Wilder's Routine Changes
Oct. 22, 2007
First off, Bobby Wilder doesn't get the D.T.'s on Saturday afternoons. There are no tears trickling down his cheeks as he watches ESPN's "Gameday," nor does it require a crowbar to pry the TV remote from his hand.
That's not to say that it's easy being a football coach without a football team to coach. As Vince Lombardi once said: Au contraire. Or something like that. Wilder is the man charged with breathing life into Old Dominion University football (motto: Unbeaten Since 1940) team.
It was a three-year push toward the opener in September 2009, which meant that Wilder, a gregarious Maine transplant hired last February, would go two full seasons without coaching a game.
That's two full seasons without game-planning, without running through the tunnel onto the field with his kids, without aching and celebrating with his players in the locker room.
"During the week, I don't think about it because it's go-go-go all the time," Wilder said. "But when it gets to Saturday, and if I'm at the house and I turn the TV on and I look, then I really miss it. Then it starts to bother me that I'm not competing, that I'm not involved. There's times when I turn the TV off and I get up and walk away and do something else because I can't stand to just sit there and watch it."
Wilder figures that autumn Saturdays for the past 33 of his 43 years were spent playing or coaching football games.
"You talk about taking yourself out of your comfort zone," he said. "That's what this is -- a 33-year streak that was broken. It's a little different."
That's why there isn't a great deal of sitting on the weekends. In Wilder's world, Saturdays and Sundays are almost as busy as any other day of the week for a program that needs everything from office furniture to shoulder pads to audio-visual equipment to uniforms to, oh yeah, players.
Saturdays are about recruiting. Take today. He'll be in the office by 6:15 a.m., answering e-mails and correspondence. He'll be back home by 8 o'clock for breakfast with the family.
Then it's over to younger son Drew's youth football game at 9:30. He will get back to the office by 11 to prepare for a handful of recruits and their families and friends, scheduled to arrive around noon.
Wilder and the staff have honed an approximately two-hour presentation and tour for prospective students and their families. He encourages players to bring Mom and Dad, brother and sister, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Evelyn -- as many people as they can wedge into the Family Truckster.
"What we're finding," Wilder said, "is that the more people we get, there's a bigger 'Wow' factor. Once they take a look and we take them on a tour and we show them a power-point (presentation), it ends up being, 'Wow. I didn't know it was this.' We're trying to get that word out there as much as we can."
Wilder and recruiting coordinator Chip West then plan to hit the second half of the Booker T. Washington-Woodrow Wilson game, because there are several prospects they want to evaluate in person.
After that, Wilder will make at least some of older son Derek's game that starts at 3:15. One of the few benefits to not having games to coach, Wilder said, is more time with his family on weekends and watching his own sons' games.
Come dinner time, Wilder will play Mr. Mom so that his wife, Pam, can exhale and spend Saturday evening out with her posse.
Though Wilder occasionally gets a little edgy watching other people's games, count on him spending at least a few minutes Saturday evening with the clicker in his hand.
"I try to be in front of a TV," he said, "at some point during the day, if I can, to watch a game -- to try and put myself in that mindset of a coach, where I can analyze third down and look at what special teams call I would make in certain sets, so I can try to live a Saturday for just a minute.
"But it doesn't happen every Saturday, just because of how much we have going on with recruiting."
Last Saturday, there was an ODU tailgate party at Norfolk's Town Point Park, where 3,500 people showed up 22 months before the first game to nosh and watch the head coach unveil the Monarchs' new unis.
Not exactly monumental stuff, but Wilder is almost beyond being surprised any more at the level of interest and appetite for ODU football.
"I've been feeding off that excitement and energy, as has the staff," he said. "It's really motivated us to go above and beyond what might normally be done in this situation.
"Quite honestly, we could probably take off every weekend, work 9-to-5, and not a lot of people would notice or maybe even be able to hold us accountable because there's no wins and losses on Saturday."
Spend 10 minutes around Bobby Wilder and you realize he isn't wired for 9-to-5. He wants to plan, to build, to coach. No games? A temporary obstacle that grows more temporary every day.
Copyright © 2007, Newport News, Va., Daily Press