Gary Blackney was an assistant football coach at Brown, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, UCLA, Syracuse, and Ohio State before being named head coach at Bowling Green State University, a job he held for 10 seasons from 1991-2000. The Falcons posted a 36-8-2 record, won two Mid-American Conference championships and two bowl games during Blackney's first four seasons and he finished his decade at BG with a 60-50-2 record. Blackney, 65, later spent five seasons as defensive coordinator at Maryland and a short stint as an assistant at Central Florida before retiring.
Where are you spending your time these days?
“I live in Palm City, Fla., about halfway between West Palm Beach and Vero Beach on the Atlantic [Ocean] side. I love it here. It still has the old Florida appeal, not like Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale, where it's so busy. This area is still quaint and quiet.”
Do you see much college football?
“I get to a couple or three college games a year. I went to the Maryland game a few weeks back in Miami and I'll see the UConn-South Florida game in Tampa. I'm a Connecticut grad, plus the coach, Randy Edsall, was one of my graduate assistants when I was on the staff at Syracuse.”
We've heard a report that you see a lot of high school football. Still doing some coaching, eh?
“Yes, I'm on the staff at Martin County High School, a 4-A school [Florida's largest division is 6-A] that plays a very competitive schedule. We were 8-3 [losing in the first round in the state playoffs, their first appearance since 1991]. It has been a lot of fun. I tell all my friends that I used to do this 14 hours a day and now it's four hours a day. Well, probably a little more, but it still beats 14 hours. I did my share of that, seven days a week, for 40 years.”
How did you get involved with high school coaching?
“I have a niece living down here and I was at a graduation party for her son and there were some Martin County football boosters there. We started talking and they asked if I'd be interested in helping out. Then I got a call from the coach. I told him I didn't want him to feel forced to do anything because of the boosters, but he said he wanted to get together and talk. So we did and it has worked out nicely. I have more time than other assistants to help devise the game plan because they have jobs in the classroom and I don't.”
Were the first four of your 10 seasons at BG the best years of your professional life?
“No question. Those were some of the most exciting times in my football career. I had great assistants, players, and a great support staff from top to bottom. It was a spectacular time. But it didn't end after the first four or five years. I still enjoyed the people and the community despite not having the same success.
“Urban [Meyer] followed me and probably had the right strategy – come in, turn the program around, then move on. I had some opportunities, but to be honest, I enjoyed Bowling Green so much that I didn't feel there was a need to pursue other jobs.”
You helped rev up the program at Maryland. Were you disappointed that didn't lead to another head coaching opportunity?
“I had no serious desire to have another head coaching job. The 10 years at BG satisfied my appetite. After Maryland, I was ready to ride off into the Florida sunshine.”
Who do you feel are the top guys in the business today?
“Well, it's not just wins or losses or rivalry wins. It's running a clean program and graduating student-athletes. I think two of the best are right there in Ohio, Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Larry Kehres at Mount Union.
Then I look at guys like Gary Patterson at TCU. How he does it considering all the schools in that state and with every Big 12 school recruiting Texas, I can't imagine. Chip Kelly at Oregon, Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, Chris Peterson at Boise — like Patterson they're coaching at places that aren't exactly college football's most exotic destinations, but they win consistently and win big.”
What were your favorite rivalries?
“Obviously, I'm going to start with Bowling Green-Toledo. When I was at UCLA, the Southern Cal game was really something. Those schools are closer than BG and Toledo. Then, of course, there's Michigan-Ohio State. I feel fortunate to have been a part of all those.”
What do you think of MAC football these days?
“Nothing has changed much. It's a very cyclical league. And it starts with having a great quarterback. A special kid at that position is the key in the MAC. I think MAC coaches probably do more with less than coaches anywhere else. My hat is off to them.”
Do you still keep track of the Falcons?
“Oh, absolutely. But I have to admit, I follow Toledo too, now that Tim Beckman is the head coach. He was on my staff at BG, so he's one of my guys.”
— Dave Hackenberg
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