By Eric Tifft, Managing EditorOhio Wesleyan hopes to re-energize its football program with the hiring of a new head coach, Tom Watts, in early February.
After Head Coach Mike Hollway left the program after 25 years, Watts beat out over 200 applicants to be chosen by the football head coach search committee as the head coach of the OWU football program, Athletic Director Roger Ingles said.
Ingles and many of the football players are excited about the energy and enthusiasm that Watts will bring to the program.
“Coach Watts will bring high energy, enthusiasm and passion for football,” Ingles said. “He will work very well with our current staff of coaches and will attract quality assistants to work with. Tom is a very good recruiter and has the highest of recommendations.”
Junior James Huddleston, a two-time letterman defensive end, said Watts will bring changes to the program that are not limited to the playbook.
“Coach Watts brings fresh ideas, not just on the field but in the classroom too,” Huddleston said. “He has implemented a system to help us track our academic success.”
Watts is excited for his future with the OWU football program.
“(OWU) has a great academic reputation with an excellent location,” Watts said. “It also has a very proud athletic tradition, which with those combined is a great opportunity to build an excellent football program.
“There has been a huge commitment from administration and alumni to build the program the right way and make it into a championship program.”
Sophomore Mason Espinoza, quarterback, is optimistic of the energy and excitement Watts will bring to the program.
Espinoza said one problem the team has had in the past is the retention of players.
He said he hopes Watts will be able to make the program a quality place where players can stay for four years.
“(Watts) is an energetic and personable guy and I think that he will definitely get the team and people around the community and on campus excited about OWU football now and in the future,” Espinoza said. “Coach Watts also has made a very good effort to connect with the current players and learn about us on an individual basis, which is something we respect.”
Watts stressed the importance of student athletes earning their degrees before trying to win championships.
“There are three things we have stressed to the team,” Watts said. “First, we’ve stressed the importance of earning an excellent degree from OWU. Second, we want our athletes to be prepared for the real world when they graduate.
“Finally, we want to win championships!”
Huddleston said the team aims to win the conference championship next season. He said he hopes Watts will help lead them in the right direction.
“The team is excited to move forward, Coach Watts will lead us in right direction,” Huddleston said. “He has a lot off experience and has been a strong part of turning around programs before.”
Watts said the team has been working hard this spring in preparation for next season.
Watts has a tremendous background in football, Ingles said. He is a fourth-generation coach from a family line of great football coaches.
“His great grandfather coached at Baldwin Wallace, his grandfather won state championships at Canton McKinley and his father coached at three different high schools,” Ingles said. “He has great experience, been very successful in his past positions.”
According to the OWU athletic homepage, Watts has spent the last three seasons at Baldwin-Wallace as an assistant coach.
Prior to coaching at Baldwin-Wallace, Watts served the 2008 season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Westminster College (Pa.).
He also served four seasons as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Watts said.
Watts’s coaching career began at Waynesburg College (Pa.) as a co-defensive coordinator and graduate assistant coach in 2003, Watts said.
“I have no qualms about leaving the Baldwin-Wallace community,” Watts said. “It’s a great place with a lot of great people, but my family could not be more excited to be a part of the OWU family!”