FRISCO, Texas — Frank Solich embraced his wife.
The two stood near midfield holding each other tight. Ohio had just defeated San Diego State 27-0 in the DXL Frisco Bowl, but hoisting the trophy wasn’t a priority.
With the hug came a few tears from his wife, Pamela. The couple was able to appreciate how far Solich and Ohio have come since he started 14 years ago in Athens. After the embrace, Ohio athletic director Jim Schaus was there to give his thanks and congratulations to Solich.
The two people who believe in Solich the most — his partner in life and his boss — were both there to congratulate him.
On Wednesday night, Solich picked up his fourth bowl win at Ohio. He’s now the oldest coach in FBS, but the beating of San Diego State was a start, not an ending.
“I’m not feeling like the oldest coach,” he said after the win. “At least not tonight.”
At times this season, it was easy to forget where Solich started in 2005. Wednesday’s win at Toyota Stadium was just the fourth bowl win in program history. Each win has come in the Solich era.
Fans getting upset about not making the Mid-American Conference Championship Game? That would’ve been a funny joke in 2005.
Consistency? Wins? Relevancy? All were nonexistent when Solich inherited the program.
This season was a disappointment; the Bobcats didn’t reach the goals they set for themselves. Ohio didn’t defeat Miami in the annual “Battle of the Bricks” rivalry, a loss that ultimately kept the Bobcats out of the MAC Championship game.
Solich admitted that after Wednesday’s win, too. He thought this team was capable of more wins, of achieving more than a bowl win. That’s because he’s sick of just winning games, of being the contender, of being the perennial consistent team.
He knows there’s more, and he wants it.
"We had a few that we were very close, but it very easily could have been and should have been a 10-11 football team,” he said. “The wins are great, I don’t sleep at night whether we win or lose. Losing gets tough, it can get discouraging.”
In the 27-0 beatdown of San Diego State, Ohio played close to perfection. It recorded over 200 yards running and passing the ball. The Bobcats shutout the Aztecs, recording their first of the season in their final game.
More importantly, Ohio played the way Solich wants his teams to play. If that wasn’t picturesque enough, Wednesday was also the closing to one of Solich’s favorite classes at Ohio.
Running back A.J. Ouellette rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Evan Croutch had 11 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Wide receivers Andrew Meyer and Papi White combined for six receptions, 150 yards and a touchdown.
All seniors, all who bought into the culture at Ohio. The senior class will leave behind a legacy that includes two bowl victories, a 2016 MAC Championship Game appearance and 34 wins.
Solich will remember them for their toughness and love for winning.
“He’s one of the best coaches in football, it’s a dream to play for him,” Croutch.
But Wednesday was a day to turn the page to a new chapter, too.
Earlier in the day, Ohio inked a signing day class which features 18 players —16 high schoolers and two junior college products — and is the highest-rated class in program history, according to 247Sports’ rankings.
It’s highlighted by three-star recruits, such as defensive lineman Denzel Daxon and tight end Tyler Foster. Daxon was a Louisville commit until a new staff was hired, Foster was starting to get steam from Big Ten schools as signing day closed in.
Both signed with Ohio, ranking the Bobcats fourth overall in the MAC and 85th in the nation, according to those 247Sports rankings. Last season, Ohio was in the bottom 10 in the country.
“This one, I think, will turn out to be really good,” Solich said. “I’m anxious for those guys to get here, guys return and get going.”
No matter who leaves this season due to graduation, Ohio will probably be in contention for a bowl berth and trip to Ford Field in the MAC Championship Game next season.
It’s a system that’s been built into the mold of the Solich’s football program. His teams are no flash in the pan, and they’re not made by one player. As Ouellette acknowledged, Solich isn’t going anywhere.
Solich admitted that he wanted more this season, something he spoke about after Wednesday’s game.
He wants to perennially be in the top 25, he wants to consistently win championships and he wants to get to the “big bowl.”
From the rebuilding of Peden Stadium to the actual football program, Solich is one of the reasons why people know who and what Ohio University is now. The Bobcats know what they get with Solich, and they knew he wants more and more.
Solich will retire whenever he wants, because Ohio will hold on to him for as long as it can. He will turn 75 next season, which will mark his 15th at Ohio. He knows that the days will start to be numbered, and the questions about being the oldest coach in football will become more common.
“I don’t know any coach that can say I’m going to be in this for another five or 10 years,” he said. “There are so many things that can take you out of the coaching business. All I know is, right now, this whole year I’ve felt great, felt like I had a lot of energy, felt good, my relationships with the players. As long as that goes on and I’m not hurting them and what they’re about, not hurting the program, maybe keep going for a few more.”
But Wednesday night in Frisco near midfield, none of that mattered. It was just Solich, Schaus and Pamela. The three took the time to celebrate what Ohio football has become with Solich.