It’s Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, and Chuck Martin is working on maybe two hours of sleep.
The previous night, he served as No. 25 Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator, as the Fighting Irish’s comeback bid fell short against No. 8 Stanford, 27-20. He spent the next several hours flying from California to South Bend, Ind., and seemingly as soon as he got off the plane, he hopped into his car.
Now, he is driving to Chicago, where he will interview for the Miami RedHawks’ head football coach position. He feels confident but has one worry.
“I remember driving to Chicago trying to stay awake like, ‘If I don’t die on the way to the interview, I might do alright.’” Martin said.
He stayed awake, and he did alright.
Two days later, Dec. 3, he signed as the 36th head coach in Miami history. Last December, Martin led the RedHawks to their first Mid-American Conference Championship since 2010 and inked a five-year contract extension earlier this month.
But Miami wasn’t clinching MAC titles and its coaches weren’t agreeing to new deals when he took over. Quite the opposite. Athletic Director David Sayler fired the previous coach, Don Treadwell, midway through the 2013 season, but the RedHawks kept flopping.
They finished the year 0-12 and slumped to 0-16 dating back to 2012.
“I knew they were bad. I mean, I knew they were really bad,” Martin said. “I watched them, on TV, lose to Kent State, 24-6, and Kent wasn’t very good. It was at home, at Miami. And the few players I liked, I looked them up, and they were all seniors. Like, they had a good nose guard. I went, ‘Ah, they’ve got a nose guard!’ I looked him up, and he was a senior (laughs). I was like, ‘Ah, darn it!’ I remember looking up the nose guard like, ‘That kid looks like a dude.’ I think his name was Brown or something. (Yep, Austin Brown, who graduated in the spring of 2014).”
Martin entered the interview with dark bags under his eyes and sat at the head of a long table surrounded by university and athletic department high-ups.
“It’s not bad at all, really,” Martin said. “They try to make it welcoming. Obviously, they like you, and you’re one of their candidates. Whether they like you the best or not, time will tell, but you can go in there fairly confidently because you got picked as one of whatever.”
Martin was one of three finalists, including current Syracuse head coach Dino Babers.
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He thought he nailed the answer to every question.
Well, almost every question.
Then-Miami President David Hodge said, ‘If we were to hire you as coach, give me one word to describe what your football team would be like.’
“Blue-collar,” Martin said immediately.
“I’ll never forget this, ’cause I saw the look on his face and thought, ‘Ah, not a good answer, Chuck! Honesty is not always the best policy when you’re trying to get a job!’” Martin said at a press conference last December.
“He looked at me like, ‘Blue-collar and Miami? That doesn’t mesh.’ I saw his look and almost said, ‘If you want to win some damn games, you might want us to become a little more blue-collar.’ (laughs) But no, I actually kept my mouth shut for once. (laughs again)”
Hodge had another telling question for Martin: “Why would you want to take over this team?”
“For me, it was, like, I want to be a head coach again,” Martin said. “I’m leaving my dream school, ‘cause I loved Notre Dame more than any other place in the world. But I want to be a head coach again, and then the whole Cradle of Coaches was intriguing. In a really sick, dumb way, the 0-16 record was [intriguing] … Like, can I do this?”
The RedHawks labored through 2014 and 2015, winning two, then three games. Since, Miami owns the best league record in the MAC.
It’s Dec. 7, 2019 — six years and six days after the interview in Chicago — and Chuck Martin can sleep easy. He and his Miami RedHawks are going to bed as the Mid-American Conference champions.