New Wilmington College football coach Bryan Moore and WC athletic director Terry Rupert were quick to point out Moore’s association with a lowly Heidelberg University football program.
Moore arrived at Heidelberg the year after a 4-6 finish. Before that, the Student Princes were not nearly that good.
“Oddly enough, the crazy story was when our staff got to Heidelberg they had been 1-39,” Moore said of the Heidelberg staff led by Mike Hallett, now the running game coordinator with the University of Toledo.
Heidelberg was 4-6 in Hallett’s first year, then Moore arrived as the assistant strength coach and special teams coordinator. In his fifth year, Moore was named pass game coordinator. In the next 31 games (25-6 record) as a member of the always-tough Ohio Athletic Conference, the Student Princes scored fewer than 10 points just once and reached the Div. III playoffs in 2012.
Since Moore left, Heidelberg is 19-11 in 3 seasons.
Wilmington would take 19-11. Heck, Wilmington would take 11-19.
While it is commendable to be part of a turnaround at Heidelberg that went from 5-45 the 5 seasons prior to Moore to 38-23 during his 6 seasons, it would take a more mountainous effort to bring the Wilmington College football program to such heights.
But Moore has his hiking boots, harness and ascenders at the ready to make such a climb.
“Anybody would love to jump in at Mount Union or jump in and take over a 10-0 program,” said Moore, who played football in the OAC at Hiram College. “I played at a program that wasn’t great in the OAC and that was kind of my goal when I got done with it (playing). If I were the head coach, what would I have done to change that? I’ve kinda kept that with places I’ve gone. How could I fix it, how could I change it? And that’s the fun part.
“Carrying on a 10-0 program is, don’t get me wrong, a lotta fun, too, but there is the other end of that … doing something nobody else has been able to figure out and how to incorporate your style into that. I think that challenge is pretty darn exciting, too.”
Wilmington’s losing legacy goes back 13 seasons. Since Mike Wallace left as head coach following the 2003 season, Wilmington College football has a record of 17-113. The team’s struggles in the Ohio Athletic Conference have been worse. Wilmington has lost 39 straight league games, dating back to a 13-12 win over Marietta in 2012.
Since a 24-16 win over John Carroll in 2008, Wilmington has won just 2 of its last 73 OAC games. That’s right— 2 and 71.
“I understsand the sell is tough,” said Moore.
Tough? It would be easier to sell snowballs to eskimos.
“Saying something … SAYING something to them (the team) is probably stuff they’ve already heard from previous coaches and not got the results. That’s not lost on me,” a realistic Moore said.
So what would his pitch be to current and future Quakers?
“Give me a little bit of time and let me prove it to you,” Moore said. “Let me show you how things can be different. Way before spring ball, way before fall camp, let me show you how the program is built, how it’s been successful at other places. Let me prove it. I’m not asking you to trust me by my words, but let me prove it to you. Hang in there for a couple months. It’ll be traumatic and it’ll be different, but they’ll get the gist of what it can be.”
Moore hopes he can keep many of the current WC students on board while adding promising high school players to build for the future.
“It’s tough going into a high school with that record and all that, trying to tell them ‘Hey, we’re gonna be great’ and all that,” said Moore. “But we have a great location here and you have some majors that your competition doesn’t have, so you can reach some different kids. We’re (also) going to sell that I’ve done it before.”
The it, in this case, is build a program from the bottom up. It’s just that in Wilmington’s situation the bottom is a bit deeper than the others.
“You have to believe in the plan,” Moore said. “It’s a plan that has worked at several difference places. Even at places we’ve been where it’s worked, we have taken steps back. We’ve taken steps off the track, but you go back to the plan and see that it’s worked. It’s proven to work. You stick with that (plan) and believe in it. And if you believe in that and you stick with it, the kids will believe in it.”