By James Nahikian
I am a Dave Clawson fan, a bigger one than probably any student on campus. I have recorded his weekly press conferences for the past two seasons, I have seen him interact kindly with the media, I have heard what players have had to say about him, I have seen behind the scenes interactions on game day, and I have witnessed him completely turn around a program – all of these aspects have made Dave Clawson, in my mind, a tremendous coach. And therefor making it difficult to grasp that he is gone.
To state the obvious, Clawson’s departure to Wake Forest University has certainly tugged at my emotions. It’s not like I have cried or have gone into any form of depression. But I do have a lot to say, more so than I have on any newsworthy story in a very long time. Hence, I am posting this article on my blog that has been shut down for over a year.
First off, I am in no way mad or upset that coach Clawson has left. I completely understand the business and unfortunately for schools like Bowling Green, these things happen all the time. Turner Gill (Buffalo) left for Kansas following the Bulls 2009 Mid-American Conference championship; Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois) bolted for North Carolina State prior to the Huskies 2013 BCS bowl game, and both Jerry Kill (Northern Illinois) and Darrell Hazell (Kent State) have left within the last three years after taking their respective schools to the conference championship game. The goal for these coaches is to continue to move up the ranks, and a million-plus dollar contract is something that is almost impossible to turn down.
I previously stated that I was not mad at coach; the emotion that I am feeling, however, is sadness. The whole situation is sad on a variety of levels:
1. The Falcons just won the conference for the first time in 21 years. In doing so, BG knocked off a nationally ranked and undefeated team that was a win away from earning a BCS birth. The win was arguably the biggest victory in school history, and it was undoubtedly the biggest win in over two decades. The triumph occurred less than a week ago, it should still be fresh in fans’ minds. And it certainly still is, however, the majority of the talk amongst the fan base is about Clawson’s departure and who will take over in 2014. Clawson’s absence has greatly overshadowed a time that should be filled with 100-percent joy. This is a team that has won double-digit games for the first time in ten years, and will be participating in a bowl game against a conference that has a national championship game participant. It is sad that this season, for the time being, is taking a backseat.
2. No undergraduate student on this campus, including fifth-year seniors, has witnessed a game at BGSU (during their time as a student) with anyone other than Dave Clawson as head coach. After a 7-6 campaign led by a senior-heavy roster in 2009, BG finished the following season with a 2-10 record. Coach Clawson then built the program back up, winning five games in 2011, eight games in 2012 and now ten games this season. Under Clawson, BG witnessed its APR scores reach a program-high, this after inheriting a team that had lost scholarships due to poor grades. Fans witnessed Clawson rebuild the program in everyway and they had fallen into a habit of knowing that he was going to be here the following year. The fact that he is gone is sad.
3. The reality of being a fan in the Mid-American Conference has fully taken form. This is not a knock on the quality of football that is played in the MAC, nor is it a knock on the talent of players within the conference, let me make that clear. The program arguably reached an all-time high after Friday night’s championship victory. For a larger conference school, this would be an appropriate time for a coach to receive an extension or a raise. At the very least, it would earn a coach some leeway. In Clawson’s situation, however, it earned him a new job within three days. It is sad that BG hit an extreme high, and then its coach was essentially gone the next moment. Also, it is sad that we don’t have a fan base to keep special coaches like Clawson around. The majority of this campus would rather watch Ohio State on Saturdays (which is a sad reality in itself), and it is unfortunate that we don’t have the number of loyal supporters that power-conference schools have. I live and breathe BG football. I could get into how basically all of my free time is spent in activities related to the team, but it would be embarrassing. The point is, there are not an overwhelming number of people on this campus that share my intense passion. Therefor, BG does not sell out many games and we don’t have the budget to offer coaches a large salary. This is true for every MAC school, and it has turned the conference into simply a “stopping point” for successful coaches.
4. Lastly, it is quite an eerie feeling amongst the program not knowing who the coach of 2014 will be. We have been on this same path now for what seems like a long time, and it is weird that fans do not know what is next. Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero and defensive coordinator Mike Elko will also be gone next year, as will (presumably) a number of other assistants and staff members. Fans have been treated to such an amazing brand of football, specifically over the past two seasons, and it is sad that this era of Falcon football has to end. That is not to say that the next era won’t be even better, but it is safe to say that no one wants to see this coaching staff leave.
Overall, this entire process thus far has been interesting, but also tough. It is exciting that something new awaits us, but it is sad to see such a great coach leave. Watching Clawson’s introductory press conference was extremely odd, too. I’m jealous of Wake Forest fans because I know that they are getting a fantastic program leader. And it was weird that words such as “us” and “we” referred to Wake Forest and not Bowling Green.
I will conclude these thoughts by saying that I am 100-percent confident in the program. I know that we will find a great coach. Personally, I believe that athletic director Chris Kingston is something special himself and I am confident that he will make a solid hire. Bowling Green is on a completely different level than it was five years ago, and there is no doubt that this job is a good one for prospective coaches. The talent and depth within the program is also at an all-time high; this alone excites and assures me that the Falcons will be contenders yet again in 2014.
Dave Clawson ended a 21-year conference championship drought. And for that, he will forever be etched into Bowling Green State University history.