He was born to coach

Football: A long, winding and sometimes bumpy road has taken Dave Dolch to Francis Scott Key doing what he does, and loves, best: coaching and teaching.

High Schools

September 18, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Francis Scott Key High School is about as far removed as one can get from the Inner Harbor and still remain in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Eight miles beyond Westminster in western Carroll County, the Eagles' field is flanked by tall pines and a recently renovated school. Head coach Dave Dolch views farmland on the horizon, just as he did on the Eastern Shore when he was handed his first team 22 years ago. Don't even consider, however, that he has come full circle on some tranquil path.

Compared with Dolch, Forrest Gump's celluloid existence was boring.

Want highs?

Dolch and his son, Scott, were both their high schools' representatives at the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Awards, evidence that football and books mix. The father engineered the greatest turnaround in the history of college football in Maryland, and was profiled on national television as a boy wonder who needed just 14 months to take Bowie State from the nation's longest losing streak to an NCAA tournament.

Want lows?

Every rung on the coaching ladder - five in seven years - meant another elementary school for his daughter, Sally. A high school friend died from an athletic injury, and Dolch wanted to quit coaching after one of his players was nearly crippled. Five years after the magical season at Bowie State, he was out of college coaching, as the NCAA ruled that he ran a program that was out of control.

"I don't have any regrets about my actions," Dolch said. "My reputation may be that of a winner, or it may be that of winning at all costs, but don't ever let your reputation get confused with your character."

Tapped for big things by a prominent Baltimore entrepreneur and a Super Bowl coach, Dolch spent the past seven years as an advocate for boys and girls who used to be called juvenile delinquents. Now, he and his wife, Kim, have an empty nest, and football is at the heart of their lives again. Saturdays are devoted to Scott, who's quarterbacking a Division I-AA team. Friday nights provide the weekly culmination of Dave's new passion.

Sports standout

Dolch, 46, is putting his doctorate in education to use in Key's freshman seminar. He's one of the teachers charged with guiding at-risk ninth-graders into senior high. There's a heavy emphasis on reading, one of many coincidences that involve Dolch. To aid his family during the Great Depression, Dolch's father dropped out of school in the sixth grade and became a delivery boy.

Herb Dolch doesn't have much formal learning, but he taught his sons how to work. Play was taken seriously, too. Raised in Riviera Beach, Dave Dolch traveled to Baltimore to play sandlot baseball for the legendary Sheriff Fowble. At Northeast High, Harry Lentz sped Dolch's baseball and football education. He stood out in both sports at Western Maryland College, where Jim Hindman arrived as an assistant football coach in 1976, when Dolch was a senior.

Hindman became the head coach a year later. Dolch stayed on as a graduate assistant, and remained in coaching despite an alluring pitch Hindman made to a group of former Terror players.

"Oil changes never excited me," Dolch said. "I was the one guy who walked away."

Hindman wanted go-getters to run Jiffy-Lube franchises - and the Western Maryland football program. He ordered his assistants to think like a head coach, and Dolch's attention to detail earned him a nickname that went beyond his 22 years of coaching.

"We called him `What can go wrong?' Dolch," Hindman said.

Dolch married Kim, his college sweetheart, and took a job at Queen Anne's High in 1978. The head coach resigned a few days before the 1979 opener, and the second-year assistant took over. Dolch went 0-10 in his debut, but began a building job that made the Lions 9-1 in 1982.

What do you do when you're 27, and want to break into college scholarship football? Dolch wrote to more than 300 coaches in Division I and II.

On to Bowie

After two years at Northern Colorado as a graduate assistant, Dolch moved to Division I-AA Delaware State. Between recruiting stops in January 1986, he learned that Bowie State was in the market for a new coach after a winless season. Dolch had an in, because Bowie State's new president had just finished working for Delaware State.

Dolch was 30 when Bowie State hired him - the only white man in charge of a football team at a historically black college.

"Politically and administratively, there were people who weren't rooting for Dave," Sherman Wood said.

Now the head coach at Salisbury University, Wood was the first graduate assistant hired by the Bulldogs. Former Colts linebacker Sanders Shiver was the only full-time assistant. The part-timers included Hindman and Lentz.

Dolch reorganized Bowie State, but sentiment to shut down the program built as its losing streak reached 32 games in September 1987.

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