By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A proven winner, Bobby Wilder plans to shake things up for the Tennessee Tech football program. His coaching philosophy leans toward an aggressive offense and a stingy defense and, during his time at Old Dominion, it delivered results.
Wilder was selected Sunday as the 13th head coach in Tennessee Tech football history and things are going to look a bit 'Wilder' ahead for the Golden Eagles.
"I am fired up to be the head football coach at Tennessee Tech University," Wilder said. "After spending this past weekend on campus and meeting so many Golden Eagles, I could feel the pride and the passion.
"Our program philosophy will be to 'Aim High' in everything we do. Our staff will recruit and develop the best people, students and athletes we can find."
Tech Director of Athletics Mark Wilson is confident the program will win championships with the new hire: "Bobby has built a program from the ground up and won big while doing it. He checked every box that we put forward when we started this search. He boasts a pedigree of winning, has led his team to championships, his teams play an exciting, aggressive, offensive style of football with relentless defense and he is a natural leader. I am convinced Coach Wilder brings all the expertise, leadership, discipline and passion to lead Tennessee Tech Football to the top of the league and to the NCAA playoffs. The Golden Eagles are about to make Tennessee's college town Wilder and we couldn't be more excited to get started."
With so many projects on the table to enrich the Golden Eagle football program, the future is bright. Nevertheless, the goal is set.
"With the football stadium project starting now and football operations center on the horizon, President Oldham and Mark have made a commitment to excellence," Wilder said. "It is time for our team to deliver a championship to Tennessee Tech University, our alumni and our great fan base. Wings Up!"
University President Dr. Phil Oldham sees the hire as a monumental step for the program: "I am very excited about this next era of Tennessee Tech football. Coach Wilder brings to campus his experience of building winning FCS programs. I am impressed with his knowledge and analysis of the game and the excitement he already has for the University and Tech football. Coach Wilder is an enthusiastic winner who will build us a championship Golden Eagle football program."
The formal press conference introducing Wilder will be held Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. Central at the Hooper Eblen Center in the Eagles' Nest. The event is open to the public – all are welcome to get Wilder!
Wilder's coaching record, especially on the Division I Football Championship Subdivision is spectacular, accumulating a 46-14 mark as an independent and two seasons in the Colonial Athletic Association, one of the top conferences in FCS football.
He was hired at Old Dominion in 2007 to restart a program that lay dormant for nearly 70 years, and, in the Monarchs' first season in 2009, the team finished 9-2 – the best record ever for a first-year NCAA program in college football's modern era.
That first team ranked in the top 10 in five statistical categories nationally – second in sacks allowed, third in scoring offense, turnover margin and net punting and ninth in rushing offense. The results paid dividends quickly as Old Dominion ranked fifth nationally in the FCS in attendance, selling out all of its home games in the 19,782-seat Foreman Field.
In his first three seasons, Old Dominion went 26-7, earning its first FCS Playoff Berth and first Top 25 ranking in the STATS FCS poll – after only 33 games.
Wilder also oversaw Old Dominion's transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA affiliation. The Monarchs finished 11-2 and 7-1 in the CAA in 2012 – claiming victories over four ranked teams – and stayed ranked in the FCS Top 10 all season as they reached the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs.
Under Wilder's direction, current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke earned six All-America selections and the 2012 Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the FCS.
In 2013, transitioning up to the next level, ODU played five FBS opponents – boasting a 59-38 victory over Idaho for the school's first FBS victory. The offense averaged 42.3 points per game, which would have ranked seventh in the FBS.
The Monarchs' first season in C-USA saw the team go 6-6, 4-4 in the league, in 2014. ODU defeated defending C-USA champ Rice in its first conference contest and Heinicke finished the season ranked in the FBS top five in passing yards, total offense, touchdown passes and total touchdowns.
Two years later, ODU won the Conference USA East Division championship with a 7-1 record, finishing 10-3 overall. The Monarchs won the 2016 Bahamas Bowl, downing Eastern Michigan 24-20 in their first-ever bowl appearance and in only their second season of bowl eligibility.
In 2018, Wilder helmed the Monarchs to a 49-35 victory over then-No. 10-ranked Virginia Tech, the program's first-ever win over a Power Five school, with ODU passing for 495 yards with seven total touchdowns. Jeremy Cox rushed for two touchdowns and 130 yards, Jonathan Duhart caught nine passes for 142 yards and three scores, while Travis Fulgham had nine catches for 188 yards and a TD. Quarterback Blake LaRussa completed 30 of 49 passes for 495 yards and four TD strikes.
Wilder finished his career at ODU with a 77-56 record after the 2019 campaign.
A native of Madison, Maine, Wilder graduated from Madison Area Memorial High in 1982 and was a highly recruited quarterback, choosing the University of Maine to play. After graduating with a degree in physical education in 1987, Wilder joined Jack Bicknell's staff at Boston College as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in educational administration in 1990.
He then returned to his alma mater, coaching in various roles from 1990 to 2006, including time as the associate head coach and offensive coordinator.