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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Friday, 12/20/2013

SPORTS COMMENTARY

A step back puts Babers on fast track

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Being that time waits for no man, Dino Babers took a step back in order to take a step forward.

At age 50 and in the 12th stop of a 27-year football coaching odyssey, Babers had worked in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 … in the desert, near oceans, in the heartland … and had owned just about every title except one.

It was time to become a head coach.

So two years ago, Babers left budding national power Baylor behind and stepped into the relative anonymity of the Football Championship Subdivision as head coach at Eastern Illinois, which had just finished 1-7 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“I loved Baylor, and I was having a great time there with coach [Art] Briles, who is fabulous to work for,” said Babers, who coordinated special teams and coached receivers with the Bears. “At Baylor, I affected 10 or 12 people in the room. What I wanted to do is affect multiples of 10.

“So for me to have a chance to stand in front of 100 guys and try to influence them, not only on the football field but also off the field, I had to take a step back to get that opportunity. I felt I had something to offer.”

Babers made the most of the chance, winning 19 games and two league championships in as many seasons at Eastern Illinois.

On Thursday, Babers stepped forward out of the anonymity of the FCS while being introduced as the head coach at Bowling Green.

Babers is now 52, although you’ll be tempted to have him produce a birth certificate to prove it, and he faced a new roomful of 100 guys earlier in the day when he met his team.

Despite the early hour, the Falcons were at military-like attention, ramrod straight in their seats, hands folded, feet together on the floor.

Babers’ first command?

“Loosen up.”

This could be a fun ride for all involved.

The new BG coach knows he is getting an unusual opportunity. Jobs usually open up because a team is unsuccessful and a coach has been fired.

But Babers is moving from the OVC champion to the Mid-American Conference champion, following a program builder in Dave Clawson, and inheriting some fine young talent.

For good reason, he won’t mess much with the Falcons’ defense, but BG fans might have to strap themselves in when the offense takes the field for the first time in 2014.

Babers might have left Baylor behind, but not Baylor’s offensive philosophy. His team at Eastern Illinois last season averaged 589.5 yards and 48.2 points per game. The quarterback passed for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns while two running backs accounted for 2,500 yards and 25 scores.

Good grief!

“I can’t be modest about the things we do on offense,” Babers said. “I will be humble, but we know what we’re doing on offense, and we’re going to be good.”

Those gaudy numbers drew attention from several schools, including MAC laggard Eastern Michigan, but Babers said he “let other opportunities go by because there was an opportunity I had my eye on, and this is the opportunity I had my eye on.

“This is not pressure. These guys are already champions, they know how to win. Now it’s a process of seeing if we can improve the product.”

He’ll do it the way he knows best, the Baylor way of spinning magic numbers on the scoreboard.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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