TERRE HAUTE —
The course work at the University of Chicago is quite a bit different than that at Rose-Hulman, but the test scores required to get the chance to do that work are similar.
So Jeff Sokol, for the past 11 seasons the offensive coordinator and — just as importantly — the recruiting coordinator at Chicago, looks to be a good fit as the new head football coach for the Engineers.
Sokol was introduced to the media and some of his new players for the first time Monday afternoon at Rose-Hulman, and indicated he was ready to build on a winning tradition established by Steve Englehart and Jayson Martin, who was interim coach last fall.
“The winning tradition here is a testament to coach Martin and coach Englehart,” Sokol told the assembled crowd. “We don’t expect to miss a beat.”
Although Martin was passed over in the search for a permanent coach, Rose athletic director Jeff Jenkins said Monday that was no reflection on the season he had.
“Jayson did a good job,” said Jenkins, who noted there were about 100 candidates nationwide for the job, “but Jeff brings more Division III experience and more experience dealing with and recruiting Division III kids.
“It’s not that Jayson was not ready; it’s that [Sokol] is more ready.”
Sokol, who said he didn’t wait long to answer Jenkins when the Rose-Hulman job was offered, indicated his recruiting experience would be a plus for the Engineers — and that there was plenty to offer prospective football players at Rose-Hulman.
“This is a place you can sell to kids … an outstanding product,” he told the Tribune-Star. “I can sit in living rooms and tell parents their investment [in their son’s education] will pay off … the most challenging thing about [recruiting, for Rose-Hulman or Chicago] is the significant financial obligation to these families.”
Glancing around the facilities in the Sports and Recreation Center, Sokol added, “There is everything you need here … and this is a national institution, so we cast a pretty wide net [for recruiting].”
Most Engineer players were seeing their new coach for the first time, and Sokol said his emphasis would continue to be on the offensive side.
“We’ll try to be really aggressive on offense: a fast tempo, with as many [offensive plays] as we can. Keep the pressure on the defense … and we’ll structure what we do around our personnel.”
One of his first priorities, Sokol said, was to find a defensive coordinator — and then to basically leave him alone.
“We need to get a defensive coordinator in place,” he said, “and the most important thing [in the search] is someone who can teach the fundamentals, have a philosophy of defense he believes in, and fits that philosophy around our personnel.”
Rose-Hulman is coming off five consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 20 years and finished 6-4 during the fall. Chicago set a modern-era school record with eight wins during the fall and with 13 wins the past two seasons. The Maroons won three University Athletic Association championships while Sokol was their offensive coordinator.
“We’ve heard great things about him … only good things,” said Rose-Hulman wide receiver Sutton Coleman after the press conference. “Everybody [on the team] is real excited, ready to get into winter conditioning and spring training.”
Playing fast on offense sounded good to Coleman — although it could be said that the Engineer sprinter during track season plays fast all the time.
“He has a lot of offensive knowledge and good experience with the type of athletes we are,” Coleman said. “I think we’re definitely a championship-caliber team.”