Solich using his green thumb to build Bobcats’ program

Published 9:15 pm Sunday, May 30, 2010

It’s no wonder the Ohio Bobcats wanted Frank Solich as their head football coach five years ago. They man with the green thumb fit perfect into the plans of the green and white.

Solich seems to have a green thumb when it comes to building football programs dating back to the beginning of his coaching career.

While Solich isn’t a big man himself standing only about 5-foot-8, he certainly has produce big results.

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“In my coaching career, I’ve had four head coaching positions. The first two were high school positions. Both were building from the ground up,” said Solich.

“At Nebraska it was running at full speed. That was a maintaining job. Ohio was back to building. I enjoy building more. Getting players to have success and a great work ethic and winning regular, that can’t be beat. So far, I’ve enjoyed this even more. There’s no better feeling. Everybody wants to win and no one wants to win more than the players.”

Overall, the 65-year-old Solich has been winning. He has a 90-50 career record including a 32-31 record with the Bobcats. His teams are 24-18 in the Mid-American Conference where he’s guided the program to a pair of East Division titles.

The division crown in 2006 was the first football championship of any kind for the program since 1968.

“You’ve got to continually recruit. Once we get people to the campus, they fall in love with it. It’s a fun place to recruit not only to the campus life, but the education,” said Solich.

“We’ve taken a few steps, but we hope to take even more steps. We’re getting consistency. That’s what you strive for. We feel pretty good.”

Solich was born in Johnstown, PA, but went to school in Cleveland from the seventh through 12th grades. After graduating from Holy Name High School, he then signed with Nebraska where he played fullback from 1963-65.

Solich took a job coaching in high school where he led Lincoln Southeast to a 66-33-5 record and back-to-back Class A state titles in 1976-77.

He then headed back to his alma mater where he was an assistant coach for 19 seasons under the legendary Tom Osborne.

Solich learned a lot from Osborne and he was was his mentor’s successor. But no matter what he learned, he was still Frank Solich, not Tom Osborne.

‘”It didn’t matter what I did. People would complain that I didn’t chew my gum on the sidelines the way Tom Osborne did,” Solich said as he joked about the rigid scrutiny he came under as Osborne’s successor.

It wasn’t the lack of success that caused Solich to be fired as the Huskers’ head coach. Nebraska went to six straight bowl games under Solich and the 2001 team played for the national championship in the Rose Bowl.

His teams finished among the top 10 in the nation three times and he posted an impressive 58-19 record (.753). He was the Big 12 Coach of the Year twice and one of seven finalists for the national award in 2001.

His win total was more than Bob Devaney or Osborne during their first six seasons, but a new athletic director — Steve Pederson — wanted to make that infamous move. You know the one where they want to “go in a different direction.”

They did. Downward. The Huskers are 37-26 since Solich was dismissed.

Meanwhile, Solich was courted and signed by Ohio and the program began to take off.

The green thumb worked again. And looking at the Bobcats’ future, it looks like the plow is ready for some more work.

— Sinatra —

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.