MIT football is coming off a program-best 10-1 mark in 2014. Led by a talented and experienced defense, the Engineers are looking to continue that success into 2015. HERO Sports caught up with MIT head coach Chad Martinovich to discuss the rise of the program, balancing academics and athletics at MIT, and the 2015 season.
HERO Sports: So a program best 10-1 record last season. Is this team capable of duplicating that success and why?
CM: It was a great season, but we have turned the page. We have been building toward being able to consistently compete for conference championships since I’ve been here. Last season we finally got our first one and now our standards within the program have been raised. I feel like we have the talent to be able to compete for another one this year and am excited to get started with this year’s group.
HERO Sports: MIT had a pretty balanced attack last season. What will be the strengths of the Engineers in 2015?
CM: I think we will have several strengths this season. We have a experienced group coming back on defense that should be able to compete with anyone
on our schedule. On offense, we have 3 returning all-conference offensive linemen and very good group of senior leaders competing at most of our
skilled positions, which should allow us to continue to be balanced. Our kicker is also back, coming off a year where he broke most every school record.
HERO Sports: Who is a player that you expect to really have a breakout 2015 campaign and why?
CM: I am expecting to see several players on both sides of the ball have breakout seasons. This group was very motivated in the off-season, and it’s hard to pick out just one. We’ll definitely need several to step up in order for our team to be successful.
HERO Sports: You went 1-8 in your first two seasons and gradually improved. How were you able to change the culture there?
CM: Recruiting and the consistency of our philosophy have played a big role in the culture change. We have worked hard each year to bring in recruits that are highly motivated and want to excel both in the class room and on the football field. They are committed to working to get better year round and have bought into everything we have tried to do here. Staff continuity has also been important. I’ve been fortunate to have the core of my staff with me for the last 4 years.
HERO Sports: What was the buzz like around campus there as the wins piled up last season?
CM: It was great to see our players get positively recognized for something other than academics. We had great crowds at our last couple home games, which was exciting to see. The Chairman of the Board of the MIT Corporation and the President of the Institute even flew down to Delaware for our 2nd round playoff game. The support was amazing and hopefully it is something we can continue to foster.
HERO Sports: Sometimes people might not understand how demanding it is to be a student-athlete at a school like MIT. Talk a little bit about that athletic/academic balance and how players handle that?
CM: I have coached at several prestigious institutions over the course of my career, but the academic demands for students here are tougher than any place else I’ve been. Our student-athletes have to be very
organized and find a routine that works best for them individually. We work on time management with our freshmen, starting in preseason, to help them with the transition from high school to MIT. Once they understand how to plan out their week in advance, they are able to find that balance and excel in all areas. This takes flexibility on my part at times too. We make sure our players know that they need to communicate well in order for us to work through any conflicts that come up. I will never ask our players to sacrifice academics for football, and I think these kids appreciate that. We have to maximize the time we have with them in order to put them in a position to be successful each week.
HERO Sports: How much tougher is recruiting for a school like MIT because of the academic standards?
CM: Because of the academic standards, we have to talk to a much larger pool of recruits. It requires a lot of hard work, but we are fortunate to have a great national reputation academically which helps us find qualified young men who are also great football players. When I first arrived at MIT and would speak with recruits, I would regularly hear “I didn’t even know MIT had football”. Now that we have brought in 6 recruiting classes and had some success on the field, more and more recruits are seeking us out. Because of that, the talent level of each recruiting class continues to get better. We’ve been able to build quality depth throughout most of our roster and I’m excited about the future.
HERO Sports: Do you think opponents are looking at MIT as more than just a prestigious academic school now, and that these are some smart guys who can play football, too?
CM: You would have to ask them that question. I think we’ve earned some respect as a program, but we are more worried about doing the things we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win than what opponents think about us.