Success has followed Madison native Bob Wilder from the University of Maine, where he played football and later coached for 17 years, to Old Dominion University, where in six years he has resurrected a dormant program and built it into a national power.
The Monarchs are 8-1 entering today’s game against William and Mary and ranked fourth in the country among Football Championship Subdivision teams. They also lead all FCS schools in scoring offense at 45.5 points a game and total offense at 564.4 yards per game.
Wilder, who served as offensive coordinator at Maine, was hired in 2007 to restart a football program that had been dormant for 69 years. Since beginning regular-season play in 2009, Wilder’s teams have posted an overall record of 35-9. Last season the Monarchs went 10-3 and finished 10th in the country.
Wilder has recruited primarily in the Norfolk, Va., area where there are 60 high schools playing football. He opted early for a spread offense, knowing he could find the right players to fit his system.
“In Maine, it was hard to get a lot of quality skill players,” Wilder said. “Down here getting skill players is like picking apples off a tree.”
Wilder brought Waterville native Brian Scott to his coaching staff as offensive coordinator. Like Wilder, Scott played quarterback at Maine and likes to throw the ball.
“He’s clearly one of the top offensive coordinators in the country,” Wilder said. “He’s doing a fantastic job.”
The Monarchs cast their recruiting nets a little wider when seeking quarterbacks and found a good one in Atlanta native Taylor Heinicke. The sophomore moved into the starting lineup at mid-season last year and is poised to break ODU passing records this season. He leads the nation in passing yards a game at 390.
Getting the right players to fit his program was only part of Wilder’s job. He estimates he’s conducted more than 500 speaking engagements in the past five years for schools, boosters and fans.
“In my opinion, that’s one of the most necessary things to do,” he said.
The hard work paid off as the Monarchs’ 20,000 seat stadium is sold out every game and there are 14,500 season ticket holders. There’s talk of expansion, too, since Old Dominion is moving up to the Football Championship Subdivision next season and gaining 22 more scholarships. The Monarchs will play an independent schedule for two seasons before joining Conference USA.
Wilder pays as much or more attention to off the field duties as he does on the field.
“When you become a head coach, you have to focus on your 95 players and every aspect of their life,” he said. “There’s the administration and donors. Every day money needs to be raised. It’s like being a CEO of a company.”
* * *
Colby concludes its season today at home against rival Bowdoin. The Mules (2-5) have won two of their last three games, including a 21-14 overtime decision at Tufts that was decided on a trick play.
Defensive end Ryan Veillette lined up at running back in overtime with the ball at the Tufts 3-yard line. He took the handoff, ran right and tossed a touchdown pass to a wide open Derrick Beasley.
“We’ve had it in all year,” Colby coach Jonathan Michaeles said. “Veillette has a carry on film. When everybody saw him come into the game the last thing they thought we were going to do was throw the ball.”
The team has improved throughout the season, Michaeles said, particularly in the running game. Against Tufts, freshman quarterback Justin Ciero rushed for 166 yards and also threw for 118 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s been a big part of our success in those two wins,” Michaeles said. “He’s a pretty good runner.”
The Mules lost two of their top players at the start of the season. Junior free safety Christian Roman sustained a concussion in preseason and didn’t play a down.
“He’s an outstanding defensive player,” Michaeles said.
Cony High graduate and sophomore receiver Luke Duncklee broke his foot in the first game and also has not returned to the field.
“He has a tremendous skill set,” Michaeles said. “He gave our offense a lot of flexibility.”
Both are expected back next season.
“We’ve got a lot of people who have played a lot of football for us,” Michaeles said. “I don’t think we’ve had the same starting lineup two weeks in a row.”
* * *
Husson University football coach Sean Murphy will step down at the end of the season. The Eagles are 2-7 overall and 1-5 in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference heading into Saturday’s game against Anna Maria College. They went 0-10 and 0-7 in Murphy’s first season last fall.
Murphy will become the lacrosse team’s head coach next spring and remain as the school’s assistant athletic director.
Husson director of athletics Bob Reasso said the new coach will inherit a much stronger team next season.
“We had 35 kids in spring ball [in Murphy’s first season] and that’s not a recipe for success,” Reasso told the Bangor Daily News. “Sean will be leaving 65 players (for spring ball) for the new coach.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638