|From humble beginnings, W.Va., UC coaches now aiming for BCS bid|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 12:08|
They each developed their version of the no-huddle, spread offense without national scrutiny at places such as Division II school's Glenville State and Grand Valley State.
On Saturday, Rodriguez and Kelly's offenses will be front and center as No. 5 West Virginia (8-1, 3-1) plays at No. 21 Cincinnati (8-2, 3-2) in a Big East matchup that could have BCS ramifications.
``It taught us how to do our own laundry,'' Kelly said. ``We had to do things on our own. ... We definitely have our hands in a lot of things and I think that goes back to our backgrounds and being in Division II football. You had to do all those things.
``I think it's served me well and I think it's served Rich very well.''
It's uncommon for a top-level college coach to start in such a low division. Only four other coaches of Top 25 teams got their first college head coaching jobs below the Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A.
Oregon's Mike Bellotti started at Chico State, Ohio State's Jim Tressel was the longtime coach at Youngstown State, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer began his head coaching career at Murray State, and Texas' Mack Brown started at Appalachian State.
Nine of the 25 coaches are in their first stints as a college head coach. Arizona State's Dennis Erickson, USC's Pete Carroll and Hawaii's June Jones also were NFL head coaches.
Kelly, the son of an alderman in Chelsea, Mass., was working on political campaigns, including Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential bid, before joining the staff at Division II Grand Valley State in 1987. He eventually became head coach in 1991, a job he would hold for 13 seasons.
Kelly won back-to-back Division II national titles in 2002-03 at Grand Valley. He also spent three seasons as head coach at Central Michigan before moving on to Cincinnati last December.
Rodriguez was a defensive back at West Virginia in the early 1980s and became the nation's youngest college head coach at age 24 when he was hired at NAIA Salem College in 1988. But Salem dropped football the following summer after it formed a partnership with Japan's Teikyo University.
He was hired in 1990 at Glenville State, where the team had only about 30 players. They got dressed in the locker room and were driven several miles to a makeshift practice facility.
``They say necessity is the mother of invention,'' Rodriguez said last month after his 100th career coaching win. ``Not only was it a smaller place, but they were so hungry to just get a first down. They would be happy with anything you did.''
After assistant coaching stints at Tulane and Clemson under Tommy Bowden, Rodriguez took over at West Virginia in 2001.
Opponents are still trying to figure out Rodriguez's offenses, which annually rank among the top five in the nation in rushing.
``What you are seeing now as opposed to when we were running the spread 10-15 years ago, you are seeing more of a variety of how they are defending it. So offensively you've got to have an answer,'' Rodriguez said. ``The versions and parts of the spread will always be here.
``But those defensive guys are smart, too. So it's ever evolving like it always has been.''
Approaching the end of his first season in the Big East, Kelly's expectations have been met.
``I came in knowing full well that top to bottom you had the most balanced BCS league in the country, and to win a championship you have to go through West Virginia,'' Kelly said.