Lester hopes to keep Western Michigan rolling
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) Tim Lester knows he's got a tough act to follow at Western Michigan.
But Lester, who was hired to succeed P.J. Fleck as coach of the Broncos football team on Friday, says he'll keep what his players like from the old regime while putting his own stamp on things.
''I'll do it my way, but the results need to be the same,'' Lester said at an introductory news conference Saturday at Western Michigan. ''(Players) need to know I care about them as a person, a student, that they're getting out into the community to grow their character. (Fleck) had a different way of doing it.
''I won't fight the past, because I like the way he built it,'' Lester said. ''But we're going to continue to build with the same thing in the future.''
Lester, 39, spent the 2016 season as the quarterbacks coach at Purdue after spending two years at Syracuse as its offensive coordinator. He also was the head coach at Division II Saint Joseph's in 2004 and coached at Division III Elmhurst from 2008-12, compiling a 40-23 record.
Lester played at Western Michigan in the late 1990s, setting school records in passing, and was an assistant at Western in 2005-06.
He found out he got the job Friday afternoon and was in Kalamazoo that evening, meeting current players and recruits on a key recruiting weekend for the school.
Nine Western recruits left with Fleck for Minnesota, along with several coaches. Lester and the four coaches who stayed have the task of trying to rebuild the class in the two weeks before national signing day.
''We're going to try to (get to the maximum of 25), but we're not going to grab people to fill in the class,'' Lester said. ''We won't fill 25 just to get to 25.''
Lester signed a five-year contract worth $800,000 per season with as much as $300,000 in bonuses. It's the same contract Fleck was working under before he left for Minnesota soon after Western Michigan lost to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
Lester set numerous passing records at Western Michigan during his playing career from 1996-99. He played in the now-defunct XFL and the Arena Football League before beginning his coaching career.
One of Fleck's motivational slogans was ''Row the Boat,'' which he wants to take with him to Minnesota. Negotiations between the schools for use of the slogan, which Western Michigan trademarked, are to begin soon.
The slogan isn't as important as the culture it created, Lester said.
''Motivation is what (players) accept and what causes them to want to play hard,'' Lester said. ''I can't tell you everything we'll keep, but we'll keep some things and make them our own. They've done a great job buying into this culture.''