Buzz words like integrity, character, trust and family values roll off the tongue of every single athletics director at every single introductory press conference, but they were non-negotiables for Pat Chun in searching for Florida Atlantic's next head coach. You know what they've been through.
Which is exactly why Charlie Partridge is Florida Atlantic's new head coach.
Partridge grew up in south Florida - twenty minutes from Florida Atlantic, he says - and visited often during recruiting season, where he built a reputation as a rainmaker on the south Florida recruiting scene.
Chun quickly learned Partridge did things the right way in reaching out to his contacts at Wisconsin, and his trust was earned when Partridge's name never leaked to the media during the interview process. "The first time I met him, I knew he was a special guy. We needed a guy with presence. We want difference makers, and the second we met, you knew Charlie was a difference maker," Chun said.
Finally, Partridge didn't just want to be a head coach, Chun said, he wanted to come home and he wanted to be the head coach at Florida Atlantic. "He gets off the plane, he doesn't need a map," said Chun.
The offer was made and accepted Saturday night, and Partridge signed the official paperwork to become the third head coach in Florida Atlantic history 45 minutes before Tuesday's press conference.
To get a sense of who Partridge is, just look at the people he thanked on Tuesday. His wife - Partridge teared up when remembering his wife, Julie, riding with him as he drove the bus at Drake and spending their first anniversary in the Drake football facility because they had no place else to live - and two daughters, his brother and father, who still lives 20 minutes from Partridge's new place of work. He thanked a number of south Florida high school coaches by name, and then a list of college coaches:
- Rob Ash: "I learned from him what the experience is supposed to be about."
- Dan McCarney: "I can't thank Dan McCarney enough for being so hard on me."
- Paul Rhoads: "He was a big reason I got to work at Pitt."
- Walt Harris: "He taught me how to understand the prority of recruiting."
- Dave Wannstedt: "He helped me transition honestly to a recruiter to a recruiter and coach."
- Barry Alvarez: "He he built the University of Wisconsin into the powerhouse it is today."
- Bret Bielema: "Learned a ton from him in the six years we were together."
Florida Atlantic will be Partridge's first head coaching job, but he enters day one on the job with a list of four pillars he will build the Owls' program on:
1. Family: "You have to make your family a priority," said Partridge. "Have I always done that the right way? No. Have I always been perfect? No. The amount that I love my family, our program will feel that with our coaches and their families. They will be around. That's part of it. We believe to lead these young men they have to see these men love their wives and adore their children, and that's important for us and the coaches that are on this staff, their families will be welcome. With that being said, what I want to create on Saturdays in this stadium right behind us is an atmosphere that welcomes families. Let's fill this. Let's make Saturday a part of your day in Boca Raton...Let's build this thing by your coming in here and being proud of the Florida products that we're going to put on the field."
2. Hard Work: "The only way I've been able to achieve anything is to work hard. I'm not that smart, I just work hard and I try to be efficient with my time," he said. "Time management will be critical as we move forward. The thing with time management is being smart with your time, not just working from five in the morning to two in the morning. That's not what it's about. It's about knowing what your plan is, knowing what you're going to do during that day, how you're going to spend the next week, how are you going to reach out to the current players, to prospective student-athletes, make sure that I'm building a rapport in the department and then potential supporters for our program."
3. Recruiting: "Recruiting, really in my mind, encompasses two parts, starting with the obvious: the better your players are, the smarter you are as a coach," Partridge said. "If we can recruit and get the best athletes out of south Florida and Florida at large to join our program, then we can put together something special here. I've had the opportunity to earn the trust of those coaches in this area and by being around the players that have had the opportunity to go where I've been, the coaches know how they will be treated and parents, you'll know that as well. Also recruiting support for the program. We will embrace the community and we want the community to embrace us. We will reach out to groups in the area, our players will be visible, we'll continue to build on that foundation that's already been built. We will make sure that Boca understands that we're here to continue to build that rapport."
4. Development: "The best programs I've been a part of understand that, yes, you have to recruit great athletes, but they have to be developed in those three, four or five years that they're in your program," said Partridge. "On the field, academically and socially. That comes with your strength coach, that comes with teaching them how to eat, that comes with teaching them how to manage their time, that comes with making sure that they understand academics is a huge priority. Things as simple as teaching them how to manage social media - I embrace Twitter, I think some of you already know that - continuing to teach our kids that it's a powerful tool and we handle it the right way. At the end of the day, every one of us who got into coaching for the right reason, that's why we're in it - is to create positive young men, and that carries over to winning on the field."
With Florida Atlantic's season over (the Owls finished 6-6 but were not selected for a bowl game), and almost a month until the winter dead period ends, Partridge will first work to build a staff. "We're in a state of urgency, not emergency," he said. He did not offer any specifics as to where he'd look to fill out his staff, but said he planned to meet with the current staff "in the next 24 to 48 hours." He did mention that he plans to hire a special teams coordinator but will be heavily involved in that phase of the game.
Partridge plans to build an offense that will mesh the two-back, ground-based offense he spent the past six years in under Bret Bielema with the athletes produced in south Florida. "We will be based out of a spread style offense and running will be a priority," said Partridge.
"Defensively, we will be sound in our fundamentals, we will be sound in defending whichever style of offense we're seeing in Conference USA and we will build it around having a sound scheme to allow the kids to play fast, keep it simple and make sure they know where they are to go," Partridge added.
In closing, Partridge closed by stealing a line from program patriarch Howard Schnellenberger. "We are on a collision course with championships," he said, "the only variable is time."