Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football introduces Walt Bell as head coach

Bell served as Florida State offensive coordinator in 2018
(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts football team held its introductory press conference with newly hired head coach Walt Bell Wednesday.

The 34-year-old Bell comes to UMass after serving one season as the offensive coordinator for Florida State. Prior to that, he spent two seasons in the same role at Maryland and two years as an associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Arkansas State.

The new head coach announced that he does not have a staff in place yet, but has a few names he is looking to sure up. Bell was given a five-year contract with the Minutemen, and athletic director Ryan Bamford has issued more money to the assistant coaching fund — an increase he estimated between $300,000 and $400,000 — allowing Bell to bring in the coaches he thinks will best help grow the program.

Bell had previously been offered two head coaching positions in college football, but turned them down. He felt comfortable at UMass and with Bamford, and liked the way the entire athletic department was headed.

“Everyone else here is having success,” Bell said. “There’s great excitement. There’s great momentum, great energy here. Rising tides elevates all ships. Hopefully I can be apart of that and we’ll get better ourselves.”

Bamford interviewed multiple candidates for the position, but after speaking on the phone with Bell for over two hours and meeting for nearly five hours in person, he felt he had the right guy for the job.

“I talked to a lot of people on the phone and a number of people in person,” Bamford said. “We had a great pool. I don’t want to say I was surprised but I was really happy [Bell] was excited about us, for him to be excited about the University of Massachusetts and what we’re doing. There were others like him that felt the same way. It was a really good process. I think we got a great head coach out of it.”

Maxwell Zaleski

It’s no secret the Minutemen have struggled since moving up to the FBS level in 2012, their best season being just four wins. UMass is also graduating a majority of its starters from a season ago, leaving a roster that needs an infusion of talent.

Bell knows it will take a few years to implement his style and get the players he wants into the program, but will not settle for losing.

“I know what [my expectations] are personally, and they aren’t very reasonable,” Bell said. “My personal expectation is that every time we compete and we go out, we play our best. That’s it, continuous improvement. Every single day that we go out there to a practice, to a weight lifting session, every single thing that we do everyday we were better than the day before.

“That’s the coach take. Really, if we don’t win I’m going to be upset. If we win, I’ll still probably be upset.”

Bamford felt the program was getting a bit too stagnant, leveling out at four wins each of the past two seasons, and hopes to see growth under Bell. Still, he thanked recently-departed coach Mark Whipple for getting the program to where it is now, and hopes they can build off of what he started.

“People were really excited when they looked at our schedule and saw you can win football games against this schedule,” Bamford said. “What Mark Whipple did to get us to this position, I think we would all agree the past few years there’s been some wins we left on the table,. This program can make those jumps and be a six- to eight-win program within the next three to five years and be consistent in that.”

One of the toughest obstacles for a new coach is creating the culture they want. Bell has two simple principles that he bases his culture off of: the truth and investment.

“Number one is the truth,” Bell said. “I will always tell you the truth. Whether it’s rough love, tough love, love love — it will all be love and it will all be the truth. Number two is investment. When I say investment, it also means love. Whether you make a million plays or no plays, you play zero snaps or you play a million snaps, I’m going to care about you and invest in you in your life and your well being no matter what.”

A challenge UMass faces as a program is luring recruits to Amherst. Bell was brought in with his specialty being recruiting, and he laid out a plan to make sure talented football players would be coming to the Minutemen to play football.

His goal is to set a six-hour radius around Amherst with his recruiting, hoping to lock down players in those areas and create a network and a buzz about the UMass program.

“Being the guy who ran the recruiting at North Carolina, they’re two different places,” Bell said. “When you set your footprint, it has to be around two things. Number one, where are the areas where people are in terms of population density. Number two, how many of those are within a six-to-eight-hour drive of campus. The number one name of the game in winning in recruiting is getting them on campus. Not just getting them here once, getting them here two to three times.”

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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