Old Dominion University football coach Bobby Wilder has a billboard with the heading of “Choices” in his team’s locker room, featuring articles about people who have made both good and bad choices. His team’s philosophy is “Aim High,” and that applies to the field, the classroom, and life.

Wilder said things like that trace back to his experiences playing high school football in Maine.

As a sophomore in 1981, Wilder’s Madison team finished 1-9. The next season, under new coach Art Rudman, the Bulldogs were 6-4, and followed that up by going 11-0 and winning the state championship in 1982.

“He instilled a level of confidence, of discipline, of accountability,” Wilder said of Rudman. “It was a great learning experience for all of us.”

Wilder recently signed a five-year contract to coach the Monarchs through 2017. Since taking the field for the first time as a start-up program in 2009, Old Dominion is 38-10 in four seasons under Wilder.

The Associated Press reported that Wilder made $400,000 last season and will receive raises averaging $50,000 each of the next three years.

“Obviously, it’s a tremendous contract,” Wilder said. “I’m honored and grateful that the school would do that. It’s got some tremendous bonuses built into the contract, which I’m grateful for.”

Wilder said the newest contract is his fourth since being hired to lead the start-up program in February 2007. He signed a 10-year contract in January 2012, but less than five months later, the school moved from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Old Dominion will become a full member of Conference USA in 2015. The new deal is an FBS-level contract, Wilder said.

Old Dominion’s success has led to overwhelming fan support. The Monarchs have sold out all 29 home games in their four years of operation, and Wilder said the waiting list for season tickets is at 14,000 requests.

“I think we can say we’re the only team in the country that’s sold out every home game we’ve ever played,” Wilder said.

Under offensive coordinator and Waterville native Brian Scott, Old Dominion averaged 45.2 points and 548 yards per game last season. The Monarchs were 11-2 and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs. Wilder said there are three main reasons why the program has been so successful, so quickly.

“The No. 1 reason would be were able to recruit some very good football players,” Wilder said. “No. 2, we’ve had outstanding coaching. No. 3, tremendous support from the campus.”

The schedule is much tougher this fall. There are games against East Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina — all on the road.

“We’re playing some established FBS programs,” Wilder said. “People are very realistic about what we’re facing this year. I don’t like to lose, so I can’t comprehend not having that continuum of success that we built up, but it’s going to be more of a challenge.”

Wilder said his main goal this season is that in every game, ODU is competitive, and has a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

“If we do that, then I’m going to be pleased with the season,” he said. “I’m going to feel that we’ve built this for success.”

A controversy — if you want to call it that — with Old Dominion’s football program arose last year, when it was revealed that all football players in the program are prohibited from using Twitter year-round. Wilder said at the time that decision was by a vote of his captains, and said he left the decision up to his captains when he met with them this summer. That decision will be revisited in January, Wilder said.

“They all said, very clearly, ‘No. It’s a distraction,’ ” Wilder said. “Our guys, they all have Facebook, so it’s not like they’re not on social media.”

Wilder said the reason for the Twitter ban comes back to the articles about “Choices” on the bulletin board.

“There’s been so many situations, particularly in college football, where guys have made bad choices with Twitter, and it’s cost them their education and a chance to play college football,” Wilder said.

While you won’t get to read the instant, unfiltered, 140-characters-or-less feelings of Wilder’s players on Twitter, you can see them on the field. Old Dominion’s games against East Carolina Aug. 31 and against Campbell on Nov. 16 will be televised on Fox College Sports. The Sept. 7 game at Maryland will be carried on ESPN3.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
[email protected]