Since reviving its program after a 68-year hiatus from 1941-2009, all Old Dominion has done is win 52 games with two FCS tournament appearances.
Moving from FCS Independent (2009-10, 2013) to Colonial Athletic Association representative (2011-12) and now a second-year member of the FBS competing in Conference USA, you could say that the Monarchs are a program on the rise.
Head coach Bobby Wilder has been there for all of it, having been the first to take the field with the new-look program when it played its first game since before the attack of Pearl Harbor.
Athletic director Dr. Wood Selig wants to make sure Wilder sticks around a little longer in hopes of a bowl appearance – and more – in the near future, considering Old Dominion (6-6, 4-4 C-USA) is now eligible to compete for one in 2015.
“ODU football continues to make significant and successful strides both academically and athletically under the dynamic leadership of head coach Bobby Wilder,” Selig said in a statement, according to the school’s official athletic website. “Additionally, our student-athletes and coaches continue to give back to the community in numerous positive ways that assist our local area and contribute to the popularity, support and growth of ODU football.
“Coach Wilder is a proven winner on and off the field. The entire region is fortunate to have him directing our football program.”
According to the release, it is a one-year extension that will push the contract through Dec. 31, 2019, and likely serves as some added security for a coach that could test the market in the next few years.
Win 52 games in six years with a program that didn’t have a team for longer than most of you (myself included) have been alive, and you’re going to get some interest, pending a second-year FBS collapse.
“I am honored to receive this extension from Old Dominion University. Since the day I was hired on February 12, 2007, I have considered it a privilege to be the head coach of this program,” said Wilder. “Together we have built a program that has represented the University and the community in a first class manner.
“The achievement I am most proud of has nothing to do with wins and losses. In the fall of 2014 we finished second in C-USA in team grade point average out of 14 teams. I am grateful for the tremendous support from President Broderick and Athletic Director Selig.”
You wouldn’t have been able to tell that ODU was a first-year FBS program trying to adjust to life after the FCS. It beat Rice (8-5) and Louisiana Tech (9-5), while staying competitive against Power Five opponents such as North Carolina State (46-34) and Vanderbilt (42-28).
Wilder’s immediate success indicates that Old Dominion will be a force to be reckoned with in the C-USA, and it could even contend for a conference title in its first year of eligibility. The Monarchs lose senior quarterback Taylor Heinecke but have an able leader in Shuler Bentley, who was a two-time South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year in high school. He’ll have his leading rusher, a ton of experienced wide receivers, and four of five starting offensive linemen from an offense that scored 32.7 points per game last season – and if we know anything, it’s that you better be able to score in the C-USA.
SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty contributor Sydney Hunte suggest that with another successful year that trends in that direction, and Wilder won’t be around to see the end of this contract.
“But one wonders in a day and age where the bigger programs often dish out cash like they have a room on campus dedicated to printing out currency (looking your way, Ohio State, since you’re paying Urban Meyer over $6 million a year now) if Wilder will actually be in town in 2019, especially if the Monarchs find further success down the road,” wrote Hunte. “I’d guarantee that Old Dominion (as nice a school as it may be) simply doesn’t have the resources to get into a bidding war with a Power Five school should one inquire of his services.”
Old Dominion opens the 2015 season at Eastern Michigan on September 5.