THIS ONE’S FOR THE RECORD BOOKS is a series where we look at the records held and broken in Mid-American Conference football history, and expand on what the relevance of this information is (or isn’t). To lead the series off, we have to look at the most pressing MAC record that’s bound to be broken this season by Frank Solich.
Since we have some time to kill between now and the start of the season, it’s a good time for MAC football writers alike to get some prewrites done. Here’s a good one to start with.
Headline: Frank Solich Becomes Winningest MAC Coach Ever.
This will be Solich’s 15th season with Ohio since being hired before the 2005 season. Leading the Bobcats, Solich has a 106-75 record (70-42 MAC), which is the third-most amount of wins by a MAC coach. Central Michigan legend Herb Deromedi has held the record of 110 wins since 1993, and former Ohio coach Bill Hess won 108 games in his day.
Top 10 MAC coaches by career wins
1. Herb Deromedi, 110-55 career record (CMU, 1978-93)
2. Bill Hess, 108-91 (Ohio, 1958-77)
3. Frank Solich, 106-75 (Ohio, 2005-18)
4. Bob Pruett, 79-23 (Marshall, 1997-03)
5. Doyt Perry, 77-11-5 (BGSU, 1955-64)
6. Gary Pinkel, 73-37-3 (Toledo, 1991-00)
7. Trevor Rees, 66-48-4 (Kent State, 1951-63)
8. Bill Mallory, 64-31 (Miami, 1969-73 & NIU, 1980-83)
t9. Al Molde 62-47-2 (WMU, 1987-96) & Joe Novak 62-65 (NIU, 1997-2007)
Solich is the 28th head coach in Ohio’s history that goes back to 1894, and two of those coaches hold more wins at the school than he does. The first we already mentioned, Hess, has two more career wins than Solich does.
But even if and when Solich passes Hess on the list above, Solich is still at least another season away from being the all-time wins record holder at Ohio.
Don Peden, whose name is on the home stadium, has held the all-time wins record holder for Ohio coaches since 1946. In 22 years of coaching the Bobcats, Peden’s had an all-time record of 121-46-11 before retiring from coaching in February 1947.
Entering the 2019 season, if Ohio runs the table, goes undefeated, wins the MAC Championship, and its bowl game to finish with a 14-0 record, Solich would still be one shy of Peden’s total entering his 16th season. Worst case scenario: Solich is within striking distance of breaking the school record next year.
Top 10 Ohio coaches by career wins
1. Don Peden, 121-46-11 (1924-46)
2. Bill Hess, 108-91-4 (1958-77)
3. Frank Solich, 106-75 (2005-Present)
4. Carroll Widdoes, 42-36-5 (1949-57)
5. Jim Grobe, 33-33-1 (1995-00)
6. Brian Burke, 31-34-1 (1979-84)
7. Mark Banks, 22-17-2 (1913-17)
8. Art McFarland, 13-10-1 (1906-08)
9. Russ Finsterwald, 13-10-1 (1920-22)
10. Brian Knorr, 11-35 (2001-04)
Solich had a wild path to even get to Ohio. He was an excellent head coach for Nebraska with 59 wins and 19 losses in six seasons, and his teams were voted in the AP Top 10 for 54 weeks straight. Solich shouldn’t have been fired after a 9-3 season, but then-athletic director Steve Pederson didn’t believe that Solich was doing enough to achieve the Ultimate Goal™.
”This is the best job in the country, and anyone who doesn’t want to win the national championship shouldn’t bother applying for this job,” Pederson said at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb. ”I understand we aren’t going to win the championship every year, but I believe we should be playing for or gaining on the championship on a consistent basis. I don’t feel that currently we are playing for or gaining on the championship.”
Solich, who succeeded Tom Osborne after the 1997 season, led Nebraska to the 2001 national title game, but Pederson said he was concerned the program had lost ground in recruiting and was heading in the wrong direction.
”I refuse to let the program gravitate into mediocrity,” Pederson said. ”We won’t surrender the Big 12 to Oklahoma and Texas.”
Solich posted a 9-4 record in 1998 with a loss to Arizona in the Holiday Bowl; a 12-1 record in 1999 with a conference championship and a victory over Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl; a 10-2 record in 2000 with a victory over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl; and an 11-2 record in 2001 and a loss to Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national title. Last year, Nebraska was 7-7 and lost to Mississippi in the Independence Bowl.
Solich could not be reached for comment. His contract, which runs through June 2006, will be bought out for $796,693. (The New York Times)
Coaches by and large don’t come to the Mid-American Conference after having a head coaching job at a national power. Since Solich’s hiring before the 2005 season, 35 other coaches have been hired into Mid-American Conference programs. Of them, only three have been head coaches at Power 5 or major college football programs before their MAC jobs. Stan Parrish was Ball State’s head coach from 2008-2010 (coached three years at Kansas State). Terry Bowden was at Akron from 2012-2018 (legacy coach, and coached Auburn from 1993-1998). Jim McElwain is the new head coach for CMU this year (won a pair of SEC East Titles with Florida from 2015-2017). The first two coaches here got fired for poor performances, and the MACtion McElwain saga has yet to really begin.
The other 32 head coaches hired through MAC programs had never been coaches at the FBS level before. Sometimes they’ve never been head coaches at any level. The opportunity for a coach like Solich to come into a conference like the MAC only happen when Solich, specifically, gets pushed out of his job in Nebraska to join a team like Ohio, where he’s found a way to carve out his own niche.
The improbability of it all coming together — Solich’s resume, his success, the longevity of it all staying tied down in Athens, Ohio — keeps being replayed in my head.
If and when Solich breaks the Deromedi’s record, we’ll have to start asking ourselves if we’ve been witnessing an unbreakable record in sports for the better part of 15 years.
Solich’s contract is set to expire January 2020. I hope I’m not burying this fairly important bit of information here because the expectation by and large is that the coach will have the throne before snowfall anyways. After that, it’s anybody’s guess what the coach and school plan on doing. (I’m sure the school plan on hiring a replacement athletic director first since Jim Schauss has left to be the Commissioner of the Southern Conference. That’s going to have to happen first.)
Hopefully there’s another extension on the way, that way MAC football writers alike can get our prewrites going. Headline: Frank Solich Becomes Winningest Coach in Ohio History.