Note: This story appears in the Thursday, June 6 newspaper on Page B1.
There was food, prize giveaways and short speaking presentations by the most visible, and highest paid, coaches in the Ohio University Athletic Department.
Expectedly absent from this ‘Bobcat Caravan’ stop — on Tuesday at the Athens Country Club — was the department’s former leader. Outgoing Director of Athletics Jim Schaus did not appear at the function, which hosted 150-200 Bobcat fans.
Schaus is on his way to the Southern Conference to become that league’s new commissioner. Ohio announced on Tuesday that Amy Dean, Ohio’s Deputy Athletic Director/Senior Women’s Administrator, would take over on an interim basis on July 1.
Ohio President Dr. M. Duane Nellis mentioned Schaus briefly as he began the presentation portion of the event, but the focus of the night was on Ohio’s football and men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Ohio head football coach Frank Solich, women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon and new men’s basketball coach Jeff Boals all spoke about their teams and what’s to come in 2019-20.
Afterward, all three coaches did address what Schaus’ departure might mean for them, and their relationships with the outgoing AD.
Boals, for example, has been at the head of the men’s program for less than three months. Now, one of the principals in orchestrating his return to his alma mater is leaving town.
“If you look back at what Jim did in his 11 years, he had a lot to be proud of,” Boals said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for him. I wish he was around for me, but for him it’s a great opportunity.”
Boals said there won’t be any more pressure on him or his program despite a new AD coming on board before he’s had his first official practice.
“In the ever-changing world of athletics, there’s always movement going on,” Boals said. “You’ll never have more pressure than you put on yourself. Maybe it might help that I am new with somebody else coming in at the same time.”
Like Boals, Boldon was hired by Schaus. Boldon has already amassed MAC regular-season and tournament titles, and is the program’s all-time leader in winning percentage and coaching wins. He said he owes Schaus for hiring him after his in-state stint at Youngstown State.
“Jim took a chance on me,” Boldon said. “I think you’re foolish if you’re not grateful for those that took a chance on you as a coach because they could’ve hired anyone.”
But Boldon acknowledged nothing lasts forever in athletics. It’s simply the nature of the business.
“We are all largely in a replacement business,” he said. “We’re all going to get replaced in some capacity. God willing, it’s on our own terms, but sometimes it’s not.
“Obviously that hit pretty close to home in the last couple of months,” Boldon continued. “There’s new opportunities out there and he took one.”
Solich, meanwhile, was already in place when Schaus was hired, and he’ll still be coaching Bobcat football now that the AD has moved on. Solich will soon begin season No. 15 with Ohio.
But over the last 11 years, he said he liked working with Schaus — and his steady, even-keeled manner.
“That is always much easier to communicate with,” Solich said.
“We spent a lot of time together. I liked the way things developed between us as time went on,” he added. “We didn’t always agree on things but we always knew there’s two sides to a story and we never held grudges if we didn’t agree on something. We shook hands, walked away and knew where we stood.”
Unlike Boals and Boldon, Solich has less than a year remaining on his current contract — which expires in January 2020. Solich said Tuesday he’ll be a part of the search committee to find Schaus’ full-time replacement.
Solich was unconcerned about his contract status.
“At this point it’s what it is,” he said. “We’ll see how that plays out with the President and the new guy.
“With my conversations with Jim (Schaus)…he gave me assurance I could continue to be the coach here. He liked what the program was all about, the direction it was headed, he still felt I had what was needed to operate a program.
“And the President (Nellis) has been behind me. I’m not really worried.”
Boldon said he had not yet been asked to be part of the search committee, and would likely decline if asked.
“There’s a lot of people who know a lot more about the qualities an individual should possess for that position than I do. It’s a little outside my realm,” he said.
Boals, too, said he hasn’t been asked about being part of the selection committee. He would be open if asked, but expressed confidence in Ohio finding a suitable replacement.
“I think whoever Dr. Nellis ends up hiring will be all in and want to help. Like any AD and coach, you’re in it together,” Boals said.
While the three coaches mainly detailed the general status of their programs, there were a few newsworthy nuggets dropped during presentations.
— Solich confirmed there have been discussions about moving Ohio back to the ‘home’ sideline — the west side of Peden Stadium — for home games in 2019. It’s not a settled proposition however.
“It’s being looked at,” Solich said in response to an audience question. “But I’m not going to let you know tonight.”
— Boldon said scheduling was tougher for his club this off-season after Ohio piled up 30 wins in 2018-19. The 2019-20 non-conference slate will be tougher than a year ago.
Boldon confirmed a home-and-home series with Ohio State, beginning in Columbus next season. Ohio will also have games at both Texas and TCU next season, and matchups with Pitt and ECU as well.
“We were on the bubble (for the NCAA Tournament in 2019), which is an uncomfortable place to be,” Boldon told the crowd. “It didn’t go our way.
“They said we needed to play better teams, so we tried to play better teams.”
— Boals noted that his roster — with six newcomers, six returners and one still open scholarship — will be largely in place and on campus by June 16.
Boals also outlined most of the Ohio’s 2019-20 non-conference schedule. The slate includes return games at Iona, and against Detroit and Purdue in the Convo. Ohio also has a game at Villanova on the schedule, a trip to St. Bonaventure, home games with Tennessee Tech and Morehead State, and will play three games on a neutral floor in a tournament at Myrtle Beach. The Myrtle Beach field will include Baylor and Mississippi State among others.
Ohio still has two more games to finalize for the non-conference schedule.