Nov. 4, 2011
Dave Clawson took over a struggling program at Fordham in 1999, and that continued with a 3-19 record overall and 1-11 Patriot League mark in his first two seasons. But Clawson turned around the Rams in his final three seasons, including the school's first Patriot League title in 2002.
Fordham Head Coach Dave Clawson (1999-03)
Overall Record: 29-29
Patriot League Record: 16-17
Patriot League Titles: 1 (2002)
Now: Clawson is in his third season as the head coach at Bowling Green, an FBS member. He led Richmond to great success as the head coach from 2004-07 after leaving Fordham, and also spent a season as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee before moving on to Bowling Green.
Q and A
Patriot League: Fordham was a struggling program when you took over in 1999, which continued with an 0-11 mark in your first season. Why did you feel that the program had potential to turn around?
Dave Clawson: Athletic Director Frank McLaughlin had contacted me the year before about interviewing about the job when Ken O'Keefe was hired, but when I pressed him on the details about the recruiting budget and the facilities I didn't get a feel that there was a complete commitment so I ended up not pursuing the job. Part of that was my background at Lehigh when we were one of the better programs in the Patriot League, so I had a pretty good idea of the level of support that Lehigh had. I at least felt that we had comparable support. The following year when Ken O'Keefe left to go to Iowa, he called me again and I said that I would have the same concerns. Frank said that in light of what had happened that they realized what they needed to do to become a winning program. He invited me to come up for a day on campus and hear about the direction they wanted to go. In March of 1998 I didn't think there was an institutional commitment, but when I came back in December of that year everyone was on the same page and there would be a commitment from the president on down that they wanted to be good in football. Then I was very excited about the position because Fordham just has such a great history and tradition going back to the Seven Blocks of Granite and Vince Lombardi, and guys that had brought football back to the school. I felt that we really had a chance to be a good Patriot League program.
Patriot League: In your second season you improved to 3-8, then in 2001 went up to 7-5 overall and 5-2 in the Patriot League. When in that time did you feel the culture of the team change and the team believe it could win?
Dave Clawson: If there was a game where the program turned, it was probably our win over Bucknell in 2001. At the time they were coached by Tom Gadd, an outstanding defensive coach who did a great job there. It was a game where we didn't really play that well but found a way to win. I think Bucknell was undefeated at the time and you could sense after that game that the kids really believed and I think we went on to win our last four or five games in a row that year and it just seemed like football became important and the players in our program were proud to be Fordham football players. The momentum and commitment level changed and our players began to feel that we could be pretty good.
Patriot League: In 2002 you beat Colgate early in the year and went on to the postseason, where you went on the road and beat Northeastern in the first round. What are your memories from that season?
Dave Clawson: It's one of the most enjoyable years I've ever had in coaching. One of the greatest memories I have in my entire career is after we beat Northeastern in the first round of the playoffs. Father O'Hare who was the President of Fordham, who I think was in his early 70s, he was a wonderful man and great president and a really big fan of our program. He was sprinting down the field at Northeastern and just gave me the biggest bear hug and it just felt so good to make him proud. That was his last year as the president, and when he hired me four years before that he wanted me to promise that we would win the Patriot League at least once. I promised him that we would do our best, and he just couldn't believe that we did it in his last year. I still get goosebumps thinking about that because he went through the 0-11 and 3-8 seasons, and was still very supportive of us and me and our program. I was very grateful to him, Jeff Gray and Frank McLaughlin that they were still confident in us and what we were doing and it felt good to be able to re-pay that in some small way.
Patriot League: Javarus Dudley (2000-03) and Tad Kornegay (2001-04) each made the Patriot League Football 25th Anniversary Team from your program. Along with guys like Kevin Eakin and Kirwin Watson, what did those core players mean for your program?
Dave Clawson: They were just very talented players that took football very seriously. The commitment level in terms of the conditioning and watching film and studying football, and it really changed the culture at Fordham. There were probably other guys like John San Marco, Dan McGrath, Tony Downs and Mo Brisco and NaQuinton Gainous and Tommy Holloway that were very serious about football and they just brought a different attitude and approach as players than when we first got year.
Patriot League: Before your time at Fordham, you were an assistant coach at Lehigh in the mid-1990s. How did you see the Patriot League evolve over those years?
Dave Clawson: There was a point where we were always playing those cross-over games with the Ivy League, and it went from a point in the early 1990s where we were an underdog in most of the games to the late 1990s where we became a favorite in most of the matchups. It felt like from the early to late 1990s we always looked at the Ivy League as a competitor, and we were becoming more competitive with them. And having teams make runs in the playoffs, it just seemed like there was about a five-year stretch where the level of football in the Patriot League really picked up. We were really proud as a League that we were consistently making headway in the NCAA Tournament with wins in first-round games and culminating with Colgate's run to the national championship game?
Patriot League: Now in your third season at Bowling Green, what are your expectations for the program?
Dave Clawson: My expectation is to win a Mid-American Conference. It's the same expectation as when we got to Fordham we would win a Patriot League title, and when we got to Richmond that we would win an Atlantic 10/Colonial Athletic Association championship. The expectation is that we will make this the best program in the Mid-American Conference, make some noise and become a ranked program. That's our goal and I believe we are going to get there.