About me (feel free to skip down to my bio of Briles):
I played center and linebacker in high school and strong safety in college at Cornell for two years until I blew out a knee. Back then, they did not know how to fix them like they do now. Arthroscopic surgery came along about 10 years later. It was clear to me that I had better hit the books if I wanted to make a good living. I was certainly not going to happen playing football.
I have been going to UM games since I was 7 years old and that is almost 60 years ago. My mother, my father, my older brother, my younger brother, all three of my children and a couple of my cousins all have Michigan degrees. After medical school here in Toledo, I completed a masters in public health at Michigan to finally catch up with the rest of the family with a Michigan degree.
Although I am not a football coach, for the past several years I have been going to the UM football coaches clinic each spring. I am approaching retirement and have been thinking I could volunteer as an assistant coach at a local high school after I retire. The coaches clinics might better prepare me for that role. I also thought it would be fun to get more of an inside view of the coaches and players at Michigan and a more sophisticated take on the game that would make me a better fan.
I started attending the coaches clinics under Rich-Rod and have gone every year since. They have all been enlightening but this year was the best yet. I decided to take even more detailed notes than usual and I thought I could share some of them as a diary. If there seems to be interest, I might continue to add to this diary with additional notes from some of the other coaches who spoke this year this year and even some from previous years.
What follows is a brief bio and summary of the talk given at the coaches clinic by Art Briles, the head coach at Baylor.
About Art Briles:
As you may know, he was a star QB at his high school and played in a state championship game. He was a starting wide receiver at Houston. He began his coaching career as an assistant high school coach and high school teacher in 1980. He became a head coach in 1984 and had a mix of great success and great failure over the next few years but then developed a knack for taking over teams with serious losing records and turning them into winning programs.
His Stephensville, Texas high school teams went from 0 wins to 4 state championships. At his first college head coaching job at Houston, they went from 2 winning seasons in 12 years to conference champions. At Baylor, he has taken them from dog meat (14 consecutive losing seasons) to one of the best programs in the Big 12 with two conference championships and six straight bowl appearances and top 20 poll rankings in 4 of the past 5 seasons.
He is not an imposing or intense man. He is average height and fairly thin. His communication style is folksy and it was easy to listen and follow his talk. Here is what he offered about what it takes to be successful as a football coach. I think some of this advice would apply to successfully running any team or enterprise large or small.
His advice on creating a winning program:
As a coach you must accept that winning is tough. You must learn to win with the team you have. You must create an edge. You do this by your style of play and the players you recruit must fit your mindset. You want players who will be fearless, physical, disciplined, determined and desperate. These characteristics need to be your trademark. You must think about and envision and communicate the big picture. Accept that the only consistent thing is inconsistency. There will need to be constant change and adaptation and this is especially true on special teams because more of the players are changing every year and often less experienced. Personnel management at every level of the program is your most important task as a coach. You must get the right person in the right spot.
Get happy, get beat. Get satisfied, get passed.
He has no team captains because every player should behave like a captain.
Leadership is a daily act in how you treat people and improve the mind set of the players, coaches, staff, administration and alums. You do this by how you act not just what you say. Kill your detractors with kindness. Surround yourself with people who are self starters of high character. Be the face and direction of the program . Challenge yourself. Be thankful but never satisfied. Love and care for those that fight for you.
He was scrawny as a youngster and grew up in a tough high school so he decided “I'm gonna' have big friends!”. No one messed with AB and his big friends. So, recruit the QB you need first but he needs big friends too. So recruiting the OL and DL is just as important. The “bigs” will run the locker room for you.
His offensive strategy: Tell the receivers to run as fast as they can and then tell the quarterback to throw it as far as he can. However you must be balanced and unpredictable on offense. The past five years, Baylor had averaged over 47 points per game, over 4000 yards passing and over 3000 yards rushing per season.