"Don't settle. Why would you want to be average? We're not here long enough to be average. Be special. Be different. Be Bowling Green."
Those words resonated throughout BGSU's Stroh Center on Thursday morning as Dino Babers, the 18th head football coach in Bowling Green Falcons history, concluded his opening remarks at his introductory press conference.
In many ways, Babers' message paralleled that of Kingston when Kingston was introduced as BGSU's new athletics director just six short months ago. At that press conference, Kingston emphasized a three-pronged approach: people, resources and opportunities, and it's not the least bit surprising that Kingston's most important decision to date would be a personification of those values.
When Kingston introduced Babers on Thursday, he mentioned three primary traits that made him the right man for the job.
Our new head coach brings to us the total package of skills and values required to sustain a solid program and ensure that we make a great team even better. First and foremost, he's a players' coach, willing to spend the time necessary to develop trusting relationships on and off the field and in and out of the classroom. Secondly, he's a man of integrity, following the letter of the law in the NCAA and the spirit of the rules throughout his entire career. Third, he's proven himself to be an over-achiever who challenges himself and all of those around him to continually improve and never settle both competitively and academically.
Kingston also cited Babers' "relentless work ethic" in matters both on and off the field, including recruiting. In addition, he said that the springboard for conversations about the job developed from Babers' clear desire to be at Bowling Green. Those conversations revealed that Babers' values aligned with those of Kingston and the BGSU community at-large, and Kingston stated that Babers was BGSU's first choice among all candidates.
This is just speculation, but perhaps this is why Babers pulled out of the Eastern Michigan search. It's possible that Babers saw the writing on the wall with regards to Clawson and decided that it would be worth the risk to turn down EMU because BGSU would clearly be the more attractive opportunity. If so, the gamble clearly paid off for Babers and Bowling Green.
Babers opened his comments by stating that Bowling Green was always a place that he's had his eye on. After the brief opening statement, he answered four questions for the general media before moving on to individual interviews.
The first question was about rivalries, and Babers immediately jumped in the deep end of the pool by saying, "I understand how important it is to beat the people up north, and we can't wait to have an opportunity to show them once again what we're made of." Of important note was that Babers refused to refer to "the people up north" as Toledo.
Babers was then asked about why he had always had an eye on Bowling Green. He responded first by citing BGSU's storied history but then discussed recruiting. "To have the opportunity to recruit high school athletes from this state is unmatched," Babers said. He mentioned that Ohio was one of the top four or five states, then said, "To have that rich area so close to the university and to be able to interact with these high school coaches and have the opportunity to coach those football players gives you a great opportunity to be successful. It's one of the reasons why (Bowling Green) has been so successful."
A question about Babers' coaching influences came up next, and Babers obviously cited Art Briles as his primary influence.
You have to start with the most recent and most dramatic influence on me and that was Art Briles at Baylor University. I have been in coaching for 29 years, and I always say the exact same thing when people ask me about Coach Briles. I've never met anybody like Coach Briles, his style, his positive reinforcement style. He never sees a negative, he only sees a positive. He never sees a road block, he just sees something he has to go around, and nothing's more important than the players. It's all about the players and having a positive influence so you make sure that you have an impact on their lives whether that's on the football field, in the classroom, home life or spiritual.
He went further by saying that a coach has to get involved if he wants to be known as a "players' coach". Babers said that he wants to know what's going on with his players, and he believes that when he is involved, he won't have to ask because his players will feel comfortable enough to approach him on their own.
Finally, Babers was asked about his first meeting with the team. He said that it had occurred earlier that morning. He said, "We had that meeting this morning, and they were sitting up straight, feet on the floor, hands folded, upright, very military, and the first thing I told them is 'you guys need to loosen up a little bit'." Babers added that he likes to be engaging and have communication with his players. He also noted that the team can still have discipline and be tough but still be loose.
Babers appeared to be very loose and comfortable, almost like he had been around Bowling Green for a long time. If first impressions mean anything, I absolutely believe him when he says that he likes to be engaging. He comes off as a great communicator, and great communication is absolutely a large part of being a players' coach. I also really liked the emphasis on the importance of recruiting, especially in the Ohio area. In the MAC, good, smart recruiting can be a true separator. If Babers can continue (and improve upon) what Dave Clawson built on the recruiting trail, BGSU will be a force in the MAC for years to come.
Since yesterday's press conference, Babers has been doing the media rounds with many different print and voice interviews. Sports Illustrated's Martin Rickman has a particularly good interview HERE. (One thing you'll learn -- his offense is, in fact, an Art Briles copy.)
(Editor's note: Big apologies for the delay in this post and the website issues that led to it.)