With McGlinchey at helm, Frostburg finds anything is possible

November 26, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

The opening half had been nearly disastrous. Thirty minutes into its first NCAA football playoff game, Frostburg State trailed Wilkes (Pa.), 18-0. The Bobcats walked into the locker room expecting to hear a tongue-lashing from their normally unflappable coach, Mike McGlinchey.

"He has never been known to yell, but I thought he was going to get on us because of the way we played," offensive lineman Mo Cifuentes says. "But he came in calm, collected and patient, as if we were winning."

McGlinchey went methodically about his business, reviewing adjustments with his assistant coaches, assuring his players that they could bounce back with a great second half, all the time projecting a matter-of-fact confidence. No rah-rah speech. No reminders about the mistakes. What good would that do?

"I don't see the bad things. I look at what they might be able to do," McGlinchey says.

The Bobcats then did what appeared to be impossible. Trailing 25-7 with 11 minutes to play, they forced two turnovers, blocked a punt and scored 19 points to stun Wilkes, 26-25. That landed Frostburg State (10-1) in tomorrow's Division III quarterfinal game against visiting Washington & Jefferson (Pa.).

"Our kids knew we were going to come back, because he told them we were going to come back," offensive coordinator Paul Barnes says. "We don't win at Wilkes without a guy like Mike McGlinchey."

Since he arrived on the Frostburg State campus in 1992 to take over a fine football program left behind by Dennis Riccio, McGlinchey has rallied people around him.

They talk about his knowledge of the game and marvel at the tireless way he approaches his profession. He's a coach who wears many hats -- psychologist, salesman, scientist, teacher, strategist.

Mostly, he's a coach who can't get enough details. So, the next opponent has an unsolvable defense? Give McGlinchey a few hours with the game tape, and he'll find some answers. You want to know the proper way to run with the football? McGlinchey can show you tapes of Carl Lewis in form-running perfection, then augment his lesson by giving you a personal progress report. He tapes every practice.

McGlinchey is a slave to technique. To him, coaching is breaking down the acts of blocking, tackling, running, passing and catching to basic elements, then convincing his players to use the building blocks to pursue individual perfection. From there, the team inevitably prospers.

"He values technique much more than killing us in practice," Cifuentes says. "He assumes we'll come to camp in shape. If we're not, we'll suffer the consequences. And he doesn't get upset. I've never seen him yell at anybody."

It's not that McGlinchey won't admonish a player for a careless mistake or a lazy day of practice. But his bark is always constructive, his outlook stubbornly optimistic.

"We want to give positive feed back to our players, because we've got to show them how to improve," McGlinchey says. "We try to make everybody look within themselves. We want them to realize the importance of every single moment, whether it's practice, a game or the off-season. You've got to work hard and expect to be great the minute you walk on the field."

The Bobcats have bought into McGlinchey's teachings. Despite starting only six seniors, they used speed, an opportunistic defense and a wing-T offense that produced 33 points per game to roll to a 9-1 record during the regular season.

In August, McGlinchey told the Bobcats, who were coming off a 6-3-1 season, they could be the school's first NCAA playoff team. They believed him. After all, in his first head-coaching job, at Salisbury State, he took the Sea Gulls to the Division III playoffs three times in five seasons, culminating in a trip to the final in 1986.

After a 44-11-1 record at Salisbury, he left for Central ConnecticutState, which began to de-emphasize its Division II program while McGlinchey was there. In five years, he went 17-26-2.

When the Frostburg State job opened in 1992, McGlinchey beat out 100 other applicants.

His winning record and style aside, McGlinchey also sets a different kind of example for his players. For the past four years, he has suffered from a motor neuron disease that affects his strength and dexterity, and causes his speech to slur. The disease sometimes makes it difficult to perform simple tasks such as slipping on his coat or gripping a ball, but it does not affect his ability to prepare his team.

"This man is a fighter," Barnes says. "And I've never worked with anyone as totally prepared as Mike. He's a perfectionist. I remember the first time we met, we talked about one play for over three hours."

As usual, McGlinchey was buried in details.

"If we don't break things down for them, we can't teach them how to succeed, not just in football but in life," McGlinchey says. "Talent is not going to win national championships alone. If you have all of your players on the same page, and you have confidence, you can beat anybody. You can do anything."

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