Thursday, January 16, 2014
The second Mark Whipple era appears ready to begin for the University of Massachusetts football program.
According to multiple UMass sources, Whipple has accepted an offer in principle to lead the Minutemen for a second time. He was on campus to interview for the position on Friday. He met with athletic department staff as well as UMass system president Robert Caret, and toured the new facilities building, which is under construction, but due to open before the start of the 2014 season.
It’s unclear whether UMass would hold a weekend press conference to introduce Whipple or wait until Monday.
Whipple, who coached UMass from 1998-2003, led the Minutemen to the 1998 Division I-AA championship as well as two other postseason appearances. He was 49-26 in six seasons.
After leaving UMass, the 56-year-old Brown University graduate spent three seasons working as the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach; two seasons as an offensive assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles; two years as the University of Miami’s offensive coordinator; and two years as the quarterbacks coach of the Cleveland Browns.
He didn’t coach in 2013.
Whipple was reportedly the last candidate to interview. It is unclear how many candidates met with UMass officials on or off campus. Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown and Louisville special teams coordinator Kenny Carter are believed to have been interviewed.
UMass athletic director John McCutcheon declined to be interviewed Thursday and Friday during the day and did not answer the phone Friday night.
STILL RECRUITING — Dave Sollazzo doesn’t know if he’ll still be coaching at UMass next year or even next week. The veteran football coach has coached the defensive line under Charley Molnar for the past two seasons, but Molnar was fired on Dec. 26 and UMass is looking for a replacement.
UMass is expected to ask Whipple to consider keeping Sollazzo and the other four full-time assistant coaches that Molnar hadn’t fired before getting his own pink slip, but there are no guarantees. Still, that group is working to retain the recruits who’ve already verbally committed to UMass and entice some more to do the same.
“If you’re a recruiter, you’re a recruiter. In recruiting you have to overcome obstacles. At the end of the day, you have to find a way to keep everyone’s interest,” said the 58-year-old former long-time Maryland assistant. “This is an easy school to sell because it’s a great academic school with so much going for it. The kids love it here.”
Sollazzo said he appreciated that the administration still trusted him to represent the school after Molnar’s dismissal.
“We appreciate that. We put our whole heart and soul into this from day one. We’ve had some good recruiting classes and we’re on our way to having another one,” he said. “I think the administration recognizes we’re getting quality football players.”
Sollazzo said he and the other assistants have put off looking for new jobs that they might need if they’re not retained.
“That’s the way I’ve done it. I’m going to entrench myself in the job that I have, not go looking for the next job,” he said. “If I’m a coach at another school and I see a guy doing that, that’s a guy I want working for me.”
Sollazzo hoped for a chance to stay.
“I like it here. I’m going to do everything I can to stay here,” he said. “I think this is a great school and the sky is the limit here. I think it’s a sleeping giant.”
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage