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FCS to FBS jump: 'The fundamentals of building a program are the same'

Mike Vorel of the Star-Tribune came out with a great piece today profiling the move of successful FCS head coaches up to the FBS level.

According to his research, dating back to 2004, 18 FCS, Division II or high school head coaches have made the jump to the major college level. At their previous stops, those coaches had a combined record of 744-347, which puts their winning percentage right around 68%. As we all know, that means next to nothing at the FBS level.

At their FBS coaching stop, those same coaches went a combine 225-375, winning just under 38% of their games. That's quite the flip.

The list of coaches to continue their success at the FBS level is relatively short, and includes coaches like Brian Kelly and Jim Harbaugh, while the list of coaches whose records flipped on its axis is much longer. Guys like Wyoming's Craig Bohl (North Dakota State) and Bowling Green's Dino Babers (Eastern Illinois) are the latest coaches trying to implement their succcessful FCS model with their new FBS teams.

Pete Lembo, who saw his share of success at FCS Elon, and has brought that same model to Ball State, told Vorel in a separate Q&A that the fundamentals of building a program stay the same, regardless of classification.

"You can’t forget where you came from and you can’t shelf everything you believe in and the way you operate -- the way you build your program -- just because you’re moving from one level to the next. The fundamentals of building a program, I believe, are going to be the same at any level."

Babers added to that same sentiment, noting that regardless of level, the entire process starts with getting your guys to buy in.

"I told the guys when I came in, it’s kind of like the first three years of marriage. You’re trying to figure out if it’s going to be a toilet-seat-up or toilet-seat-down house. It’s not that you guys aren’t getting along. You’re just feeling it out and the line is moving back and forth and you’re trying to figure out exactly what you can get away with and what you can’t get away with."

"You’re trying to make an arranged marriage work.”

Later on in the piece, Babers talks about how the only way to prepare being a head coach, is to actually be one.

"I almost wonder how coordinators who have never had that role of doing it all, how many mistakes they make in year one and year two, and how many of those mistakes not only hurt the program, but hurt themselves from a career standpoint."

"I wouldn’t trade my experience and knowledge I learned at Eastern Illinois for anything. It was invaluable and it was definitely needed for where I wanted to get to.”

The full article has a ton of great coaching content in it and is a must read for coaches at every level. Some really, really valuable stuff in here.