Frank Solich stared into a computer screen and prepared to address the media via a Zoom call. He looked calm and prepared for the tidal wave of questions reporters were about to bombard him with.
Behind him stood the green backdrop adorned with Ohio logos he’d sat in front of countless times before for press conferences just like the one he was in. However, this press conference was different. Solich was looking back at his career instead of looking forward toward the new season.
Just two hours before the conference began, Ohio announced Solich was stepping down as coach to focus on his health. The reason cited was an unnamed cardiovascular condition. Wednesday was his final press conference in a coaching capacity, and the time was going to be spent on what he’d accomplished.
Solich shared the screen with Julie Cromer, Ohio’s director of athletics. Throughout the press conference, she brandished a thorough smile, and her opening statement lauded Solich’s 16-season tenure at Ohio. Her opening statement thanked Solich for helping her transition into her role as director of athletics in 2019. Solich has seen athletic directors come and go during his time at Ohio, and Cromer was with him through the final stretch.
“It's hard to fully capture what Coach Solich has meant to our football program, to our athletic department, to our university,” Cromer said. “He's a leader and ambassador. He's an educator, a mentor and he's been a steadfast and steady influence for so many. I'm one of the newer people who have joined the ‘Frank Solich Fan Club,’ but I've very much appreciated his influence and steady hand and support during my transition here to Ohio University as well.”
Questions ranged from asking Solich to reflect on his career at Ohio to how his previous coaching jobs had prepared him for his tenure at Ohio. The 76-year-old coach looked back on his 16 seasons leading the way with warmth. He has been the winningest coach in Mid-American Conference history since 2019, and since his hiring in 2005, forged Ohio into a team that set the bar for consistency among Group of Five schools.
Of course, he expressed some regrets. His failure to secure a MAC Championship was the most blatant.
“I think we were in the MAC Championship Game four times, and at least two of those were games that haunt me a little bit in not getting it done. We’re still looking out the front window for that,” Solich said.
But for what he couldn’t accomplish in 16 seasons, there was a laundry list of achievements to make up for it. Solich was responsible for 12 consecutive non-losing seasons, five bowl wins in 11 appearances, four MAC East titles and a No. 23 ranking from the Associated Press in week eight of the 2012 season.
Those are just to name a few, and Solich remembers all of them.
Regarding his health, Solich declined to say what his specific condition was, stating it was a “rare cardiovascular situation” and something he had been aware of for some time. He’s been to a doctor and a heart specialist, who had told him it was not something to take lightly.
But why retire just weeks before fall camp was set to begin if he had been aware of his health problems? Solich said he kidded himself on how serious his condition was after initially learning of it. Solich has always been physically active and figured he had the strength to gut it out for at least another season.
“This jumped up on me pretty quickly,” Solich said. “I had an appointment with a doctor. He started checking into some things. I eventually went to a heart specialist, and from there, I started to understand that this was a serious, serious condition.”
Despite his initial brushing off of the condition, Solich understood how seriously he needed to consider his health. He realized he wouldn’t be able to provide what the Bobcats needed in 2021, and his decision to step down followed suit.
His successor, former associate head coach Tim Albin, was his choice to take up the mantle from the get-go. He had made up his mind, and the appointment of Albin by Cromer was more or less a formality. Albin has coached under Solich for 20 years. The duo has been joined at the hip since Albin joined Solich’s staff at Nebraska in 2000. When Solich came to Ohio, Albin wasn’t far behind.
“I believe that Tim and the staff will give us a great opportunity to continue to move this program forward,” Solich said. “I think that there's a chance to have the kind of teams represent Ohio University that they would like to see represent them and the fans and the community. People in the community want to see us represent them well in a lot of different ways. Certainly winning is is one of those.”
As the press conference wrapped up, Solich was surprised by several former staff members of his. Chris Rodgers, Ohio’s former assistant athletic director for football operations, and Brian Haines, an assistant coach on Solich’s staff from 2010-20, hopped onto the Zoom call to thank Solich for the work he put into the Bobcats and for helping them during their time in Athens.
Solich smiled. This surprise was a microcosm of what he had been hearing in the two hours after his retirement became public. Twitter was flooded with tweets from players, students, alumni and staff sending out Solich in triumphant style.
But Solich took the praise with a grin on his face. It wasn’t every day that the winningest coach in MAC history retired.