Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Bob Ford figured he would stay on as the
University of Albany football coach for about three or four years after he was
hired in 1970.
As a young coach, he anticipated the Albany position would be a professional
stepping-stone to one at a bigger school.
Forty-three seasons later, Ford remains Albany's only head coach since the
program was reinstated after a 46-year absence.
Once at Albany, he soon learned, "It was a little different than just a job
because I started the program. It was more of my baby. This is my child, this
is something that has special meaning to me, not just a place I happen to work
for three or four years."
Now 75, he doesn't feel like the oldest head football coach in Division I.
He's energetic, positive and can laugh at himself quite well. Plus the
student-athletes in the program have helped keep him feeling young.
Ford started the program as a club team and since taken it to NCAA Division
III, II and now I on the FCS level. He has a 252-158 varsity record at Albany
with another 12 wins on the club level.
After leading Albany to a fifth NEC title and its first FCS playoff bid last
year, the Great Danes are eyeing another bid this season as they sit alone in
first place. They feature the FCS' leading scorer, senior running back Drew
Smith, an excellent group of receivers and linebackers, and a team determined
to leave the NEC as champions again.
A year from now, Albany will move from the Northeast Conference to the larger
In Five-a-Side - In the FCS Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five
answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Ford discusses his many years
at Albany and what lies ahead.
Let's kick off:
TSN: Your team has played well against a strong schedule. What have you
learned about this year's group?
BF: I love them, I absolutely love them. My wife said to me about five weeks
ago, 'You really like this team, don't you?' And I said I really love 'em.
They are a great, great bunch of kids. We've got a good smattering of seniors,
juniors, sophomores and a couple redshirt freshmen in there. There's leaders
at every position. They've got a strong work ethic, they take great pride in
what they do. As important, they are just superb kids as well as being pretty
good football players.
TSN: You've been at Albany for 43 years. What have you found to be most
meaningful about coaching football and leading people?
BF: Well, I think my goals have never changed since I got into this business.
I went to a school called Springfield College and they really emphasized the
human being-aspect of things. I've always felt that my No. 1 goal was to try
to turn out what I call good human beings. I know that sounds kind of cliche
and trite, but I think you're blessed with kids 17 to 21 for a short period of
time. It's nice if you recruit all Eagle Scouts; that's virtually impossible.
So I say to the squad when we start the season I have three grades of
sandpaper in my drawers, and it's light sanding, and then there's medium and
then there's heavy grit.
But our job is to turn out good kids who can impact society. I think our
second goal is to turn out good students ... I think the things they learn by
becoming a good student - time management and meeting deadlines and doing the
best you can - says volumes about preparing them for the next stage in life.
And then our third goal is to turn out pretty good football players. That
keeps us employed. You can't accomplish the other two unless you're employed.
I think that's what we try to do. Our staff does a good job of turning C's
into B's and the B's into A's. I think if you're doing that on a regular basis
and you can stay healthy, then you have a fighting chance of turning out a
TSN: There's a considerable jump from the NEC to the CAA ("Major," Ford
interjects). What tells you that your program is ready for that?
BF: Well, I'm not sure we are because we're not at 63 scholarships. And at the
same time, we've beaten Maine two out of the last three years with 35
scholarships. We beat Delaware at Delaware (in 2006) with I think it was 31
scholarships at the time. Now it's one thing to play one of those teams a
year. It's another thing to go Villanova, Delaware, James Madison and the
University of New Hampshire four weeks in a row. I don't know whether we have
everything we need to go on that level and have some degree of success.
We're moving from 38 scholarships, which is what our conference allows, (but)
we're only at 35. We're going to try to go to 54 next year. Obviously, that
will help. At the same time, most teams don't win with a whole bunch of
freshmen. You win with upperclass guys for the most part. So it will be an
interesting transition. I think that's where the institution belongs. How long
it will take us to have success there? It's hard to say.
TSN: How does the move to the CAA affect your retirement plan?
BF: (He laughs). Well, there's two ways at looking at it, I think. And that's
what I'm doing. One says, let's win the conference championship this year,
let's go out ranked, let's go to the NCAA playoffs, see if we can get an NCAA
win, see how far we can take this team and then ride off into the sunset and
say, 'It's been a hell of a career here.' The other side of the coin says,
they're just naming a field in your honor, they're building the stadium, we're
entering the CAA, wouldn't you love to have that challenge?
TSN: You wear a cowboy hat in your official team headshot. What can you tell
us about that kind of style?
BF: It's kind of interesting because first of all I love country and western
music. But my dad suffered from skin cancer at one point in his life. You're
out in the sun coaching a lot, especially in preseason. Saratoga, which is a
local community about six miles from where we live, has this hat store, and
they have great people up there during the summer months. Anyway, I bought a
straw cowboy hat and I wore it all through the fall - September, October. And
it sort of became a trademark, not only just wearing it, but it just sort of
became a trademark. Now when it gets to be November, I no longer have a straw
hat because you look like a dufus in November with a straw hat, so I have one
of those winter hats. I guess you call them cowboy type-looking hats.
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