Jim McElwain, Colorado State University’s previous head football coach, had been the offensive coordinator at an elite program (the University of Alabama) in college football’s best conference (the SEC). That worked out pretty well: In three years, the Rams improved from 4-8 to 10-3. So well, in fact, that after McElwain took the head coaching job at the University of Florida, CSU dialed up the same play. In December 2014, the Rams hired Mike Bobo, the offensive coordinator at an elite program (the University of Georgia) in the best conference (the SEC). We caught up with Bobo—who played quarterback for UGA and spent most of his coaching career there—to talk about leaving his home state to help the Rams try to win their first conference championship since 2002.
I read somewhere that your nine-year-old son is having a difficult time ditching his Georgia Bulldogs sweatshirt.
My girls, they’re excited to come to Colorado and learn how to ski. But my youngest boy, he loves the Dawgs. He asks all the time: “Can we still cheer for Georgia?” I’m like, “Yes, we’ll always cheer for Georgia— unless we’re playing them.”
What do you enjoy most about Fort Collins?
In the South, my favorite place to eat was the Waffle House. I’d eat there about once a week. There is a Waffle House east of Fort Collins on I-25, but I haven’t been to it yet because there are so many other great restaurants, especially for breakfast. The Silver Grill Cafe’s and Lucile’s breakfasts are awesome. But not many places serve grits. My dad came out for a week to watch spring practice. So I took him to the Egg and I, which serves grits, and then he felt like he was at home.
Why did CSU appeal to you?
Number one: I was at Georgia for a long time because it’s a great place to live and raise a family. Everybody I talked to said the same about Fort Collins. Number two: I believe Colorado State can win conference championships. The recent success here of two straight bowl games, that’s a positive, but there’s history here too. They’ve played football for more than a century and won 15 conference championships. The last thing was support from the administration. Obviously, the building of an on-campus stadium showed that. [Editor’s note: CSU broke ground on a 36,000-seat, $220 million football stadium this summer. It’s expected to be completed by 2017.]
What’s the biggest difference between Georgia and CSU so far?
Location. Where I’ve recruited my whole life, in the Southeast, you can drive three to fours hours in any direction and find a large population of kids to recruit. Here, we’re going to have to fly to California, to Texas. We’re going to have to recruit a little bit more nationally than what I am used to.
How will your team differ from your predecessor’s?
We’ll be more of a no-huddle attack. Defensively, we’ll switch from three linemen and four linebackers to four linemen and three linebackers. But we’re still searching for our identity. The one thing that will be a staple: We’ll find a way to establish the run, no matter what personnel group we’re in.
Do you see yourself back in the SEC eventually?
I’ve never been a guy who’s looked for jobs. That’s why I was at one place for as long as I was. What drives me are the kids and the passion to compete, and I’m excited about the challenge here. I’m not looking at anything down the road. All I’m concerned about is how I am going to make this team better every single day I walk into this building.
This is the first time you’ve been a head coach. How are you adjusting?
You never really know until you sit in this chair everything a head coach has to go through and do, as far as time. [As an offensive coordinator] you’re sitting in there in your little bubble, watching offensive film and offensive recruits. As a head coach, I have a lot more speaking engagements, a lot more media requests, a lot more time on the phone with all the recruits. Like I said in my interview process, I’m not going to sit here and pretend to have all the answers, because I haven’t been a head coach before. But I guarantee you that I’m going to do the best I can in the best interests of Colorado State University.
How do you like the kissing babies part of being a head coach?
There were a lot of functions I had to do at the University of Georgia, and I enjoy that—being around people that are passionate about their university. That’s what it’s about: to get people to buy in and believe in the direction of your program. That’s what’s exciting about this job, because I feel like Colorado State is at the tip of the iceberg in terms of where it can go.
Is it fair for fans to expect a repeat of last season’s success?
I don’t mind having a fan base that’s passionate about wanting to achieve a certain level of success. I’m from a place where I am used to that. To say we’re going to win “X” number of games or we’re going to be better than last year—who knows? But our guys will play hard for 60 minutes every game. I guarantee you that.