Frank Solich has heard enough about it.
At the Bobcats’ annual media day Friday, the Bobcats' coach was asked three times in a row about what it would mean to win the Mid-American Conference.
Does he think his team can do it? Yes.
Is he getting sick of hearing about it? Yes.
Does he want to get to the bigger bowl games that come with conference championships? Yes again.
Solich knows Ohio was tabbed to win the MAC in the annual preseason media poll. He’s also fully aware that he has Nathan Rourke, the best quarterback in the conference.
Now all the Bobcats have to do is win the conference for the first time in 50 years.
“You have to take steps in order to get that done,” he said. “That’s what we're trying to do. Sometimes, we've marched in place instead of taking the step forward, but this is where we're at. We're wanting that to happen as much as anything.”
Wearing a black polo with an Ohio football helmet on the right chest, gray shorts and glasses, Solich looked poised to take the Bobcats to Detroit. This is year 14 at the helm for him. He’s been to the championship game four times. The Bobcats are 0-4. He’s experienced the heartbreak in countless ways: blowing a 20-point lead (against Northern Illinois in 2011), being blown out (Central Michigan in 2006), falling a touchdown short of a comeback (two years ago against Western Michigan).
He claims he never catches himself thinking about winning the championship. He says he doesn’t need to win it to feel like he’s a good coach.
That’s probably true. But to perfect the rebuild of the program — which he started in 2005 — Solich would need the MAC Championship.
From the ground up, Solich has had to rebuild: revamp a weight room, put in meeting rooms so his players didn’t have to watch film projected on trash bags, make sure each coach had an office to operate out of. Things a coach shouldn’t have to do.
But he’s done it.
“I've been in this business long enough to know that so many things have to happen in order to get that done,” he said. “The times you have to overcome injuries to get that done and overcome calls by officials to get that done.”
With Rourke back at quarterback, the Bobcats have the most stability at quarterback they’ve had since the days of Tyler Tettleton. Two years ago, people were uncomfortable talking about the offense. Now people look forward to talking about the skill of Rourke and the depth in the backfield.
And for a defense that has such little experience, it has a lot of confidence in its talent. With the return of safeties Javon Hagan and Kylan Nelson, the secondary will be its strength. The front seven is capable of doing the job, though many of its playmakers and leaders from last season are gone. For an effective season, the Bobcats will need to identify someone who can make a sack in a critical situation.
“I look forward to seeing where this goes and to see the best that they can play, and for us to coach the best that we can coach,” Solich said. “We'll let it play out from there."
After every practice so far this fall camp, the team comes together for a quick breakdown.
“One, two, three — MAC Champs.”
That same message was echoed at media day. Ohio will just have to execute it this upcoming season.