Involved in coaching for 55 seasons, Frank Solich is structured and in control.
Whether it comes to recruiting players, prepping for spring practices or preparing for games during the regular season, Solich always has a plan.
The veteran head coach admits that he might need some help in figuring out how to pass the time after nearly six decades of coaching comes to a close.
“I don’t have any hobbies,” Solich said. “That’s a problem. I can’t do much outside of coach. That’s a problem. I think I’ll just try to relax for a bit and see what that’s like. It scares me a little bit knowing I don’t have something to go to.”
After 16 seasons at Ohio University, and 55 years in coaching, Frank Solich has decided to call it a career.
Solich, who is 76 years old, and Ohio announced on Wednesday that he is stepping down as the Bobcats’ head football coach to focus on his health.
It brings an end to one of the most successful coaching stints, not only at Ohio but in the history of the Mid-American Conference.
Solich coached Ohio to 11 bowl games, four MAC championship games and 115 wins over the last 16 seasons.
The timing of the decision, as training camp practices are less than a month away, is due to what Solich describes as ‘a rare cardiovascular situation.’
“It’s something that I’m going to have to deal with,” Solich said. “I tried to kid myself a little early on. At first there was a little bit of denial about it, then I thought, ‘well, hey you’re feeling pretty good despite what they’re saying and you can keep going.’ But I came to my right senses very quickly on that end of it. Knew that our players deserved more than what I was going to be able to give to them coming down the stretch here.”
Ohio Director of Athletics Julie Cromer said Solich has worked with the university as he made the decision to step away from coaching.
“He’s been very forthright and transparent with me in our conversations leading up to this decision, and we’ve worked together to identify plans going forward to support our football program’s continued success,” Cromer said.
Tim Albin, the Bobcats’ offensive coordinator during all 16 of Solich’s seasons, was named as the next head coach.
Cromer announced that Albin has signed a four-year contract as Solich’s successor.
“I feel at this point in time I’m ready for coach Albin to step in,” Solich said. “He’s a great coach, great person. He has a great work ethic. He’s a great recruiter.”
Solich’s place in Ohio history is secure. He was hired in December, 2004 after the Bobcats let go of Brian Knorr after four seasons.
Ohio was coming off a 4-7 record in 2004. The program had just two winning seasons — a 7-4 record in 2000 and an 8-3 mark in 1997 under Jim Grobe — dating back to 1983.
“Obviously, it was a major rebuilding job,” Solich said. “I think the administration wanted to rebuild it.”
The Bobcats were 4-7 in Solich’s first season in 2005, but an overtime win over Pitt in Solich’s first home game front of a sellout crowd on a Friday night helped set the tone.
“It’s been amazing,” Solich said. “From the first time I stepped on the campus, from the student body, to the community, to the alumni, former players, they’ve all been great. I appreciate what they’ve all meant to this program and actually to me.”
Ohio was 9-5 in 2006, winning the MAC East title and playing in the GMAC Bowl after the season.
It was the first bowl game for Ohio since losing the Tangerine Bowl in 1968.
Bowl games became common place for the Bobcats. Starting in 2009, Ohio played in a bowl game in 10 of the next 11 seasons, winning the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2011 and 2019, the Independence Bowl in 2012, the Bahamas Bowl in 2017 and the Frisco Bowl in 2018.
“Coach Solich has been a deeply valued part of the Ohio University family not only for his record on the field but also for his support of student athletes and their success at Ohio and after graduation,” said Ohio University President Hugh Sherman in a statement. “I’m thankful for his leadership and for the continuity that Tim Albin will bring as he steps into the role of head football coach. He knows our program and our players and has been a significant part of the team’s success.”
Solich said the rebuilding job at Ohio was part of what attracted him to Athens.
“I wasn’t one to just look down the road for something else,” Solich said. “When I take over a job, I took it over with the idea that I was going to build this program and make it work. Just show up to work every day. Just put in a day’s work and try to do the best you could recruiting. Get the best out of your players that are playing for you on the field at that point, then just enjoy the game and the players.”
Solich’s career coaching record stands at 173-101, the fourth most wins among active NCAA FBS head coaches. After serving as an assistant at Nebraska, he was tabbed to replace legendary coach Tom Osborne prior to the 1998 season.
Solich was 58-19 in six seasons at Nebraska, leading the program to a national championship game appearance after the 2001 season.
Nebraska opted to replace Solich after the 2003 season despite a 9-3 record. He took a season off from coaching in 2004 before coming to Ohio.
Solich’s 115 wins at Ohio are the most in MAC history, and his 77 conference wins are second behind former Central Michigan head coach Herb Deromedi.
Ohio was 115-82 over the last 16 seasons. Solich trails only Don Peden in school history, as Peden won 121 games from 1924 to 1946.
“It’s hard to fully capture what coach Solich has met to our football program, to our athletic department, to our university,” Cromer said. “He’s a leader and an ambassador. He’s an educator, a mentor and he’s been a steadfast and steady influence for so many.”
Solich said his health issue came to light during a cardiovascular workout recently, which led to him seeking the opinion of a doctor.
“He started checking into some things,” Solich said. “I eventually went to a heart specialist. From there, started to understand that this was a serious condition. From there, I was actually feeling good. I just had that one episode. I was actually feeling good.”
Solich said he entertained the notion of continuing to coach, but didn’t feel he could fulfill the time requirements.
“I kidded myself for a period of time, then it kind of came to a realization for me that, hey you’re asking everything of the kids, their time and their energy,” he said. “If you can’t commit to that yourselves, then it’s time to move on.”
The Bobcats are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 4 at home against Syracuse, in what will be Albin’s head coaching debut with the Bobcats.
Albin also coached with Solich at Nebraska before coming to Athens.
Albin was previously a head coach at Northwestern Oklahoma State, an NAIA program. He led the school to a 13-0 record, winning national coach of the year honors, in 1999.
“It is truly an honor to lead the Ohio University football program and I want to express my gratitude to President Sherman and Director of Athletics Julie Cromer for their belief in me,” said Albin. “I am forever indebted to Coach Solich for all that he has offered me and taught me through the years, and I know he will always be part of our program.
Cromer said that Solich will remain on as a special advisor, helping the veteran coach fill some of the free time he finds on his hands.
“As he continues to his next chapter, I’m very grateful he’s accepted my invitation to stay on as a special advisor to our program,” Cromer said. “He’ll assist with our football program and with our department moving forward.”
Solich has been the face of the Bobcats’ football program since 2005. While he won’t be roaming the sidelines anymore, he’ll still have a role to play at Ohio as he transitions into retired life.
“I’m hoping that things will go smoothly,” he said. “I know I’ll spend much more time with my family than I have.”