Mon­archs

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - RAC­ING RE­PORT - Ricky Rahne, ODU foot­ball coach on for­mer coach Bobby Wilder mbar­ber@times­dis­patch.com @RTD_MikeBar­ber

For Rahne, who spent six sea­sons at Penn State, the past two as its of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, the di­a­logue with Wilder was a log­i­cal early step as he puts his stamp on Old Do­min­ion foot­ball as its sec­ond head coach.

A few weeks ear­lier, be­fore Rahne for­mally had ac­cepted the job, he phoned Wilder to get his thoughts on the po­si­tion, the pro­gram and the uni­ver­sity.

Rahne had forged a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Wilder when Penn State hosted satel­lite camps at ODU.

“I’d be fool­ish not to take all that ex­pe­ri­ence from a guy who cares so deeply about Old Do­min­ion and Old Do­min­ion foot­ball,” Rahne. “He made him­self avail­able and I reached out to see if I could chew his ear off on a cou­ple of things and it’s been good. Ob­vi­ously, the things he did for this pro­gram, to build it, that’s some­thing the uni­ver­sity will al­ways be thank­ful for.”

Wilder took over at ODU two years be­fore the team started play in the 2009 sea­son. The Mon­archs spent their first five sea­sons at the FCS level be­fore tran­si­tion­ing to FBS in 2014. Three years later, Wilder had the start-up pro­gram at 10-3 af­ter a win in the 2016 Ba­hamas Bowl.

But the suc­cess fell off from there. Old Do­min­ion went 10-26 the next three sea­sons, in­clud­ing last year’s 1-11 cam­paign, the one that led to the school’s de­ci­sion to dis­miss Wilder.

Meet­ing with Rahne a few weeks later to turn over the keys to the car he had built from scratch like a week­end me­chanic, wasn’t easy for Wilder. But he de­cided his pas­sion for the pro­gram and his com­mit­ment to his son, Derek, a se­nior de­fen­sive line­man at ODU, out­weighed his dis­ap­point­ment over his dis­missal.

“That was dif­fi­cult. It was about two weeks af­ter I had been asked to step down as the head coach,” Wilder said. “I had to put aside my per­sonal feel­ings and think about Coach Rahne, and think about my son and ev­ery­body else who was still there.”

Derek Wilder un­der­went a sim­i­lar in­ter­nal de­bate. Af­ter ini­tially con­sid­er­ing trans­fer­ring fol­low­ing his fa­ther’s dis­missal, Derek Wilder has de­cided to stay and play for Rahne, the man who sits in his fa­ther’s old of­fice.

“It was un­charted ter­ri­tory,” Derek Wilder said. “I never knew ODU with­out him be­ing the coach and, at that point, no one else did ei­ther.”

The younger Wilder said his fa­ther’s pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­ward the pro­gram and sup­port of Rahne made it eas­ier for him to re­turn to school af­ter be­ing granted a sixth sea­son of el­i­gi­bil­ity by the NCAA.

“The first thing we had to get through was his tremen­dous loy­alty to his fa­ther and his head coach,” Bobby Wilder said. “His first though was, ‘I’m not com­ing back.’ His first thoughts were anger and frus­tra­tion.”

The elder Wilder can re­late to those emo­tions. Af­ter his fir­ing, Bobby Wilder spent a few months look­ing for an­other coach­ing job. He ex­plored pos­si­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties, he said, but none panned out. He then shifted his fo­cus to se­cur­ing work as a broad­caster and had lined up in­ter­views in that field.

But with COVID-19

D. Wilder putting col­lege foot­ball on pause, those plans have been put on hold. So, af­ter 32 years of col­lege coach­ing, Bobby Wilder is find­ing new ways to spend his days. That’s in­cluded a lot of read­ing, a good help­ing of golf and a healthy amount of time walk­ing the fam­ily dogs, Jack and Khaleesi.

Khaleesi is a plott hound-bor­der col­lie mix, a res­cue dog that Derek got his fa­ther as a gift last spring. Jack is Derek’s mala­mute-pitt bull mix he res­cued from a kill shel­ter.

“If my son could, he would res­cue ev­ery an­i­mal in the world, and we’d have it in our house,” Bobby Wilder said.

This fall, as­sum­ing games go on and he hasn’t landed a broad­cast­ing gig, Bobby Wilder plans to be at Old Do­min­ion’s S.B. Bal­lard to watch Derek play and Rahne coach, while also at­tend­ing Navy games, where his younger son, Drew, will be a fresh­man cen­ter.

And if ODU wins when he’s there, most likely as a guest in the suite of the school’s re­tir­ing president, who cochaired the search com­mit­tee when Wilder was hired, Wilder will cheer.

“This is Ricky Rahne’s pro­gram now,” Wilder said. “He needs that and de­serves that space. But I made it clear to him that I’ll al­ways be there for him to help in any way I can.”

“I’d be fool­ish not to take all that ex­pe­ri­ence from a guy who cares so deeply

about Old Do­min­ion.”

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