New Hampshire Football Report

UNH set to honor Bowes

UNH media relations

Allen Lessels
UNH Insider

Bill O’Brien, then the football coach at Penn State University and now the head coach of the Houston Texans of the National Football League, knew right where to find the Bill Bowes brick in the wall and knew well the story behind it and that’s what impressed John Perry the most.

Perry – a former UNH standout wide receiver who spent a couple of stints as an assistant coach with the Wildcats – and O’Brien were buddies from way back in their early days in Andover, Mass. Perry these days is the tight ends coach for the Texans and works for O’Brien.

At the time, Perry was paying O’Brien a visit at Penn State.

“The first thing he did was take me down to the wall that has a brick with the name of every player who played at Penn State on it and showed me the brick that had Coach Bowes’ name on it,” Perry said.

Bill Bowes, who was a captain and played tight end for the Nittany Lions, was the highly successful and respected coach of the UNH football team from 1972 to 1998 and. In December he will be inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, the first player or coach from New Hampshire to earn the prestigious honors.

His induction will be celebrated on Saturday night at halftime of UNH’s historic game against Holy Cross that opens the new Wildcat Stadium and a new era in UNH football.

Tickets for the game, which will include a rally towel giveaway sponsored by Service Credit Union and a postgame fireworks celebration, can be purchased by CLICKING HERE or calling 603-862-4000 or visiting the Whittemore Center Box Office.

Bowes set a tone for winning and hardnosed football that Sean McDonnell, who played and coached under him, has carried through to this day with the Wildcats.

Between Bowes and McDonnell, UNH has had just two coaches in the last 45 years and their reach has extended far beyond Durham and across the country through a long coaching tree, a line of coaches who have learned and worked with them and now are coaching at the high school, college and NFL level.

“Bill (O’Brien) was talking about it and it really is amazing to see all these guys who were with coach Bowes and have gone off and are coaching – Mark Whipple, Sean McDonnell, Chip Kelly, Peter Vaas, Phil Estes,” Perry said. “It goes on and on. It’s very impressive. It gave me more depth of what coach Bowes was all about. He’s such an icon.”

A Long, Blue Line

The coaching line runs long and deep.

Phil Estes has been the head coach at Brown University since 1998.

Shortly before training camp for the 2016 season started, Estes and his staff got together for a golf outing.

A little ‘Cats vs. Dogs action was one of the highlights. Estes and former Wildcat quarterback Kevin Decker (the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the year in 2011 when he led UNH to the FCS playoffs) represented the Bowes/McDonnell side of things and squared off against two  guys (Michael Kelleher and Neil McGrath) from a former  UNH rival – Boston University – that no longer competes in football.

Decker is one of the younger former Wildcats coaching.

UNH helps keep the line going as well with a couple of its own young alum on staff in Chris Zarkoskie, who works with the tight ends, and Chris Setian, who coaches running backs.

And, not to rush things, but Casey DeAndrade, an All American cornerback and senior captain on this year’s team, likes the idea of giving a look at coaching when his own playing days are done, ideally after he gets a shot to play professionally.

Like Perry, Estes played for Bowes and then coached under him. He started as an offensive line coach at UNH in 1984. As the offensive coordinator for three years in the early ’90s, he was not only involved in bringing McDonnell back into the Wildcat family as an assistant coach, but played a role in bringing Kelly, now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, into the fold again as well.

“Sean came in and we brought Chip back,” Estes said. “We had a pretty good crew with Sean, Chip and myself.”

Pretty good indeed.

Like Perry, Estes knew he wanted to end up in coaching before he got to UNH.

Their experiences under Bowes and his staff only strengthened their plans.

They both, along with many others, swear by their former coach and boss.

“My biggest thing with coach Bowes is that everything I learned as a football player, from toughness to integrity, to being humble has all come from him,” Estes said. “He recruited me and I’ve had a special relationship with him going back to 1976. He coached us tough and he expected toughness from you, but he was also so fair about everything. If you worked hard, you were in good standing with him. . . . When he said something, he meant it.”

For instance, Bowes was a stickler on starting and ending practice when it was scheduled to start and end.

“If you were coaching for him and tried to extend a period and get one more rep in, that was taboo,” Estes said. “He didn’t think it was fair to players or coaches to extend practices. He knew kids can lose focus. He wanted everyone to start and finish on the same page.”

Estes said Bowes is his role model.

“I have really based everything I do on his fundamentals, his philosophy, the way he treats people,” the coach said. “I can’t tell you I deviate in any part of my coaching from the way coach did things. I really mean that. I think you’ll find a lot of that with Sean as well. In how he treats people and they treat the coach. That trust factor. That comes from coach Bowes.”

Calling the Offensive Shots in Nevada

Tim Cramsey was not one of those guys planning to coach after college. In fact, he was pretty well set against it.

“I didn’t think I wanted any part of it,” Cramsey said. “Once I got out in the real world and was looking at a computer all day long . . . I was in doing accounting type stuff and realized I was not that into crunching numbers.”

Unless it was numbers for yards and first downs gained, points and the like.

Cramsey played quarterback at UNH through 1997 with Bowes as his head coach and McDonnell his offensive coordinator. He came back to UNH as an assistant coach under McDonnell and Chip Kelly and worked his way up and was the offensive coordinator for the Wildcats in 2010 and 2011.

Cramsey is in his first season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Nevada, an FBS school, after spending the past three seasons helping Montana State put up big offensive numbers as the OC there.

“I talked to coach McDonnell a lot about getting into coaching and how to go about it,” Cramsey said. “I like to think I’m a disciple of Sean McDonnell. He’s my mentor, in the business and life in general.”

Cramsey is more than happy to work on keeping the UNH coaching line intact.

He had Kevin Decker with him at Montana State last season and has talked to other former Wildcats about how to make their way in the business.

“One of the best parts of coaching is when guys you coached back in the day contact you,” Cramsey said. “I get notes from guys sending me their first business card when they get out of school or they send pictures. I’m trying to be to some of those guys what Coach Mac is to me.”

One of Many Messages: ‘Just Don’t Take Shortcuts’

Coach Bowes is to Coach Mac and countless other coaches across the country what Cramsey strives to be to young coaches.

“We’ve had a lot of good people come through here and it all comes off of coach’s blueprint,” McDonnell said. “The roots are with Coach. He taught Phil Estes. He taught Mark Whipple. He taught Paul Gorham. He taught Peter Vaas. He taught Eddie Pinkham. And these are the guys who filtered it down to us.”

The list seems endless.

“There was myself and Sean Devine and Chip Kelly and Jackie Bicknell,” McDonnell said. “It’s amazing. It’s one thing to have an effect on kids, which is very, very important and what we’re all in it for, but he’s had a major impact on coaches’ lives, giving them the opportunities here to become good coaches. More importantly you have people who have such respect for him and his program.”

A particular lesson McDonnell learned along the way?

“Oh geez,” he said. “Just don’t take shortcuts. Do it the right way. He always would say, don’t do anything to embarrass yourself, your family or the University of New Hampshire. He’d say it to the coaches and the kids. That was his mantra. He always talked about acting and reacting in the right way. That’s one thing I always took from Coach.”

The message hits home with McDonnell.

“It’s a message I think is very important because this place is us,” McDonnell said. “It’s who we are. It’s special. There are a lot of people who take great pride in it. Your decisions, your actions affect a number of people from the inside out. Starting with you and your family, to your teammates to the university, to alums, to people and friends of this football program. We’ve earned respect, I think, because we’ve done it the right way. So let’s keep doing it that way.”

Scarano: ‘Two Fabulous Coaches’

Director of athletics Marty Scarano marvels at the run of two men who have nurtured and mentored young players and coaches for what is approaching a half century with 27 years for Bowes followed by McDonnell, just starting his 18th season as head coach.

“First of all, I don’t know of many Division I football institutions anywhere that have had the longevity and stability of coaching that UNH has had,” Scarano said. “Two fabulous coaches. Nationally recognized coaches. One now going into the Hall of Fame. You combine their won-loss record and then go to the point of them spinning off great coaches.”

NFL coaches. College coaches. High school coaches.

“There are some really fabulous coaches out there who are helping young athletes as high school coaches,” Scarano said. “They’re helping young athletes grow as men because of what they learned at UNH. Coaches like Derek Stank and George Peterson and Eric Cumba.”

All of it has led to a string of success that started with Bowes putting up 20 winning seasons in his 27 years as the head coach. McDonnell’s team have followed with a mark of 12 straight winning seasons, resulting in 12 straight FCS tournament appearances, which is the longest such string in the country.

“From an AD’s standpoint, I don’t think there’s anything more important to a successful story than coaching stability,” Scarano said. “And you couldn’t have a better scenario than we’ve had at UNH in regard to football – to say nothing of all the UNH alums who have come through and been on these staffs.”


Follow Allen Lessels on Twitter: @UNHInsider.

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