Bobby Wilder is an American football coach who most recently led the Old Dominion Monarchs football team as their head coach.
As part of his early career, Wilder joined the program in 2007 and spent the first two years recruiting and establishing it. Old Dominion hired Bobby Wilder, a former Maine assistant coach, to lead the program into a new era in February 2007. Almost every new hire in college football was required to do the same thing, but there was one catch: ODU didn’t have a football program.
The 2011 and 2012 squads both advanced to the FCS playoffs, with the latter placing in the top five nationwide. He has coached around 30 quarterbacks and receivers in middle and high school football. “It reminds me of the first 32 years of my career,” he said. “I’m a coach who specializes in specific positions,” he later added.
In an exclusive interview, he shared, “The circle of unity that formed at a team meeting is what I am most proud of. The notion was brought to the squad by our leading receiver Zach Pascal, who is currently with the Philadelphia Eagles. He said that when he was a kid and he and his sibling got into a fight, their parents told them to hold hands and talk about what was bothering them.
His argument to the team was that it was difficult to remain enraged while holding someone’s hand. All of the coaches, including myself, thought it was fantastic parenting and just what our country needed at the moment.”
The first time they practiced this hand-holding technique with another team they were at the University of Charlotte. When they arrived at the hotel in downtown Charlotte the night before the game, there were literally riots taking on a few blocks away in protest of police shootings. The sadness and rage were palpable. Charlotte’s head coach, Brad Lambert, was called by Bobby Wilder and he recommended that everyone on the teams and coaching staff gather in the center of the field and held hands facing the audience. When they first took the field, the home crowd was booing at the team jokingly.
However, in a matter of minutes, everyone understood their purpose and gave them a standing ovation. Wilder said, “That is the
power of young people!”
When asked about this later, he quoted, “I underlined the necessity of our political leaders listening to our young people in a scenario like this when I did a few national interviews explaining what we were doing.”
He further added, “The reenactment of our actions by The Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints in the middle of the field two days later on Monday night football made me cry and filled me with pride for everyone affiliated with the old dominion football team.”
Wilder created the ODU football program from the ground up and was the ideal candidate for the job. “I’m proud of how successful we were in such a short period of time,” he once shared with the publications.
Some Americans were not as accepting of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2016. Many people were dissatisfied with his leadership style and that of his team. He simply dreamed of using the circle of unity to bring the country together.
Due to a death threat his administration received on his behalf, he was given increased game day security when he returned from the Charlotte game for his next game at home. He also spent extra time late at night calling some of his contributors who had threatened to stop supporting him because he allowed his team to mix politics and sports. When he told them about some of his children’s experiences, they changed their minds and became much more accepting of what some of our children had gone through.
Even though the fall of 2016 was difficult, he thought his team did everything they could to aid their country. They were young men striving to develop and learn while still representing Old Dominion University on the football field. “I feel like they did one heck of a job!” adds Wilder, who has a 10-3 record and a bowl game win.
Recently, when he was asked about his current plans and what he has been doing, he replied “I’m still in Hampton Roads. I’ve spent the last two years applying for positions that haven’t worked out because I haven’t found the appropriate fit, so I’ve been coaching quarterbacks.”
Under Wilder’s leadership, the Monarchs begin their 11th season in 2019. In the FBS, Wilder has the 11th best head coaching career and the second-best in Conference USA.
He’s coached around 30 quarterbacks and receivers in middle school and high school football. “It reminds me of when I initially started 32 years ago,” he says. I’m a position coach for the team. Actually, I’m a coach. That was a CEO role when I became the head coach at ODU,” he had remarked.
“I’m living the dream,” Wilder often says when asked how he’s doing. It makes us wonder, what is the current state of the dream? “Right now, the dream is coaching as I am but gaining another head coaching job,” he says. I’d be thrilled to be given another chance.”
Wilder created the ODU football program from the ground up and was the ideal candidate for the job. Things started to fall into place. “I’m proud of how successful we were in such a short period of time,” he says.
The Monarchs were 5-7, 4-8, and 1-11 in Wilder’s last three seasons. “We had such early and dramatic success that no one, including myself, had any idea what failure looked like.” Nobody who worked on the program or supported it had any idea what failure looked like. So, I truly believe that when we didn’t have the same continuous success at quarterback, it impacted the rest of the operation, and ultimately, it was on me.”
He coached 13 seasons as head coach at Old Dominion University as the only coach in program history, grew the football program from the best FCS start-up to an FBS program in just six years, and an FBS bowl champion in eight years.
For the time being, he is deferring taking a post as an assistant coach in the hopes of finding a major whistle role somewhere. “A lot of folks are curious as to why I want to return to it. I enjoy interacting with everyone on the squad, as well as recruiting and interacting with the fan community. That aspect of college athletics is something I miss.”