Yesterday was a good day to be a RedHawk. The Miami University basketball team, led by Will Sullivan and Will Felder, overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to beat the IPFW Mastodons. But the big news came from the football field. As SBNation's Pete Volk reported, Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will become the new head coach of the RedHawks. Martin is leaving Notre Dame before whatever bowl the Irish may play in, and he's already started to assemble his staff. (More on them in a bit.)
But just who is Chuck Martin, anyway? How did he end up the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame? After playing safety at Millikin and graduating as a Division III Academic All-American, he took a GA job at Mankato State University (now known as Minnesota State or Minnesota State-Mankato, for those of you who follow hockey). He parlayed his experience with the Mavericks into a full-time position as the linebackers coach at Wittenberg, where he also served as the head golf coach and an assistant baseball coach. From Wittenberg, he returned to his alma mater, where he coached the secondary and coordinated the defense. His second go-round at Millikin allowed him to make the leap to Division I. Martin joined Rick Rasnick's Eastern Michigan staff for the 1998 and 1999 seasons, serving as linebackers coach.
Rasnick, along with his staff, was given the boot after the 1999 season. But Martin found himself what turned out to be a heck of a landing spot: he joined Brian Kelly's coaching staff at Grand Valley State University, serving as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Martin proved to be a defensive master under Kelly; in the Lakers' final season before Kelly departed for Central Michigan, Martin's defense allowed fewer than two touchdowns a game, including holding their final three opponents -- in the Division II quarters, semis, and championship -- to three points apiece.
Martin turned down the opportunity to join the Chippewas and instead took over the GVSU program after Kelly's departure. And as good as the Lakers were with Brian Kelly at the helm, with Chuck Martin, they were even better. In Martin's six years as the head man in Allendale, the Lakers never won fewer than ten games, made three national championship apperances (with two wins), and set a Division II record with 40 consecutive wins from 2005 to 2007. The Lakers' regular season record was even better; in Martin's last five years at GVSU, they only lost one postseason game.
In 2009, Kelly invited Martin to join him in South Bend. As part of the Fighting Irish staff, Martin played to his strengths on the defensive side of the ball, tutoring the team's defensive backs. After consistent improvement on the defensive side of the ball over two seasons, Kelly moved Martin out of his comfort zone: he replaced UMass' Charley Molnar as the Irish offensive coordinator, serving in that role for two seasons, including last year's BCS championship appearance. The Notre Dame offense has sputtered at times this season, but that was largely a result of Everett Golson's ineligibility, which forced the team to once again start Tommy Rees, a decidedly less versatile quarterback.
But make no mistake: Martin is the real deal, especially if he focuses on the defense at Miami (his natural wheelhouse) and brings in a talented offensive coordinator. And the man can recruit: in 2011, while serving as OC and recruiting coordinator for the Fighting Irish, ESPN named him one of the top 25 recruiters in the country.
His introductory press conference (I'd link the audio, but it doesn't seem to be working) gives some hints as to how Martin expects things to function at Miami. First, from a purely stylistic standpoint, the man oozes intensity, a characteristic notably missing from Don Treadwell. He plans to focus heavily on recruiting Ohio -- those of you who follow MAC football recruiting probably know that Miami has a reputation for turning its nose up at Ohio high schools on the recruiting trail, something Martin aims to change. And, with the caveat that he has to tailor the system to his personnel,* he intends to run a spread that stretches the field both horizontally and vertically. Perhaps most importantly, it sounds like his A-1 priority will be fixing Miami's weakest trait for the past 10 or so years, the lines. After all, every play starts there, and if Miami can start winning the battle in the trenches, that will go a long way.
*Don Treadwell and John Klacik read this sentence, laughed, and ran off to install a triple option somewhere.
So who will come along? Well, based on the press conference, it sounds like Martin already has commitments from some assistant coaches, but he's not naming them out of respect to their current employers, who deserve to find out from the coaches themselves rather than a presser in Oxford. But FootballScoop.com has reported that current Illinois State OC/OL coach George Barnett will be joining the staff, likely as offensive line coach.
And, as a final note, Martin will be making $450,000 a year, $50,000 more than Treadwell.
Is Martin going to stick around, a la Frank Solich, and make a career out of Miami? Almost certainly not. But then Miami is the Cradle of Coaches, not the Destination of Coaches. If he turns the RedHawks around and leaves Miami's program in a solid position going forward, he'll have done all that any Miami fan could ask for. I, for one, am very excited for the future in Oxford.