Central Michigan coach Dan Enos isn't the most outgoing person in the coaching world. He's most comfortable holed up in a coaching room studying game film, or breaking down an opponent with players and assistant coaches.
The result is that some ardent Chippewas followers wonder about his loyalty to the football program. Has he learned to love CMU, or is it just another job to him? It's one of the issues that dogs him as he tries to build on the success that Brian Kelly and Butch Jones enjoyed at CMU. Both Kelly and Jones were more outgoing, and selling the program was something that came more naturally to those coaches.
Enos insists he is fully engaged at CMU and wants to lead the Chips to conference titles and national rankings. He insists it was a dream of his to coach in tonight's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, mostly because he was a local kid who wants to support his state and the Detroit area in which he was raised.
"I love coaching, but recruiting and interacting with alumni, I enjoy all of that," Enos said. "I am not a super, super outgoing guy. What I mean by that is I am who I am. Some perceive that to be standoffish and that is not the case. I enjoy interacting with the media and people, but sometimes you're out, and you want to be with your family. You try to keep that separate."
Enos was 3-9 in 2010 in his first season at CMU and 3-9 again last year. The Chips were on their way to another disaster of a season this fall before winning four of their last five games to become bowl-eligible at 6-6.
To outsiders, it might look like another sub-par season for the Chips; their last four wins were against teams that had a combined record of 8-40. Enos doesn't see it that way. He sees a team jelling and playing its best football at the right time of the season.
"I'm very happy with the season," Enos said. "We wanted to play in a bowl and we accomplished that. This is a real positive foundation we are building here. I am especially happy for the seniors and how they handled adversity and gained trust in each other. That is a testament to coming together as a team and building great team chemistry."
CMU has an impressive football history. It began when the school won the Division II national championship in 1974 and continued under Hall of Fame coach Herb Deromedi. But CMU's most recent moments of glory came under Kelly and Jones. The Chippewas were nationally-ranked in 2009 under Dan LeFevour, the most prolific quarterback in CMU history.
"We are going to be judged on the legacy we leave," Enos admits. Every year is different. We are going to try to win this game, go 7-6 and leave a legacy. We talk about tradition and we do not want to break away from those things, but what happened three years ago does not mean this team is going to win.
"The great thing about football and the great thing about sports is what happened last week or last year doesn't mean anything. You have to prove yourself. We can talk about tradition all we want but it doesn't mean we're going to beat Western Kentucky in this bowl game."
Enos can talk about teamwork and rebuilding all he wants. The bottom line is he is expected to win at CMU because others have done it before him.
He's determined to do just that, but on his terms.
"College coaching is about winning and losing," Enos said. "You are going to win if you do things the right way. I know you can win the right way. I wanted to lay a foundation here and the bottom line here is, if you are not doing things the right way, you won't play. At the end of the day you have to have your integrity and we are not going to compromise that."