The Xs and Os guy

UMass coach Charley Molnar is trying to bring the football program to college's highest level but it's an uphill climb

What prompted you to come here from Notre Dame and attempt to elevate UMass’s football program? Well, like every assistant coach, I had dreams and goals to become a head coach at some point in my career, but, different than other coaches, I always envisioned myself as being a builder. This wasn’t a startup. But a chance to take a program from the FCS [formerly Div. 1-AA] level to the FBS [formerly Div. 1-A] level was right up my alley, seemed like a challenge I was interested in. I could really roll up my sleeves, put my fingerprints on the program from its development into becoming a 1-A team.

You came from a program where the stadiums were sold out on a regular basis. Now the home games are at Gillette Stadium, 100 miles away from your Amherst campus. Is that a disconnect for the student body? It’s like many parts of our program; it’s a work in progress. We have enough of a constituency out in the eastern part of the state and it’s our job to excite that group and to get them to want to buy tickets and come to the games. As far as our student population, we’ve made it easy for them to become active at our game day and, you know, not everyone has taken the opportunity but as our team grows and our success grows I think we’ll find more and more students traveling down the Mass. Pike to Foxboro.

Does that affect your recruiting one way or another? Zero. I think everybody that we recruit understands where we are at today, but they can all see the vision of where this program is going to be in two, three, four years when they are actually here and part of the football program.

What would you consider to be a benchmark to show success in the program? Is it a winning record? Is it defeating a nationally ranked team? Is it showing up and competing? Well, it depends on what week of the season you’re asking me and what year it is, but right now I can tell you the improvement may be measured greater off the field than it is on the field in terms of wins and losses. The quality of the recruits we’re bringing in, how we handle our academics, how we handle our social life, all of those things are going to be a measure of where this football program is going.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

One thing I want to talk about, I have an initiative that I’ve named “Made in Massachusetts,” and we’ve gone so far as to actually trademark a brand. We set a goal that in five years, UMass football will participate in a bowl game and 50 percent of our starters will be from the Commonwealth. That’s a pretty lofty goal from the standpoint that the state of Massachusetts only turns out about 10 FBS-level players a year on average. So in Massachusetts—I don’t care who else is recruiting them, it could be the elite programs in the country—we go after those guys hard, hard, hard until they say no and, even after they say no, we stay after them.

Are there more difficulties working within a system such as UMass that has accountability to taxpayers as opposed to a private school like Notre Dame? I think you have to really research your question a little better because I don’t think this is a publicly funded program. There are subsides from the university, like every athletic department in America, but this isn’t like the taxpayers are paying all these scholarships and the entire equipment and recruiting budget and all that stuff. Much of that is privately given funds, so I want to be careful. I do feel responsibility to all the stakeholders at whatever school I’ve worked at, be it private or public.