The University of Hawaii Warriors new head coach Norm Chow has instituted an entire program change after the men of Manoa ended up with a losing season last year and missed a bowl game. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, new head coach Bob Davie also came in with a new program to help rebuild a Lobos football team that had won all of three games in three years. Right now, Davie looks like a genius. Chow? The book is still open at this point but Davie's quick turnaround of New Mexico is amazing so far.
The Lobos had been the laughingstock of college football the past few years and had three straight 1-11 seasons, coming into 2012. Essentially, Davie replaced Mike Locksley who was fired in the middle of last season after starting off 0-4 and being involved in a DWI where a student was driving his car. There were sexual harassment suits, suspensions and a whole cadre of other controversies. To say the least, it was an ugly situation that Davie came into.
Interestingly enough, Rocky Long had coached at the school for 11 years before Locksley arrived and had taken the school to five bowls in seven seasons but resigned after going 4-8 with feeling the job was no longer right for him.
Davie's hiring was questioned as the former Notre Dame head coach turned TV commentator had not been on the sidelines in a decade. Plus, why would someone who had reached the heights the 57 year-old Davie had, take on a tough job like lowly New Mexico? Unfinished business maybe? Maybe rewrite a career wrong?
Davie was fired after being the head coach at South Bend for five seasons. He was former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz's defensive coordinator when Holtz retired. It was Davie's first and only head coaching job until he joined the Lobos. Davie wasn't as successful as Holtz and the fanbase never took to him although he did an excellent job of bringing up academics. When Davie was fired, the Fighting Irish football program continued to struggle for national prominence.
Regarding the football field, the New Mexico team Davie inherited had only 50 returning scholarship players. The team was picked to finish last in the Mountain West and was ranked second in the Bottom Ten - that's not good.
But not all was lost. The Lobos have 22 seniors on the team plus they returned 14 starters with most of those on offense. So that's where Davie started. He wanted to be physical and there's no better way to be physical than to run the ball. And run is what they do well. New Mexico ranks eighth in the nation in rushing, averaging about 272 yards per game with 18 rushing touchdowns. Also aiding the improvement this year is Davie instilling discipline that was nary to be found when Locksley was the coach.
Davie's affect on the team halfway through the year has produced performances at running the ball, which brought the program quickly back to respectability. The Lobos are 3-3 as they head into Honolulu to play an old rival from the Western Athletic Conference days: the Hawaii Warriors (see related articles).
If New Mexico can defeat Hawaii, they will be 4-3 and looking at their schedule, it's plausible they could end up with a winning record. That would almost assuredly allow them the opportunity at a bowl game.
As a fan, my thinking at that point would be Bob Davie just earned the Coach of the Year.
There's still a lot of football to go but having fast-tracked back from oblivion, what Davie has brought the New Mexico Lobo program may eventually be regarded in the annals of college football history as one of the more remarkable feats of its kind.
Sources - University of New Mexico
Through thick and thin, Daryle has been a huge fan of college football as well as Hawaii, visiting there as a second home for over 40 years. Go 'Bows!