As far as challenges go, first-year Miami (Ohio) coach Chuck Martin inherited a big one. The Redhawks went 0-12 last season and fired coach Don Treadwell on Oct. 6 after starting 0-5. Miami ranked dead last -- 125 out of 125 teams -- in S&P+ and lost by an average of 26 points per game. Martin will have his hands full trying to get his players to believe again, and much of the spring has been spent teaching good habits and correcting bad ones.
SI.com got the chance to talk with Martin, who came to the RedHawks from his role as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator on Dec. 3.
SI: How has the spring been? What questions are you trying to answer?
Chuck Martin: When you're taking over a program that obviously didn't have a lot of success a year ago, you're at a different place than most teams in the country. From implementing our offensive and defensive schemes that we're trying to run to just the basics of who we're going to be. What's going to be the character of our team? What's going to be the work ethic of our team? What's Miami going to stand for when we take the field?
SI: When the Miami (Ohio) opening became available, what did you find so enticing about it?
Martin: Part of the allure of Miami was the great academic institution, the Cradle of Coaches, all the success and all the tradition. But part of it was not only to become part of the Cradle of Coaches, but that I can help turn the place back around to where it was for 60 years or so. The competitive side of me says, "Wow, what an opportunity." For me as a coach, I'm only in my mid-40s. I'm still fairly young in this profession, so for me to have an opportunity to build it kind of from scratch. Well, not quite from scratch, but we're not far from scratch.
SI: What was your approach in trying to build your staff?
Martin: Football isn't a super difficult game for me. I try to find the best dang people I can find. That's more important than the best dang coaches. There are a lot of people who can coach this game that aren't the type of people who fit with what you believe in. I've been very fortunate when I've been a head coach [Martin was the head coach at Grand Valley State from 2004-09] to be around great people. We've had a lot of success and a lot of it has to do with the people in the room and their character, work ethic and unselfishness. This is a tough sport, especially at the Division I level and at the MAC level. You can easily surround yourself with staff members who don't want to be here. They want to be at Notre Dame or at Ohio State. I've been on a staff like that in the MAC before.
SI: Coaches aren't able to hide those motives. The kids are sharp. They know when guys are just trying to climb. They want guys to be invested in the program.
Martin: It's the nature of this league that people view this as a stepping-stone league. People at these schools don't like to hear that, but that's the reality of the situation. I left Notre Dame to come here. I took a pay cut to come here. From the starting point, I gave a bunch of money to come to Miami. I'm invested. Why would I then surround myself with guys who don't have the same motives as me?
SI: You mentioned academics as a strong point for Miami. Obviously, coming from Notre Dame, it's really a good thing you can use in your back pocket. Are you taking that mindset to recruiting?
Martin: One, you have to use it as a positive. It can't be a negative. College sports has become big business. I get it. It's the media, the Twitter, the Rivals, all these different things that now follow the game 12 months a year. It's different than it used to be. It's made the game so exciting and has made it what it is. With that, a lot of young kids and families get caught up in the wrong things when it comes to choosing a college.
At Notre Dame, we only offered 20-25 kids a year, and I hope there's still 20-25 families out there that get it. If you want to go some place because they've got a huge Nike deal and they have cool uniforms, you're really choosing college for the wrong reasons. We go the other way. We're looking for people who actually get it. Your four years are over, and just because you wore cool uniforms in college that's not going to feed your family when you're 30. If you don't understand that, shame on you. If you're looking for all the bells and whistles, you're looking for pretty gadgets or a marketing tool, we're not that. We'll give you one of the best educations in the country and you can come play for a football program that's going to win championships.
The second piece is you have to be careful because you don't want to oversell the academics. You want the balance. You want a student-athlete. You want a guy who understands the degree, what it can do for you and what the Miami network can do for you. But you don't want a kid who just wants a degree and wants a nice life after college. Some kids will just choose Miami because when they're 30 they're going to be rich. That doesn't help you win games. You have to have a kid who wants to take his team to bowls. Stanford and Notre Dame and those other schools are proving you can be great at both.
SI: What's your benchmark of success in year one?
Martin: That's an awesome question. For me, the biggest thing is that next December, our program is significantly better than it was when I took over. Now how many wins is that? I don't know. I'm very optimistic. I always believe if you do things the right way and are prepared, you always give yourself a chance for success.
I'm not as concerned with wins and losses in year one as I am in year three or four. Get these kids playing the right way and feeling good about how they're playing and preparing. In year one, that's the biggest thing. What people forget is there are real people. I know it's a name -- it's Alabama, it's Notre Dame, it's Miami of Ohio, it's whatever -- but there's real people who get let go and real kids who have to deal with people who get let go. I'm happy to be here, but I never feel good about a coach getting removed from a situation. It's awful for these coaches and families, but it's awful for these kids. Whether they like those coaches or not, there's a certain amount of responsibility they feel for what happened. If it's their fault or not, they're human beings.
SI: What do you want your identity to be? What do you want people to think of when they think of RedHawks football? Martin: Hard to play, not fun to play. They're going to keep coming at you. They don't really care what the score is or what the situation in the season is. We want to be like that kid who likes to fight. He may not even be the strongest or the meanest, but if you beat him up on Monday and Tuesday, he wants to fight you again. That kid you never want to get in a fight with because you know it's never ending. You get sick of beating him up and by Thursday, it's getting old and he's still coming at you. We want to have that mentality of somebody who's going to come to work every day and compete every day and love to play the game.