Mike Bobo got the go-ahead from his boss, Georgia coach Mark Richt. And his wife, Lainie, had given her stamp of approval.
But before he could become the head football coach at CSU, Bobo had to get clearance at the highest level:
The Bobo family, you see, had made arrangements with Santa to visit their Georgia home on the night of Dec. 22. Bobo, still the offensive coordinator at Georgia, was planning to depart with the Bulldogs for Charlotte, N.C., the following day to complete preparations for the Belk Bowl.
Reconnecting with Kris Kringle
The only possible change in the plan would be if President Tony Frank called and offered Bobo the CSU job, for which he had interviewed that week. And sure enough, right in the middle of the family barbecue, Frank called. Seconds later, Bobo was the Rams’ new coach, which meant he and his family had to leave for Fort Collins early the following morning.
“We were having Santa come to our house that night because we were supposed to leave for the bowl game, but we had to sit the kids down and explain to them that they had to write another letter to Santa letting him know that we needed to have him come on Christmas Eve instead,” Bobo said, smiling at the memory of the chat with his five children – all age 10 and younger. “The three girls were really excited, but the two boys needed some convincing. They were pretty fired up about Santa coming two days early.”
The plan succeeds
In the end, everything worked out. Santa adjusted his schedule to arrive on Christmas Eve, and Bobo was introduced Dec. 23 as the Rams’ 21st head coach. Since that time, his life has been a dizzying mix of hiring assistant coaches, recruiting, house hunting and daily Facetime calls with his family back in Georgia.
Despite the chaos, Bobo is having a blast in his first opportunity to be a head coach. The former starting quarterback has been an assistant coach at Georgia, his alma mater, the past 14 years, serving the past seven as offensive coordinator for one of the nation’s most prolific offenses.
And he said Frank is a primary reason he traded in his Georgia red, white and black for CSU green and gold.
“I can always remember my dad saying, ‘you’ve got to know who your boss is,’ ” the 40-year-old Bobo said. “After meeting with Tony Frank I knew he was a person I wanted to work for. His influence in the process was huge. I had a great feeling when I walked out of my last meeting with him, and I was hoping I would get this job because of the great feeling I had about him.”
Building a new tradition
The Rams’ newest coach inherits a team that finished 10-3, cracked the Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade and played in its second consecutive bowl game. That success was part of what attracted Bobo to the job after passing on opportunities to apply for several others in recent years.
“There’s a tradition here of winning championships,” he said. “It’s important to have people involved with the program who want to win. We have got guys currently on this team who have tasted what it’s like to win, so they know what it takes – the sacrifices you have to make in order to be successful.”
Finding a new home
At the same time, finding a great home for his family was paramount. He and Lainie did their research and found that Fort Collins is exactly what they were looking for: A family-friendly college town with good schools, great weather and lots to do.
“When Mike came back from his first interview he was very impressed with everyone. He was very excited, and that got me really excited about this job,” said Lainie, a Georgia native whose uncle, Vince Dooley, was a legendary football coach for the Bulldogs. “It really felt like God was opening doors to us and leading us down this path.”
Here are a few things you need to know about your new coach:
- He’s ultra-competitive in everything he does: Bowling, ping-pong, board games – you name it. And don’t expect him to take it easy on you. Not once, just to be nice, has he let Lainie win a game or competition.
- He comes from a football family. His dad, George, was a legendary Georgia high school coach and taught him to pay attention to every detail.
- He’s persistent. He “recruited” Lainie, a Georgia student, for months before she finally went out on a date with him, and they dated more than six years before she finally married him.
Big plays, big hits
As for the football side of things, expect a balanced offense with lots of big plays and an aggressive, attacking defense.
“We’re going to be a physical football team, I can promise you that,” he said.
With his new staff in place – including four holdovers from former coach Jim McElwain’s staff – and recruiting in full swing, he can’t wait to meet his returning players and start working toward his first game as a head coach next fall.
“This is a new football team, with new leadership,” he said. “After winning 10 games, we’re not going to sneak up on anybody, so we’ll have to work even harder to be a consistent winner. I want to be in position every year to win a conference championship, but everyone involved has got to realize that his is hard. As players and coaches, we’ll be asking ourselves, ‘What am I willing to give up to make sure this team is successful?’ ”