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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

For Athletic Director Paul Krebs, it’s been … A Revolving Door

By Erik Cassano

Sports Reporter

Paul Krebs has spent but a relative sliver of his career as Bowling Green’s director of athletics. He’s been at his post for not quite four years. In that time, however, he’s replaced more major-sport coaches than some athletic directors do in their entire tenure. The football, men’s and women’s basketball and hockey teams have yielded four coaching changes, and another near-change, since December 2000.

The torrent of coaching changes began in fall 2000 when football coach Gary Blackney announced his resignation effective at the end of the season. His vacancy was filled by Urban Meyer, who left this past December and was replaced by Gregg Brandon.

Women’s basketball coach Dee Knoblauch was terminated following a second-round Mid-American Conference tournament loss in March 2001. Curt Miller was named her successor later in the year. Hockey coach Buddy Powers was relieved of his job following the 2001-02 season and replaced by University alum Scott Paluch.

And then there was the case of men’s basketball coach Dan Dakich. Last spring, he waved a tearful good-bye as he departed for West Virginia University. Less than a week later, with a national coaching search about to commence, he backed out of his West Virginia contract and returned. Dakich has never publicly revealed the exact reason for his comeback.

Krebs acknowledged there has been a high turnover, but nothing that shouldn’t be accounted for.

“What we’ve had here is an unusual amount of turnover in key positions,” he said. “But as someone in an administrative position, it is something you plan for. You have to have a list of four or five names, people you have evaluated as potential successors for almost every position in the department.”

Krebs said each case must be evaluated on its own. Every coaching search must be tailored to the needs of the program and filled after a series of interviews with several short-list candidates. “I think that you can never hire someone after just one interview,” he said. “You need at least several. After several interviews, that is when the true personality of that person will begin to emerge.”

The needs of BG’s athletic programs have been as varied as the sports they play. In the cases of Gary Blackney and Buddy Powers, the programs needed more energy, a spark to infuse life into teams that had gone stale. The Falcon football team won back-to-back MAC titles under Blackney in the early ’90s, but had stagnated toward the end of the decade.

“My first year here, we went 5-6 and I figured we were turning the corner toward contention again,” Krebs said. “That didn’t happen, unfortunately.”

The Falcons went 2-9 in Blackney’s final season.

The hockey team, though it advanced to the 2001 Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament semifinals, was coming off a string of losing seasons this past spring. Attendance was falling for home games and a general apathy had permeated the campus toward Falcon hockey. It was becoming clear to Krebs and the Athletic Department that the life had gone out of Powers’ program.

“In the case of Buddy Powers, you had a coach that, while he was well-liked, wasn’t getting the job done to satisfaction anymore,” Krebs said. “We needed new life, a new person with fresh ideas, and that’s what I think we have in Scott Paluch.”

Krebs said that while the change didn’t translate to the scoreboard this year — the Falcons finished the season 8-25-3 — there is a definite change in the attitude of the hockey program.

“If you have been to our games this season, you see a change in the team,” he said. “Fewer mistakes, more energy, better play. The wins, I think, are coming. Scott has a great recruiting class coming in.”

The coaching change for women’s basketball was necessitated by what Krebs saw as a mismatch of coach and team. His dislike of the way Knoblauch handled the team is still evident. Krebs said Knoblauch had trouble managing her players and recruiting for a Division I program.

“Dee came from a Division III program at Mount Union,” he said. “That’s probably where she should have stayed.

“Any coach who comes in and says ‘I don’t like to recruit tall players’ for basketball, there’s problems right there.”

Krebs said he is pleased with the way Miller is handling the team right now, but he is still digging his way out of the problems he inherited. The women’s basketball team has finished below .500 in each of Miller’s first two seasons.

The most recent football turnover is a 180-degree turn from the changes at the helms of hockey and women’s basketball. With the hiring of Brandon, Krebs is trying to perpetuate the success the football team has experienced the past two years. Under Meyer, the Falcons had records of 8-3 and 9-3, including an 8-0 start to the 2002 season.

“In football, we weren’t in need of dramatic change,” Krebs said. “Brandon will try to capitalize on the foundation that has been laid. He was the best fit for our situation. He was, in my mind, the genius behind our offense the past two years.”

Brandon was the offensive coordinator for BG the past two seasons, when the Falcons were among the national leaders in scoring.

“I have to hand it to Paul to look at me along with other candidates,” Brandon said. “I think I earned the job, and I am glad he was willing to look at me and ultimately decide on me.”

Krebs still has not fully recovered from the sudden departure of Meyer. Within two weeks of saying he had “unfinished business” to take care of in BG, Meyer left to take the head coaching job at the University of Utah. There is still a small but apparent sense of betrayal in Krebs’ words.

“I am not going to get into it too much, but just let me say there were conversations I had with Urban that led me to believe he was staying,” he said.

The hard feelings for Krebs stop at the office door. He said he wishes Meyer nothing but the best at Utah. It is a professional courtesy, but the wishes also come with a benefit for BG in mind. “I hope Urban becomes the Mountain West Conference coach of the year at Utah,” he said. “There will always be part of him connected to BG, and any success he has will be a good reflection on this school. It will show that you can come here and field a successful program.”

Krebs said that when he looks for a new coach, he wants to see a few common denominators in all candidates, regardless of the sport.

“They need to be good recruiters,” he said. “They need to have a knowledge of the game, an ability to teach effectively, and be able to instill a sense of discipline, manage the team.”

Krebs said involvement in the community is also a high priority. Coaches that come to BG have to connect the team to the city and the fans. It is something Meyer put a high price on when he came to BG, and something Brandon wants to continue. To Brandon, reaching out to the community begins on the field.

“We just need to win, first and foremost,” Brandon said. “We need to put a good product on the field and make it worthwhile for fans to come to games and stick around until the end.”

High turnover, especially in highly-competitive, big-money sports like football and men’s basketball, may be the new reality for a mid-size program like BG. Krebs said it is a fact for most programs regardless of size.

“Turnover is a reality even in [Bowl Championship Series] conference schools,” he said. “If you have a successful coach, another school is going to come along with deeper pockets, a higher-profile job, or the pros will come around. It is a good problem to have, though. I’ll take my chance with that scenario rather that not have competitive programs.

“You just have to be ready for change. Every place I go, games, events, conventions, I am always looking around at assistants, administrators, coaches, seeing who might be a candidate I could look at for this program. I’ve learned from the situations in the past two years that any good athletic director does that.”

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