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Culture change a work in progress for RedHawk football

By Andrew Geisler

Going Long with Geisler

As the clock wound down in Miami's 42-27 football loss to Marshall Saturday, one thing became perfectly clear-a sore loser is exactly what Miami's football program needed.

After a controversial touchdown call put Marshall up two touchdowns with two minutes to play, new Redhawk head coach Chuck Martin was red-faced, berating the officials with an intensity never displayed by the Redhawks last coaching regime, over the call that ended his team's quest to end the nation's longest losing streak. Martin's antics earned him two 15-yard penalties, leading to the rarely seen kick off from the opponent's 35-yard line.

The team's performance was so much better than anything RedHawk fans saw the last two years, when the team played embarrassingly uninspired football, feeling happy with a non-blowout loss is an understandable response.

But not for Chuck Martin-the man appears to be a bona fide sore loser. And no matter what they try to teach you in today's everybody gets a trophy culture, that's the best kind of head football coach.

Sure the RedHawks gained more yards, scored more points and generally looked like they deserved to be on the field with a quality opponent for the first time in a couple of years, but they still lost. On top of that, they made unforgivable football mistakes like failing to cash-in twice in the red zone, racking up over 100 yards in penalties and forcing their quarterback to look like a whirling dervish far too often due to poor pass protection.

If you were around Oxford to witness any of the debacles that were football games last year, you probably cared more about the highs Saturday. If, like Martin, you have the high-level football coach, never satisfied personality, you noticed the bad. That Martin and his coaching staff are likely the only ones who had the second response bodes well for Miami's future under the new head coach, but also indicates the team has yet to fully take on its new coach's personality.

Talking about his teams and the fan reaction to the loss, Martin was incredulous.

"They are excited about losing by [15]," Martin said. "That scares the hell out of me. Our guys are excited. That's mindboggling to me. Why be excited? You lost by [15] at home. Our fans are excited. We're getting cheered off the field. Like, I've been throwing things."

That quote might make you think Martin is irrational. Doesn't he realize we didn't win a single game last year? The obvious answer is yes, but Martin has spent months with this group, molding them into a football team from the rubble that was left after last year's winless campaign. He clearly sees something better than his players or the fans have in this group.

"They are capable of more than what they believe they are capable of. At some point they gotta see it," Martin said of his team Saturday.

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Pair the last two quotes together and you get a window into the psyche that makes successful football programs successful. Losing isn't tolerated. Winning is expected. Mistake free football is expected. There is no good reason the team should lose a game.

Any coach will give lip service to this concept. Every coach says they expect to win, but few actually see no reason their team should lose. If coaches expect excellence in everything their players do, this mindset, slowly for some and quickly for others, seeps into the player's expectations as well. This is a true winning culture.

The "there's no reason we should lose" mindset is there in every top tier program, and if the culture maker at the top has it, this mindset can be exported to pretty much any football program in America. Fortunately, it looks like Miami's got one of those in Martin.

In a Yahoo article over the summer, Martin talked about what players can expect if they choose his program.

"Here's what's in it for you if you come to Miami: I'm going to kick your ass every day," Martin said. "If you don't want that, then that's fine. I'm good. Not many people are selling you a good ass-kicking these days."

If players come to Oxford that respond to this tough-minded thinking, before too long there's no way the Redhawks won't be back at the top of the MAC-sadly, it will probably be just in time for Martin to depart and coach a Big Ten school.

But enjoy the here and now: Chuck Martin expects to win and before too long, his team won't be able to help but catch on.