The officials of the Military Bowl have had little problem lining up a team coached by Dave Clawson for their event.
Finding a head coach to coach against Clawson has been a different story.
“I don’t know why it is, why coaches are afraid to play against Dave,’’ Steve Beck wondered Tuesday night. “This is the second one now. MacIntyre at Colorado was at San Jose State. Now Rhule is headed to Baylor.’’
Beck, the president and executive director of the Military Bowl was remarking about the coincidence of the two coaches scheduled to face Clawson in the bowl leaving their teams before the game was played.
Mike MacIntyre, the coach at San Jose State, was hired away by Colorado before the game against Clawson’s Bowling Green squad in 2012. And this past week, Temple coach Matt Rhule departed for Baylor as the Owls began practicing for the Dec. 27 game against Wake Forest in Annapolis. The bowl was called the EagleBank Bowl when Wake Forest beat Navy 29-19 in the inaugural event in 2008.
“In the Military Bowl press conference, they said that I’m the first coach to ever have coached two different teams in the bowl,’’ Clawson said Wednesday. “Two days later Matt Rhule got the head job (at Baylor) and I said ‘Yeah, and both times the other head coach didn’t even show up.’”
Beck and Clawson have remained friends since Bowling Green lost 29-20 to San Jose State, and its interim coach Kent Baer. Beck said he got an inkling that MacIntyre, who coached the Spartans to a 10-2 regular-season record, was on the move during the pre-bowl festivities.
“We had a coaches’ dinner,’’ Beck said. “We had Dave and MacIntyre there. We had taken Dave out to dinner the night before. We were taking Mac and his staff out.
“We were at Morton’s in Georgetown and having a very nice dinner. MacIntyre was hardly there because he was on the phone to Colorado the whole time. The next day he said he was gone.’’
Clawson said he was actually in the car with MacIntyre when Colorado came calling.
“Mike gets this phone call from the Boulder area code, 303,’’ Clawson recalls. “He goes to me, that’s a weird call. Does anybody know what this area code is?
“I looked it up, and I said ‘Hey, congratulations, you’re a candidate for the Colorado job.’’
The story, from Colorado’s point of view, has a happy ending. MacIntyre coached the 11th-ranked Buffalos to a division title this season in the Pac-12 Conference and will face Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl. MacIntyre was named Wednesday the Home Depot Coach of the Year.
All kidding aside, Clawson said it should have surprised no one when two successful coaches from what is known as the Group of Five were hired away by Power Five programs. The Group of Five is a collective nickname for the American Athletic Conference, Conference-USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt Conference.
“Both years that I’ve had a team that’s been invited to this game, we played against one of the best Group of Five teams in the country,’’ Clawson said. “And when a coach at a Group of Five school has a great year, he’s going to be a candidate for other jobs.’’
Temple certainly had a great regular season under Rhule, winning 10 games and beating Navy in the ACC title game. The Owls, coming off their second straight 10-win season, are ranked No. 23.
As fate would have it, Ed Foley, the assistant coach who will be interim head coach in the bowl game, is one of Clawson’s closest friends in the profession. The two go back to the start of their careers as graduate assistants at Albany State, Foley was Clawson’s offensive coordinator and successor as head coach at Fordham, and they were in each other’s wedding.
Beck said Wake Forest may have caught a break by Rhule leaving Temple before the bowl game, but Clawson’s not so sure.
“I don’t know if it will affect it at all,’’ Clawson said. “You’re 12, 13 games into a season. Your team is your team. Matt Rhule did not call the plays. He didn’t coordinate a side of the ball. So at this point in the year, you are who you are.
“I just think that at this point, Matt did such a great job there that their program can run on momentum. And Ed’s been a head coach. It’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing.’’