Built to Last , Part 3: Coaching-staff stability

Team picture of coaches

Wake Forest’s coaching staff. Left to right: back row Brandon Sarver, Ray McCartney, Bill Faircloth, Keith Henry, Tom Elrod, Steed Lobotzke, Mark Moroz, Brad White, Allen Franklin front row Dean Hood, Brad Lambert, Billy Mitchell, Jeff Mullen, Tim Billings, Jim Grobe, Jason Carter

Six of Grobe’s nine full-time assistant coaches also served on his staff at Ohio, and two of them—offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Steed Lobotzke and running backs/kickers coach Billy Mitchell—were with him at Air Force as well. Linebackers coach Brad Lambert, hired in 2001 to replace Grobe’s only Ohio assistant that did not follow him to Wake Forest, is still on the staff, and tight ends/fullbacks coach Tom Elrod (’97, MBA ’01) played for Wake Forest and was a graduate assistant for three seasons before being named a full-time assistant in 2003.
“Jim has a great coaching staff, but just as important, he has a loyal one,” says Bill Faircloth (’64), a Wake Forest football institution who captained a Deacon team that lost nineteen straight games, who coached four seasons under John Mackovic, including the Tangerine Bowl season of 1979, and who has served as the assistant athletics director for football for a quarter of a century. “The guys really enjoy working with him,” Faircloth says. “He has a lot of confidence in them and lets them coach, and in return they are tremendously loyal.”

“I just don’t know that you can overemphasize experience and having a staff that’s been together a long time,” Grobe says. “I think you get better play from your players if they have developed a sense of trust with your coaches. We’re at the point where the kids are hearing a lot of the same coaching points and terms over and over and over again. We might tweak a little bit from time to time, but I might not say two things to any of my coaches during the course of a season that is of major consequence.

“What our coaches have done the very best job at here is adapting our system to our personnel. Each year we go through spring practice and then come back in August and add Xs and Os to try to emphasize the strengths of our players rather than just take a certain system of offense and defense and say, ‘Okay, by God, you’re going to fit into this system, no matter what.’ I thought we’d have to run more option than we did to be successful here, but we just didn’t have option-type personnel. John Stone, who was here when we first arrived, was not very big and didn’t have great hands, but he was the ACC hundred-meter champion. We knew we couldn’t make a living out of throwing him the ball downfield, so we ran all that sweep stuff and let him outrun everybody. He’s a good example of the exceptional job this staff does of adapting our system to our talent.

“In any program, the head coach generally gets too much of the credit and too much of the blame,” Grobe adds. “I truly believe that’s what sets the very best programs apart from the rest—good staffs; good assistant coaches.”

A special feature of Wake Forest Magazine.


Story by David Fyten
Photos by Ken Bennett


Go to part:

1. Built to Last
2. Jim Grobe
3. Coaching-staff stability
4. Recruiting
5. Redshirting
6. Facilities


Football is more than just a game—it’s an event. It’s extremely important to have a championship-contending team to set the tone of positivity you want to carry through the year.

Ron Wellman, director of athletics

I think what makes most coaches happy is when you finish a season and you look back and you know you got as much as you can out of your football team.

Jim Grobe, Head Coach

For us as coaches, we are just trying to get every bit of energy and performance out of our team and if we can do that then we’ll just take whatever record-wise.

Jim Grobe, Head Coach

Ever since we got up here for the summer and started training it’s been all about this year and not last year. It was fun last year but it’s over now. We’ve got a tough one ahead of us.

Riley Skinner, sophomore quarterback

I think as a freshman everyone has aspirations of coming in and making an impact immediately…You have to realize that you’re a better player once you’re older. You get more acclimated to the system.

Aaron Mason, senior safety

If there are long waiting lists for tickets, so much the better—that means the stadium is full of fans of Wake Forest and not of our opponents. What we envision it becoming, really, is the Wrigley Field of college football.

Ron Wellman, director of athletics