BOWLING GREEN — While Rhode Island may be an unfamiliar opponent to the Bowling Green State University football team, their coach is not.
The Rams are led by Joe Trainer, whose ties to the Falcons include a brief stint on the BG coaching staff when Dave Clawson was named head coach in December, 2008. Clawson named Trainer as his assistant head coach and a co-defensive coordinator.
Trainer's stay in Bowling Green was brief as he left to take the head coaching position at Rhode Island in February, 2009.
"It certainly is a great place," Trainer said of Bowling Green. "It was a phenomenal staff, and the support personnel and athletic leadership there are second to none.
"I wasn't there long, but I had a lot of great memories in a short time."
The pair first crossed paths in the mid-90s when Clawson was an assistant at Lehigh and Trainer was on the staff at Colgate. Clawson moved to Villanova in 1996, and Trainer joined the Wildcats' staff a year later, and the two worked together until Clawson became Fordham's coach in 1999.
The two are so close that Trainer and his wife, Moreen, are the godparents of Clawson's daughter.
"Joe is one of the best friends I have in the profession," Clawson said. "He was one of the very first people I hired when I got the job at Bowling Green … I have the utmost respect for him as a coach and as a person.
"I was certainly disappointed for us when he left so quickly. But he had an opportunity to be a head coach at a place where he was an assistant and where he owned a house. I certainly understood why he made the move."
The Falcons enter their Homecoming game Saturday with a 1-3 record, but those struggles are tame compared to those of the Rams. Rhode Island — a Football Championship Subdivision school — is 0-3 this season, and Trainer is 9-27 in his fourth year at the school, which has had just one winning season since 1995.
In 2010 Trainer led the Rams to a 5-6 mark, which included wins over three teams ranked in the FCS Top 25, and was named coach of the year in the Colonial Athletic Association for his efforts.
But both coaches said their friendship has been set aside — at least for now.
"I root for Dave every single week — with the exception of this week," Trainer said. "There are a lot of great coaches that I got to know a little bit when I was out there, and you root for them every week.
"But when we fly out there Friday night and try to lock it in, it's another opponent. And you don't think about any type of personal relationship you might have."
Clawson feels the same way.
"There are a handful of people in the profession, whether it's a text before the game wishing them luck, or you talk to them and congratulate them after a win, or try to pump them up after a loss … and Joe is certainly one of those guys for me," he said. "But our interaction this week will be very limited.
"There's no way that we're both going to end up happy on Saturday night."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.