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Meet Chuck Martin, the Next Hot Commodity in College Football Coaching

Steve Mitchell/USA Today
Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

Hiding somewhere in the college football coaching ranks are the next versions of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer.

It's inevitable. As the big dogs—who have won more than one national championship—wind down their careers, a couple of younger guys will work their way through the ranks to become supercoaches. It happens covertly, behind the scenes, until one day we wonder, "Where did that guy come from?"

A prime candidate for such a run is Chuck Martin, the new head coach at Miami—the one in Ohio, not the one in Florida.

Take a look at Martin's credentials and then file his name away for future reference. He's one of the guys who might be the guy in 10 years' time.

 

The Story

Martin began his college football journey from 1986-90 as a safety and place kicker at Millikin University, a D-III program in Decatur, Illinois. He earned All-American honors at both positions and was also named a GTE Academic All-American. 

Martin graduated with an accounting degree from Millikin and went on to get his master's in physical education from Mankato State, now known as Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 1993. This is also where he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant from 1992-93.

After Mankato, Martin made assistant coaching stops at Wittenberg University (a D-III program in Springfield, Ohio), alma mater Millikin and Eastern Michigan before securing a defensive assistant position under Brian Kelly at D-II Grand Valley State in 2000.

Martin and Kelly at Notre Dame in 2013.
Martin and Kelly at Notre Dame in 2013.Joe Raymond/Associated Press

Martin was promoted to head coach at Grand Valley State in 2004, succeeding Kelly who moved on to Central Michigan. He led the Lakers to a 74-7 record in six seasons, including five conference crowns and back-to-back D-II national championships.

In 2010, Martin followed former boss Kelly to Notre Dame, where he was initially hired to coach the secondary and coordinate recruiting.  In 2012, he was promoted to offensive coordinator, where he stayed until accepting the Miami job in December of 2013.

 

The Numbers

What's impressive about Martin's coaching resume is that he has had tremendous success both as a D-II head coach and as a coordinator at a powerhouse FBS program.

This answers several "can he?" questions, such as, "can he transition from a coordinator to a head coach?" and "can he survive in big time college football?"

As the head coach at Grand Valley State, Martin engineered a 40-0 run from Aug. 27, 2005, to Dec. 8, 2007, finally dropping a game in the '07 D-II semifinals. Perhaps even more impressive is the 48-0 regular-season game run Martin and the Lakers scored from Oct. 30, 2004, to Oct. 3, 2009.  

The Lakers never fell below double-digit wins in Martin's six seasons, were 16-4 in postseason play and outscored opponents overall 2,844 to 1,186.

Though the success Martin enjoyed at Grand Valley State was built on the solid foundation that Kelly laid before him, it's Martin who holds the honor of being the Lakers' all-time winningest coach. Take a look at how his numbers stack up against Kelly and Matt Mitchell, who's been at the helm since 2010.

Grand Valley State Coaching Records 1991-2013
YearsRecord%10+ Wins
Kelly13118-35-2773
Martin674-7-0916
Mitchell439-11782
College Football Data Warehouse

The numbers are proof that Martin can sustain an unmatched level of excellence. His story is not about a guy riding another coach's coattails or that of a dynasty program where it's impossible to screw it up.

At Notre Dame, Martin was the offensive coordinator in 2012 when the Irish ran the tables for a 12-0 regular-season finish and a spot in the BCS title game.

While Notre Dame's offensive output stayed static under Martin, the big change when he took over the reins as coordinator was a significant reduction in turnovers. Take a look at the progression in the Kelly era, keeping in mind that Martin became the OC in 2012.

Notre Dame Turnovers Committed 2010-2013
2010201120122013
Turnovers24291517
FBS Rank711101421
Record8-58-512-19-4
CFBStatistics

Under Martin, Notre Dame committed half as many turnovers as it did the previous two years. Though this drop could be explained in a number of different ways, it stayed down in 2013, which points to strong leadership and a culture change. The team made fewer mistakes under Martin, and this led directly to more wins.

 

The Challenge

So, how big of a challenge does Martin face at Miami? Take a look.

Miami Ohio Stats 2010-2013
2010201120122013
W/L10-44-84-80-12
Off. PPG21.621.323.39.8
FBS Rank9810392124
Def. PPG23.222.934.935.7
FBS Rank4439103107
Sports Reference-College Football

The statistics make two points clear. First, Martin and his staff will have to revamp a program that's struggled—on both sides of the ball—for at least two seasons. Second, though Miami didn't win a game last season, it is only three years removed from a 10-win campaign. 

Though it's going to be difficult, it's far from impossible. And remember, success is relative. Martin won't need to win a string of MAC titles to be considered an attractive candidate for a head role at a bigger program. A couple of well-engineered, bowl-eligible seasons should be all it takes for him to become a hot commodity on the coaching carousel.

 

The Approach

The big question looms, how is Martin going to take his experience and skills and transform both Miami football and advance his own coaching career? Take a look at what he had to say to Sports Illustrated's Martin Rickman:

We want to be like that kid who likes to fight. He may not even be the strongest or the meanest, but if you beat him up on Monday and Tuesday, he wants to fight you again. That kid you never want to get in a fight with because you know it's never ending. You get sick of beating him up and by Thursday, it's getting old and he's still coming at you.

The big unknown is how Martin will fare turning things around at Miami. At Grand Valley State, he took over a program that Kelly had groomed into a double-digit winning machine and sustained the success. Though he earned everything he got, he's never been the guy who righted the ship by himself.

John Harbaugh was honored with a statue in Miami's Cradle of Coaches in 2014.
John Harbaugh was honored with a statue in Miami's Cradle of Coaches in 2014.Al Behrman/Associated Press

If you're wondering if little Miami of Ohio can spark a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks, remember this is the same program that launched such luminaries as Earl Blaik, Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, Jim Tressel, John Harbaugh and Sean Payton.

It's the Cradle of Coaches, friend, and there's a new baby in the crib.

 

Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference College FootballCollege Football Data Warehouse and cfbstats.com. Biographical information courtesy of Miami.

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