Football looks to improve

Published 11:59 am Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MURFREESBORO – As Tim Place begins his first season as head football coach at Chowan University, he is fully focused on the task at hand n that of improving the gridiron fortunes of the school.

Just as he did at Christian Brothers Academy (NY), Greene Central High School (NY), Hartwick College (NY), Eureka College (IL), Western Carolina University, Ravenna High School (OH) and Urbana University (OH); each a former stop along his career path.

But what he will not do is sacrifice neither the academic or athletic integrity built at Chowan long before he even born.

That alone says a mouthful about what makes Tim Place tick as he, as a head coach over the past two years at Urbana, complied 11 total wins, one short of Chowan’s combined 12 victories since 2000 (the Braves, now Hawks, are 12-67 over that stretch of eight seasons).

What that translates into is that Chowan is in need of righting its football ship. It hasn’t sunk, but it’s been slowly taking on water since its legendary “captain,” Jim Garrison, retired years ago.

Place completely understands that he can’t duplicate the success Garrison (a career 182 wins) built during his long length of service, but he can surely imitate it.

“Everything in life is a journey,” Place said during last week’s fifth annual Fall Sports Media Day hosted by Chowan. “And that journey is full of potholes and detours…it’s how you navigate around those obstacles that makes you successful in life.”

For Coach Place, he doesn’t need a GPS unit to tell him where he’s going or where to take the Hawks as he has a natural navigation system.

“I follow a roadmap that consists of team building through constant valuation and revaluation of my players, my staff and myself, both on and off the field,” he noted. “By following that, I put my players, my staff and myself in a position to be successful. And for my players, that’s extremely important because first and foremost we want them to excel in the classroom and gain what they came here to get…a college education.”

As for the football Hawks, Place said his squad is not where he wanted them to be, now less than one week prior to the 2008 season opener on Aug. 30 at Elizabeth City State University.

“Time really hasn’t been on our side since we got here in April,” Place said. “We missed spring drills and went into the pre-season camp full of question marks.”

Coach Place stressed that rebuilding Chowan’s once proud football program wouldn’t happen overnight.

“We are where we are right now…we’ll go forward from this point. We’ll make no promises and offer no excuses. We will play proud, play fast and play hard and go where those three lead us,” he said.

Place admitted that he and his staff were throwing a lot of offensive and defensive material at the players, but as long as he noted daily improvement, that’s all he could ask for at this time.

“What I really want to see is for us to play hard on every snap on both sides of the ball,” the coach said. “An average play in football lasts about six seconds. We need to give 100 percent six seconds at the time.”

The coach said his offensive and defensive game plans mirror each other.

“We’ll run multiple things on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Offensively, I like to throw it a bit more, but we’ll do whatever it takes to be successful. Defensively, we play situational football based upon the down and distance facing our opponents.”

And if inheriting a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 1999 (5-4) wasn’t enough stress to handle, consider the fact that Chowan is about to embark on its first season inside the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association), a NCAA Division II conference comprised of historically African-American colleges. The Hawks will immediately test the CIAA waters on Saturday night at ECSU.

“We’re making history on Saturday, but we can’t let it overwhelm us,” Place said. “Of course our main priority is to win, but we will, win or lose, represent Chowan University with class.”

The take thus far on the new coach can be summed up in one word n disciplinarian.

“Without discipline a coach is not putting his players in a position to be successful, either on the field or in the classroom,” Place stressed. “I believe in discipline and I believe in being held accountable for your actions.”

Place inherits a young squad as the Hawks roster includes only 10 seniors. That, plus having a veteran coaching staff, most of which followed him to Murfreesboro from Urbana, has Place excited about what can happen along the shoreline of Lake Vann.

“We have a great group of young men to work with and I’m blessed to have a great coaching staff who share the same beliefs and values,” Place concluded. “We’re also blessed to have the support of a president (Dr. Chris White) and athletic director (Dennis Helsel). We will work together to bring the football pride back to this outstanding university.”

Place does have a history of turning around football fortunes at the collegiate level. At Urbana he breathed new life into the program after taking over as interim Head Coach in the summer of 2006. He guided that 2006 team to a 4-1 season start and was ranked as high as 10th in the NAIA national rankings. One year later, Place led the team to only its second winning season in program history after finishing up at 6-5. For six consecutive weeks, the 2007 squad was ranked in the NAIA’s Top 25.

Over his two-year tenure as head coach at Urbana, Place saw 23 student-athletes named all conference, two student-athletes garner NAIA All-America Honors and two student-athletes be named to the NAIA Football All-America Scholar-Athlete team.

Place spent a total of six seasons with the Blue Knights, four as the Defensive Coordinator, three as the Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator and two as the head coach. As the Defensive Coordinator in 2004, Place was named the Mid-States Football Association’s Assistant Coach of the Year after coaching one of the league’s premier defenses.

Place graduated from Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia with a B.A. in Psychology. At W & L he was a four-year member of the football team and two-year letter winner. He has a M.S. from SUNY-Albany in Counseling Psychology.

The coach and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Nathaniel (6) and Claire (4).