Clawson ready to begin rebuilding Demon Deacons' football team

Winston-Salem JournalDecember 10, 2013 

— No arms were twisted by Wake Forest in its process of hiring a new football coach.

Dave Clawson made that abundantly clear Tuesday upon his introduction as Jim Grobe’s successor.

“I really wanted to be at Wake Forest,’’ Clawson said. “The second this job opened, I was dreaming that I was at a podium speaking to all these reporters.

“I want to be here. This is a great place, and I think we can achieve great things.’’

Clawson, 46, achieved his goal by dazzling the two Wake Forest officials charged with conducting the search, Athletics Director Ron Wellman and Associate Director of Athletics Mike Buddie during an exhaustive interview Sunday at Clawson’s home in Bowling Green, Ohio. Fresh off coaching Bowling Green to the Mid-American Conference title, Clawson was one of two finalists to succeed Grobe, who resigned on Dec. 2 after 13 seasons.

The other finalist was Pete Lembo of Ball State. Wellman was asked Tuesday if the job had been offered to anyone other than Clawson.

“Absolutely not,’’ Wellman said.

Wellman said Clawson checked off all the boxes on his wish list for a football coach. A 1989 graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts, Clawson’s career record is 90-80 as a head coach at Fordham, Richmond and Bowling Green.

He was 29-29 at Fordham, but 26-10 over his final three seasons. He was 29-20 at Richmond, but 26-12 over his final three seasons. He was 32-31 at Bowling Green, but 18-8 over his final two seasons.

Clawson has won conference championships at all three schools and twice has been NCAA Division I-AA Coach of the Year, at Fordham and at Richmond.

“When a position comes open, we always develop a profile for our next coach,’’ Wellman said. “In this case the profile was real simple.

“No.1 we wanted someone who had been a head coach. No.2, we wanted someone who had head coaching experience, but was also a winner. No.3 we wanted someone who had been a private institution. There are differences when you’re at a private institution versus a public institution and that experience we wanted. So we established that as a priority.

“And No.4, we wanted someone who we believed would understand the values, standards and ideals of Wake Forest University. And we found that man in Dave Clawson.’’

One of Clawson’s first tasks is to assemble a staff. Although he wants the three coordinators at Bowling Green to follow him to Wake Forest, one might be a candidate to succeed him there.

Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero and defensive coordinator Mike Elko are expected to be named assistant coaches at Wake Forest this week. Adam Scheier, the special teams coordinator, has been named the interim coach to direct the Falcons against Pittsburgh in the Dec. 26 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

“I would like to bring all three coordinators,’’ Clawson said. “One of them may be a candidate for the head coaching job there. I certainly want to support our staff – if that’s something he wants to pursue.

“But the plan is to get the offensive and defensive coordinator down here relatively quickly to help with recruiting, and then we’ll starting filling the staff from there.’’

Clawson met with members of Grobe’s staff Tuesday night to interview them about possibly remaining at Wake Forest. He said he plans to take as much time as needed to get the right staff.

“The goal is to hire the very best staff at Wake Forest as we can so that we can compete for ACC championships,’’ Clawson said. “Probably the most important decisions that I make as a head coach over the next two to three weeks is who’s going to recruit these young men, who’s going to coach them, who’s going to mentor them? I’d rather take my time and get it right than rush and make bad decisions.

“We have to hire the best coaches for Wake Forest, that share a vision of how we want to run this program, what we want this program to look like. And if we do that, that will attract the right players here.’’

Clawson said the job was made more attractive by the efforts of Grobe. Not only did Grobe coach the Deacons to their first ACC title in 36 seasons in 2006, and a berth in the Orange Bowl, he also tied Peahead Walker for most coaching victories at the school.

Grobe’s record was 77-82.

“Certainly in building the program at Richmond, one of the people I stole from was coach Grobe,’’ Clawson said. “He proved that Wake Forest can win at a very high level in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“He did it with class. He did it with dignity. We was certainly one of the most respected coaches in the profession and certainly replacing a man of his stature is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. He’s one of the truly class gentlemen in the coaching profession.’’

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