win over Kent State in the title game, putting the Huskies into the BCS, then immediately took the North Carolina State job. Golden Flashes coach Darrell Hazell used his team’s performance to get the job at Purdue.
That’s why Bowling Green athletic director Chris Kingston wasn’t stunned that he was doing a coaching search shortly after the school’s first conference title in 21 years.
“The search started immediately, but I’m in my 152nd day on the job at Bowling Green and I’ve been keeping an eye on possible coaches since the day I started,” Kingston said Friday. “I haven’t been a part of the conference long enough to speak about it on a wider basis, but it isn’t a surprise when bigger schools come after coaches with the kind of success that Coach Clawson had at our school.”
Even the Bowling Green players, while not knowing where Clawson might end up, knew that a victory in the championship game might mean the end of his tenure.
“We had heard all of the rumors, so we knew there were other schools that wanted him,” senior defensive back BooBoo Gates said. “We are proud of him, and we’re proud that we helped him move up in his career.”
Gates said the seniors, many of whom made up Clawson’s first recruiting class, stepped up when it became clear that Clawson was not only going, but that he was taking much of the coaching staff with him.
“We had a players-only meeting and the senior leadership got up and reminded all of the guys that this is our program, and that we need to finish off what we’ve achieved thus far,” he said. “It doesn’t matter that Coach is gone. We need to step up and do this.”
Still, Scheier acknowledges that this is far from the perfect way to prepare.
“I’ve never been through this, and neither have been any of the players,” he said. “They’ve been playing for Coach Clawson since they got here, and now it is going to be different.”
For Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst, there’s no staff turnover issues to worry about — he just has to figure out which team is going to show up on Dec. 26. The Panthers finished the season 6-6, including wins over Duke and Notre Dame, but lost to Navy, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
“This has been a fun season, but it certainly hasn’t always gone the way we would have liked,” Chryst said. “I think we’ve got the program headed in the right direction, and we’re bringing back the tradition of Pitt football, but we’re still at the point where it is hard to say what is going to happen on a week-to-week basis.”
This was Pittsburgh’s first year in the ACC, but as a second-year head coach, Chryst didn’t exactly feel comfortable comparing his new conference to the Big East.
“I’ve coached one year in each, and my team has changed, so I can’t really say what the differences might be,” he said. “I think you’d have to coach for five years in each conference to pick up subtle things — things beyond the change in your schedules.”