Molnar confident in direction of Minutemen

By Stephen Sellner

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar knew from an early age that he wanted to be involved in football any way that he could.

From strength conditioning to preparing year-round, Molnar said football was “in my blood.”

In his days at Bayley-Ellard High School in Madison, N.J., and college years at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pa., Molnar started becoming more interested in the strategy involved in football and the idea of coaching.

“As I went through high school and college, I started to get more interested in the strategy; the X’s and O’s of football and team development, player development, so it was natural that I became a coach,” said Molnar, a native of Morristown, N.J.

He got his first coaching opportunity in 1984 at Lock Haven, where he helped coach a number of offensive positions.

But after 28 seasons as an assistant coach in the college ranks, Molnar, 51, was looking for a different opportunity: the chance to be the head coach of his own FBS program.

When the UMass job opened up in November 2011 after the firing of former coach Kevin Morris, Molnar jumped at the gun to contact the University about the then-vacant position.

“When I first talked to the people from UMass, they kept asking me, ‘Are you really interested?’” Molnar said. “And I’m there, like, ‘Believe me, I’m really interested.’”

Molnar said the interview process consisted more of him talking as opposed to the people at UMass asking him specific questions. UMass met him in Pittsburgh, Pa., while he was on recruiting trips for Notre Dame, Molnar said.

In those conversations, Molnar said he and UMass agreed on a number of fronts.

“I talked about how I was going to build a program, I was going to put a foundation down first and I thought that was really important,” he said.

He got the call he had been waiting for from Athletic Director John McCutcheon, informing him that the head coaching position was his for the taking.

As McCutcheon started the conversation, Molnar became overwhelmed with excitement as he awaited the words he had waited so long to hear.

Molnar said McCutcheon “had some preliminary things that he said first and my heart was really beating and I’m there, like, ‘Let’s just get to the point: am I getting the job or not?’” Molnar said. “It seemed like forever to me. And then when he finally offered it, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.”

Molnar brought his decorated résumé on the offensive side of the ball to Amherst. He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame from 2010 to 2011, passing game coordinator at Cincinnati (2007 to 2009) and coached quarterbacks and receivers at Central Michigan (2006). Each of those stints was under current Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly.

Together, Kelly and Molnar led one high-powered offense after another. Arguably the duo’s brightest moment was in 2009 when the pair led Cincinnati to a Big East championship and Sugar Bowl appearance.

During that season, the Bearcats finished eighth in the nation with 308.77 passing yards per game for a single-season school-record of 4,014 passing yards. Cincinnati also finished fifth in the FBS with 38.6 points per game that season.

UMass redshirt senior linebacker Quinton Sales said Molnar’s past experiences have prepared him to succeed with the Minutemen.

“I think if you look at his résumé, where he’s been and the things he’s done, it’s just bound to happen,” Sales said.

Molnar Feature from Daily Collegian on Vimeo Video by Cameron McDonough.

Promoting the UMass brand

Since being introduced as the next UMass football coach on Dec. 8, 2011, Molnar hasn’t wasted a second in his attempt to endorse the Minuteman name.

He spoke at halftime during the New England Patriots’ preseason opener on Aug. 9 in a televised interview with WBZ-TV. During the interview, he talked about UMass’ transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision and playing at Gillette Stadium in an attempt to spread excitement around the New England area about the UMass football program.

Molnar said endorsing the UMass product is something that he wants to do as opposed to being told to do so.

“Part of my job is promoting the UMass brand. I’m not doing it because someone told me to, I’m doing it because I love doing it, because I want to,” Molnar said. “And I think that it’s vitally important, not only for the football program, but for the University as a whole.”

While promoting the Minutemen, Molnar has exerted strong confidence in the direction of the football program and feels strongly that UMass can be a force to be reckoned with in the FBS in the years to come.

He also isn’t afraid to make bold predictions.

“In five years, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be Mid-American Conference champions, we’ll play in Bowl games and we’re going to be really pushing hard to get ourselves noticed in the Top 25,” Molnar said.

For the players, playing for a coach with that much confidence in his team makes them want to work harder in practice to get better. Such is the case for receiver Deion Walker, who transferred from Notre Dame, reuniting with his former offensive coordinator in South Bend, Ind.

Walker said Molnar’s confidence in the players and the direction of the program has a positive effect on the team.

“It definitely helps you,” Walker said. “Especially in this offense, you do a lot of running, but the fact that you know he has confidence in you makes you play better and without that, it would not be the same.”

Redshirt senior Darren Thellen said that Molnar has brought discipline to the program that lacked that characteristic at times in the past.

“He brings a whole other attitude to this team,” Thellen said. “We’re practicing harder and he’s keeping us more disciplined.”

While Molnar said team has already made progress this season, he acknowledged that the team will, inevitably, go through growing pains in its inaugural season in the FBS such as they did against Connecticut on Aug. 30. The Minutemen lost that game, 37-0.

However, he’s not using wins and losses to gauge the kind of team he has in Amherst. Instead, he will use traits like effort and discipline to evaluate his team as he attempts to bring a culture of physical and mental toughness to UMass football in the future.

“We are going to be a physically tough football team, we’re going to be a mentally tough football team and we’re never, ever, ever going to quit,” Molnar said. “And I think teams are going to see that, they’re going to sense it.

“Regardless of the outcome of the game, at the end of the day, [opponents are] going to be exhausted and say, ‘Wow. What a fight that was playing the University of Massachusetts.’”

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.