Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Could've Been: When BC almost hired Dave Clawson

As we know, during any coaching search, plenty of gossip and flatout BS rises to the surfaces. When BC went looking to replace TOB in 2006 many coaches were linked to the job. Some were real discussions and some were nonsense. The one candidate that BC fans rarely harp on is Dave Clawson. The new Wake coach was floated as a possibility and was probably much closer to being hired than any of us ever imagined.

In the closed-knit community of college football, it is important to pick your mentors well. As a rising assistant coach at Villanova, Clawson struck up a friendship with Gene DeFilippo, the Wildcats AD. I don't know what the connection was, but it lasted as Clawson worked his way up the ladder. His first success was reviviing Fordham's moribund football program. From there he jumped to the higher profile Richmond job. It was at Richmond that Gene and Clawson's history would become a factor in both men's future. After three seasons at Richmond, Clawson had the team turned around, but he wasn't on any national radar until he landed an interview for the open BC job. His candidacy caught people by surprise but could be rationalized by the head coaching success and his history with Catholic schools. BC went in a different direction and hired another guy who Gene had mentored in Jags, but the process clearly influenced Gene and Clawson. Gene liked what he saw in Clawson and if not for his lack of experience with BCS-level programs might have gone to bat for him. Clawson clearly appreciated the professional rub he got from being interviewed because the next jump in his career came via GDF.

After missing out on the BC job, Clawson produced another very strong season in Richmond. Yet no big jobs came calling this time around. Maybe too many big programs viewed him as a FCS lifer. The only way to change that was to prove himself at thet next level as a recruiter and coordinator. At the same time, that Clawson was looking to add a different type of experience, Gene's old friend Phil Fulmer was looking for a new Offensive Coordinator. Gene played matchmaker and now his protege would have SEC experience to round out his resume. But his time in Knoxville was a disaster. The offense sputtered and Fulmer was fired. Meanwhile the team he built in Richmond went on to win the National Championship. Instead of being mentioned for ACC level head coaching jobs, Clawson was now looking for any job. He got one as the Head Coach at Bowling Green. It wasn't a career dead-end, but he wasn't considered for the BC job when Gene had an opening a few weeks later and he wasn't on the fast track to a big job like Mike London (the guy who won at Richmond with Clawson's recruits).  A good coach survives though and after five years Clawson had Bowling Green turned around and impressed enough people to land the Wake job. If anything he could point to his track record as a rebuilder as a reason he got the Wake job.

I don't know if Clawson regrets his stop in Tennessee or thinks about what he could have done at BC with our 2007 talent. I am sure Gene is proud of him and proud of whatever influence he had on Clawson's career. Who knows? If Gene had hired Clawson instead of two other friends of his (Jags and Spaz), Gene might still be the AD at BC.

Clawson won't be the only "what if" of the day. Wake will start John Wolford at QB. He's Bobby's brother and many -- including thsi blogger -- suspected he would be at BC one day. However, he never really fit into Daz's plans. Despite some losing and a recent head injury, the younger Wolford seems to be doing well in Winston-Salem.


blist said...

What could have been with GDF. Remember he was super high on a little ol' Fla OC named Steve Addazio who couldn't come north b/c of knee surgery.

mod34b said...

Good post ATL. I enjoyed reading that back story.

I wish GDF had picked him instead of Spaz (a universal "wish-it-were-anyone-but-Spaz")

Hoib said...

Very interesting piece. It shows how important these personal relationships between ADs and coaches are. It's why I hope Bates doesn't go to Michigan. He hired Daz because he knew him from the MAC, and he certainly knows him better now.

PJeagle said...

I echo the sentiments. Very good story. Shows first hand howvpersonal relationships play such a big role not only in who gets certain jobs but who gets put in a position to be chosen for a big job sometime down the line. Luck and timing always play a role.