When Mike McGlinchey coached football at Salisbury State, he had almost instant success. In his second season, the Sea Gulls went 10-1-1. By his fifth season, they went 13-1 and played in the NCAA Division III championship game.
That was his springboard to Central Connecticut State and Division II football. Four years later, the personable McGlinchey is struggling through a season of tribulation, trying to re-create the magic he had at Salisbury.
Heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Bowie State, McGlinchey's Blue Devils are 1-6 and riding a six-game losing streak. This will be the first losing season in his nine years as head coach. Despair is not part of his game plan, though.
"It's probably the most frustrating year I've had as a coach," he said yesterday from New Britain, Conn. "But you have to be patient and give the players room to grow.
"It's like at Salisbury. We knew it was going to happen [turning the program around], we just didn't know when. The same thing here. We know if we keep doing things right, we will win."
After going 14-12-2 in McGlinchey's previous three seasons at Central Connecticut, the Blue Devils' 1990 season has been undermined by injury and inexperience. Their top two running backs are out for the year and what is otherwise an efficient offense has had trouble capitalizing on scoring opportunities. On defense, the Devils start seven, and sometimes eight, freshmen. The result is a penchant for giving up big plays, particularly in the secondary, where they start all freshmen.
"In every game we've had opportunities to win," McGlinchey said. "We're just not able to capitalize on them. But we're not deterred. We have some fine players, some great people here. I believe in them 100 percent. It's going to happen. We're going to be an awesome team."
McGlinchey's most dynamic player is junior fullback Jason Ziruk, who has rushed for 679 yards and six touchdowns in seven games. "He's a Division I-A or I-AA player," McGlinchey said.
One of Ziruk's blockers is a local player, offensive tackle Warren Pollard of Broadneck High. Pollard transferred from Anne Arundel Community College and has started every game for Central Connecticut.
McGlinchey's heart still is in Salisbury, which went 44-11-1 in his five seasons. And he is pulling for coach Joe Rotellini, one of his former assistants, to restore a winner at the school.
"I miss Salisbury and I miss teaching there," McGlinchey said. "I have some great memories. I know Salisbury has its work cut out, but I believe Joe will get it going. They made a great decision with Joe."