For now, talking's the name of ODU coach's game
June 29, 2008
For 16 months, Bobby Wilder has been talking up Old Dominion football.
And then talking some more.
He has spoken to 230 groups. He's had breakfast with the Monday Morning Breakfast Club, lunch with the mayor and dinner with the Big Blue Club.
He has dressed in black tie for formal dinners and shorts and flip-flops for barbecues.
He's spoken at Talbot Retirement Home and to a mishmash of six students in a night class called Football 101.
And ODU's head coach has smiled through it all, playing the part of Pied Piper as he tries to woo fans into believing ODU football, which opens play in the fall of 2009, will be the hottest ticket going.
Beginning Aug. 13, when players finally show up with college football on their minds, Wilder and his staff will get down to crafting a team, putting together a game plan and instilling a philosophy.
Until then, Wilder is left to give varying versions of his well-rehearsed speech, which stresses his "aim-high" approach to college football and to life in general.
Whether speaking to a 75-year-old retiree or a junior high student, Wilder has been consistent in his approach and energetic in his delivery.
"Aim high," Wilder said last week as he spoke to a group of about three dozen at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club, "because if you miss, then you miss high."
He has six different speeches, but all share the general "aim-high" party line.
"I got a sense that this might be how it was when, during my interview process, I was asked a lot about how comfortable I'd be as a public speaker," Wilder said. "Early on, I figured out I'd be doing a lot of answering to who we are, what we stand for and what football at ODU would be all about."
His active speaking schedule is about to slow significantly. Where last October he spoke to "three groups in one day and 16 in one week," this October figures to be different. With about 75 players expected for camp in August, Wilder says his appearances will lessen.
"There's just not going to be enough time to do all that I've done in the last 16 months," Wilder said. "Besides, I'm a football coach first and foremost. And I need to get back to coaching."
Those 230 events over 16 months will be cut to about 30 a year.
"To this point, I haven't said no to anyone," Wilder said. "I've gone everywhere and spoken to anybody. But that's about to dramatically change."
In other words, it's time to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.
Rich Radford, (757) 446-2463, firstname.lastname@example.org