BOWLING GREEN — Tuesday was a day the Bowling Green football program knew was coming.
But that didn’t make the early morning meeting the Falcons had with departing head coach Dave Clawson at the Sebo Center any easier. Clawson told BG’s players and coaches that he was accepting the head coaching position at Wake Forest later in the day.
The meeting came just four days after the 10-3 Falcons beat No. 16 Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference championship game, clinching the program’s first league title since 1992. It also came two days after BG accepted a bid to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the program’s third bowl bid in five seasons.
Still, the good-byes were difficult.
“He was crying, and he was upset; he told us how hard of a decision it was,” senior captain Ronnie Goble said. “He told us some personal things: How good the move would be for his family, how he is moving closer to his family.
“He also told us that he loves us, that he is with us [in spirit], and that he’s rooting for us. And he gave us some ‘next steps’ to keep this going for next year.”
Junior captain Gabe Martin admitted that some players were initially upset by the move, but the team eventually understood.
“It was a tough decision for him, but it was a good move for him professionally and personally, for his family,” Martin said. “You can’t knock him for that.”
Special teams coordinator Adam Scheier said he was happy to see Clawson get the job at Wake Forest.
“With success comes opportunity — it’s the nature of the business,” Scheier said. “Was I surprised? No.
“I guess my reaction was that I somewhat expected it. Now it’s time to accept that it happened, turn the page, and see what we can do to keep this going in the right direction and finish this season in the way it was meant to be finished.”
BG director of athletics Chris Kingston said Scheier would be the team’s interim coach entering the bowl game.
“I feel Adam is going to do a great job leading the team,” Kingston said. “He will provide great continuity and leadership, and those are the things I was looking for in my decision.”
Scheier said he found out he would be named the interim coach on Monday and called it a “welcome surprise.” But he also indicated little would change as the team prepares to play in the bowl game.
“We had ironed out a tentative schedule shortly after the MAC championship game,” he said. “What is in the best interest of this team is sticking to that.
“I don’t think this is a time where they need drastic change. There is a routine we’ve established, there is a culture here, and I think it’s a routine that has been successful for 13 weeks. So we’re not going to deviate from that.”
Both Goble and Martin expressed satisfaction with the decision.
“He’s a great leader and a great man,” Goble said of Scheier. “He’s funny and charismatic. We all love him, so he’s a great fit as interim coach.”
The decision to elevate Scheier to the interim position may be an indication that offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero and defensive coordinator Mike Elko will follow Clawson to Wake Forest.
Bowling Green officials indicated they expect strength and conditioning coach Brandon Hourigan to take a similar position with the Demon Deacons.
“That involves recruiting, too, and I certainly hope [they come here],” Clawson said in the Wake Forest news conference. “I want them to join us; I hope they choose to join us.
“They are good coaches that may have other opportunities. We’re trying to get them down here as soon as we can.”
As for recruiting players who have verbally committed to Bowling Green, Clawson hopes they honor their commitment to the Falcons.
“I would never encourage a player to de-commit,” he said. “I really hope that’s a bridge we don’t have to cross. … I think it’s wrong to recruit guys who committed to your previous institution.”
As for potential candidates to replace Clawson, Kingston said he isn’t worried about attracting good candidates to the position.
“We are a very ‘recruitable’ program; my job is not very difficult in terms of finding people who want to be here,” Kingston said. “I am very confident in my abilities and in the staff, and in this program’s reputation, to find the right man to lead the program.”
As the interim coach, Scheier could be a candidate to fill the position full-time. Other potential replacements for Clawson may include D.J. Durkin, the defensive coordinator from Florida who is a former Falcon player and coach; Pat Narduzzi, the Michigan State defensive coordinator whose candidacy at schools such as UConn indicate he may not consider the BG opening; Mick McCall, the Northwestern offensive coordinator who has coached at Bowling Green; and Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton, a Cleveland native who also has coached at BG.
No matter who replaces Clawson as coach of the Falcons, Martin said he and his teammates know what to do next.
“Right now we’re going to keep working — it’s business as usual,” Martin said. “Next year comes next year. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”