Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 3, 2013

Search is on at Bluefield College

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — The search has begun.

With less than four months before the 2013 football season begins at Bluefield College, the task has started to find a replacement for Mike Gravier, who was fired last Friday.

“We are just simply going in a different direction,” said Bluefield College Athletic Director Peter Dryer, during an interview on Thursday.

There has been no shortage of interest in the position since word has gotten out that the Rams were in search of a new head football coach.

“We have probably got close to 100-plus (resumes and calls), it didn’t take very long,” Dryer said. “I come in usually every day and I look at the phone blinking there. Right now it says eight (messages), but when I come back from lunch it will be around 30.

“There are a lot of coaches out there looking for an opportunity like this. Our job is to find the best fit on this campus, at a school with a diverse enrollment and find the right person to come in and lead the football program.”

Dryer, who wouldn’t discuss the dismissal of Gravier, acknowledged the timing wasn’t the best for such a move with spring practice over and summer break on the horizon, but did say that assistant coaches like Will King and Joe Perri are committed to helping with the transition.

“There is never a good time, it is unfortunate that the timing is what it is, but at the same time we feel real good about how things will continue to shape up for the fall,” Dryer said. “Our assistant coaching staff that is here is very well organized and very committed to continuing to work with the program...

“They have a really good handle on it, they are not new to this, they have been around. They have been at a handful of schools at the highest level and the small college level so they know what they are doing.”

Dryer and fellow athletics officials Mike White and Jessica Brokaw, were already in the process of whittling down some of those who have expressed interest during a meeting on Thursday morning.

“We have been on the phone already and trying to let people know we have got an opening here and this is what we are looking for,” said Dryer, who is also the men’s soccer coach at Bluefield. “We want someone to come in, watch over a program that allows students to come in and play college football, be mentored, discipled and get their degree four years later or two years later, depending on what they get there.

“We want them to come in and be in a better position when they leave than when they came on campus.”

The top priority, according to Dryer, is sticking with the Christian mission that Bluefield College exudes.

“We are in the first phase of whittling it down and making sure it is, number one, a good mission fit,” Dryer said. “A lot of people have great experiences, but if they don’t have any experience in a Christian environment at a small school, sometimes those things don’t translate.

“We want to make sure that is number one, that they have great experience and the coach has a proven track record that fits that. It just has to be the right fit, it is the same as recruiting kids, the coach has to be the right fit.”

Bluefield College’s first season on gridiron since 1941 went predictably in 2012, an 0-11 record in the ultra-competitive Mid-South Conference.

Despite the lack of success in terms of wins, Dryer was pleased with the reception the new program received.

“It was fun that first game to see about 4,000 people or so that were out there, on Saturday afternoons there is often a lot of competition for your time in the community,” Dryer said. “We had a few games that people really came out to support...We competed in a few games, there were a few games where we were a little bit outmatched...”

Dryer understands that building a fan base for a small college football team in a small town can be a challenge.

“It takes a couple of years, but you have got to build that fan base and people have got to want to come back and see you play again and you have got to go out in the community and be part of the community and connect with them and with the  alumni,” Dryer said. “I think we will do more of that, but I was pleased, I thought people responded well either on campus or off campus and in the community.

“Would we like to get better? Absolutely, I think every year we will say that and we will try to come up with ways to do that.”

Dryer expects to spend the next 10 to 14 days compiling candidates, and then narrowing it down to a few for interviews. The hope is to have someone in place by the end of the May, but only if the fit is right.

“I think by the end of the month is what we have stressed to be able to communicate to the right candidate that we would like for them to come and join us...,” Dryer said. “We understand it would be best if it was sooner rather than later, but if you move too fast sometimes... you don’t want to make a decision just to make a decision.”

Bluefield College has undergone a transition with several of its coaches in recent years, including women’s soccer, volleyball, softball and cross country, and Dryer is confident the transition in football will work out just fine.

“I think you can transition from this well and other sports have proved that, and we don’t expect anything different from football,” Dryer said. “We want to be able to make this transition and continue to move in a positive direction and at the end of the day that is for the benefit of the student-athletes.

“That is why we put all the time and energy into doing it.”

—Contact Brian Woodson