FOOTBALL: Western coach trades Hilltopper red for Oakland black

Michael Casagrande

The firing of Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan in December didn’t look to affect football on the Hill at the time.

But the trickle down effect from the hiring of Norv Turner as head coach led to the hire of defensive coordinator Bob Ryan and eventually a member of the Western coaching staff.

Ryan, the son of coaching great Buddy Ryan, then looked to Western defensive coordinator Don Martindale to fill the linebackers coaching position.

After a short recruitment period, Martindale signed a contract with the Raiders, ending a three season relationship with Western.

Western coach David Elson said he was contacted last Tuesday by the Raiders to ask permission to speak to Martindale.

Elson gave the OK, and Martindale was on a flight to Oakland soon afterward.

By Thursday night, Martindale was back in Bowling Green after signing the contract.

The terms of the contract are not known, but Elson knew Western could not compete with the professional opportunity and financial reward the Raiders could offer Martindale.

A search for the third defensive coordinator in three years is now underway. Elson said he would not comment on a leading candidate, but he did say there is a “good chance” the replacement will come from the current coaching staff.

“We are going to look inward, within our family first,” Elson said.

Defensive backs/special teams coordinator Mike Dietzel has the most coaching experience of any defensive coach currently on the staff. Dietzel has coached at eight schools since starting his career as a graduate assistant at Colorado in 1985.

Defensive line coach Mike Fanoga has been the defensive line coach at Western for the past four years and is the most tenured of the defensive coach staff.

Elson said the Oakland hiring of Martindale may even be a positive for the program and could be used as a recruiting tool.

Martindale had been defensive coordinator for the 2003 season and was the linebackers coach the previous two years at Western.

The relationship between Ryan and Martindale began when the two were both on the staff at the University of Cincinnati, Elson said.

Ryan began his coaching career at Western as an assistant in 1987 before coaching linebackers at Ohio State.

Sophomore offensive lineman Sean Pugh did not play directly beneath Martindale, but the defensive coach was instrumental in his recruitment. Both natives of Dayton, Ohio, Martindale was able to relate with the young players, Pugh said.

“He’s the one that brought me here,” Pugh said. “All the guys respect him and he does a great job with what he does. I’m real happy for him. He deserves it.”

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]