Bob Davie has played the game, coached the game, analyzed the game.
Now, he’s game enough to take on one of the toughest jobs in college football — turning around an embattled Lobo program that has lost 35 of it last 38 games and seen its fan base decimated.
Davie, 57, will be introduced today as the University of New Mexico’s 31st head football coach. Paul Krebs, UNM’s vice president for athletics, confirmed the former Notre Dame coach’s selection Wednesday. Krebs declined further comment pending today’s 3:30 p.m. news conference, saying he wanted Wednesday’s focus to be on the Lobos’ men’s basketball game against New Mexico State.
Davie hasn’t coached since 2001, when he was fired at Notre Dame after compiling a 35-25 record over five seasons.
Since 2002, he has been a college football game and studio analyst for ESPN and ABC.
Davie will succeed interim head coach George Barlow, who took over for Mike Locksley in September. Locksley, hired to succeed Rocky Long in December 2008, won two games and lost 26 during his controversial 2½-year tenure that ended in his firing. Barlow is 1-5 entering Saturday’s game at Wyoming, with one more game left (at Boise State, Dec. 3) this season.
Davie will take over a program that has gone 3-35 since mid-October of 2008, including the final four games of Long’s last season in 2008.
Efforts to reach Davie for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Walt Arnold, an Albuquerque commercial mortgage broker and a former UNM and NFL tight end, said he initially had reservations when he learned of the hire — primarily because Davie has been out of coaching for a decade.
“But the more I thought about it, the better I liked it,” said Arnold, who played for the Lobos from 1976-79. “Surprised, intrigued and excited, I guess, are the three words that come to mind.”
Assembling a coaching staff, Arnold said, might be the most difficult task for someone who hasn’t coached for 10 years.
“But (because of his coaching history and television work), he probably has connections everywhere,” Arnold said. “He should be able to recruit all over the country.”
Barlow, interviewed after Wednesday’s practice, said he has never met Davie and knows little about him.
“I really don’t know enough about him to give you an opinion,” Barlow said. “I just know where he’s coached and I’ve seen him commentating on some of the games.”
Two UNM football players, junior quarterback B.R. Holbrook and sophomore linebacker Dallas Bollema, also knew little about the man who will be their coach next season.
“I’ve seen him on ESPN a little bit, but I didn’t solely focus on him,” Holbrook said. “I haven’t met him yet, and I’m excited to do that and see what he’s all about.”
Alex Kay, an online columnist for Bleacher Report, called UNM’s move “a great hire. … (Davie) could easily change the culture with a solid recruiting class and a good season in 2012.”
After a successful career as a tight end at Youngstown (Ohio) State, Davie began his coaching career in 1977 as a graduate assistant at Pittsburgh. For the ensuing 18 years, he worked as an assistant — primarily on defense — at five schools.
At Texas A&M, under head coach Jackie Sherrill, Davie served as outside linebackers coach and later as defensive coordinator. In 1991, his “Wrecking Crew” defense led the nation in fewest yards allowed per game.
One of Krebs’ prerequisites for the job was recruiting ties to Texas.
Davie was hired at Notre Dame in 1994 and worked for three years as defensive coordinator under head coach Lou Holtz. The 1996 Irish defense set a school record for number of sacks.
After Holtz retired at the end of that season, Davie won the head-coaching job.
His best season was his second, in 1998. Notre Dame was 9-1 when star quarterback Jarious Jackson suffered a knee injury. Without Jackson, the Irish lost 10-0 to Southern California in their regular-season finale, then fell to Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl.
The Irish also went 9-3 in 2000, losing 41-9 to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl. Davie was fired after a 5-6 campaign in 2001.
Davie and Krebs have a connection through Urban Meyer, now Davie’s ESPN colleague and the former coach at Florida, where his teams won two national titles.
In 1996, Davie and Meyer were assistants on Holtz’s staff at Notre Dame. Meyer then worked for Davie before leaving to become head coach at Bowling Green (Ohio) in 2001.
Meyer was hired at Bowling Green by Krebs, then the athletic director there.
Krebs said Davie was “informally” interviewed for the UNM job in 2008 before Locksley was hired.