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Frank Solich  

It took Frank Solich just two seasons to accomplish something that had not been done at Ohio in nearly 40 years.

In his second year as the Bobcats' head coach, Solich guided Ohio to its first MAC East Division championship, the program's first MAC title of any kind since 1968. Ohio's invitation to the GMAC Bowl marked the Bobcats' first bowl game since that same 1968 season. Solich was rewarded with MAC Coach of the Year honors, marking the third time in eight seasons as a head coach that he had won his league's coach of the year award.

After 11 wins in the previous four seasons, Solich has guided the Bobcats to 13 victories in his first two campaigns. Since his arrival, Solich has coached 11 All-MAC players, only two short of the Bobcats' total from 1999-2004. His charges have also gained national recognition. In 2005, Dion Byrum became Ohio's first non-special teams All-American since 1968, and three rookies have been honored on The Sporting News Freshman All-America squads. In the past two seasons, Bobcat players have been named to watch lists for such prestigious honors as the Butkus Award, the Lombardi Trophy, the Lott Trophy and the Nagurski Trophy. Byrum was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation's top defensive back, in 2005.

Solich is equally proud of his players accomplishments in the classroom. In the past two seasons, the Bobcats have had five Academic All-MAC selections and three players named to the CoSIDA/ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District IV Second Team. In each of his two seasons an Ohio player has been named a semifinalist for the Draddy Trophy, one of the most prestigious academic honors in college football. Academic success is nothing new for Solich's teams. While head coach at Nebraska, almost 90 percent of his student-athletes earned their degree. Seven times Huskers earned first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors and on four other occasions, second-team honors were bestowed. Solich was named the Bobcats' head coach on Dec. 17, 2004. In short order he assembled a talented and tested coaching staff, coordinated recruiting efforts to assure a steady stream of outstanding student-athletes to the program, supervised a highly productive off-season weight program producing dozens of personal bests and concluded all-business spring drills introducing his players to tried and true offensive and defensive schemes.

Solich's arrival brought a renewed enthusiasm to the Bobcat football program. Ohio used that spark to begin a massive renovation of Peden Tower to better serve its student-athletes. The renovations included an expanded athletic training facility on the first floor. The new sports medicine facility includes a hydrotherapy room with state-of-the-art equipment that aids in the treatment of the Bobcats' student-athletes. The second floor of the tower was also renovated and is now utilized for meeting space. The second phase of the Peden Tower was completed just prior to the 2006 season, focusing on the fifth floor coaching offices and recruiting space.

The momentum carried over into Solich's first season on the sidelines of Peden Stadium. Solich's first win at Ohio came against defending Big East champion Pittsburgh in his home debut. Dion Byrum's two interception returns on national television in an overtime victory put the Bobcats on the national stage. The win was one of only two victories for MAC teams against BCS-conference opponents that season.

Solich arrived in Athens after six seasons as the head coach at the University of Nebraska. Solich spent nearly 30 years as part of the Nebraska program as a player, assistant coach and head coach. A Big 12 Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2001, Solich produced nine-win seasons in five of his six years as head coach of the Huskers and generated six consecutive bowl appearances including a 2001 run at the national championship against Miami in the Rose Bowl. Under Solich's leadership, Nebraska spent 54 consecutive weeks in the Associated Press Top 10.

In his first five seasons as Husker head coach, Solich won 49 games, more than both his storied predecessors, Bob Devaney and Dr. Tom Osborne, in their first five years at Nebraska.

After learning that the former Nebraska mentor had accepted the Bobcat job, former rival Bob Stoops of Oklahoma exclaimed, "His track record for success speaks for itself and his philosophy and principles are timeless." Stoops concluded, "Ohio is to be congratulated for recognizing how much Frank has to offer to the college game, and I believe the school will be rewarded by the program that Frank will run there."

Moving on from Nebraska following a 2003 season in which his Huskers went 10-3, Solich was nevertheless determined to stay as close as possible to the college game until just the right opportunity came along.

No lecture or motivational circuit, broadcast booth or golf course for this student of the game. In a unique professional development opportunity all too often ignored by colleagues, Solich chose to travel the college and professional ranks to update his knowledge of the game, broaden his perspectives on its nuances and challenges and ready himself for the next great challenge.

Stepping back from the sideline included wide-ranging visits to some of Division I-A's top programs as well and the schedule included much more than a courtesy call. His ambitious fact-finding odyssey included stops at Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Miami and Southern California.

Coming from his native Cleveland to Lincoln back in 1962, he was recruited to play fullback for the Cornhuskers as a part of Bob Devaney's first class of freshmen.

As a player, Solich anchored teams that went 9-2, 10-1, 9-2 and 10-1. He earned All-Big Eight honors in 1965 and was the first Husker to rush for 200 yards in a game. His place in the Nebraska tradition was formalized with his induction into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

While his accomplishments as a player were impressive, his work as a gifted teacher and assistant coach perhaps had as much to do with his arrival in the shrine as anything. Nine of the fifteen seasons he served as running backs coach, Nebraska led the nation in rushing. He recruited and coached 1983 Heisman winner Mike Rozier and produced at least one all-conference running back in thirteen of the fifteen years he mentored that position.

It's no wonder that the former finalist for the Paul "Bear" Bryant, Coach of the Year Award had no difficulty commanding instant focus and eye contact from his new Bobcat players.

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