GREENCASTLE -- With just over five weeks until their 2009 campaign was set to being, the DePauw football team received some unexpected news.
Matt Walker, who had stalked the DPU sideline for the past three seasons, submitted his resignation effective immediately. Stepping up to fill the head coaching duties will be assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Robby Long.
The newly appointed coach found out about Walker's resignation Friday as well. Long has been an assistant at DPU for five seasons and is eager to get things rolling this season.
"I found out a little bit after noon today," Long said. "I had a discussion with Paige Cotton our athletic director and he asked me to continue in an interim basis. I was obviously excited about the opportunity and had a couple discussions with my wife and let him know I was ready for the challenge."
Long commented on how he and the coaching staff has been in contact with close to 75 percent of the players and so far the majority seem very supported to the change. He also acknowledged the players are concerned about coach Walker and what he's dealing with.
Even though the switch is taking place so close to the beginning of the season, Long could sense the eagerness from the players he spoke to.
"I didn't talk to one kid this evening that I couldn't feel the enthusiasm jumping through the phone about getting ready to start the 2009 season," he said.
A plus for the Tiger squad is the coaching staff has been together for a few years and that most of the prep work for the time leading up to the season has already been taken care of and shouldn't be a concern.
Long is confident that the team will be able to continue moving forward despite the change in leadership.
"(In) my role as the assistant head coach under coach Walker, he bounced a lot of ideas off me and also the other guys on our staff," Long explained. "We feel we're in a pretty good spot as far as going forward. Obviously, there's going to be some things that pop up here and there, but my focus right now is on our players and the 2009 season and making sure that none of those hiccups get in our way."
Hiccups or not, Long knows his crew of Black and Golf warriors are able to rise to the challenge. He also addressed once more, how much of an affect their outgoing coach has had on the team.
"For the most part, I think we have a poised group of kids that have been through a lot of adversity since they've been here, especially our veteran guys. I think that they will meet this head-on," he said. "There's no doubt about it, coach Walker is loved by our players and the guys really love coach Walker. To an extent, some of them may have a heavy heart with this news and for the most part showing some concern for coach, but I think that they all have a pretty good understanding that none of them, including myself and the coaching staff, are bigger than this team. The team goals and the things that are set out there in front of us are still out there in front of us and they're ready to get to work on it."
The Tiger's enter the season ranked in the Top-25 in the polls and senior quarterback Spud Dick has been deemed a player to watch in the division three ranks. Expectations for the 2009 DePauw Tigers are high and Long believes that all the components are there to not only to meet, but also exceed those expectations.
"Our expectations right now are to get better every day. To become a better football team every time we go out there on the grass," Long commented. "All the preseason rankings and the individual rankings that some of the guys have accumulated, they're great accomplishments for our players. I'm extremely proud that they've put in the hard work to get a lot of those accolades and the recognition, but the only polls that matter are the ones they print at the end of the year.
Having finished 8-2 the past two seasons and watching as their hopes of extending their playing into the post-season dashed, Long pointed out it's only given the team more fuel for the fire.
"Our players understand that and they've been through two really good seasons recently where there were some hopes of going to the playoffs, only to be left at home," Long commented. "I think there's some fuel there to drive those guys and like I said, we're at the point in this program where the things we talk about is we're going to take it a day at a time and we're going to try to improve everyday. We got a lot of great football players, a lot of great young men on this team, that if we can do that; we're going to have a successful year."
The Tigers begin their season on the road against Anderson on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.